The ACCU is a three-legged stool
First can I thank you for the Overload 56 editorial, it was well written, well timed and highly relevant. Maybe I shouldn't comment on it because I am one of those who has been pushing Overload in a non-programming direction, but maybe that means I also have something relevant to say.
I've been conscious for a while that some of my pieces are drifting away from core remit of "programming". However, I do get the occasional e-mail from people, and I did speak to a few people at this year's conference and nobody has said "Off topic! Stop!", in fact, my opinion is that people like this stuff.
I also recall that several of the non-programming sessions at the conference were very well attended, e.g. Hubert Matthews, "The Extreme Hour" and Alan Griffith's own "Too Agile?" sessions.
In my opinion what is happening is that ACCU is maturing, from a troublesome teenager into an promising 20-something. The organisation and its membership are no longer entry-level programmers, they have senior, even managerial positions. The choice ACCU must make is whether we say "Sorry guys, we are strictly programmers, managers not wanted" or whether we try to accommodate all.
To my mind the answer has to be the latter. If the organisation does not stretch and grow it will forever be a temporary home for a few programmers. Sure, it is fun to complain about managers on accu-general but we either spend our life complaining or we take responsibility for doing something about it. We have to engage with management, and academics, another of our pet-hates.
The differentiation between C Vu and Overload is clearer this month than it has been for a long time. C Vu is the journal of the ACCU, a dialogue between the officers and the members, it is also the home of new talent - both in writing and software development. Overload is maturing into a serious software development journal - it needs to broaden its remit and its readership.
You'll notice that I have deliberately blurred the distinction between the journals and the organisation. For me, ACCU is a threelegged stool: journals, conference and mailing list. These support the membership and help them grow. As the members grow so too does the organisation, mentored developers has appeared and pub meets are becoming more regular. I'm convinced some cities in the UK, specifically London, could copy Reg Charney's excellent monthly meetings in San Jose.
There is another reason why this debate is about more than the journals. Each year at conference we are reminded of the need to "stay under the VAT limit." (For those not in the UK, this is the level where an organisation must start to charge and pay sales tax.) As our membership continues to grow we will breach this limit, clever accounting can only delay this so long. When this happens the ACCU will have to consider its options carefully, it is better this happens before the event than after.
ACCU, and specifically the journals, need to grow, they need to stretch and raise their sights. I'm reminded of a quote I once heard from Christopher Alexander, I don't remember it verbatim but it was along the lines of "I'm frequently disappointed that young architects don't aim higher". I think it is time for the ACCU to aim higher.