back to article BCS turns down e-signature petition

A petition to hold an emergency general meeting of the British Computing Society (BCS) has been turned down because the signatures were electronic. BCS, known by some wags as the Dad's Army of IT or, thanks to a recent rebrand, as the chartered institute of IT, declined to consider a motion from 50 members demanding a debate …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dad's Army...

    ...Never heard that moniker for it before, but my impression is that it's spot on...

    I remember as a CS student, finding there were some classic papers on real, hard CS problems in BCS journals up until about the mid-70s, but then it seemed to lose its way somehow, and was full of sociological studies of the Cobol programming community; how to draw flow charts, etc.

    That's why as a UK resident, I joined the ACM instead.

    Mind you, it too seemed to have a bit of an identity crisis in early 2000's when the CACM (the organ which brought you "Communicating Sequential Processes" in the 70s) was now publishing despairing articles about how all the US software jobs were being off-shored and what was needed was to make programming more popular by having fluffy GUIs that allow you to compose objects in your program (yes, up to a point, but there's a reason why people communicate using language rather than drawing pictures for each other...!)

    Anyway, CACM seems to be a bit more back on track now...

    And this is speaking as a practising industrial software engineer - what we need from professional journals and organisations is a view into latest work in academia that helps us solve the hard problems (concurrency, graph theory as applied to networking, etc, etc) rather than some op-ed fluffiness about "industrial relevance" and that could be gleaned elsewhere...

    ....end of rant

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Dad's Army of IT

    Fantastic description, though the TV series Dad's Army were far more professional than certain elements in the BCS could ever hope to be.

    Anyway, it is no wonder that they don't accept electronic signatures, most of the BCS priesthood have a hard time with electricty let alone any technology built on top of the movement of electroncs through silicon (GaAs, etc etc)...

    *Ex*-BCS member.

    1. Mike Shepherd

      Dad's Army

      I have the advantage of you. I spent a lifetime in IT, but was never daft enough to join.

  3. lglethal Silver badge


    An IT organisation demanding paper signatures... no paperless office here then...

  4. z0mb13e

    Keeping up with the times...

    Hence why the BCS is seen as irrelevant but so many in the IT world...

  5. Wokstation

    How ironic

    A Computing organisation refusing to recognise electronic means...

  6. Rogerborg

    Ah, good old BCS

    Promoting Yesterday's Technology, Tomorrow.

  7. Steve X

    Chartered Institute?

    To be a Chartered anything requires a charter, and in the UK such things are usualy granted by the sovereign. I see no mention of a Royal Charter on the BCS website.

    If they've just picked this name because it sounded good I sincerely hope the real chartered insittutes (engineers, accountants, surveyors, architects, etc.) deliver a severe legal kicking to them, before the term gets as diluted as "engineer" alone has been.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. boiler

      Chartered Institute

      The BCS does indeed hold a Royal Charter - awarded in 1984 I believe.

      1. Steve X


        Well, so it has. July 27th 1983. Wonder what took them so long to notice? :)

  8. GenericProdigy
    Thumb Up

    More irony...

    On the front page of the BCS site:

    "The co-founder of Wikipedia and Wikia talks to us about the future of paper, use of the internet, large video projects, mobile carriers and more."

    ... 'future of paper'... I wonder if he talks about how it will be necessary for signatures.

  9. Simon B

    BCS? mor like BHWS (British Hand Writing Society)!

    British Computing Society wont accept electronic signatures? Should call them British Hand Writing Society as computing seems beyond them!!

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Oh come on

    The article says these weren't PK signatures, just a list of names and emails. They are totally right to refuse it.

    If the electronic signatures were based on PKI, thent that's a different matter - I recall some EU directive saying that these are equivalent to written signature.

    1. BigRedS


      Had the BCS just accepted an email with a list of 'signatories' at the bottom as a signed petition, surely they should expect to receive exactly the same ridicule ("don't understand computers" etc.)?

      There *are* ways of signing electronic documents, the petition was apparently not signed so.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    As someone who has worked in IT for many years, I find that the people who slag off the BCS members for being dinosaurs or Dad's army, are exectly the same people who don't give two shits about change control or following process and established procedures. They are also the sort of people who end up explaining a disproportionate amount of production outages.

    1. No, I will not fix your computer
      Thumb Up

      I would generally agree

      BCS focus far more on procedure than technology on the basis that technology is just a tool and you have to use a tool safely, for example RAD *might* mean the development cycle is shorter but the cost is usually the re-engineering. All that prince/prompt business might mean slower to market and less dynamic but pays off in stability, apply RAD in a price/prompt framework and you get the best of both worlds, faster deployment with less re-engineering (the NHS system wouldn't have been such a farce with waterfall development).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      double sigh

      Strangely, I find the complete opposite. Most of the people who 'refuse to follow process' are the older JFDI/"This is the way we've always done it" crew - the ones who keep saying 'do you remember when...." - specifically "Do you remember when the BCS were up-to-date".

      I'm no young whipper-snapper (been in IT for 28 years) but you are seriously misguided in you views here.

      PS. I actually hold BCS qualifications and DONT put them on my CV - Once I saw that the course material covered THICKNET cabling I just sighed, and realised my mistake. BCS are just like colleges and schools when it comes to IT - too slow to react and change - basically worthless.

      Dad's Army of IT is an insult to Dad's Army.

  12. Stevie Silver badge


    For a minute I was worried that the BCS would only accept tweets.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Chartered Institute of Project Managers

    I joined the BCS through a previous employer's scheme as I believed it to be the appropriate professional body for a software developer. But over time and especially during this latest rebranding, the organisation seems to have shifted its emphasis towards soft skills and business process. The flagship CITP can be achieved without an in-depth knowledge of hardware or software design.

    I'm not suggesting that IT should sit in some ivory tower, I just feel that a BCS accreditation should indicate a level of technical competence rather than duplicate a PRINCE2 or MBA, otherwise, what is the point?

    1. dickiedyce
      IT Angle

      CITP? CITV more like...

      I signed up for the CITP process, thinking that it would be interesting/useful to see where the holes in my IT knowledge were. Turns out step one is to pass a PearsonVUE multi-guess test on a syllabus plucked from the management end of their existing test portfolios. V. poor, and having looked more closely at the syllabus, containing very little in the way of IT. Management gibberish a-plenty, but only a very few IT-relevant questions - and then only of the "What does HTML stand for?" variety.

    2. Bilgepipe


      I was offered Chartered membership of the BCS simply by virtue of my (then) 15 years' experience working in IT. My actual skills didn't seem to be relevant.

      On topic, they were right to refuse this email - the guy could have copy-and-pasted his Facebook friends list for all they know.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Exactly - what is the point

      A simple job search for employers asking for any BCS accreditation should tell you the answer...there's isn't any. BCS offer nothing over other technology/process/management accreditation/qualifications, and are too far behind the others in terms of current technology and best practice (and don't even bother looking for BCS security-related advice - it's laughable)

      When asked for advice on qualifications or association membership, BCS are bottom of my list (if they even make the list that is).

      1. Annihilator Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        re: Exactly - what is the point

        "When asked for advice on qualifications or association membership, BCS are bottom of my list (if they even make the list that is)."

        Agreed - my only dilemma is whether to put BCS before or after City & Guilds...

        I've always assumed that BCS folks just put it on their CV in the hope the recruiter was dyslexic and thought they had a Bachelor of Science degree...

  14. dickiedyce


    I've been a BCS member for 4 years now. My membership expires in April, and I will not be renewing. Perhaps if it called itself something else, it would be less irritating. Perhaps I'm just too much of a pedant, but it seems a sad misuse of the name British Computer Society. It certainly doesn't speak for me, or other small IT businesses around the country.

    There must be easier ways for the sorts of CIO lovies/wannabes that seem to be running it now to get on the Today programme...

  15. Anonymous Coward

    WI of IT

    I visited the BCS stand at InfoSec a couple of years ago. It was 'manned' by two elderly women (no issue there) who could not get the bar-code reader to work to read my badge..blaming this 'new fangled technology'.

    Sums up the BCS perfectly. Not so much a Dad's Army as a Women's Institue of IT

    Mind you, in days of computer hobbyists they had their place - but no today.

  16. raving angry loony

    no leadership

    Makes sense. BCS has always struck me as being an organization whose main purpose is the promotion of people who worked on mainframes in the 1960s and early 1970s. Those who got in before there were any standards what-so-ever to joining the BCS. Everything they've done since has been quite irrelevant to the quality of IT in the UK or elsewhere. The attitude of their executive to the actual USE of I.T. and technology is but a symptom of a much deeper and fundamental problem with that organization.

    I've yet to see any kind of technical leadership or innovation coming from that organization. Yes, I was a member. No, I'm not a member any more. No, I wouldn't join again.

  17. copsewood

    Should one aggrieved hacker get an EGM ?

    The history of electronic voting doesn't inspire much confidence, including many rigged TV polls where members of the public have wasted a great deal of money on rigged votes that were decided in advance and the attempted votes were not counted at all, and TV companies were charged large fines when the truth got out. I imagine when the BCS do accept EV, it will be based on some kind of PKI its members can verify and use. Chances are that they know enough about this to know that their members can't yet realistically all go to keysigning parties and handle rollover and revocation reliably. Doing PKI right is expensive and hard, and beyond the means of most voluntary organisations. I would imagine the BCS know more than most how much cost and time doing the job properly involves.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Contrast the IET

    To see the difference between the BCS and a real professional body, you just have to compare the BCS monthly comic with the one put out by the IET. One is full of marketing puff-pieces; the other full of interesting engineering.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton



    BCS: Backward Currently Stupid

    CIIT or was it something else in a dyslexic form of vector versus pixel artwork in which a GIF is readily acceptable as vector art?

    Paris: as it is sad as really S-A-D and attracts far too much central government subsidy for sure.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    What is the point of the BCS

    What exactly is the point of the BCS? It's the only "chartered" organisation that I know of that isn't a requirement to work in the profession.

    Heck, you *have* to be a Chartered Librarian to progress up the ranks (which means a *degree*), and yet, in the computing industry it is most definitely not a requirement.

    I bet there are some members of the BCS that don't have a degree even.

    When was the last time a prospective employer asked you whether or not you are a member? Not one in 25 years is my answer.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      You don't have to have a degree to become a chartered engineer, you just need to show that your knowledge and experience is at a suitable level.

      A degree isn't everything, often a decade in industry is just as good, if not better.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    What about the membership?

    I'm not a BCS member - but I am a member of the PHCSG (Primary Health Care Specialist Group) which was affiliated to the BCS - and has now been subsumed: financial reserves, journal, staff taken over by BCS, - and budget - including Conferences - managed by BCS.

    While the charitable objectives of the BCS included services to the membership and supported those of the PHCSG, this was manageable (although it has always made some of us uneasy): the agenda of the current Trustees and the direction of the restructuring would appear to be incompatible.

    I hope I am wrong, but to see one of the leading influences in Primary Care Health Informatics destroyed by re-structuring and change in objectives in the BCS would sadden me - and not serve the wider interests of the health informatics community.

    As a mere member of a sub-group I have no vote or influence.

    FYI just an ordinary member - not on any committee... but the current atmosphere makes it advisable to post as another Anonymous Coward - but not one of the previous posters!

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