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ACM and the Professional Programmer (acm.org)
49 points by edmccard on July 3, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 17 comments

The paywall has to go.

As researchers, the very purpose behind publishing is to make our work available to as many people as possible. The ACM and other publishers used to facilitate this. Now, the role they play has the exact opposite effect - that of restricting access to information. Furthermore, requiring authors to hand over copyright, as opposed to licensing their work to ACM under suitable terms (e.g. creative commons) no longer make sense. I note the recent introduction of author-pays publishing, and this is a step in the right direction, but the prices seem way out of line given distribution costs.

I made the decision several years ago that I will not allow my scholarly work to be restricted from those who wish to view it but aren't members. As such, I refuse to publish in any venue that does not allow open access. I see the ACM primarily as a racket, acting like a self-interested, for-profit corporation - not an one that represents the true ethos of the scientific community, which involves openly sharing the results of research.

I encourage anyone who still has any faith in the paywall publishing ecosystem to watch the recent Aaron Swartz documentary, "The Internet's own Boy". This will make you angry and realise how corrupt the system of ACM, IEEE, Elsevier and similar organisations truly is. If ACM wishes to have any relevance going forward, it needs fundamental change, lead from the top.

To be fair, you can put your paper on your own site with minimal modifications (an extended version with an extra sentence). Most people who care about their papers do this, but it is very annoying that the Digital Library is not a very effective resource, and that the ACM is stuck mostly in the past.

Living authors can put their paper online, yes. But what about all the older articles from authors that are already dead, to which the copyright is now owned by some corporation? That's one of the worst things in the current copyright system.

Yes, this gets me also: the DL is often the only place where an old paper can be found.

As asgard1024 mentioned, yes you can make the paper available on your own personal site. However personal websites have a lifespan - people move institutions, change jobs (e.g. in my case into industry), and eventually die. Thus the need for a repository of publications maintained by a third party.

ACM's digital library serves this role - and well (for those with access to it) - but the fact that copyright is already surrendered by the author prevents any other third-parties from building similar repositories. Given that doing so is relatively cheap and easy with the technology available today, I see substantial value in making it legally possible for this to be done; an example where this has been done is arxiv.org. These sites are basically the Internet equivalent of libraries, and are analogous to mirrors or repositories of open source software.

Having this ability means we won't lose the material just because the author is no longer willing or able to maintain their personal website.

Citeseer caches papers, I'm not sure how legal that is. I find my papers get copied a bit around the web, and there is always Google's books' project.

I don't see much point to arxiv, and I also am not sure how to put my papers there given that it wants me to use latex in some certain way. The real DL disruptor is Google Scholar, which provides much more value in just making things "findable" as well as dealing reasonably well with citations and finding a free copy somewhere. Citeseer used to fill that roll, but hasn't been updated in a long time.

How fast a paper goes into obscurity is a litmus test in determining its value (and if its worth downloading and reading). So if the author stops caring after 5 years, then why should we care also? Much of what gets published just isn't very good. On the other hand, a good paper (that people find valuable) will get copied around to various locations, and will be findable that way. But there is always stuff that falls through the cracks of this test...like old overlooked work that was actually decent, but I have the feeling that we've expanded so much as a discipline, that finding such work will be virtually impossible for anything published after 1997 or so, DL or no DL.

There's also a weird recent addition, the "Author-izer" [1], where the author can generate non-paywalled direct links to the definitive ACM DL version, and post those links on their personal website. This is distinct from the author-pays open-access option in that it's free, but just generates open-access links that you can post elsewhere, rather than making the paper fully open-access, as the pay option does. I don't bother to use it myself though, and instead just self-host a copy of the final PDF.

[1] http://www.acm.org/publications/acm-author-izer-service

It's gratifying to read such an insightful, unequivocal comment on HN - and I hope you also emailed it as (relevant!) feedback to the two addresses provided in the article!

I found the Google scholar link mentioned by one of the commentors. It is quite useful. Check out the below link for a simple search on graph databases.


The primary URLs point to ACM DL but the RHS links point to alternative free sources.

When I Read the title I thought of the Google and Apple wage fixing case, and I thought... the ACM really isn't representing the professional programmer much. Not in the same way that the AMA, Bar association or many other professional associations do.

Some might say, well that's not what the ACM is for. Why not? Continuing education is great, although frankly being a journal publisher isnt 'education' to me. But if the ACM wants to really expand, they need to think about what the working programmer really needs.

If the answer to all this is 'keep publishing stuff' then maybe the ACM is just an academic bridge, and these articles about being for the 'professional programmer' should just stop.

Indeed. There were some serious issues in the late '80s and on, like removing the tax safe harbor for consultant programmers, and the ACM was nowhere to be found on these issues, which is one of the things that prompted me to drop my membership. Maybe if I was an academic I would have viewed it differently, but....

yes what have the IEEE BCS EFF et all done for us as professionals "bugger all since Brunel died"

Why are organisations like these not lobbying to remove the laws that discriminate against IT professions when compared to others I am thinking of IR35 in the UK and the equivalent laws in the USA.

I am a 38yo professional programmer. I used to be an ACM member largely because I could benefit from the CACM subscription. But at some point, the stack of CACM paper editions filled my cellar, and around the same time Moshe Vardi published one of his controversial editorials on public access, so I cancelled my ACM membership, because:

* I could not get a digital-only subscription

* CACM's position on public access made feel uneasy about supporting this ancient organisation with my money.

I was a member for a few years. I left when my role moved away from software development for few years.

I'm thinking of rejoining, there are some interesting articles [Edit this is incorect: and if you pay for the digital library you get Safari Online access too I think]. ACM seems much more interesting than the BCS which (from an outside prejudice perspective) feels even less relevant.

Edit: Looking at the site again I'm wrong and Safari Online access is extra. Not sure if I'm misremembering or it has changed. Given this I'm unlikely to rejoin.

Agree on the edit. For clarity: about 700 Safari online books, videos from O'Reilly and other publishers are available to ACM Professional Members without a subscription to the Digital Library necessary. In addition 500 Books24x7 titles and more than 150 Morgan Kaufmann and Syngress books are available to ACM Professional and Student members, again without Digital Library subscription required.

Professional membership to ACM is about $100, and subscription to the ACM Digital Library is an additional $100. Student memberships fees are reduced to 20-30% of that.

I wonder what percentage of employees at Google are ACM members. That in itself might inform Vint of how useless the ACM is.

Hmm, I'm getting a 500 error. What's up?

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