Over the last few years I have really come to question the point of various web industry professional associations.
Yes, it’s all about member benefits, relevancy, and value for money. What I also look for is the chances to network, face to face or online, ways to enhance my professional development (offline and online). Also the validation that you are following industry best practice as well.
Still the most important requirement is a sense of community and belonging.
However when this sense community is hard to find, as it is really a localised clique or just doesn’t seem to be the right mix to be relevant. It’s at this point that the time that the money you are shelling out for these organisations just seems a little pointless.
Within the web industry in Australia and beyond there are a number of organisations that have over lapping spheres of influences that cross into the realm of the web industry. Granted now I have not joined and used all their services, however I have had a very close look at most of them.
Australian Computer Society (ACS)
I joined the ACS when I used to work in the IT industry (that was a lifetime ago), and they were relevant then. However over the years they have become an ageing IT managers club. The seminars and conferences are just no longer relevant. It’s either I don’t fit in the IT industry or the ACS isn’t relevant anymore.
Currently even the networking at local ACS meetings involves the same people month after month. There is just no value it with this group as a whole when then can’t seem to understand the concept of usability, user experience design or the like.
The only reason I continue with the membership is it’s now a lot harder to rejoin the ACS than it was when I first joined. However if I breakaway why would I rejoin.
I have even considered maybe volunteering for the local committee and trying to make a change from within. But it seems pointless, overall the ACS just doesn’t seem to be that open to people from the web industry. Guess the dinosaurs just don’t get this web thing.
Australia Web Industry Association (AWIA)
I have soft spot for AWIA as I have served on the committee, and have been a member for a number of years. So okay I’m bias.
AWIA is very web industry specific, they aim to represent and promote the web industry in Australia. Considering the small number of active volunteers AWIA has achieved some amazing things.
The problem is that although AWIA has run some very successful events like conferences, seminars, and a national web awards, there is still a air that they are Perth centric, despite efforts to change this.
Like most young associations it has a good sense of community, with a hard working team of tireless volunteers.
This is the heart of AWIA’s problems, the team of volunteers. You see there is a point that every professional association gets to when the volunteers can no longer do everything without regional branches or a paid admin support team. AWIA is at that point.
Web Industry Professionals Association (WIPA)
If I was living in Sydney I would be a member of WIPA, not AWIA. Basically WIPA is the same as AWIA, except they are based out of Sydney.
WIPA is facing the same issues that AWIA is, volunteer burnout. There is nothing wrong with WIPA at all, it is supporting, representing the promoting the web industry just like AWIA.
In fact, maybe AWIA and WIPA should be considering, egos of both committees aside, merging and making a solid, unstoppable, truly national professional association for the Australian web industry and the benefit of members.
Australian Interactive Media Industry Association (AIMIA)
Okay a disclaimer on this one, I’m not a member of AIMIA.
The scope of AIMIA is focusing on anyone working in the media industry, that’s marketing, advert production, interactive promotion, and the web.
My issue is that AIMIA is like the ACS, the web is just a minor slice of what they are looking at. Granted it’s a larger slice and of more relevance that with ACS.
Sure they run a good deal of events, on the east coast. An Australian awards competition, with a low regard from web standards and best practice.
However living in Perth, does AIMIA has any relevance, is there any benefit from AIMIA that will help me in Perth. There also doesn’t even appear to be an online community that I can see.
Computer Human Interaction Special Interest Group (CHISIG)
You know when you get an organisation that you just wish they would be relevant. You know that the overall subject matter is one that is close to what you are professionally interested in.
Well that is what it is like with CHISIG, from what I can see CHISIG is just there to support a series of regional annual conferences which really just has focus a little too much in the theoretical world of academia for my liking.
This is a real pity as I can envision CHISIG becoming a very important organisation in the future. Locally CHISIG run the annual conference OZCHI.
Information Architecture Institute (IAI)
The IAI is focused on the promotion, best practice and use of Information Architecture, the membership is mostly US focused as all these like overseas associations tend to be.
The major benefits for members are a a closed email list, a mentoring program, the Journal of Information Architecture, and an annual conference (in the US, so that’s not going to happen any day soon is it).
In general the IAI has provided a considerably high level of interesting resources and benefits for a low fee of US$75.
Interactive Design Association (IxDA)
The IxDA is a very interesting association, again like the IAI its very US centric, but with volunteers from around the global, local chapters are very quickly popping up all over the place. It’s centred around a mailing list. The cost of membership is free. The IxDA also runs an annual conference in the US – Interaction.
Not really much of a professional association at the moment as a support group for people interested in Interactive Design. However, things are changing with the IxDA. One to watch.
Usability Professionals Association (UPA)
If I wasn’t involved with the local UPA chapter (in formation) I really don’t think I would bother with the UPA. I just seem to have lost interest in the UPA. Yes I’m still passionate about usability, but just not the UPA.
There is no online community, no mailing list. There is however a quarterly magazine and number of online resources limited to members.
The usability and findability of the information on the UPA website really is a distraction from the overall benefits as well. Mind you the membership fee is only US$100, so the resources are reasonable for the price.
The UPA just don’t seem to be living in the same world as we are in Australia. Even their policy for chapter formation is just unrealistic for regional centres like Perth.
At present I’m hoping the UPA can see the error of it’s ways and move forward and improve.
Internet Industry Association (IIA)
The history of the IIA is they formed mainly out of the need to lobby the Australia government in relation to issues effecting ISPs. This greatly effects their policy and direction, making then somewhat relevant to the web industry.
However they are not focusing on the coal face of the our industry but the service providers.
Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA)
The AIIA does have a local Perth branch, and they do run regular events. However the event prices and membership fees (staring at $600 per business) indicate that they are focusing on the top end of town.
The AIIA runs some amazing events, that are a very good networking resource, even an ICT awards competition, in a way they are like the ACS for business. The relevancy of their professional development benefits, and the like, are just a little low for the web industry, mind you it’s higher than the ACS.
Web Standards Group (WSG)
A number of years back the WSG was up and coming, with local branches around Australia and regular seminars and meet-ups.
However as volunteer numbers have waned over the years and so has the local involvement, despite membership being free.
The WSG is now mainly an online community, with adhoc meetups on the east coast, however it still should be considered as it promotes an idea of web standards and best practice for web design and development. Which is a good thing.
I know there are a lot more like associations than the ones listed above, some are very much developer or designer specific, some not. If you like list any extras in the comments below.
So are these associations still relevant? Would you consider joining or should we put them on notice. Or maybe I’m just missing something, you tell me?