Feeds

An ode to rent-a-nerds and cable monkeys

Love 'em or hate 'em, we'd be screwed without them

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Sysadmin blog Writing an article for El Reg takes between two hours and several weeks of research. Different articles have different origins. I usually have some techie-type problems occurring that could make for an interesting article, but every so often I get a bug about something and dive into a pile of off-topic research.

I have been writing articles for about 18 months now; doing research/interviews/lab testing and then bashing out an article is a comforting sort of normal. It is a problem to be solved, a task to complete. I am a systems administrator: solving problems is simply what I do.

Every so often, however, they let me run a little wild and I get to pick a topic relevant to my interests. This carte blanche is bizarrely problematic. That sort of freedom feels a lot like going back to those very first few weeks of writing where everything was new and scary.

What if I say the wrong thing, present it in the wrong fashion? What if the readers don't like my topic? What if I – $deity forbid – make a spelling mistake? The commenters around these parts will have me for dinner.

Whether any of this should be relevant to you is questionable, but it sets an important background for the topic I do want to discuss: personal perception. Each of us views the same challenges in different ways. Typically, these are framed based upon what is familiar to us.

Every field has its prejudices. They are an inescapable part of human nature. Rivalries become feuds. Common errors develop into in-jokes and eventually foster a sense of disdain. One example is a way that systems administrators tend to look down our collective noses at on-site technicians. To most sysadmins, on-site techs never get anything right. They break the rules and never seem to go through the proper channels that you have spent so long establishing. Finding one that knows how you want things done and doesn't have to ask you about every little thing seems a Sisyphean task.

We give these contractors cutesy names designed to help dehumanise them and remind us of our own superiority. How many among us have used "cable monkey" in a derogatory fashion? How many have referred to an on-site support consultant as a "rent-a-nerd?"

Hand in hand with this bit of professional name-calling is the implication that the job of the other person is somehow "easy". Certainly it is at the very least easier than yours – you do "real" work after all – and down the rabbit hole of skewed perception we go.

I am guilty of this myself. Until recently, I never had much time for on-site techs. Then, I decided that taking a few odd jobs would be good topic fodder for writing articles.

Actually being an on-site tech in someone else's network playing by someone else's rules is not an easy task. As with writing outside my comfort zone, I find the experience humbling: a much needed reminder that the world is larger than the sum of my personal experiences.

Unless we periodically step far enough outside our comfort zones to realise when and where our perceptions are orthogonal to reality, we risk becoming mired in the same old, same old. We fall victim to our prejudices, and end up using dated methodologies in support of antiquated design paradigms.

If writing for El Reg has taught me anything, it is that IT is about more than the tech. It is about the people who make the widgets do the thing and the bits go from here to there. It is about the cultures embraced by those who practice the art – our stories, humour, our mythology, our prejudices and our shames.

Until VMWare succeeds at replacing us all with a virtual machine and a shell script, IT is about all of us: the human beings that make it all work. We are all important pieces of the puzzle – all of us – regardless of job title. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
NSA SOURCE CODE LEAK: Information slurp tools to appear online
Now you can run your own intelligence agency
Azure TITSUP caused by INFINITE LOOP
Fat fingered geo-block kept Aussies in the dark
Yahoo! blames! MONSTER! email! OUTAGE! on! CUT! CABLE! bungle!
Weekend woe for BT as telco struggles to restore service
Cloud unicorns are extinct so DiData cloud mess was YOUR fault
Applications need to be built to handle TITSUP incidents
Stop the IoT revolution! We need to figure out packet sizes first
Researchers test 802.15.4 and find we know nuh-think! about large scale sensor network ops
Turnbull should spare us all airline-magazine-grade cloud hype
Box-hugger is not a dirty word, Minister. Box-huggers make the cloud WORK
SanDisk vows: We'll have a 16TB SSD WHOPPER by 2016
Flash WORM has a serious use for archived photos and videos
Astro-boffins start opening universe simulation data
Got a supercomputer? Want to simulate a universe? Here you go
Do you spend ages wasting time because of a bulging rack?
No more cloud-latency tea breaks for you, users! Get a load of THIS
prev story

Whitepapers

10 ways wire data helps conquer IT complexity
IT teams can automatically detect problems across the IT environment, spot data theft, select unique pieces of transaction payloads to send to a data source, and more.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence
Download Choosing a Cloud Hosting Provider with Confidence to learn more about cloud computing - the new opportunities and new security challenges.