Friday, November 26, 2010

I've Got You Under My Skin

If there's one thing that irks me more than anything else in the Information Technology field, it's the attitude of "Hey, as long as there are all these problems, I'll have a job, right?"


To me, that is wrong on just so many levels.  First of all, do the support personnel, developers, and the entire industry around them actual believe that this is what's best for their customers, or even for their bottom line?  Forget personal satisfaction for a job well done, hell even forget professional pride for being able to solve the real problems users have.  Is this really about "as long as my needs are met, I'll keep doing the same ineffective things"?  Okay, so everyone out there, yours truly included, wants to keep their job and remain gainfully employed.  But there has to be a better way!

Since everyone seems to relate to car analogies, let me try one of my own here.  You have a car that maybe randomly accelerates, and braking doesn't effectively stop it.  Or maybe under certain circumstances turning on the left turn signal while turning the steering wheel to the right will cause the gas tank to explode (in very rare instances, of course).  Well, being a common technician, let's see if we can come up with what would be a standard answer -- a workaround, or a patch that will make the situation work in spite of these flaws.  In the first scenario, if the car starts to accelerate uncontrollably, just shift the gears into neutral; you'll probably blow out your engine, but the car will come to a safe halt and you can then take the issue up with the manufacturer to get things all fixed up again.  In the latter situation, it's even simpler:  don't turn your steering wheel right while you have your left turn signal on; it's a rare problem anyway, so it's best to just avoid doing that.

How does this relate to the IT industry?  I'm sure any techs out there have already made their own parallels.  But here's one:  "My computer keeps getting infected with malware of one sort or another, and I keep my antivirus, firewall and antispyware up-to-date.  What do I do?"  What do you do with a rash of malware seemingly targeting some users?  Tell them to stop visiting "those sites"?  Maybe it's not the sites they visit, or the company they keep.  Maybe the problem is the software they use to do what THEY choose to with THEIR computer.  But it keeps us techs employed, cleaning up their messes, so no alternatives are usually given.

Which gives me a nice segue way into security.  Large institutions tend to try make their network secure, by limiting the number of outside access points they have, or by making access without a properly-authenticated computer difficult.  It doesn't matter if this can effectively make some computing equipment useless; at least everything is secure, and hey, it's another problem so it keeps someone employed, right?  What about new equipment or software that doesn't fit the security standard?  Should that just be forbidden and never allowed?  What about non-standard software that doesn't function properly within this "secure" environment?  Don't turn right while signaling left...

I think it's high time for the IT industry as a whole to quit looking at the "bottom line" and actually start providing solutions to user problems.  There are more than enough of those to keep all of us employed for many years to come!  And just think of what progress we'll make!

What irks you about the hardware and software that intrudes into your life?