Sunday, September 7, 2008

I don't hate people

For anyone who might possibly be reading the notes on my Shared Items Google reader page you might think that I hate people. That's not true. Part of it is that I've been in a less than great mood this week for various personal reasons. Chief among them is that I seem to have caught a cold.

Another big part though is that I am continually annoyed at how technology is marketed. We continue to push forward the myth that "computers make things easier" and continue to foist metaphors of technology with meatspace equivalents. The thing is computers don't make things easier, they make things faster and more widely available. Where things start to break down is when the metaphors we use fail to address the issues of speed and availability. I think when that happens for non-techy people they just give up and figure out a way to muddle though. I think that's where we're at now: the majority of people muddling though a day full of computing by blasting email out on a near continual basis because they know it sorta works for everything they need. That frustrates me because I can see their frustration.

IMHO, the fix is not to simply show a person how to use Word. Instead we need to educate with information and time management skills and work harder to make the tools they use simpler. People shouldn't need training on how to use a pile of software, but people do need training on how to deal with the junk that software creates.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Carpet Fresh and Assumptions

Martha Stewart believes you should clean your dishwasher. If you have dogs, you also know that even that spendy Dyson Animal needs a good cleaning once in a while because, frankly, dogs are damn gross. This is mainly because even though we assume our cleaning tools are by nature clean, it's a wrong assumption.

We recently moved into a new apartment which has wall-to-wall carpeting. The previous residents used Carpet Fresh. How do I know? Because today I went to empty the bin on our new vacuum cleaner it was full of carpet fresh like stuff. But we've been sucking it up since we moved in, it hangs around in your carpet forever and starts to stink after a while. That there was funk in the bin didn't surprise me. I also noticed that there was some dog fuzz in the part of the bin that caused the dirt to spin around. I popped it out to unwrap the hair and *plonk* out came a giant mess of dog fuzz bound with a huge amount of Carpet Fresh. Dust flew everywhere causing me to get insanely pissed. It also made me think "Huh, that's why every time we vacuum it smells worse.. I just assumed we were kicking up leftover Carpet Fresh from the carpet." I took everything apart, cleaned it, and put it back together. Now things work better. I knew that this was something I really should do once a week, but I got lazy and assumed that my shiny new cleaning tool was by nature, clean.

So how does this relate to system administration? We assume a lot in our line of work. We assume (or perhaps "believe") that things break in the same way, that data formats are correct, that things that do have inter-relations don't, that someone else hasn't changed that script in the past year. That cleaning tools don't also need a good cleaning once in a while. When we don't check what we definitively don't know about a system or process before we build upon those assumptions, we'll get bitten at some point.