Monday, March 21, 2005

Black arts

Jono Bacon blogs about MS using FUD to squeeze out Linux, and along the way notes something that can be said of many people running not just Linux but any IT department:
If someone came into an organisation that I ran and created some kind of custom system that you needed black magic to understand, I would feel indebted to keep them on board or my IT goes down the pan until someone can understand it. This has always been one of the traditional methods of keeping your job, particularly in the UNIX world. Simply weave an intricate web of bash shell scripts, garnish them with a range of specially compiled and utterly archaic system tools and finish with an impressive lack of documentation on how the whole thing works. If you got the recipe just right, developed an anti-social personality and kept yourself to yourself, you just may never get bothered by management again.
This often stands out as a problem of a lot of IT departments. One that I inherited a few years back had absolutely no documentation of any kind created by the previous person - who had been there for nearly five years. Inside of 16 months, I had written up at least 200 pages of bare essentials notes on how to maintain and fix the system as needed, and how it was supposed to work. People see docs as being seondary because management might ask for them, but will never read them, and also as a form of job security. The fact is that by not fulling exploring how the system is supposed to work they miss a chance to see areas for improvement. Stopping to consider something is perhaps becoming a lost art, the loss being magnified in IT. Unless of course the goal is to sit alone in a cubicle, not speaking to anyone, carefully studying the diagram of the Enterprise on the wall.


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