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The Way of the Technician

By blixco in Culture
Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 11:59:44 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

Way back in the time of warriors and artisans, there were groups of warriors who were available for hire to perform various tasks. Tacticians were contracted, warriors kept on retainer, often for life. They developed codes of conduct, as they had no common ruler...they shared a pride in their skill. Thus, rules of behavior were introduced: Hakagure, the Five Rings, the Art of War, etc. These rules were the only common guide to their behavior. In that same spirit, I'm working on The Way of the Technician.

This has nothing to do with developers. Just techs. Maybe we can develop a common set of hints, rules, and wisdom. Or not. Either way, let me know what you think (this is based on a diary entry).

(This is a document with no real beginning or end...that may develop over time).

Never assume you know everything. There is always someone who knows more than you, and she's usually a highschool kid with no real concept of how much she knows.

The "enemy," if there must be one, is not your user. Your user is simply attempting to fulfill their end of the promise of technology. The enemy, if there must be one, are the developers and engineers that create the promise of technology but back the promise with bad interfaces and poor human design. They create the products and interfaces that a stupid user cannot use. There was a time when technology was self-indulgent. Now technology has come along far enough to be about the humans who use it and not about the engineers and developers that created it.

Your enemy, if there has to be one, are those who profit from your users by introducing promises that cannot be fulfilled. In this case, your retainer is the user. The retainer must always be treated with the utmost respect and care, regardless of their treatment of you or your post.

You should live each day as though you are about to be hit with a network outage, a router malfunction, a hard drive head to disk interference, a thousand support calls, failed UPS's, an economic downturn. You should at all idle times imagine yourself staying up late into the night fixing poorly scripted installs, and dealing with undocumented fixes from previous technicians, diagnostics that fail, phone calls that do not end. Your stance at all times must be one of expected sacrifice. This is the Way of the Technician.

Each task is just work, just a problem to solve. Each task should be viewed as an opportunity to learn more about the System. There are only two problems, then: those you know completely and those you do not know completely. The problems that you know will be invaluable as training, repetition being the key to perfecting your form. The problems you do not know give you time to explore further into the system, and in time they become the problems you know.

Each and every second of every day you are competing. You compete against a machine that will always be faster than you, will always be more complex than you expected, and will always fail at critical times. Your advantage is your own unpredictability; your tactics should rely on this. Your humanity makes you greater than your machines. Great leaps of logic should be utilized to both shorten the time to solution and heighten your awareness of your ability. Don't prove your solution. If you have to prove it, it's not a solution.

The solution to a problem is not the joy of the problem. The joy of the problem are the steps you take to solving it. The joy comes from discovering your ability and making leaps from known to unknown. The joy is the chase, the glimpse of the solution through the noise.

There are five classes of technician: the bench tech, the field service tech, the field service engineer, the lead technician, and the master technician. Technicians cannot classify themselves; they will always assume they are better than they are. This is not a character flaw, it is actually part of their problem solving ability. A technician who assumes he does not know the answer will never rise above the ranks of a bench tech. When you assume you know an answer, you back your assumption with actions that you have learned, knowledge you have gleaned, and intuition. These assumptions of answers are powerful moments in your life, your actions and intuition are called The Way.

A technician's peers are the only true judges of the technician's ability.

Do not fall into the trap of knowing one thing. The man who knows one thing will be confronted daily with things he does not know, and his stance ensures he cannot know them. The man who knows applications above all else should endeavor to know all things connected: ODBC, COM, TCP/IP or networking in general, the architecture, the platform, the operating system, the memory management, the kernel, the processor signal details, what IDE means, how a RAID works. A man who knows only hardware should endeavor to learn all that utilizes the hardware: OS, firmware, BIOS, the user. Likewise, a man who knows only software would do himself only good to learn the hardware he depends on: core processor technology, memory technology, electronics, storage internals, signal technologies. Courses in chip design and kernel debugging should be taken alongside psychology courses, to fully understand the User. To fully know the System is to be entrenched in the Way.

The proliferation of networks has confounded much of the engineering and development community, who have invented their own tools and methods to cope. These are not your tools or methods. Unlike an engineer, to a technician a network is just a large System. It is, like any other System, capable of confounding logic. It is, like all other Systems, capable of mastery. To know the network, extend your thoughts of the System. To know protocols, extend your thoughts of operating systems. To know routers, extend your thoughts of computers.

Every problem has a solution. Every solution lies within the Way. Therefore, the Way contains the Solution to every problem. To study the Way is to know the solutions. To live the Way is to utilize the solutions.


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The Way of the Technician | 43 comments (39 topical, 4 editorial, 0 hidden)
Drivel. (3.89 / 19) (#1)
by Signal 11 on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 12:44:10 PM EST

Alright, first off - there is no Way of the Technician. While the imagery of some samari-tech gone postal on the customer while reciting Sun Tzu has its appeal, I can safely say there is no "way of the tech", having been a professional technician for several years now and only recently tiring of customers and moving into web design because the pay was better and the work was less demanding (the boss is too, suprisingly enough).

There are no hard, fast, rules about being a technician, or doing technical support - they're all bent, broken, and thrown in the trash daily. But if you want my advice, here's the top five things to remember:

  • The customer is always wrong.
  • Anything you do against the evil that is Marketing requires no justification.
  • Laugh - the machine (and management) will quickly become the masters of those who cannot.
  • Be honest... unless you think the customer won't understand you in which case you should lie your ass off.
  • Lastly, and most importantly - your e-mail and websurfing is being monitored. Use an encrypted VPN tunnel.

With regards to keeping your logs professional while alerting other techs to difficult customers, I preferred to use what I call The Clue System. It works like this - you have two marks you can put in your log, ? and !. If you think a customer is really clued, you type ?+++, and if he's really dumb, it's ?----. If he's average, make no mark. If he's alittle slow, make ?-. Etc. For !, that is a mark for use with irate customers, or really cooperative ones. The marks for those are !+++ and !--- respectively. A maximum of four +/- signs is allowed, beyond that, you're being lame.

As a sidenote wrt Marketing (shudder), we were moving to a new building (which, despite having 350+ employees had only 1 bathroom - another story altogether) and they were in the process of setting up the supermassive cube farms that were fourty deep and thirty wide. We were the first ones in, so as a result tech support for several weeks were the only ones in the building save the contractors and suits.

Sensing an opportunity, I gathered two other technicians of the highest caliper and located 3 scissors. The new cube-things had ergonomic chairs which had three levers and two independently-adjustable arm rests. We proceeded to remove the instruction manuals of almost 50 cubes and I personally saw to the shifting about of the stickers indicating which levers accomplished what. To this day, they have not been able to adjust their chairs - often for laughs fellow techs will wander into marketing and see them 2 inches off the ground, their knees half-way to their chest, or sling-shotted forward. This is no joke - I swear. Some of the brighter ones, by trial and error, figured out how to adjust some of their chairs, but I don't think it has yet occurred to them the levers are not what they appear to be. I have since left that company, but I still e-mail some of the people I know there to ask about The Chair Question, the answer of which is inevitably a terse:


Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.

Goddamn BOFH (4.00 / 3) (#3)
by slaytanic killer on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 01:06:11 PM EST

BOFH: Survival trait one learns at clueless companies. I knew a secretary who once told our BOFH that she was surprised that some girl would let him make her pregnant.. I noticed she stopped smiling much after that (I am serious, though I hope there was no connection).

Still, sucked that you gave this article -1, whether or not you're a PFY.

[ Parent ]
-1 ?! (2.00 / 4) (#4)
by Signal 11 on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 01:11:55 PM EST

Still, sucked that you gave this article -1, whether or not you're a PFY.

I demand a recount - I voted for the wrong candidate!

Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.
[ Parent ]

Oh my goodness (2.75 / 4) (#6)
by komisch on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 01:56:03 PM EST

You dear sir are a bastard. :-)
"You are repose and gentle peace, You are longing and what stills it..." Friedrich Ruckert
[ Parent ]
Conceptual vs. Actual (4.25 / 4) (#9)
by blixco on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 02:10:46 PM EST

I'm sure some samuri were grunting uneducated fools or bitter, cynical tyrants, but their codes existed as an ideal, a suggestion for behavior. There were useful bits: how to dress for combat, or how to use two swords against a number of enemies. There were useless bits, like the quasi religious stuff that sets the tone for my story.

You know what's funny? You've already added to the text. I think it strange that you wouldn't see a use to that. You write about your Clue System, but discount the viability of having some form of code or set of admonitions to work by?

I don't think of technicians the same way you do. You've been jaded and have given up. That's fine; I applaud your decision. I've only been a technician for eight years (in some form or another) professionally, and have yet to acheive the kind of burnout you did. I have also only worked for a Very Large Corporation for less than two years. Most of my experience is freelance, field technician and network engineering for small shops. I would think that if I was subjected to a marketing department such as the one you describe, my view of my work would take the same poor turn.

I do take a lot of pride in my work and in my knowledge, and note that quite a few of my peers do as well. Maybe it's how I view my work: nothing is permanent, it's not all "good problems," but it's good, I think, to look past personal bitterness and cynicism and try to help other people (technicians, users, whatever) and solve problems. You, apparently, don't like to solve problems. That's fine.

Thank you very much for your comments, though. This is a living, changing document, and your contribution is appreciated.

The root of the problem has been isolated.
[ Parent ]
Sounds like a typical comment from a... (3.50 / 8) (#15)
by retinaburn on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 04:45:41 PM EST

stuck up techie.

"I know something that others don't, and because its about technology and /new/ obviously I am better than them. My years of training means I know more than users because users are dumb. After being tormented for being a nerd I will strike back at society in my sad pathetic way."

How much physics do you know ?
How much about the law do you know ?
How much about medicine do you know ?
How much about automechanics/thermodynamics/string-theory/humanity/history/literature/music/etc do you know?
I'm glad my doctor doesn't laugh at me when he uses some medical mumbo-jumbo and tell me "Bugger off worm, your not elite enough to know...or my lawyer..or my accountant.

I'm just glad these people don't treat me like scum because we don't know the coefficient of drag on a pencil on a 10 km/h wind for south west day with a humidity level of 55%.

Congratulations on being the best.

I think that we are a young species that often fucks with things we don't know how to unfuck. -- Tycho

[ Parent ]
heheh (4.00 / 3) (#19)
by cbatt on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 09:50:55 PM EST

How much physics do you know ?
How much about the law do you know ?
How much about medicine do you know ?
How much about automechanics/thermodynamics/string-theory/humanity/history/literature/music/etc do you know?
More about all of that than 80% of the people that I encounter in my day to day life, and I work in a high-paying, highly-skilled environment. Yet it's full of one-dimensional stick people (not all of them of course, but quite a few all the way up and down the ladder).

And now I'm stuck up for continuously educating myself and getting a bit angry once in a while because I'm not able to assert myself as well as some smooth talking, uninformed-promise maker with better teeth and hair?

No I'm not an "in the trenches" techie anymore, but I am a tried and true geek. And the modern definition of geek has expanded to include those who tend to learn, think, do, and repeat - ad infinitum. It's getting to be synonymous with jack-of-all-trades, specialist of one.

Sometimes techies are stuck up and utterly deserving of scorn, but the truth is, users have earned every bit of scorn we've heaped upon them. I mean for christsakes, all your files should not go into "my documents". Keyboard plugs should not be jammed on top of coax cable NIC connectors. 3.5" discs are not "hard disks" (this is thakfully going away). The Web is not the internet. And X-Windows is not Windows for UNIX.

All we ask is that they educate themselves and not expect everything on a silver platter. We have to educate ourselves about the world they live in (it's amazing how much you learn about human resources just from supporting their tech issues), but they never seem to think to do likewise.

Before you can understand recursion
you must understand recursion.

[ Parent ]

Educating yourself is good... (4.00 / 2) (#24)
by blixco on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 07:21:12 AM EST

...but your end users must hate you.

Sometimes techies are stuck up and utterly deserving of scorn, but the truth is, users have earned every bit of scorn we've heaped upon them. I mean for christsakes, all your files should not go into "my documents". Keyboard plugs should not be jammed on top of coax cable NIC connectors. 3.5" discs are not "hard disks" (this is thakfully going away). The Web is not the internet. And X-Windows is not Windows for UNIX.

If all your files shouldn't go into "My Documents," then why does the folder "My Documents" exist, and why is this not implicitly mentioned? Why would a user do this? Because they can, and nothing in the interface or the system implies that this is incorrect....so it's not.

As far as plugging things in improperly, color coding has taken care of a lot of the problem there. The PC97(??) spec was good to us for that reason alone. Apple took a bit of a different tack and made everything USB on their iMacs....that way you *can't* plug a mouse into a keyboard port, etc. It's all one port. There are exceptions to every situation...I've had a user who thought that you had to touch the mouse to the screen to click on icons....but the fact is, the majority of users are fairly intelligent people who don't understand the interface or the design behind the program or OS that they're attempting to use. And god help them if they want to, say, add a DSL adapter to their system.

As a for instance, to me it's obvious what carb jet to use to get the most horsepower out of a 1992 Honda VFR, but I know that the carb jetting kit has a couple of problems and I'll have to modify things a bit to get all the fittings correct. I know the manual is incorrect: they spec the wrong timing. I know what timing is best based on that carb jet. Do you know this? More importantly, do you deserve my scorn for not knowing this? No, you don't. Not at all. And if you were to call me and ask me which one to use and how to install it, I'll help. That's all there is to it: support.

The root of the problem has been isolated.
[ Parent ]
I gave a better rating for... (none / 0) (#35)
by retinaburn on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 02:54:18 PM EST

The Ani sig :)

I think that we are a young species that often fucks with things we don't know how to unfuck. -- Tycho

[ Parent ]
hey everybody!!!! (1.00 / 10) (#34)
by StackyMcRacky on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 02:50:45 PM EST

Mr Maturity has struck again!

i do have a question, tho: how exactly do you call yourself "professional" when you did all that crap with the chairs?

[ Parent ]
Quick link (3.71 / 7) (#2)
by slaytanic killer on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 12:49:15 PM EST

Here is the Tao of Programming. Sort of an anti-link, because you are actually advocating good habits.

BTW, despite what you say in the diary, this article looks like it's going all the way -- it's a good idea when people stop talking about how bad things are, and start pointing out how to end the problem.

This is Great! (3.62 / 8) (#7)
by Smiling Dragon on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 01:59:22 PM EST

Feels a bit like a self pat on the back for systems geeks but there are some very valuable points made too. I especially like the point about the users not being the enemy but more like retainer, the enemy being the dev team and marketing :) (Although you missed vendors and telcos, can't forget telcos)

Great to see a positive view for a change.

I must forward this to our dev team to see the reaction.

-- Sometimes understanding is the booby prize - Neal Stephenson
Damn telcos..... (3.00 / 1) (#11)
by blixco on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 02:17:54 PM EST

Count them in. Especially Nynex / BA / Verizon. Yeeesh.

The root of the problem has been isolated.
[ Parent ]
Yes, most especially telcos (4.00 / 1) (#38)
by byte on Fri Jan 12, 2001 at 02:00:43 AM EST

As someone who last night had the pleasure? of waiting till 3:00 in the morning for a telco tech to show up to fix a problem the telco itself caused, yes, most defiantely, telcos *are* the enemy... I am now firmly convinced that the phone company is the single largest manifistation of evil on Earth.

[ Parent ]
Oy. (3.57 / 7) (#8)
by RareHeintz on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 02:04:58 PM EST

A technician's peers are the only true judges of the technician's ability.

Uh... How about the people who hired a technician to do a specific job? They can judge whether the job got done or not. The above sentence smacks of techno-centric elitism.

Beyond that, this seemed to me to be sort of a banal attempt to romanticize a functionary occupation. Nothing personal, friend, but... come on.

http://www.bradheintz.com/ - updated kind of daily

Yep. (4.25 / 4) (#10)
by blixco on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 02:16:44 PM EST

It's very much an attempt to romanticize what I do for a living. Thanks for noticing. It's also useful to me despite that.

My employers have a good idea about my skill, but only another technician will be able to truly judge my skills. My employer used a best guess, based on a bunch of interviews, only one of which was technical in nature. The detail of my skill (the fact that I can do certain immutably whacky tasks faster and more accurately than anyone else) is of no consequence to them. Only my peers can judge my skill; they know the difficulty involved on a personal level. There's a big difference between, say, knowing how to install an OS and knowing how to set up a secure network. To my employer, however, there is no difference.

And, in all actuality, I don't trust my employers view of my skill. I trust my coworkers and peers.

The root of the problem has been isolated.
[ Parent ]
Remember (4.00 / 2) (#16)
by Elendale on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 05:18:10 PM EST

People probably thought Musashi was a hopeless idealist. At least, people he didn't disembowel with a wooden sword.


When free speech is outlawed, only criminals will complain.

[ Parent ]
Oy vey. (5.00 / 1) (#27)
by DebtAngel on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 08:53:25 AM EST

I think we all know enough bad managers to know that managers cannot judge technical ability. I also know enough programmers to know they cannot judge technical ability, and enough techs to know that techs can't judge programming ability. And that none of the above should be judging figure skating. :)

You can only be properly judged by your peers. This is not elitism. It's a fact (or at least a strong opinion masquerading as fact).
Is this post not nifty? Sluggy Freelance. Worship the comic.
[ Parent ]
A minor problem... (1.35 / 17) (#17)
by k5er on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 05:50:47 PM EST

Never assume you know everything. There is always someone who knows more than you, and she's usually a highschool kid with no real concept of how much she knows.

Ummm, she? No!
Long live k5, down with CNN.
Why do you assume it can't be a girl? (4.66 / 3) (#20)
by The Madpostal Worker on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 10:59:05 PM EST

Just a question, I've met some female programmers and admins who could do their job just as well or better than their peers. So why do you assume it cannot be a woman? (Not trying to troll, truely intrested)
<-- #include "~/.sig" -->
[ Parent ]
Not quite the meaning intended, I think. (none / 0) (#29)
by cenotaph on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 10:47:03 AM EST

I think the poster was questioning the author's use of the english language, not weather a woman/girl could do the job. I would have used they instead of she. *shrug*

"He knows not how to know who knows not also how to unknow."
-- Sir. Richard Burton
[ Parent ]

Isn't that the correct general term for a human? (none / 0) (#25)
by boxed on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 08:47:14 AM EST

When speaking generally of humans, do you not say "she"? I know that this is the case in Swedish but I am not sure about english. Please enlighten me.

[ Parent ]
Hmmm (none / 0) (#26)
by spiralx on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 08:52:40 AM EST

I don't know that there is any standard, accepted usage but I'd have gone with "they know" rather than "she knows" most likely.

You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey
[ Parent ]

There is a standard, rarely followed (4.00 / 1) (#33)
by Doug Loss on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 11:35:50 AM EST

If the gender of the object of the pronoun isn't known or is indeterminate, the proper pronoun is "he" in English. Because of a stink made in the '60s and '70s by various feminist groups, Politically Correct users (and many others who just don't want to be bothered by the PC Police) don't use "he" and instead substitute "they," even though that breaks another grammatical rule (noun/pronoun singular/plural agreement).

[ Parent ]
Randomization (none / 0) (#37)
by ucblockhead on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 07:13:57 PM EST

I've seen other people use either "he" or "she" randomly for the same reason. It is a lot less jarring than "they", though still perhaps silly.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
"They" (none / 0) (#41)
by k5er on Sat Jan 13, 2001 at 07:29:00 AM EST

T---------------he--------------y Close enough.
Long live k5, down with CNN.
[ Parent ]
Sorry. Intentional. (none / 0) (#32)
by blixco on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 11:35:07 AM EST

I rated this comment a zero initially, as I assumed the troll.

I use "she" in place of "he" or "they" as a matter of personal preference. It's improper, and it's on purpose.

No, I'm not one of those "when god get's here, She's gonna be pissed" types, I just think that gender bias in language is funny, and I choose "she" because I like the way it sounds.

The root of the problem has been isolated.
[ Parent ]
What I meant! (none / 0) (#42)
by k5er on Sat Jan 13, 2001 at 07:35:25 AM EST

There were two meanings behind what I said, and one of them was not that women are inferior to men. What I meant was...

1) Should have used "they"
2) A small pun on how women complain about the use of "he".

I guess I should have wrote that in my first comment. Kind of reminds me of a .sig I read somewhere "Hindsight is always 20/20"
Long live k5, down with CNN.
[ Parent ]
Since when... (4.00 / 3) (#18)
by Miniluv on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 09:02:42 PM EST

Was any group the "enemy" in terms of support? How are developers the enemy for doing their jobs? How are customers even remotely likely to be the enemy by demanding you do your job so they can do theirs? How are telco's the enemy for attempting to be businesses with standards and policies? How is management the enemy for attempting to keep everyone on track and making money so you can receive your precious paycheck?

Technical work, be it coding, supporting, designing, implementing or pontificating is not combat. This is not a bad thing, because if it were combat we'd have a lot less engineers, most of them being rather scrawny fellows.

If you must, for some twisted reason of your own, consider someone the enemy in a technical support situation, visualize the problem as your enemy. Joy comes from conquering the problem, not from the steps along the way. A job well done is often satisfaction enough, the path to that conclusion can be analyzed later for growth as a person and a technician. If you do not focus on the idea that solving problems, completely solving them, is your mission in that job capacity, you will never actually fulfill your job description. The journey, in support, is less important than the destination. Otherwise the destination never would have been specified. Feel free to enjoy along the way, but don't get sidetracked.

"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'

ideal world vs. real world, I think... (4.00 / 1) (#21)
by Kyrrin on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 02:05:32 AM EST

While the attitude that you suggest -- viewing the problem as the enemy and your coworkers as your allies, unless I misread -- is a great one to have, it's not always possible, nor is it practical.

There's always the person who seems to take delight in standing in your way for no good reason other than the fact that s/he can. There's the person who wants to further his or her own career, and in doing so, wants to make you look like an idiot. There's the person who is just genuinely, honestly, completely incompetent, who needs to be planned around in order to get anything done. And then, of course, there's the subset of management that falls under the Peter Principle: in any organization, people tend to rise to the level of their own incompetence.

Maybe it's just that I work in a Very Large Company, but the last job I held internally was a war zone. Nightmarish, and I mean that. The business owners of the project wouldn't talk to the developers, the developers wouldn't give QA any information, QA and User Acceptance had to figure out for themselves what was supposed to be going on, no one would tell anyone about meetings that were scheduled (so that when a group didn't show up, they'd a). look bad and b). not be able to "disrupt" whatever Grand Plot the people who were there were coming up with)... I could go on, but it's giving me flashbacks. I got the hell out of there as soon as I could; I was sick and tired of being put on the spot because I was fighting for what was Right, and the tech lead was fighting for what was expedient. (Would you release software where the help system didn't work at all? I didn't think so. Either fix it, or TAKE IT OUT. Ahem, sorry, still bitter.)

so ... yeah. Sometimes you do need to look at things as a battle. Sometimes things are a battle. And sometimes you have to just shut up and remember the Sysadmin's Creed. Even if you're not a sysadmin. "I am hired because I know what I am doing, not because I will do whatever I am told is a good idea. This might cost me bonuses, raises, promotions, and may even label me as "undesirable" by places I don't want to work at anyway, but I don't care. I will not compromise my own principles and judgement without putting up a fight. Of course, I won't always win, and I will sometimes be forced to do things I don't agree with, but if I am my objections will be known, and if I am shown to be right and problems later develop, I will shout "I told you so!" repeatedly, laugh hysterically, and do a small dance or jig as appropriate to my heritage." (Mike Sphar, rephrasing something said by someone else, on alt.sysadmin.recovery)

"I'm the screen, the blinding light; I'm the screen, I work at night. I see today with a newsprint fray, my night is colored headache grey, don't wake me with so much..." -- REM
[ Parent ]
Understood... (4.00 / 1) (#22)
by Miniluv on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 02:14:33 AM EST

I've been in situations like that, and found that the only way I can deal with them and maintain my own morals is to quit. If I don't have a job lined up, I'll still quit and go find something else, because my morals are more important than any single job. No, not everyone feels this way, but it's a lot more practical than people think in a lot of situations. You can always find the middle ground of reminding yourself that it'll be over soon while you furiosly job hunt.

I think if more people would just leave these positions, rather than struggling to do a good job in a bad environment, we'd be better off as Darwinism would slowly, but surely, weed these companies out of existence. As for the sysadmins creed, there's something to be said for standing up for what you think is right, but ultimately you are, in fact, there to do what you're told. Case in point, for example, I think Red Hat Linux is an inferior system setup for a small file server. I presented to my boss the reasons I felt a new server for our department should be based around either 1) a sane linux distribution better yet 2)Freebsd. He decided that no, we were using Red Hat. I could've done some slick hacking and installed FreeBSD anyhow and just made it look, upon casual inspection, like Redhat but that would've been wrong. My boss is paying me to do what he wants done, and he wanted Red Hat. If I felt so strongly about it that I couldn't, in good conscience, install the server I would've given notice and taken another job.

I'm not sure where I'm rambling towards with this, but I'm tired of seeing sysadmins feel that it is their higher duty to act like BOFH when in fact all they're doing is making themselves look stupid in a lot of eyes. I'm tired of the entire superiority complex so pervasive in the tech world that marketing depts don't know what to advertise, sales people end up selling something that doesn't exist, and in the end the techs are stuck in a self-created mess trying to support a product that was poorly advertised, and then sold with a bunch of lies because nobody communicated a goddamn thing down the line.

"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]

Misunderstanding..... (4.00 / 2) (#23)
by blixco on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 07:01:18 AM EST

I use the phrase "If there has to be an enemy." For a lot of folks (especially for a lot of phone techs) there is always an enemy: the user. Technicians have developed a hatred of the user based on cynicism and a complete lack of respect for their position. The users supply them with a job. No one seems to understand this, really.

Every call center I've worked in or supervised in, there's always techs who are so surly that you can't even approach them. They hate their users with such a fury that it's hard to understand why they come to work...until you start to understand the wage-slave status of most call center techs.

Granted, some users deserve scorn, and some techs are really not good at what they do...but the perception that the user is to blame because they don't understand how to use their product (or how to fix it when it dies) is false. The user is the reason for the technician's job. If the tech needs to hate someone, hate the morons who came up with this product and have so poorly implemented it that a user, their target audience, can't possibly hope to understand it. Blame the QA guys (me) for not testing it from the user perspective. Most importantly, side *with* the user, if anything just a gesture of support. That's what we do, right? Provide support? Ever worked on a call where ninety percent of the call was just calming the user down? That's just as important as solving the issue. Some technicians are OK with that idea, and some aren't. I'm just providing a possible list of alternative sources of "blame" for the root of the problem.

As a side note, developers and engineers who just do their jobs without applying any thought are the cause of my grief right now. There's a complete disconnect between development and common sense in this Very Large Corporation....and the products reflect that. It's my job now to prevent those issues from getting to the user....and I'm pretty damn good at it....but it's not getting the problem solved. Politics, marketing, and a general "who cares, get it out the door" attitude prevail.

The root of the problem has been isolated.
[ Parent ]
SERIOUSLY modify #2 (4.25 / 4) (#28)
by el_guapo on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 10:11:11 AM EST

because I think it misses a much bigger point:

"The "enemy," if there must be one, is not your user. Your user is simply attempting to fulfill their end of the promise of technology. "

Not only are the users not the enemy, they also are waaaaaaay more than "simply attempting to fulfill their end of the promise of technology". Users are why you have a job to begin with. Remove the users and you remove the whole reason this high-tech stuff exists that we all get paid so much money to support it. So users aren't simply a less tech-saavy body working in the same environment towards common but unrelated goals - they are the fundamental purpose for the whole thing....
mas cerveza, por favor mirrors, manifestos, etc.
User as retainer (5.00 / 1) (#30)
by Erf on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 10:58:21 AM EST

Further on in the article, the user is described as the "retainer", the person basically responsible for your livelihood and who should be given the utmost respect at all times (regardless of how much respect they give you). It might also be a good idea to emphasize this in the same paragraph (or an adjacent one) as the "user is not the enemy" point...

...doin' the things a particle can...
[ Parent ]

How to enjoy your job (none / 0) (#31)
by Erf on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 11:00:06 AM EST

I like this article. I think any techs who follow a philosophy like this one would get a lot of enjoyment and fulfillment out of their jobs.

Every occupation should have a Way. :)

...doin' the things a particle can...

gh05t d0g? (5.00 / 1) (#36)
by Spinoza on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 04:40:58 PM EST

If a technician's cat-5 cable were to be cut off, he should be able to send one last packet with certainty. If a technician is able to send one packet after his cable is disconnected, he need never log out.

Way of the *TeXnician* !! (none / 0) (#39)
by BehTong on Fri Jan 12, 2001 at 11:08:35 AM EST

Way of the Technician??!

I don't know of any Ways of the Technician, but I surely do know the Way of the TeXnician -- writing inscrutible TeX macros and outrageous \catcode's :-P

Beh Tong Kah Beh Si!

good points (none / 0) (#40)
by yavor on Fri Jan 12, 2001 at 02:10:37 PM EST

But something confused me:
There are only two problems, then: those you know completely and those you do not know completely.

Could you ever know a problem compleately?

Karma exists (none / 0) (#43)
by Johnny Shellshock on Thu Jan 18, 2001 at 05:11:04 PM EST

Remember that your actions have consequences at unforeseeable times. When a user's computer "doesn't work" and "the screen is all blank", checking the monitor's power switch is obvious to you. It may not be obvious to the user. Calmly explaining what to do and why it needs to be done, even if it's for the nth time, helps that person grow and may win you an ally whom you will need someday, even if you can't believe that now. Exasperated gasps and rolling eyes belittle both the user and yourself, and may rebound on you when you need it least. Work with the Tao, not against it. (I always thought that situation was an urban myth, until it happened to me...)

The Way of the Technician | 43 comments (39 topical, 4 editorial, 0 hidden)
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