Monday, February 15, 2010


I see I've worn you out, dear reader. Sorry 'bout that.

Because I'm helpless against temptation, I've been tracking visits to this site, and whereas I got more "return visitors" when I wrote less, I get almost none anymore. No one seems to come back for more.

It doesn't really hurt my feelings. Honest. I mean it's not like you were giving me any feedback anyhow, even if you were coming back. Even if you know me in real life, which I think it's pretty unlikely that you do. I wear those people out just by talking.

It is interesting to see, though, how much commentary there is on angled sites. Sites with an angle. The ones you go to because you already agree with everything the blogger has to say, and you just want to register your rah rah agreement. So, I can be happy that I'm not that kind of site. I don't ever want to be cunning the way that Sarah Palin is. (I seem to have a thing about her, don't I? Well, she is worrisome. She seems a fraud to me. Raw ambition cloaked in something attractive, and it scares me.)

And anyhow, I'm used to being a fraud. I have a fairly long and reasonably distinguished career as a techie. You're not going to see me on the cover of Information Week or anything, because at least I know I'm a fraud and don't want to expose that fact. I would never in a million years stand up and represent that I know exactly what you should do with your technology. But I would maintain that my judgment is as good as the next guys and I have a decent track record.

What I lack is theoretical underpinnings. In pretty much the same way that I've had a hard time with academic credentials, I've never had the time or the resources or, frankly, the inclination to slow down enough to get the theory right. But in the field of Information Technology, the facts of the marketplace so out-pace their theoretical underpinnings, that a decent argument can actually be made that you're better off without theory.

In other words, while sitting in school learning about how things have been done and how they should be done, someone out there in the "real world" is already doing it differently. You have to be hands-on full time all the time to even have a chance to keep up with what's going on.

Plus, theory sometimes, or even often, traps you into conclusions based more on the shape things should have, in your mind, than it does on things as they really are. Like a clunky plot in a movie, it goes exactly where it has to go, and so the movie makers have to come up with new ways to keep the audience on its toes.

Or do like House, the TV show, and bring the audience right into the plot, writing by committee, and just make the whole thing like a three-ring circus. Where there's so much to watch, under-girded by some medical mystery, that you can hardly even think of turning away, even though you know exactly how it's going to end. Sort of. But you still want to see.

That's the kind of show you just hope they'll be able to keep going forever. Unless they succumb to the temptation of letting House fall in love. That would end the show in an instant. But barring that, the show will and can go on forever.

Pretty much like my writing, you might think?

I'm honestly not so sure being a doctor is all that different from being a techie. You think you want someone handling your body who has had lots and lots of theoretical training, but the world of medicine now seems to be modeling itself after the world of IT. Every day a new and better medicine. Every day a new diagnostic machine.

The big difference is that in medicine, they actually pay the professors pretty well, and even expect them to practice while they teach. And maybe the good new stuff still comes out from the academies?

In the case of actual IT, you'd be nuts to move into the academy from the real world, which pretty much guarantees that students will not get what they need there either. Unless you're Carnegie Mellon or MIT, perhaps, but even there it might be a toss-up if the really cool stuff is going on inside or outside the academy walls.

Those walls are pretty porous anyhow, aren't they? anymore. Technology transfer arrangements can make both universities and professors pretty rich now, but we won't go into that.

I'm just wondering what a fraud really is anymore. If you can do the job, you're manifestly not a fraud. But sometimes, like Matt Damon in that movie, even if you can do the job, you're a fraud if you don't have the credential. In the field of IT, that's a difficult call. Sometimes the theoretical underpinnings are helpful. Sometimes, just like a predictable Hollywood plot, they lead you in directions which have a nice shape but nothing at all to do with reality.

I was always a pretty good troubleshooter. I think a bit more theory might have wrecked that ability. But it was a game of nerves, keeping up with what's new and different, and weighing the likely honesty of salespeople against your own read of the marketplace. The proprietary against the free. Having to give the game over half the time to the young and certain ones who think they know everything, and often enough actually do! about whatever they are thinking is the latest coolest thing.

Now I turn my attention to words, where I really know I'm a fraud. But where somehow, the credentials really are expected to get in the way. Would you read a novel whose author put Ph.D. after her name? I didn't think so.

Well, back to my writing then. See ya! Or not. Whatever. Bye. I never said I loved you. And you're way too experienced to be handling my body. Yuch! That's just disgusting. If I wanted to be manipulated, I'd get a doctor. If I wanted to teach, I'd get a doctorate. If I wanted a virtual lover, the kind with all that experience and technique, well, I have better things to do with what money I have left. You can find somebody else, and it won't hurt my feelings. Honest.

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