On Not Knowing

I’ve been in the software game for 30 years now. I’ve seen some things.

One of the things I’ve seen is the gradual degradation of technical capability in IT departments. When I joined this world, there was little divide between people who built software and people who ran information systems; they had many of the same skills, and careers would often move through both spheres.

That’s not really the case anymore. Software people just build software, and remain (generally speaking) technically proficient and often quite bright. However, the other side of the house is in disarray. IT departments are now often overrun with people who have never done anything hands on at all, or who have very very minimal technical ability. This is trouble, and leads to meetings with a WHOLE BUNCH of people who are deadweight while two or three people who can actually engage with the material have a conversation.

(That said conversation is frequently interrupted by the know-nothings with worthless contributions should be taken as read.)

But wait! It gets worse!

I have a customer now who has taken this a step even farther by outsourcing the not-knowing to a third party. I suppose this makes sense, because you can get external people to not know things for far less money than hiring internal people to not know these things.

We must engage these third party people to ensure there’s a proper headcount of know-nothings in any given meeting; often, we must reschedule to ensure that precisely the correct parties are included — we may have someone on the call who does not understand Active Directory, sure, but we ALSO need a resource who does not understand SQL Server, and they’re offshore, so we have to reschedule.

Obviously, too, the lack of knowing generally allows the rampant metastasis of Policy, which always thrives in environments short on knowledge. Such policies are often at odds with reality, and so we must carefully explain why one cannot, for example, do the IT equivalent of declaring mathematical truths by legislative fiat.

(Yes, that link describes an event from 1897, but don’t get cocky; legislative bodies the world over continually try to impose back doors on cryptographic systems that would somehow only ever be usable by “good” people, which makes no more sense than setting π = 3.2.)

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