The Least Amount of Administrative Effort

Anyone who has ever decided to take a Microsoft certification knows how utterly evil and soul-consuming those tests and their dastardly trick questions can be. They don't want you to learn the information. They want you to fail. And then cry.

But that's not why I'm here today. While studying for this brain-sucking torture session test, I've noticed a theme in the hordes of practice questions I've been answering. A the end of almost every question, the grand people at Microsoft want you to accomplish the task with "the least amount of administrative effort." I always took this statement for granted. Obviously, if I'm going to do something, I'll do it in the least amount of steps possible. But the more I think about, the more I realize that the IT people are the only people that get paid to encourage laziness. Seriously, what other industry rewards lack of effort? In a world where everyone is pushed to try harder, if I'm trying hard, I'm obviously doing something wrong! Worded differently, each Microsoft question could have said "How is this problem solved, and how will you do it without ever getting out of your chair or picking up a phone?" And that's exactly what IT shops around the world are striving to achieve. We just implemented a remote desktop application (called Dameware) that allows us to look, change, and edit, all kinds of things on users' PC's without them ever knowing. That means we don't have to call them, we don't have to schedule around their meetings, and we don't have to deal with their PC illiteracy ("I'm looking at my keyboard, and I don't see the start button"). And we were applauded for finding and implementing this software.

Ironically, it's that same laziness that makes us IT guys stressed out and overworked. You see, we've fallen into the same trap that all technological innovation falls into. If I can kill two birds with one stone, I'll just be expected to kill more birds. If it takes an hour to fix an issue instead of two, then I'll just give you another issue to fix. That's why we now have 6 Desktop Support staff for 800 users. When I first started this job, I found a way to shorten a one and a half hour software installation to ten minutes. I was proud of myself, people were happy with the solution, and all was well in the world. Problem is, now we just get more of that software to install in a shorter amount of time.

So, maybe this "laziness doctrine" of IT isn't really accurate. It's really an "efficiency doctrine". You see, the other way to reword the Microsoft question is "How do I solve this problem, and how do I do it in the least amount of time so that the company saves money in man-hours, and I can quickly and efficiently go on to the next problem?"

This really just proves the point that people have been making for decades. Technology designed to make our lives easier is really just making us responsible to do more work. For each advance that improves our quality of life, we make it harder for ourselves to take time time and enjoy those advances. I think this is what drives the gadget movement. Admiring the latest gadget takes our minds away from the notion that in all actuality, technology makes our lives harder. The Blackberry that was going to organize your life and let you spend more time away from the computer is now a ball-and-chain extension of your work computer. Your multi-tasking speed demon PC was supposed to enable you to get things done faster is now requiring you to squeeze even more work out of your busy schedule, making you stay at work later.

I'm not going to leave you with an open-ended question of whether technology is good or bad. That one's been thrown around for ages. I have answers.

Technology is good. This trap that we find ourselves in - completely escapable. It's really all about staying ahead of the curve. The ones who adopt and adapt to technological innovation early and well will always appreciate the freedom that the technology brings. When the curve catches up and the manager is giving you more work, the real technology leaders are already finding a way to make that new benchmark easier to complete (with the least amount of administrative effort). The people that adopt the advances for the pure enjoyment of it, because they thrive on it, and because they understand the true value of advanced technology, those people are the ones sitting back in their office chair, finished, with time to spare because they took the time to learn the new Windows tweaks or that new Excel feature that made their lives just a little bit easier.

So, my answer is that technology benefits those who embrace it. If you let technology come and go, and take the advances for granted, you're doomed to be trapped by it, instead of liberated.

Now, I need to get my lazy butt of this chair and study for test...

with the least amount of administrative effort.


The Flame Game

The circle of foes closes in around me, watching my every movement for the slightest error. One misplaced step, one unnecessary blink, and they will pounce. They will pounce on me, fangs bared, ready to rip open my jugular as my blood as well as my dignity spill out onto floor I stand upon. I can't let that happen. There is simply too much at stake. One loss here is one loss for the cause. The cause needs me, and I will come to its aid! I will stand my ground, and I will fight outnumbered. I will fight my opponents if it takes years, and I will guard this cause with my life! I will never back down, and I will never admit defeat!

And when defeat is finally inevitable, I will summon my opponents with reconciliatory words and pacifist gestures. I will trade kind words and apologies. I will offer treaties, truces, and even friendships. And when I know that no matter how hard I try, and no matter what devious tactics I employ, my enemy will not falter, and before they can strike me down with their dastardly magical swords of flame, I will simply utter the magic words....

"This forum is so gay, I'm outta here."

The Flame War. It's a phenomenon unique to the Interwebs, and it is completely pointless. Anonymous forum members engage in passive aggressive insults informed debate regarding anything from TV shows, to operating systems, to politics. Every party in the war believes that the other side is actually open to other opinions, and that they would ascribe to your cause if they would only listen, damn it!!

Sorry. Calming down now.

Flame war combatants fight as if the fate of the known universe depends on the outcome of the debate. If, for example, the flaming is regarding the PC vs. Mac (The ultimate and most epic flame war), the PC side will fight as if the consequence of losing is the actual domination of Macs in the real world. The Mac side will fight as if winning the war will cause the PC side to immediately throw their computers from atop their office building and go buy shiny new Macbooks, ushering in the dawn of the messianic age of computing. Oh, and in case you thought that actual intellectual debate transpires, you should stop thinking so much. It typically degenerates rapidly into "macs are for fags" and "I'm a Pc, and I suck ballzz."
Just to show how completely ridiculous flame wars can be, let me provide an analogy to clarify: One guy walks into a subway train and pronounces Heinz to be the best maker of Ketchup in the land. A complete stranger comes up to him and says "Well, I just had some Hunts, and it was pretty good."

The original commenter (The OP, in flame war-ese) looks at the stranger with a sneer of pure disgust and says "Are you f'ing kidding me? Have you ever even tasted Heinz ketchup? I can't believe you actually believe the lies they're spewing about the 'correct' way to make ketchup. It disgusts me every time they open their arrogant, lying mouths, and misinform innocent people about the ways of Ketchup. If you would ever open a f'ing book and read something you might understand that the Hunts company is just a front for the forces of corruption in the Ketchup industry. They are a danger to society, a menace to the Ketchup eaters everywhere, and they must be stopped before they do any more harm to our already struggling Ketchup economy."

Keep in mind we're in a crowded subway amongst total strangers.

"I'm just saying that I think there's some merit to Hunts ketchup. Can you at least acknowledge that? Plenty of people eat Hunts and they're not evil. Are you calling me evil?"

"O rly? Bring me one example where Hunts hasn't lied to the public. Anything. You pick. If you can bring me one example where Hunts has told the truth about any one topic, I will concede to you. Heinz Ketchup always tells the truth and is a consistently trustworthy source of Ketchup news, and if you say otherwise, then you're obviously just another mindless zombie brainwashed by the Hunts army."

At this point, a random passenger from the back of the train yells out "Hunts is for faggots!!! LOLzzzzzzzzz, your momz a gayfag!"

After hours of ruthless debate, and scores of mothers scorned on either side, the train stops at it's destination. At which point, the Heinz guy says,

"Oh, this is my stop. I have to go now, it's been a pleasure debating this with you. I really think you have some good points. However, those points are only valid if you believe in falsehood. I hope one day you will have the sense to see things from my point of view and realize that in the end, truth always wins." At which point he steps out of the train, not even knowing the Hunts guy's name.

You get the idea. No one cares, you're arguing with a stranger you will most likely never see again in the future, and the winner doesn't even win anything. Yet, you just argued for hours, as if the whole foundation of Ketchup manufacturing would stand or crumble based on this random subway encounter.

Knowing all that I know on the subject, how in the world did I manage to waste hours upon hours debating the sanity of Glenn beck with a total stranger? On a random forum? After hours of duking it out, outnumbered and tired, someone sent me a private message. The messenger basically said that he's tried to argue political debates in this forum many time before and he has since given up. He said it's futile, and that it causes more stress than satisfaction. And yet, I still argued. I didn't stop until I finally realized that it was indeed futile, pointless, and ultimately depressing to argue with strangers who don't want to hear what I have to say. So I left with "I have to work now, bye." Ungraceful, but effective.

Why did I let it go so far? Why couldn't I realize this from the get-go?

Well, simple. It's because I was right. Because g-d help me if I was going to let someone say I was wrong about something and let them get away with it. Because on the Internet, the only thing people really know about you is what you type into the ubiquitous white input boxes. Nothing else about you exists on the Interwebs. Not your body, not your house, and not your money. What you type online is who you are on the Interwebs. If someone says that what I'm writing is flawed, they are insulting my essential Interwebs self. If a stranger on a Subway says I'm wrong about something, I can shrug it off. I look better than him, I have more money hi, or my house is bigger than his. On the Interwebs, my opinions define me more than anything else, and I will defend that which defines me to the death! If you say I'm wrong, you are saying that which defines me is mistaken, and I can't stand for that! It's a lot harder to shrug it off, and that's why flame wars happen.

That being said....

I will unsheathe my flaming sword of diabolical purgatory and cut a swathe of flaming glory through the ranks of evil beings who oppose me! Like a stallion in heat, I shall brave the currents of evil to defend the righteous causes of all that is good and well in this world! To the front lines!


Apologies to the Twitter

In previous posts, I had situated myself and my opinions in staunch Twater (that's Twitter hater for all you uncool people) territory. I said it wasn't original, wasn't innovative, and was pushing the technology of Web 2.0 and Social Networking backwards and not forwards.

Well, it seems I was mistaken about one small feature that really is a game-changer in the Social Networking world. There are no boundaries. Anyone in the world can read your twitter feed. A facebook status only goes to your friends. This is why celebrities and other big public figures are able to amass hundreds of thousands of followers without having to do any extra work.

Obviously, I hadn't thought this through enough. In all actuality, Twitter is really the purest form of viral self-promotion out there. Much like youtube, once you post something, there are never any barriers to growth. Twitter should really change their marketing strategy. Now, it's "Tell your friends, relatives, business contacts, fans, etc. what you're doing right now." It should be "Tell the entire Interwebs what you're doing right now." I think that has a stronger connotation, no?

So, I'm still going to stay away from the Twitter (i still have no real use for it), but I'm slowly being converted from by Twater beliefs.


Why Microsoft Will Never Go Away

In a posting on Neowin, Brad Sams gives six reasons why Microsoft will lose market share in the future instead of growing ad infinitum as it has done since its inception. I want to go through these reasons and explain why he is wrong. It's really what I do best, so pay attention.

  1. The Juggernaut: Sams claims that since it's easy to target whoever is on top, and right now Microsoft Office has almost total control of the word processing market. This will be bad for Microsoft because people want choice.
    Wrong. People don't want choice. In fact, people want things as arbitrary as possible. When they say they want choice, they really mean they want things to work. Every time. There's a reason Microsoft Office is everywhere. It is a very powerful, very accessible, and working, product. People flame all day long about PC vs. Mac, Windows vs. Linux, and IE vs. everything else, but nobody is complaining about Office. What they're complaining about is that is costs money. That's not an Office issue, that's an open source issue. more on that later.
  2. Malware: Market Share dominance means always being on the defense for malware. And the malware almost always wins.
    As soon as market share goes to Apple, and they realize that they have been woefully unprepared for the gigantic tsunami of malware aimed at their increased market share, Microsoft will recover just as fast as it fell behind. The fact that malware is targeted at Microsoft only makes them stronger at defending against it. For every virus allowed through a firewall, thousands upon thousands of viruses, spam, and malware are caught because we run things like AVG, Adaware, Avast, Norton, etc. What most people think is malware is probably just intrusive cookies or startup software that they installed themselves. You rarely see a virus anymore that the user didn't click on themselves. Anti-virus company are doing surprisingly well in the effort to stop malware, but only on Microsoft platforms. On macs, well, let's just say they're doomed if they ever manage to have significant market share. "Macs don't get viruses, so we don't need to worry about them". Famous last words, Apple. Famous last words.
  3. Google: Google threatens various areas of Microsoft dominance, such as Mobile OS, Internet Explorer, Internet Search, and Google Docs. These are free and high quality so Microsoft better look out.
    But guess what? There's this little program called Microsoft Windows that virtually every business in the known universe uses on all their PCs. No matter how much market share Google Chrome manages to whisk away, IE will still ship with every copy of Windows. Good or Bad (answer is bad, by the way), it will always be there, and the browser uninformed will always use it. Why should the Google OS be any different than every other mobile OS that tries to compete with Microsoft? Because it's free? The user doesn't care if it's free. The user only cares if he or she can see the money they actually save. Unfortunately, manufacturers can now jack up the price to normal Microsoft Mobile OS prices, and make a killing. So I don't think think this is even worth talking about. Bing was the laughingstock of the Internet the moment is was released. Ya, it has some nity little tricks. But that won't stop people from using "google" as a verb. People will still be Googling on Bing. If that's the case, Bing doesn't stand a cahnce, Yahoo deal or no Yahoo deal.
  4. Open Source: Free, open OS's will eventually cause users to stop paying for Windows. They have active community support, and are starting to finally have all the functionality of Windows.
    A few points here. If you don't know your basic way around a computer, you will not be able to use Linux (or any of its progeny) efficiently. If something breaks, you are a slave to the forums. Good luck finding an answer that the PC illiterate community will understand and implement correctly. And let's face it, the majority of all Windows users are using Windows at work. And migrating a business to Linux is a task for only the bravest heroes in the land. And those people will likely be silenced by Microsoft. Also, nobody really pays for Windows anymore. The cost of Windows is deep in the PC production flow and supply chain. It comes bundled, so the cost is watered down by the supply chain complexity. Take Windows out of the chain, and the cost will simply be transferred to another node in the overall flow. The few manufacturers that offer Linux versions of their hardware are only offering a marginally lower price for it. The cost of Windows isn't really significant anymore. It's like saying we're not going to put a CD-Rom dive in, because it raises prices. The final product isn't going to be that much cheaper, because the extra capital will be spent on better Hard drives.
  5. Vista: Even if Vista doesn't suck now, everyone thinks it does. This was a huge mistake on Microsoft's part, one they'll pay dearly for.
    Granted, Microsoft screwed up royally with Vista. Even when it is working, it is anything but elegant. But you're missing one point. If you don't like Vista, you can always stick with XP. And that's exactly what the vast majority of businesses did. They didn't all flock to Apple or Linux, they just stuck with XP. Microsoft, realizing XP saved their collective behinds, kept supporting it. And now, as Windows 7 begins to roll out, Microsoft has given itself a second chance. Vista will be looked at as brief interlude in an otherwise sterling set of products, and that will be all. Of course, that's only if Windows 7 works. That has yet to be seen. User's seem to like it, but enterprise-level businesses will be the players to watch here. They're the ones supporting the market share.
  6. Apple: Apple has upped their game tremendously in the past decade, and their market share continues to grow. They have a fanatic user base, and businesses are starting to use OS X more and more. Look out, Microsoft.
    7.6% in the US, and 2-3%, worldwide. Woohoo!! That puts them behind basically every PC maker in the world, including Acer. Yes, Acer has more market share than Apple. Apple may have snazzy looks, and snazzy ads. When a company puts a computer in an ad, it will almost always be an Apple. They look good. And they cost a lot. And they're a status object. All things that big businesses don't give a rodent's buttocks about. Until Apple can give 1 reason why an enterprise company should use Macs, there's simply nothing to talk about. Nobody cares what the college kids are using. That's good for ads, but it won't do squat for the ol' profit margin. Even if they do "just work," (which I know for a fact isn't true. I've done IT work on enough macbooks to tell you with confidence that plenty of mac "just don't work") very few IT professionals want their thousands of users to have macs because they "just work" (What they really want is users who "just work"). Any IT manager worth his salt will make sure his PCs "just work" before they get deployed to users. Apple may be grabbing some of the personal user market space, but that's not where the battle is being fought.
To conclude, Microsoft is not simply a company you beat. Microsoft single-handedly shaped the world of computing as we know it. The world's business run on Windows, and so do entire governments. The only thing that can unseat Microsoft is simply a revolution in computing. unless we want to completely change the way we look at computers, and I don't know what or when that will be, Microsoft will always be dominant.


A Really Good Post Was Supposed To Go Right Here

I had a great post to put in this spot. In was smart, it was witty, it made some good points, and it did it with humor, tact, and a dash of cynicism. It talked about a lot of things, entertainment, the Interwebs, the Blogosphere (or as I like to call it, the Blogo-rhombus), culture, Society, The Human Condition. You know, light reading.

Unfortunately, I wrote the piece in Microsoft Word. Satan made me do it, and I can't say no to Satan. If you know how to say no to Satan, you should blog about it. You might become famous, get a publishing office to unload heaps of cash on you to whore yourself out to public scrutiny. Kinda like that girl did in Julie & Julia.

Ok, fine, so that was what this post was supposed to be about; How I how I hate chick flicks, and I was going to hate this one, but it ended up being about blogs, and that was cool. It was a lot longer and a bit more eloquent than that, but you get the gist.

But now this post is about Microsoft Office, and how when I tried typing "We," I hit Ctrl-W instead of Shift-W. For the Shortcut Illiterate among you, Ctrl-W closes a window. And consumes everything inside it, throwing it into the deep, dark abyss of lost data. It didn't even give me the simple, ubiquitous and helpful request to save the changes in my document before closing. Alas, 'Document 2' is no longer with us. I couldn't even give it a proper name before it was whisked away by fate and destiny to a better place. A place where serif and sans-serif mingle and frolic in joy and jubilation, a place where Wingdings sit beside Times New Roman, and changes never need to be saved. This place is a crowded place, because as we all know so very well, all .docs go to heaven (That was horrifying. I'm so sorry. Please forgive me for that one. It needed to come out, and like I said, I can't say no to Satan).

I just hope my post didn't suffer.