Brian Bailey Preface to the Revised Edition

Techno Snobs

Few things are as frustrating and exhausting as the arrogant technology professional. Everyone who has been in the IT, web, or software professions for more than six months knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that things break. We know that hardware will periodically fail, that networks will be swamped or down on occasion, that an application or web site will be faulty when used certain ways. With the best people, the best equipment, and significant funding, all of these problems can be nearly eliminated, but we will always be short of perfect (even simple telephone lines, lawn mowers, automobiles, and stereos fail with some regularity).

Yet, how often do we receive smarmy emails or surly posts from other technology professionals pointing out a flaw or failure with uncontrolled glee? "Get some real programmers", "You might want to investigate a new host or up your bandwidth", "Try Unix next time", "A high-school kid could do better" and my consistent favorite, "Let me know if I can help. I do this for a living." Insult dedicated, hard-working professionals? You get paid to do that? There are also the helpful comments suggesting your organization is ignoring or insulting an entire population because a single element of the website isn't supported by a browser or platform.

When I find what I think is a flaw or bottleneck in another system or website, I try to share the information, but I do so politely and with respect, grounded on a few simple assumptions that we could all benefit from. [Obviously, if an organization consistently fails to address ongoing issues, it may be time to move on.]

1. The people who built the software/network/system/website are professionals who are doing the best they can.

2. These same people have more work than they can ever hope to accomplish.

3. More often than not, they are fully aware of what you are about to tell them and are determined to address the problem (see #2).

4. If you hope to influence the situation or genuinely help, thoroughly document the problem and offer some details of causes and/or solutions you have encountered in the past.

More than anything else, communicate with the full knowledge that, as The Breakfast Club pointed out, we live in an imperfect world where screws do fall out. And do you really expect your own technology to withstand the level of scrutiny your attitude is encouraging?