more on tools, automation, and whether they are making us dumber

This post builds off my previous post on whether tools are making us dumber (a post referencing a recent Kathy Sierra post). Marcin threw me over a link to someone else who noticed that article.

Luke Kanies provides a few quotes in what at first seems like a nimble article but really is kinda confusing, like cut-backs while running in sand. Either way, I thought about these a lot:

Unfortunately, I’ve seen too many sysadmins fall in love with the tedium of knowing all the little bits of all the systems they manage and not worry so much about understanding the higher-level nature of their jobs.

I like this quote and I kind of agree. However, a case can be made that an exception to this “heightening view” approach (which, incidentally, is natural as one proceeds through business and technical experience) is the realm of security. Yes, we need to look at the high level and we need to worry less about every little thing, but it is those dozens of little things that a skilled or even just an opportunistic attacker can exploit. It is also those little bits that can give away subtle attacks or problems. We’ve seen time and again that the more automated we become in security, the more we can become susceptible to chinks in our armor that we’re not seeing because we’re viewing from too high up.

To those sysadmins who are afraid of automating themselves out of a job, you should ask yourself where your value is: Is it the tedious parts, or is it the understanding behind the job?

I picked this out because I just wanted to remind myself and anyone else that the purpose of IT and technology in business anyway is to automate. If we’re not always trying to enable business, create business, or automate business, we’re not really doing our tasks. Sometimes that is hard, but a high level view of IT is automation.

In the end, I like the article because I truly think a case can be made for keeping one’s head in the trenches of IT and also for climbing up into the scaffolding to get a new perspective. There are a lot of different and equally correct opinions and viewpoints in IT and while some see that as weakness and lack of moving forward as a unit, I see it as a healthy (hopefully respectful) heterogeniety. (Yes, I sometimes make up words, but if you know what hetergeneous means, you get it.) 🙂