Neologism: Clandestine institutional knowledge

Jan 14 2020

clandestine institutional knowledge - The phenomenon in which everybody knows the documentation is wrong and people are so pissed off at said documentation that they don't ever bother to try to fix it.  Instead new hires have to play Indiana Jones to find the two people left in the organization who have any working knowledge of the thing and beg to be trained up so they can actually do their jobs.  Normally, the newly trained individual doesn't bother to update the documentation, either.

footnote: Most of the time, nobody has the access to update the documentation anymore, which is why nobody ever bothers to fix it.

Neologism: Tumbleweed mode

Jan 10 2020

tumbleweed mode - noun phrase - The phenomenon in which all official support forums for something are either abandoned (no activity for a protected period of time), or any posts that aren't lowball questions (such as "Where's the FAQ?" or replies to release announcements) are utterly ignored (meaning, actual technical support questions).

The overall state of telecommunications.

Dec 08 2019

I'm writing this article well before the year 2020.ev starts, mostly due to the fact that Twitter's search function is possibly the worst I've ever seen and this is probably my last chance to find the post in question to refer back to.

Late in November of 2019.ev a meme was going around birbsite, "Please quote this tweet with a thing that everyone in your field knows and nobody in your industry talks about because it would lead to general chaos."  Due to the fact that I was really busy at work at the time I didn't have a chance to chime in, but then an old friend of mine (and, through strange circumstances, co-worker for a time) told an absolute, unvarnished truth of the telecom industry: "Telecommunications as a whole, which also encompasses The Internet, is in a constant state of failure and just in time fixes and functionally all modern communication would collapse if about 50 people, most of which are furries, decided to turn their pager off for a day."

I don't know of any words in the English language to adequately express how true this statement is.  He's serious as the proverbial heart attack.  For a brief period of time, one solar year almost to the minute in fact, I worked for a telecommunications company in Virginia that no longer exists for reasons that are equal parts fucked up and illegal.  The company was bought out and dismantled roughly a year after I escaped by Zander's employer at the time, and seeing as how this was about fifteen years ago as you read this, I guess I can talk in public about it.

tl;dr - If you value your physical and mental health, don't work in telecom.

Have you tried turning it off and back on again?

May 25 2019

Disclaimer: The content of this post does not reflect my current employer, or any of my clients at present.  I've pulled details from my work history dating back about 20 years and stitched them into a more-or-less coherent narrative without being specific about any one company or client because, as unfashionable as it may be, I take my NDAs seriously.  If you want to get into an IT genitalia measuring contest please close this tab, I don't care and have no interest.

Time was, back in the days of the home 8-bit computers, we were very limited in what we could do in more than one way.  Without even a proper reset button or development tools other than the built-in BASIC interpreter if something went wrong there was really no way that you could debug it.  If you happened to be hacking code in any serious way on the Commodore chances are you'd shelled out good money for a debugger or disassembler and had at least a couple of reference books nearby.  If you were doing everything in BASIC then either you were growing your program a few lines at a time or using some code you got out of a magazine to do low level programming from inside of BASIC (an exercise fraught with frustration, let me tell you).  Even then, if something went sideways it was difficult to figure out where you went wrong and fix it.  The tools just weren't common at the time.  All you could really do was turn off the machine, wait a few seconds, turn it back on, and give it another shot in the hope that the machine wouldn't lock up on you again.

Neologism: @here grenade

Apr 25 2019

@here grenade - noun phrase - The act of tagging a message @here (meaning, everyone) in a crowded Slack channel (users >= 100), causing everyone who's busy but monitoring to drop whatever they're doing and flame you for bothering them by messaging @here.  Normally done by a user trying to get a response to a maximum severity ticket that's been ignored for longer than the SLA.

Example: "PFY threw an @here grenade into the #tech-support channel because the border router was on fire and the admins on call were ignoring their pagers.  He got kicked but at least the outage is over."

Neologism: Proper channels excise tax

Apr 16 2019

Proper channels excise tax - noun phrase - The markup paid on commonplace things when you go through proper channels at work to do something rather than going rogue, buying it yourself and filing an expense report.  For example, a flight from Chicago to Boston might cost $176us if you paid for it yourself, but by using your employer's internal processes and vendors the cost of the same flight is closer to $630us.

Neologism: Taxonomic debt

Apr 06 2019

Taxonomic debt - noun phrase - The time you spend learning arbitrary jargon at a new job.

Source: Bradford Stephens
 

Neologism: Sharkfinning

Nov 03 2018

sharkfinning - verb, gerund - Learning something from scratch in an entirely hands-on way, which is to say, "Swimming with the sharks."  When you don't know what you're doing or how to do it, but you have a job to do.

Life and times.

Oct 14 2018

Long time readers are probably wondering where I've been lately.  The answer is kind of long and is worth a post all on its own.  The short version of the story is, work's been eating me alive lately.  This is our busiest time of year and it's been all hands on deck for a couple of weeks now.  In point of fact, last week was our quarterly all-hands meeting, where everybody on my team was flown into town for a solid week of meetings.  All day, every day.  Most of my visible activity lately took the form of parts of my exocortex running on automatic with some hit-and-run posting while waiting for the coffee maker at work to top me up in between meetings.

This also means that I haven't had a whole lot of patience for interacting with people.  Not in the sense that people can feel frustrated with other people or their actions, but in the sense that interacting with people in a meaningful way - having a real conversation - takes more compute cycles than I have available right now.  After fourteen hours in a conference room with 40 other people, not only am I out of social, but I'm mentally exhausted.