Masters of the simple

Are you a computer person?  It doesn’t matter if you’re a systems administrator, computer programmer, web designer, computer hobbyist… to friends and family you’re one of those “computer people”.

Do your less technically-minded friends and relatives somewhat revere you for your technical knowledge?  Do they sometimes say self-deprecating things about how they’re not as smart to figure out all that computer stuff?  Do you find yourself starting to believe it?

There’s something that should keep us “computer people” humble, though:  we’re masters of a simplified universe.

Simplified?

Yes.  In our world, the lines are sharper, more clearly defined.  Sure, there are discussions over coding style and best practices — but generally either the code is valid syntax or it’s not.  Yes, a well-designed and flexible system is nontrivial to produce — but I contend it’s still much simpler than dealing with the real world in all its complexities.

As examples of how we expect to live in our simplified world, look how we react when:

  • The project needs to go a different direction due to new business priorities
  • We have to change our approach due to a change in the law
  • The sales team makes a sale that requires extra development work to be done

Do we typically say, “Of course, this is how the real world is — we’ll roll with it”?  Or do we say, “Hey, what’s this nonsense?  They shouldn’t do that!! ”  …as if the way things are supposed to be is that there are no business realities or legal realities or economics realities, only technical realities.

We don’t like it when the real world intrudes, do we?  These types of issues have no place in the virtual machine we try to live in as “computer people”. But these types of issues are real, and it takes skill and wisdom — a kind of skill and wisdom I, we, tend to lack — to navigate them well.

Humility fodder.  I can always use it!

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