Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Faith-based Computing

Anyone has ever worked in a computer-related job should recognize the affliction I'm about to describe. It is a terrible scourge, and despite the best efforts of educators and gurus across the planet, it seems to be growing. Few things are so vile, so noxious, so... irritating. I am referring, of course, to faith-based computing, or "voodoo computing" as it is sometimes called.

Allow me to briefly describe faith-based computing for the uninformed; perhaps even an example is in order. Imagine yourself being the Joe (or Jane) in charge of the company's network. You receive a phone call from an irrate user who says that his download speeds from the Internet are very slow. Of course, this isn't the run-of-the-mill user who knows how to use Microsoft Word and Excel only. No, as luck would have it, this is the user whose knowledge of all things networked is vast, by virtue of their addiction on online games at home. He is the one who shelled out an extra $50 for a 1000Mbps switch instead of a 100Mbps switch, just so his ping time to game servers would somehow be faster. He is the one who bought a $300 network card, thinking that something so expensive and with such a "killer" name must be faster. Yes, he is the user with whom you don't want to discuss networking at all.

After dragging yourself to his desk, you test things out for a minute and then declare that the problem is simply the site from which he is downloading; the server or its connection must be overloaded. You determine this using some simple yet clear procedures, such as trying a different download from another web site and testing the same site using your account through a different ISP. Despite your best efforts to explain the situation, he refuses to believe you. "I download stuff from this site at home all the time and they've never had a problem before. It must be your network!" You can explain it to him as many times as you like, but he always has the same response, "If you guys would just buy a gigabit-capable switch, everyone's downloads would be so much faster." In the end, you must simply walk away and allow him to persist in his fantasies; he has become so blinded by the glare of his ego that he cannot see anything else.

This strange disease is manifested in a couple of different ways. First, there are the people who are simply too tired, disinterested, or stupid to spend the time learning about how things really work. A good example of this kind of person is the IT manager who buys Celeron processors instead of Pentiums because they believe that the Pentium is only useful if you are "doing a lot of math equations". Or the poor guy in the accounting department who reboots his computer five times a day because it "makes it run fast again" after he does it. This group of people has little interest in actually learning about how things work or debugging problems; they completely rely on rumors and heresay, with circumstantial evidence reinforcing their beliefs.

Another type of faith-based computing is the person who gets one thing stuck in their head and just can't let it go. "Your so-called evidence be damned," is their commonly thought phrase. Unlike the previous class of people, this group isn't lazy or dumb but instead very proud. They have their tried-and-true rules and solutions, most of which have actually been useful at some point, and they will stick to those rules and solutions no matter what the situation may be. You can logically build a waterproof case that a user's overheating CPU is causing intermittent shutdowns, but they will ignore you and insist that "it's the motherboard -- we need to replace it." This is the kind of person that will never trust any piece of network equipment that doesn't carry the Cisco logo. They are typically more aggrevating than other types of faithers, mostly because of their tendancy to show up in managerial positions.

So what can be done about this problem? It is not an easy puzzle to solve, but I believe a massive reeducation program is necessary. We need to begin a missionary effort to spread the gospel of logical thinking to these heathens. Once you have made sure that you yourself have cleansed yourself of all voodoo computing beliefs, you are prepared to begin your ministry. Spend extra time with your friends, family, and coworkers, teaching them the paths of logical computing. Those places where conversion efforts are successful should proudly display their achievement with signs that declare their new alliance with logical computing. Companies should note in their mission statements and job postings that they refuse to practice faith-based computing and will not hire those who adhere to it.

With a strong and steady effort, we will eventually eradicate its evil vestiges from every corner of the transistor-based world. I call on everyone to join the battle to dismiss one of the last remnants of the Dark Ages from our hallowed halls of computing.


At 8:47 AM, Anonymous Snake007uk said...

This is sooooo true its unbelievable..

At 12:39 PM, Blogger Tom said...


He likes this site !

At 2:55 AM, Blogger Networks Solutions said...

a very nice article and 101% true.may i know the name of the person who wrote this article.

Thanks and regards,

Fahad Bin Aziz
Network Engineer

Student Of M.Sc. ACS
Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg,
Faculty of Applied Sciences (IIF),
Freiburg, Germany

At 8:13 AM, Blogger Mike said...

I just came across this blog while looking for something else entirely and i must agree that this is a perfect summarisation of a lot of the people i deal with on a day to day basis.

Sure there are people that are rational, but there is always that rougue element, that group that can only be defined by the single word "nutjob".


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