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Geek Speak

99 Posts authored by: Leon Adato Expert

A recent conversation on Twitter struck a nerve with me. The person posited that,


"If you're a sysadmin, you're in customer service. You may not realise it, but you are there TO SERVE THE CUSTOMER. Sure that customer might be internal to your organisation/company, but it's still a customer!"


A few replies down the chain, another person posited that,


"Everyone you interact with is a customer."


I would like to respectfully (and pedantically) disagree.


First, let's clear something up: The idea of providing a "service," which could be everything from a solution to an ongoing action to consultative insight, and providing it with appropriate speed, professionalism, and reliability, is what we in IT should always strive to do. That doesn't mean (as other discussions on the Twitter thread pointed out) that the requester is always right; that we should drop everything to serve the requester's needs; that we must kowtow to the requester's demands. It simply means that we were hired to provide a certain set of tasks, to leverage our expertise and insight to help enable the business to achieve its goals.


And when people say, "you are in customer service" that is usually what they mean. But I wish we'd all stop using the word "customer." Here is why:


Saying someone is a customer sets up a collection of expectations in the mind of both the speaker and the listener that don’t reflect the reality of corporate life.


As an external service provider—a company hired to do something—I have customers who pay me directly to provide services. But I can prioritize which customers get my attention and which don’t. I can “fire” abusive customers by refusing to serve them; or I can prohibitively price my services for “needy” customers so that either they find someone else or I am compensated for the aggravation they bring me. I can choose to specialize in certain areas of technology, and then change that specialization down the road when it’s either not lucrative or no longer interesting to me. I can follow the market, or stay in my niche. These are all the things I can do as an external provider who has ACTUAL customers.


Inside a company, I can do almost none of those things. I might be able to prioritize my work somewhat, but at the end of the day I MUST service each and every person who requests my help. I cannot EVER simply choose to not help or provide service to a coworker. I can put them off, but eventually I have to get to their request. Since I’m not charging them anything, I can’t price my services in a way that encourages abusive requestors to go elsewhere. Even in organizations that have a chargeback system for IT services, that charge rate must be equal across the board. I can’t charge more to accounting and less to legal. Or more to Bob and less to Sarah. The services I provide internally are pre-determined by the organization itself. No matter how convinced I am that “the future is cloud,” I’m stuck building, racking, and stacking bare-metal servers in our data center until the company decides to change direction.


Meanwhile, for the person receiving those services, as a customer, there’s quite a range of options. Foremost among these is that I can fire a provider. I can put out an RFP and pick the provider who offers me the best services for my needs. I can haggle on price. I can set an SLA with monetary penalties for non-compliance. I can select a new technical direction, and if my current provider is not experienced, I can bring in a different one.


But as an internal staff requesting service from the IT department, I have almost none of those options. I can’t “fire” my IT department. Sure, I might go around the system and bring in a contractor to build a parallel, “shadow IT” structure. But at the end of the day, I’m going to need to have an official IT person get me into Active Directory, route my data, set up my database, and so on. There’s only so much a shadow IT operation can do before it gets noticed (and shut down). I can’t go down the street and ask the other IT department to give me a second bid for the same services. I can’t charge a penalty when my IT department doesn’t deliver the service they said they would. And if I (the business “decider”) choose to go a new technical route, I must wait for the IT department to catch up or bring in consultants NOT to replace my IT department, but to cover the gap until they get up to speed.


Whether we mean to or not, whether we like it or not, and whether you agree with me or not, I have found that using the word "customer" conjures at least some of those expectations.


But there’s one other giant issue when you use the word “customer,” and that’s the fact that people often confuse “customer” with “consumer.” That’s not an IT issue, that’s a life issue. The thing to keep in mind is that the customer is the person who pays for the service. The consumer is the person who receives (enjoys) the service. And the two are not always the same. I’m not just talking about taking my kids out to ice cream.


A great example is the NFL. According to Wikipedia, the NFL television blackout policies were, until they were largely over-ridden in 2014, the strictest among North American sports leagues. In brief, the blackout rules state that “…a home game cannot be televised in the team's local market if all tickets are not sold out 72 hours prior to its start time.” Prior to 1973, this blackout rule applied to all TV stations within a 75-mile radius of the game.


How is this possible? Are we, the fans, not the customers of football? Even if I’m not going to THIS game, I certainly would want to watch each game so that the ones I DO attend are part of a series of experiences, right?


The answer is that I’m not the customer. I’m the consumer. The customer is “the stadium” (the owners, the vendors, the advertisers). They are the ones putting up the money for the event, and they want to make their money back by ensuring sold-out crowds. The people who watch the game—whether in the stands or over the airwaves—are merely consumers.


In IT terms, the end-user is NOT the customer. They are the consumer. Management is the customer—the one footing the bill. If management says the entire company is moving to virtual desktops, it doesn’t matter whether the consumer wants, needs, or likes that decision.


So again, calling the folks who receive IT services a “customer” sets up a completely false set of expectations in the minds of everyone involved about how this relationship is going to play out.


However, there is another word that exists, within easy reach, that is far more accurate in describing the relationship, and also has the ability to create the behaviors we want when we (ill-advisedly) try to shoehorn “customer” into that spot. And that word is: “colleague.”


A colleague is someone I collaborate with. Maybe not on a day-to-day basis or in terms of my actual activities, but we work together to achieve the same goal (in the largest sense, whatever the goals of the business are). A colleague is someone I can’t “fire” or replace or solicit a bid from another provider about.


“Colleague” also creates the (very real) understanding that this relationship is long-term. Jane in the mailroom may become Jane in accounting, and later Jane the CFO. Through it all she remains my colleague. The relationship I build with her endures and my behavior toward her matters.


So, I’m going to remain stubbornly against using the word “customer” to refer to my colleagues. It de-values them and it de-values the relationship I want to have with them, and the one I hope they have with me.

Leon Adato

Footloose at CLUS

Posted by Leon Adato Expert Jun 8, 2018

CiscoLive! US ("CLUS") is literally right around the corner, set to open in sunny Orlando in just a couple of days. So it's time for me to run down the things I'm hoping to see and do while I'm hanging with 24,000+ of my closest friends and associates!


First, based on the recent enhancements to Network Insight in NPM and NCM, I've got a solid reason to dive deep into Nexus technology and see what treasures are there for me to find. As a monitoring engineer, I find that I often approach new technology "backward" that way--I'm interested in learning more about it once I have the capability to see inside. So now that the world of VDCs, vPCs, PACLs (port-based ACLs), VACLs (VLAN-based ACLs), etc. are open to me, I want to know more about it.


And that takes me to the second point. I'm really interested to see the reaction of attendees when we talk about some of the new aspects of our flagship products. The scalability improvements will definitely satisfy folks who have come to our booth year after year talking about their super-sized environments. If folks aren't impressed with the Orion Mapping feature, I think I'll check for a pulse. Orion Service Manager is one of those hidden gems that answers the question "who's monitoring my monitoring?" And by the end of the show, Kevin and I will either have the "Log" song fully harmonized, or our co-workers will have us locked in a closet with duct-tape over our mouths. This, of course, in honor of the new Log Monitor tool (Log Manager ).


Something that has become more and more evident, especially with the rise of Cisco DevNet, is the "intersectionality" of monitoring professionals. Once upon a time, we'd go to CiscoLive and talk to folks who cared about monitoring and cared about networks (but didn't care so much about servers, applications, databases, storage, etc.). We'd go to other conventions, such as Microsoft Ignite, and talk about folks who cared about monitoring and cared about applications/servers (but didn't care as much about networks, etc.).  Now, however, the overlap has grown. We talk about virtualization at SQL Saturdays. We discuss networking at Microsoft Ignite. And we talk about application tracing at CiscoLive. Or at least, we've started to. So one of the things I'm curious about is how this trend will continue.


Another theory I want to test is the pervasiveness of SDN. I'm seeing more of it "in the wild" and while I believe I understand what's contributing, I'm going to hold that card close to my chest just now until after CiscoLive 2018 is over. We'll see if my theory tests out as true.


Believe it or not, I'm excited to talk to as many of the 24,000 attendees as I can. As I wrote recently, meeting people and collecting stories is one of the real privileges of being a Head Geek, and I'm looking forward to finding so many people and stories in one place.


On the other side of the convention aisle, I'm also looking forward to hanging out with all my SolarWinds colleagues in an environment where we're not all running from meeting to meeting and trying to catch up during lunch or coffee breaks. Sure, we'll all be talking to folks (if past years are any indication, more or less non-stop). But in those quiet moments before the expo floor opens or when everyone has run off to attend classes, we'll all have a chance to re-sync the way that can only be done at conventions like this.


Speaking of catching up, there's going to be a SWUG again, and that means I'll get to meet up with SolarWinds users who are local to the area as well as those who traveled in for the convention. SWUGs have become a fertile ground for deep conversations about monitoring, both the challenges and the triumphs. I'm looking forward to hearing about both.


And then there's the plain goofy fun stuff. Things like Kilted Monday; folks risking tetanus as they dig through our buckets of buttons for ones they don't have yet (there are three new ones this year, to boot!); roving bands of #SocksOfCLUS enthusiasts; and more.


I'm just relieved that my kids are going to lay off the shenanigans this year. They caused quite a stir last year, and I could do without the distraction of mattress-surfing, blowtorch-wielding, chainsaw-swinging teenagers at home.


Recently, ITWorld asked me to share some thoughts on "IT's Worst Addictions (And How to Cure Them)" (https://www.itworld.com/article/3268305/it-strategy/worst-it-addictions-and-how-to-cure-them.html). While I had shared a number of thoughts on the topic, space and format restricted the post so that only a couple of my ideas were printed. I wanted to share a more complete version with you here.


Sensitivity First

The tone of the original article was fairly light, using the word "addiction" in it's informal, rather than medical, context. This is understandable, and in that framework it's easy to lapse into AA-style thinking/language that conflates “IT addictions” with true  addictive behaviors and issues. I think doing so would be unfair to individuals (and their families,  friends, and coworkers) who are dealing with the very real and very serious impact of real addictions every day. I want to avoid trivializing something that has caused so much real trauma and pain, stolen years, and lost lives.


At the same time, I recognize that the obsessive behaviors we’re discussing can be remarkably similar to true addiction. Therefore, traditional conversations about addiction may be a source of guidance and wisdom for us.


In this post, I hope it's clear that this is a line I'm treading sensitively so that it's clear I'm not making light of a serious topic.


That said, over the course of my career I have noticed there are certain behavioral traps and anti-patterns that IT professionals fall into.


Let’s start with the IT pro obsessions that everyone thinks of that I have no desire to talk about, because they are well-known and have been chewed over thoroughly:

  • Everything to do with your phone (duh)
  • Communication channels (email, slack, work IM, etc.) (duh)
  • Coffee (duh)


Those are the obvious ones. Now let's look at some that are not so obvious:


Checking that screen one more time

What “that screen” is differs for each IT pro, but we all have that one thing we compulsively check. It could be the NOC dashboard; it could be the performance tracker for our “baby” system; it could be the cloud statistics. One would hope that for many, it’s the monitoring dashboard.


The latest and greatest

This refers to the compulsive need to update, whether we can make a valid financial justification for it or not. Again, the specific manifestation varies. It could be the latest phone, tablet, or laptop, the newest phone service (Google Fi, anyone?), the fastest home internet service, or pro-sumer grade equipment.



(The hardware kind. I wouldn't ever say you could have too many SolarWinds monitors!)

There are very few IT pros who would say "no" to adding one (or four) more screens to their system, if they had the option. Better still, this desire does not hinge on how many screens one already has. More is always better.



As strange as it sounds, some IT pros have to be on top of the latest learning. That means lifetime subscriptions to online courses, obsessively upgrading certifications, and more.



Many IT pros are hopeless news junkies. It may manifest in a single area (politics, sports, tech trends, entertainment) or a combination of those, but the upshot is that we want to know the latest updates, whether they come on our mobile device, the third screen of our main computer, or good old fashioned wood pulp dropped at our front door each morning.



Once again, this obsession has a nearly infinite number of variations, including LEGO sets, watches, comic books, figurines. and more. Many IT pros have “that thing” that they go out of their way (and often break their budget) for.


(It should be noted that SolarWinds, with our ever-expanding array of buttons and stickers sporting unique ideas, happily feeds into this obsession.)



Contrary to the stereotype of the nerdy loner, IT pros tend to be very dedicated to building and being part of a community (or several). While these communities often have an online component, most focus on (and culminate in) an IRL meet-up where they can share stories, offer support, and just bask in the glow of like-minded folks. These communities might be vendor-supported (SWUG, CiscoLive, Microsoft Ignite, etc); vendor-agnostic but professionally oriented (SQL Saturdays, DevOpsDays, PHP.ug, etc.), non-professional but infinitely geeky (D&D conventions and Comic Cons rank high on this list, but are by no means the only examples); or otherwise focus on cultures, medical challenges, car ownership, and more. The point is that IT pros often become deeply (some might say obsessively) involved in these communities and seeing them thrive.


The sharing corner

So what are YOUR compulsive IT distractions? Let me (and the rest of us) know in the comments below. Based on feedback, I may even pull together some thoughts on how we all can address the negative aspects of these behaviors and become better for the effort.

I was off last week to celebrate Pesach / Passover so I thought it would be a good time to offer you a taste of an upcoming eBook I'm working on, "The Four Questions of Monitoring," which uses that holiday both as its inspiration and as a thematic framework. I'll be publishing snippets of it here and there.



(image courtesy of Manta)


Once a year, Jews around the world gather together to celebrate Pesach (also known as "Passover,” "The Feast of Matzah,” or even "The Feast of the Paschal Lamb”). More a ceremonial meal than actual "feast,” this gathering of family and friends can last until the wee hours of the morning. The dinnertime dialogue follows a prescribed order (or "seder,” which actually means "order" in Hebrew) that runs the gamut from leader-led prayers to storytelling to group singalongs to question-and-answer sessions and even—in some households—a dramatized retelling of the exodus narrative replete with jumping rubber frogs, ping-pong ball hail stones, and wild animal masks.


At the heart of it all, the Seder is designed to do exactly one thing: to get the people at the table to ask questions. Questions like, "Why do we do that? What does this mean? Where did this tradition come from?" To emphasize: the Seder is not meant to answer questions, but rather provoke them.


As a religion, Judaism seems to love questions as much (or more) than the explanations, debates, and discussions they lead to. I'm fond of telling co-workers that the answer to any question about Judaism begins with the words, "Well, that depends..." and ends two hours later when you have three more questions than when you started.


The fact that I grew up in an environment with such fondness for questions may be what led me to pursue a career in IT, and to specialize in monitoring. More on that in a bit.


But the ability to ask questions is nothing by itself. An old proverb says, "One fool can ask more questions than seven wise men can answer." And that brings me back to the Pesach Seder. Near the start of the Seder meal, the youngest person at the table is invited to ask the Four Questions. They begin with question, "Why is this night different from all other nights?" The conversation proceeds to observe some of the ways that the Pesach meal has taken a normal mealtime practice and changed it so that it's off-kilter, abnormal, noticeably (and sometimes shockingly) different.


Like many Jewish traditions, there is a simple answer to the Four Questions. At the surface, it's done to demonstrate to children that questions are always welcome. It's a way of inviting everyone at the table to take stock of what is happening and ask about anything unfamiliar. But it doesn't stop there. If you dig just a bit beneath that easy surface reasoning you'll find additional meaning that goes surprisingly deep.


In Yeshivah — a day-school system for Jewish children that combines secular and religious learning — the highest praise one can receive is, "Du fregst un gut kasha," which translates as, "You ask a good question.”


This is proven out in a story told by Rabbi Abraham Twersky, a deeply religious psychiatrist. He says that when he was young, his teacher would relish challenges to his arguments. In his broken English, the teacher would say, “You right! You 100 prozent right!! Now, I show you where you wrong!”


The impact of this culture of questioning does not limit itself to religious thinking. Individuals who study in this system find that it extends to all areas of life, including the secular.


When asked why he became a scientist, Isidor I. Rabi, the Nobel laureate in physics, answered,

''My mother made me a scientist without ever intending it. Every other mother in Brooklyn would ask her child after school, 'So? Did you learn anything today?' But not my mother. She always asked me, 'Did you ask a good question today?' That difference—asking good questions—made me become a scientist!''


The lesson for us, as monitoring professionals, is twofold. First, we need to foster that same sense of curiosity, that same willingness to ask questions, even when we think the answers may be a long time in coming. We need to question our own assumptions. We need to relish the experience of asking so that it pushes us past the inertia of owning an answer, which is comfortable. And second, we need to find ways to invite questions from our colleagues, as well. Like the Seder, we may have to present information in a way that is shocking, noticeable, and engaging, so that people are pushed beyond their own inherent shyness (or even apathy) to ask, "What is THAT all about?”


The deeper message of the Passover seder speaks to the core nature of questions, and the responsibility of those who attempt to answer. "Be prepared,” it seems to say. "Questions can come from anywhere, about anything. Be willing to listen. Be willing to think before you speak. Be willing to say, 'I don't know, but let's find out!' You must also be willing to look past trite answers. Be ready to reconsider, and to defend your position with facts. Be prepared to switch, at a moment’s notice, from someone who answers, to someone who asks."


Once again, I believe that being exposed to this tradition of open honesty and curiosity is what makes the discipline of monitoring resonate for me.

Leon Adato

Traveling With Joy

Posted by Leon Adato Expert Mar 12, 2018

Recently, two people I respect very much tweeted about travel, and how to remain positive and grateful while you do it. You can read those tweets here (https://twitter.com/UberGeekGirl/status/961080557063909377) and here ( https://twitter.com/jbiggley/status/961204675352686592).


When I saw Jessica's first tweet, I wanted to respond, but thought, "She doesn't need my noise in her twitter feed. But when Josh jumped in with his thoughtful response, I had to join in. If you prefer tweets, you can find the starting point here. For old-fashioned folks who still like correct spelling, complete sentences, and non-serialized thoughts, read on:


First, you need to understand that I have some very strong opinions about how someone should carry themselves if they are lucky enough to get to do "exciting" travel for work. When I say exciting travel, I mean:

  • Travel to some place that YOU find exciting
  • Travel that someone ELSE might find exciting


Here's why I feel so strongly:


As I've written before (http://www.itproday.org/what-makes-an-it-professional/), my Dad was a musician. His combination of talent, youth, and connections (mostly talent) gave him the opportunity to join a prestigious orchestra, one that traveled extensively from the time he joined (in 1963) until he retired 46 years later. My dad went everywhere. He was escorted through Checkpoint Charlie twice in the 60s. He wandered around cold-war, iron-curtain Moscow around the same time. He traveled to Australia, Mexico, all over Europe, and, of course, to almost every state in the United States.


It was a charmed life. To be sure, he worked hard to get where he was and made sacrifices along the way. But at the end of the day, he got to play great music with talented colleagues in front of sell-out audiences around the world. It was SO remarkable, that people sometimes had a hard time believing that was all he did.


Because I would "go to work" with him from time to time (which meant a lot of sitting in the green room, wandering backstage, and standing next to him during intermission when he'd come out for some fresh air, I was privy to him meeting audience members without really being part of their conversation, which would often follow a very specific pattern:


"So what do you do during the day?" they'd ask, figuring that he--like the musicians they probably knew--did this as a side gig while they worked an office job or plied a trade to pay the bills. When they found out that this was ALL he did, that he got paid a living wage to perform music, their sense of amazement increased. That's when they would begin asking (i.e. gushing) about the traveling. While some of these people were well-off, many were folks who often had never left the state where they were born, let alone the country, let alone been on a plane. That's when it became hard to watch.


He'd shrug and say, "I get on a plane, sleep, get off the plane, get on the bus, go to the hall, rehearse, eat, play the concert, get on a bus, go to the next town, sleep, get up, rehearse, eat, play. I could be in Timbuktu or Topeka."


From my fly-on-the-wall vantage point, I'd watch the other person deflate. They had hoped to feel a sense of wonder imagining the exotic, the special. Instead, they had the dawning recognition that they might as well have been talking to a plumber about the stores he visits. (No disrespect to plumbers. You folks rock.)


As I grew up and settled into a career in IT, I never thought I'd have the kind of work that would give me opportunities to travel the way my dad did. Which is why, years later, I stood crying under the Eiffel tower. Not because of the wonder of the structure, but for the miracle that I was standing there AT ALL. I was overwhelmed by the sheer impossible magic of being in a role where traveling from Cleveland, Ohio to Paris was possible in any context other than a once-in-a-lifetime, piggy-bank-breaking vacation.


A three-month project in Brussels followed Paris. A year in Switzerland came after that. In between were shorter trips, no less inspiring for being closer to home. Just getting onto a plane and taking off was an adventure in itself.


And through it all were the people. As Jessica said in her tweet, "Thousands of unseen humans help me get to my destination." I was meeting these people, hearing their stories, and being asked to tell mine.


In those moments--in the Lyft on the way to the airport; checking in at the hotel; sitting next to someone on the shuttle to the car rental area--I'm reminded of those moments when I stood next to my dad during intermission. While there are many things about the man that I admire, he's not infallible, and there are definitely habits of his that I choose not to emulate. This is one of them.


So I try to write (sometimes more than is strictly required of me) when I go to new and different places. When I have the time and focus, I write before I go about what I hope to see/do/learn; and then I write again afterward, detailing what I saw, who I met, and how it went.


As Head Geek for SolarWinds, I write these essays partly because it's actually my job. (Best. Job. Ever.) But I also do it because I'm aware that jobs like mine are unique. I want to provide a vicarious experience for those who might want it, so that they can share a sense of wonder about the exotic, the special.


I also write so that, if someone has chosen to forego these types of opportunities, either due to ambivalence, anxiety, or uncertainty, that maybe they might find motivation, reassurance, or insight; that in reading about my experiences, they might realize they have more to gain than they thought.


Finally, I write about my travels for myself. To remind me that, like both Jessica and Josh said, in each trip, thousands of things go right and thousands of people are helping me get where I need to go. To remind me of the wonder, the exotic, the special.


And the blessing.



(This is the fourth and final part of a series. You can find Part One here, Part Two here and Part Three here.)


It behooves me to remind you that there are many spoilers beyond this point. If you haven't seen the movie yet, and don't want to know what's coming, bookmark this page to enjoy later.


New IT pros may take your tools and techniques and use them differently. Don't judge.


One of the interesting differences between Logan and Laura is that she has two claws that come from her hands (versus Logan's three), and one that comes out of her foot. Charles speculates that females of a species develop different weapons for protection versus hunting. Logan seems unimpressed even though he just witnessed Laura taking out at least three soldiers with her foot-claws alone.


The lesson for us is to remember that tools are there to be used. If it achieves the desired result and avoids downstream complications, then it doesn't matter if the usage diverges from "the way we did it in my day.” Thinking outside the box (something my fellow Head Geek, Destiny Bertucci, talks about all the time https://thwack.solarwinds.com/community/thwack-event-session.jspa?sessionId=1017) is a sign of creativity and engagement, two things that should never be downplayed.


Your ability to think will always trump the capability of your tools.


Yes, Logan is stab-y and can heal. But Charles, at the end of his life, can still flatten a city block.


And it is here where we descend into the realm of "who would win in a fight between Superman® and God?" This is, admittedly, a realm that the SolarWinds THWACK® March Madness bracket battle has been willing to take on for several years in a row






but I'm going to go there anyway. Logan/Wolverine® is one of the darlings of the X-Men® (and Marvel®) franchise. He's captured imaginations since his first appearance in 1974, and appeared in countless comics with the X-Men and solo. But even within the context of the X-Men movie franchise, he's far from the most powerful.


Magneto: “You must be Wolverine. That remarkable metal doesn't run through your entire body, does it?”


No, it's pretty clear that the most powerful being, certainly in Logan , but also in the mutant-verse, is Charles. Again, the ability to contact every human mind on the planet is nothing to sneeze at, and it puts healing ability and metal claws to shame.


Here’s what I want you to take from this: your ideas, thoughts, and ability to reason are the things that make you an IT powerhouse. It doesn’t matter that your PC has a quad-core processor and 128Gb of RAM. Nobody cares that your environment is running the latest container technology, or that your network has fiber-to-the-desktop. You have a veritable encyclopedia of CLI commands or programming verbs in your head? So what.


You are valued for the things that you do with your tools. Choose wisely. Think actively. Engage passionately.


It's never about what you do (or what you have achieved, fixed, etc.). The story of your IT career has always been and will always be about who you met, who you helped, and who you built a connection with.


The movie Logan is not, at its heart, about stabbing people in the head with metal claws, or car chases, or mutant abilities. While there is plenty of that, the core of the movie is about two men coming to terms with themselves and their legacy, and how that legacy will affect the world after they are gone.


It is a movie about the very real father-son relationship between Logan and Charles - how they love each other but wish the other could be "better" in some way. They understand that they cannot change the other person, but have to learn to live with them.


It is also about caring for another person: about whether we choose to care or not, about how we express that care, about how those feelings are received by the other person and reciprocated (or not).


Once again, I am invoking the blog post by fellow Head Geek Thomas LaRock: "Relationships Matter More Than Money" (https://thomaslarock.com/2017/05/relationships-matter-money/).


"When you use the phrase, "It's not personal, it's just business," you are telling the other person that money is more important than your relationship. Let that sink in for a minute. You are telling someone, perhaps a (current, maybe soon-to-be-former) friend of yours, that you would rather have money than their friendship. And while some jerk is now getting ready to leave the comment “everything has a price,” my answer is “not my friends.” If you can put a price on your friendships, maybe you need better ones.


Why are you in IT? Odds are very good it's not for the money. Okay, the money isn't bad, but no matter what the payout is, ultimately it’s probably not enough to keep you coming back into the office day after day. You are in IT for something else. Maybe you like the rush of finding a solution nobody else ever thought of. Or the pure beauty of the logic involved in the work. Or the chance to build something that someone else wanted but couldn't figure out how to make for themselves.


But underneath it all, you are probably in IT because you want to help people in some meaningful way.


That's the IT lesson we can take from Logan. The climax of the movie isn't when Laura shoots X24 in the head with an adamantium bullet.


It's when she clutches Logan's hand as he's dying and cries out, "Daddy!" in her loss and grief, and he accepts both her name and love for him, even if he doesn't feel he's worthy of either.


We are here - on this planet, in this community, at this company, on this team, on this project, doing this job - to forge connections with the people that we meet. To learn, mentor, befriend, lead, help, teach, follow, grow, foster, mentor, and so much more. The rest are just technical details.


1 “Logan” (2017), Marvel Entertainment, distributed by 20th Century Fox

It was a very full week at CiscoLive--not to mention an additional full week in Spain, which I'll get to in a minute--and I have a lot to share.


First and foremost, and this is not meant to be a slam on Munich, I had an amazing time just BEING in Barcelona. Sure it was a little warmer. Sure, I speak a little Spanish as opposed to zero German. And sure, there were three kosher restaurants instead of the one in Munich. But even beyond that, the pace, the layout, and even the FEEL of the place was different for me in a very enjoyable way. I was incredibly happy to hear that CLEUR will be in Barcelona again next year, and hope that I get to be part of the "away team" again.


The Big Ideas

At every convention, I try to suss out the big themes, ideas, and even products that make a splash at the show. Here's what I found this time:


DevNet! DevNet! DevNet!
I think I talk about DevNet after every CiscoLive, but gosh darn if it's not noteworthy each time. This year, my fellow Head Geek Patrick Hubbard rightly called out the announcement about IBN. No, read it again: NOT big blue. Intent-Based Networking: https://blogs.cisco.com/datacenter/introducing-the-cisco-network-assurance-engine. The upshot of this announcement is that the network is about to get smarter than ever, using data, modeling, and (of course) built-in tools to understand and then ensure the "intent" of the networking you have in place. And how will you interact with this brave new intent-based world? Code.

This leads me to my second big observation:
The time for SDN has come

Every year (since 2014) I've been trying to figure out how SDN fits into the enterprise. Usually when I talk to a group, I give it a shot:

    • "How many of you are thinking about SDN" (usually, most of the hands go up)
    • "How many are using SDN in the lab?" (in most cases, one-half to two-thirds of the hands go down)
    • "How many are using it in prod?" (typically all but three hands go down, leaving just the folks who work for ISPs)


This time I had a ton of people--enterprise folks--coming and asking about SDN and Cisco ACI support, which tells me that we have hit a tipping point. I have a theory why (grist for another article), but it boils down to two main things. First, Cisco has done a kick-ass job pushing "DevNet" and teaching network folks of all stripes not to fear the code. People came to the booth asking "does this support python scripting?" Scripting wasn't an afterthought; it was a key feature they needed. Second, SDN experience has filtered down from networking engineers at ISPs to mid-level technicians, and companies are now able to enumerate the value of this technology both on a technical and business level. Thus, the great corporate adoption of SDN is now starting.


Being a NetVet is every bit as cool as I thought it would be
Besides causing vendors to stare at your badge for an extra two seconds, the biggest benefit of being a NetVet is the lounge. It is quiet. It has comfy couches. It has it's own coffee machine. It. Has. My. Name. On. It.


The View from the Booth

So that sums up the major things I saw at the show. But what about the interactions in the SolarWinds booth? SO MUCH was packed into the three days that it's hard to pick just a few, but here goes.


TNG, and I don't mean Star Trek
One of the fun things about a show like CiscoLive is getting to show off new features and even whole new solutions. Three years ago I got to stand on stage with Chris O'Brien and show off "something we've been playing with in the lab," which turned out to be NetPath. This time, we had a chance to get initial reactions to a new command line tool that would perform traceroute-like functions, but without ICMP's annoying habit of being blocked by... well, just about everything. While we're still putting on the final coat of paint, the forthcoming free "Traceroute NG" tool will perform route analysis via TCP or traditional ICMP,  show you route changes if the path changes during scanning, supports IPv4 and IPv6 networks, and more. Attendees who saw it were blown away.


Hands Up for BackUp!

We also got to take the lid off an entirely new offering: cloud-based backup for your important systems. (https://www.solarwinds.com/backup) This isn't some "xcopy my files to the cloud" kludge. Using block-based backup techniques for screaming fast (and bandwidth-friendly) results; a simple deployment strategy that supports Windows and Linux-based systems; granular permissions; and a dashboard that lets you know the disposition of every system, regardless of the size of your deployment.


Survey Says?
A great part of booth conversations is comparing experiences and discovering how frequently they match up. This frequently comes out as a kind of IT version of Mad Libs.

  • I was discussing alerts and alert actions with an attendee who was clearly part of "Team Linux." After pointing out that alerts should extend far beyond emails or opening tickets, I threw out, "If your IIS-based website is having problems, what's the first thing you do?" Without even a pause they said, "You restart the app pool." That's when I showed SAM's built-in alert actions. (Afterward we both agreed that "install Apache" was an equally viable answer.)
  • When Patrick asked a group of four longtime SolarWinds users to guess the most downloaded SolarWinds product, the response was immediate and emphatic: "TFTP Server." I could only laugh at how well our customers know us.


"I'm here to ask question and chew bubblegum (and it doesn't look like you're giving out bubblegum)"
As I have noted in the past, CiscoLive Europe may be smaller (14k attendees versus ~27k in the United States), but the demos go longer and the questions are far more intense. There is a much stronger sense of purpose when someone comes to our booth. They have things they need to find out, design choices they want to confirm, and they don't need another T-shirt, thank you very much. Which isn't to say we had swag left at the end. It was all gone. But it took until the last day.


More Parselmouth's than at a Slytherin Convention
This year I was surprised by how often someone opened their questions with, "Do these solutions support Python?" (For the record, the answer is yes: https://github.com/solarwinds/orionsdk-python) Not that I was surprised to be asked about language support in general. What got me was how often this happened to be the opening question. As I said earlier, Cisco's DevNet has done an incredible job of encouraging the leap to code, and it is now framing many networking professional's design choices and world view. I see this as a good thing.


La Vida Barcelona

Outside of the hustle and bustle of the convention center, a whole world awaited us. As a polyglot wannabe, the blend of languages was multicultural music to my ears. But there wasn't much time to really see the sites or soak up the Spanish culture because the convention was demanding so much of my day.


Which is why I decided to spend an extra week in-country. My wife and I traveled from Barcelona to Madrid, and even spent a day in Seville to visit the apartment where she was born and spent the first few months of her life.


We saw some amazing sites:


Including some views that GoT fans like jennebarbour will find familiar:




Ate some incredible food:


And generally just enjoyed all that Spain had to offer. The only hiccough was the weather. It was kind of like this.


For Clevelanders like us, it's pretty normal. But I'm pretty sure the locals suspected we brought our weather with us, and were glad to see the back of me when we finally packed up and headed back home.


Until next year (which will be in Barcelona again), and until the next trip.

(pictured: patrick.hubbard, ding, andre.domingues, and the inimitable Silvia Siva.)


It's time for another edition of Leon's Log, where either I preview a trip I'm about to take, or summarize one I've just been on. My goal is to help those whose budgets don't allow them to attend these conventions to get at least a few insights into what was shown; and for those who are considering going, get a window into the value of the event.


Taking a break from Berlin (where it's been held the last two years), CiscoLive Europe (or #CLEUR, as you'll see it mentioned on Twitter and elsewhere) will be in Barcelona, Spain this year, running from Sunday (yes Sunday) 1/28 through Friday 2/2.


Barcelona in February is hardly an oasis, but staring out my office window at the snow-covered streets of Cleveland (Jenne Barbour now insists I live on Hoth), the average Spanish weather of 5°-14°C  (about 41° - 57° F) is definitely a step in the right direction!


I mentioned the convention opens on Sunday this year, with a dedicated set of  DevNetExpress classes (https://devnetevents.cisco.com/event/DevNet-Express-Barcelona-DCI-Jan-2018). My travel plans don't allow me to make it for that, and I'm definitely going to miss it. Despite that, I am hoping to hit at least one programming session because everyone looks like they're having so much fun every time I go into the DevNet Zone.


One of the things I've been lax about keeping up to date with are Cisco's SDA and SD-WAN strategies. I feel like this is the year I should hit some of the sessions on this. I've even been invited to swing by the dCloud booth, crash on the dCloud couch, and get a demo of DNA Center and Viptela.


Another thing I'm looking at are the keynotes and showcases, to see if I can suss out any major themes.

  • The keynote will be given by Rowan Trollope SVP and GM, IoT and Applications
  • Innovation Showcases titles include:
    • Unlock the Power of Data
    • Reinvent Networking
    • Changing the Security Equation
    • Delivering Intent for Data Center Networking
    • Enabling a Multicloud World
    • Emerging Technologies are Game-Changers for Technology Services
    • Rise of the Network APIs
    • The Rise of the Team: Speeding up Work in the Disruptive Economy
    • Transformation Through Innovation
    • Unlock the Value of IoT Data


I'm pretty sure there are some underlying messages, right?


While I know I said this last time I'm looking forward to finally FINALLY getting NetVet status this year. I've gotten my email asking to confirm my past attendance, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this is my year to get the coveted red ribbon.


I'm going to miss seeing my long-time convention buddy Roddie Hasan (@eiddor), but he had to skip out on this event. Not to worry, we already have plans to catch up at CiscoLive US in Orlando in June.


AND OF COURSE, going to Spain means I have a chance to sample the culture and cuisine. While traditional paella and tapas may not be on my #kosher menu, there are a few restaurants in the city that have options, and I'm planning to share pictures of everything I can sink my teeth into.


Finally, I'm doing something fairly unique for these kinds of trips: You see, my wife was born in Seville while my father-in-law served in the air force. So this is a chance for me to bring her "home" and visit the first house where she laid her head at night. While we're at it, we'll try to take in as much of the country as time will permit.


¡Y también podré practicar mi español!


If you are planning to attend CLEUR, please drop me a line and plan to stop by booth WEP 1A to say hi, talk monitoring, and of course grab some of the usual slate of convention goodies.




(This is the third part of a series. You can find Part One here and Part Two here.)


It behooves me to remind you that there are many spoilers beyond this point. If you haven't seen the movie yet, and don't want to know what's coming, bookmark this page to enjoy later.


Having tools without understanding history or context is usually bad.


On the flipside of using tools creatively, which I will discuss in the next part of the series, is using tools without understanding their context or history.


There are two analogs for this in the movie. First is how Charles can't remember the Westchester Incident. He continues to operate under the assumption that Logan is tormenting him for some reason, forcing him to live in a toppled-over well, and then dragging him cross-country when they are discovered. In reality, they'd been hiding from the repercussions of Charles' psychic outburst. But lacking that knowledge, Charles is ineffectual in helping their cause.


The second example is "X24,” an adult clone of Logan and something of a mindless killing machine. X24 is Logan without context, without history, without a frame of reference. And therefore, he is without remorse.


Both of these cases exemplify the harm that can come when a tool is operated by a user who doesn't fully understand why the tool exists or everything it is designed to do. It is nmap in the hands of a script kiddy.


As "experienced" IT professionals (that's code for "old farts"), one of our key goals should be sharing history and context with the younger set. As I wrote in "Respect Your Elders" (https://thwack.solarwinds.com/community/solarwinds-community/geek-speak_tht/blog/2015/06/04/respect-your-elders), everything in IT has a reason and a history. Forgetting that history can not only make you less effective, it can be downright dangerous. But newcomers to our field aren't going to learn that history from books. They're going to learn it from us if we are open and willing to share.


Lynchpin team members become force-multipliers, even if their specific contribution wasn't the most impactful.


In the movie, Logan shows up at a final battle. He doesn't defeat everyone and technically all the kids should have been able to hold their own. But when he appeared, it galvanized them into working together.


A little earlier I mentioned that the mutant kids are able to hold their own against an army of reavers, robotically enhanced mercenaries intent on capturing and/or killing the children before they reach the Canadian border.


I should have mentioned that they are just barely holding their own. Before long, most are captured. It is only due to the timely arrival of Logan that they are able to regain the upper hand. And even then, Logan is the one who has to take on X24, their most powerful adversary.


Granted, it is Laura who ultimately ends the conflict with X24. Granted it is the kids who disarm, disable, or kill the bulk of the soldiers.


But Logan's appearance changes the tide of the battle. Before he arrives, the kids are being picked off one by one. The reavers control the situation, they understand each kid, and are able to neutralize their abilities with precision. After Logan appears on the scene, the reavers are fighting on two fronts and it disrupts their efforts, causes them to make careless mistakes, and ultimately costs them the fight.


In this moment, Logan is known as a "force multiplier," a tool, technique, or individual who dramatically increases the efficacy of the team. In effect, a force multiplier makes a group work as if they have more members, or have members with a greater range of skills, than they actually possess. While the concept is most commonly understood within military contexts, the fact is that many areas of work benefit from the presence of force multipliers.


In IT, we need to learn to acknowledge when a technology, technique, or even an individual (regardless of age or experience) is a force multiplier. We need to also understand that a force multiplier isn't a universal panacea. Something (or someone) who is a force multiplier in one context (day-to-day operations) isn't necessarily going to have the same effect in a different situation (rapid deployment of a new architecture).


It's okay to lie as long as you're telling the truth.


There are times in your IT career when you're going to need to lie. Not a little white "because the birthday cake is in the kitchen and we're not ready for you to come in yet" lie. Not a bending of the truth. I’m talking full-on, bald-faced lie.


You're going to get the email instructing you to disable someone's account at 2:00 p.m. because they're being let go. And then you're going to see that person in the hall and exchange pleasantries.


A co-worker will confide to you that they just got an amazing job offer, but they're not planning on giving notice for another two weeks. After that, you're going to be in a meeting with management offering staffing projections for the coming quarter, and you are going to feign acceptance that your co-worker is part of that equation.


Going back to the dinner scene on the farm with the Munroe family, the exchange about the school goes something like this:

Logan: “Careful, you're speaking to a man who ran a school… for a lot of years.”

Charles: “Well, that's correct. It was a… it was a kind of special needs school.”

Logan: “That's a good description.”

Charles: (indicating Logan) “He was there, too.”

Logan: “Yeah, I was in it, too. I got expelled out three times.”

Charles: “I wish I could say that you were a good pupil, but the words would choke me.”


From the Munroes’ point of view, this is a father and son reminiscing about their past. And you know what? It IS a father and son reminiscing about their past. All of the things they say have an emotional truth to them, even if they are a complete fabrication.


IT pros have access to so many systems and sources of insight that our non-IT co-workers can’t "enjoy." Therefore, we must endeavor to maintain the emotional truth of each situation, even when we have to mask the details.


But that isn't all I learned! Stay tuned for future installments of this series. And until then, Excelsior!


1 “Logan” (2017), Marvel Entertainment, distributed by 20th Century Fox

While the Word-A-Day  Challenge has only completely it's second year, it is already a labor of love for me. Last year the idea struck (as they so often do) in an unanticipated "a-ha!" moment, and with barely enough time to see it realized. As I explained at the time, the words were re-cycled from another word-a-day challenge I take part in yearly.


This year was different. I had time to think and plan, and that was especially true of the list of words I wanted to present to the THWACK community. I knew they had to be special. Important. Meaningful not just as words can be in their own right, but meaningful to us in the IT world.


As I selected the words for the word-a-day challenge, I looked for ones with a particular feel and heft:

  1. They had to be clearly identifiable as technology words
  2. More than that, they needed to be words which have an enduring place in the IT lexicon
  3. And they needed to also be words which have a significant meaning outside of the IT context


In addition to hoping that words with those attributes would inspire discussion and offer each writer a variety of options for inspiration,  I was also curious to see which way the ark of conversations in the comments would bend for each. Would the community focus solely on the technical aspect? Would they avoid the tech and go for the alternate meanings? Would there be representation from both sides?


To put it in more concrete terms, would people choose to write about backbone as an aspect of biology, technology, or character? Would Bootstrap appeal to folks more as a method or a metaphor?


To say that the THWACK community exceeded my wildest imaginings would actually be understatement (a crime I've rarely been accused of). Here at the end of 31 days of the challenge, the answer to my question is a resounding "all of the above". In writing, images, poems, and haiku, you left no intellectual stone un-turned.


More than that, however, was how so many of us took a technical idea and suggested ways we could use the same concepts to improve ourselves; or conversely, how we could take the non-technical meaning of a word and apply THAT to our technical lives. And through it all was a constant message of "we can do better. we can be better. we have so much more to learn. we have so much more to do."


And even more fundamentally, the message I read time and time again was "we can get there together. as a community. we can help each other be better."


For me, it brought to mind a quote by Michael Walzer:

"We still believe, or many of us do, what the Exodus first taught...

- first, that wherever you live, it is probably Egypt;

- second, that there is a better place, a world more attractive, a promised land;

- and third, that 'the way to the land is through the wilderness'.

There is no way to get from here to there except by joining together and marching."



I would like to thank everyone who took time out of their hectic end-of-year schedules - sometimes in their personal time over evenings and weekends - to comment so thoughtfully. And in that same vein I'm deeply grateful to the 22 writers who generated the 31 "lead" articles - 12 of whom this year came from the ranks of our incredible, inimitable, indefatigable THWACK MVP's. If you missed out on any of the days, I'm listing each post below to give you yet another chance to catch up.


Finally, I want to give a shout-out to the dedicated THWACK community team for helping manage all the behind-the-scenes work that allowed the challenge to go off without a hitch this year.


I am humbled to have had a chance to be part of this, and I'm already thinking about the words, ideas, and stories I hope we can share in the coming year.


Leon Adato
Eric CourtesyIT
Peter Monaghan, CBCP, SCP, ITIL ver.3
Joshua Biggley
Craig Norborg
Ben Garves
Kamil Nepsinsky
Richard Letts
Kevin Sparenberg
Jeremy Mayfield
Patrick Hubbard
Rob Mandeville
Karla Palma
Ann Guidry
Matt R
Jenne Barbour
Thomas Iannelli
Allie Eby
Richard Schroeder
Jenne Barbour
Abigail Norman
Mark Roberts
Zack Mutchler
Rainy Schermerhorn
Shelly Crossland
Jez Marsh
Michael Probus
Jenne Barbour
Jenne Barbour
Erik Eff
Leon Adato

We're very nearly at the end of our Word-a-Day challenge, and - while I'll have a more formal wrap up next week - I couldn't imagine a more successful run than the one we've seen this year. At the time of this writing, the challenge has garnered over 26,600 views and nearly 1,500 comments, so many of which were thoughtful, heartfelt, insightful, moving, and inspirational.


My goal was to give the THWACK community an opportunity to pause and engage in a bit of self-reflection, but put it into a context we find familiar and comforting - technology.


While there are still 2 days left, here are the comments from the past week that caught my eye:


Parity (Posted by Zack Mutchler Expert)

Steven Carlson Expert Dec 24, 2017 3:06 AM

My mind also went instantly to parity bits. I'm still amazed at how we can maintain data operations in a RAID array with a failed drive (or drives depending on RAID configuration). https://techgage.com/article/sysadmin_corner_demystifying_raid/2/


Peter Monaghan, CBCP, SCP, ITIL ver.3 Expert Dec 24, 2017 5:55 AM

Former NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle said that he wanted every team to go 8-8 in a season and for the league to have parity. Instead, what he had was the dynasties of the 1960's Green Bay Packers, 1970's Pittsburgh Steelers, and so on. Pete felt parity was good for the league. Every team was competitive, had a shot for the playoffs, made all games meaningful. Parity would equate to enormous revenue growth. The reality is that the league experienced exponential growth and prosperity during Rozelle's reign without parity being achieved.


Richard Phillips Dec 26, 2017 12:15 PM

All too often the word equal or equality is thrown about without complete thought. Do we really want equality or parity? Take a look at this definition. "the property of an integer with respect to being odd or even. 3 and 7 have the same parity." A true balance is found when the value, purpose, use, etc. of any person or thing is truly understood. I like to use this example. Do you want a cake made with equality or with parity?



Peripheral (Posted by rainyscherm)

Steven Carlson Expert Dec 24, 2017 8:16 AM

I like your interpretation of events that keep getting put off as being in your peripheral vision. I'm guilty of myself a lot this year; catching up with people, watching that lab video, watching that Netflix series everyone keeps telling me about, installing X beta, starting that exercise routine, and so on. I think I will try your idea sometime, wait, what I meant was "I will start that Netflix series on Wednesday".


Thomas Iannelli Expert Dec 25, 2017 6:03 PM

Just like we experience with our vision things on the the peripheral are not in focus so to the people at the peripheral of your life don't get as much focus. The brain resources used to process the visual input of what is in focus is emblematic of the time spent with those we focus on. It doesn't make those on the edges less important in the world, just less so to you. Things at your peripheral vision are really grey scale, it is just the physics of our vision, and it is our brain that fills in the color. This can happen too with those we don't focus on. We make up the rest of their stories and motives in our minds so it makes sense to us. If we really want to see or know someone we must focus our time and attention on them.


Richard Phillips Dec 26, 2017 12:19 PM

Years ago I read a book called "The Tyranny of the Urgent." This makes me think of periphery - we so often get caught out taking care of the urgent things that the really important ones get neglected. Keeping focused on what is truly important is critical in all of life. It's said that the person that fails to plan, plans to fail and so it is with our day to day vision. Do we come in with a clear focus and plan or do we let our eyes wander and chase things that may or may not be important.



Platform (Posted by srcrossland)

Steven Carlson Expert Dec 25, 2017 9:51 PM

My mind went straight to platform shooters. One of the first computer games I played was Commander Keen and I was immediately hooked. Playing more and more games over the years and learning about computers and their different components, led me to an interest in networking. That then led to network monitoring and SolarWinds. All from that initial spark while playing platform games.


Richard Schroeder Expert Dec 28, 2017 11:01 AM

Back in 1963 my father built a wooden platform that measured four feet by six feet.  He placed it about four feet up in some trees for me, not too far from our new home.  Complete with ladder and railings, it was my tree house / fort / rocket ship / jet / imaginarium.  Some times it was the Flying Sub from Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, or even the Seaview itself.  Other times it was Fireball XL-5, or Stingray, or some command tower from which I could control my destiny and the world around me. Reviewing the earlier submissions, I easily see a parallel between that old wooden platform, upon which ideas and imagination were built and subsequently sprang forth, and the solid state virtual "platform" upon which applications are installed to perform their tasks. Where programmers and teams collaborate to build upon the ideas of a single person, so too did my tree house platform promote new ideas in my imagination.  It enabled me to create and share ideas with others in a tree-borne microcosm that was our local "social media" environment.  What started out as a place for sharing ideas with friends and receiving ideas of improvements or praise from them, has grown to be the Thwack environment and the world beyond, where we share ideas and receive input and ideas around the world for improvements. Those childhood habits of creating new ideas and elaborating upon them are how dreams and programs and businesses and organizations are born and grow.  The imagination of an entrepreneur, coupled with guidance and assistance from someone as simple a father willing to "bootstrap" the platform's ideas physically, financially, with thoughts and encouragement, are the ingredients that help make children greater than they were.  This support and these ideas are the building blocks of the Internet and business and society and countries.


Michael Perkins Dec 26, 2017 2:12 PM

Platform - what a word just within IT. We used to have Mac and Windows platforms, Linux and UNIX ones. Lots of OSes were termed platforms. More recently, I hear platform used to describe more categories in the field. There are hardware platforms upon which all sorts of software (say, hypervisors) can stand. VMWare and Azure are platforms upon which can stand plenty of different VMs hosting servers with an array of OSes, virtual routers, switches, and firewalls, and applications running on top of those VMs. We even have Platform as a Service (PaaS) now.



Utility (Posted by silverbacksays Expert)

Jeremy Mayfield Expert Dec 26, 2017 8:56 AM

Utility, the ability to do multiple things well.   Like a utility man in baseball.   Many team have these utility men, they are often not hall of fame quality but to the team they are all the difference.  when you can play multiple positions, and help your team win where ever you are, you are valuable.  being that utility player is something that is important in Tech as well.  We will often be asked to do things we may not be trained for.  We will need to be sure to understand that where ever we are needed we will be expected to perform.   Its our jobs to perform well.   Having good skills and or tools will assist us.   But we can be the utility person, using our best Utility SolarWinds.  We are utility, its a utility.  Honorable mention, Utility Belt from Batman...


Michael Perkins Dec 26, 2017 4:20 PM

The first thing that comes to my mind when seeing the work utility is, well, a utility: a water, power, or gas company. My mind moves on to things that have utility. They are functional: a good belt, a utility knife, a warm coat. Cargo pants might also fit here. A friend of mine would probably add a UtiliKilt. Then there are things that have several functions: a good laptop, smartphone, or PC does quite a bit: shopping, entertainment, home finance. Leatherman and Swiss Army tools. Being an amateur cook, I might add a good chef's knife. I use one for everything from peeling to slicing, chopping, even some fine work. The software world is loaded with utilities. Disk Utilities. Diagnostic software (Wireshark, anyone?) and some little suite called SolarWinds seem pretty useful too. I have to agree with silverbacksays about Custom Properties. They allow a creative admin to extend SolarWinds' abilities in more ways than I can detail here. I do have to say that the most utilitarian thing in learning how to better use SolarWinds is right here: Thwack! Thanks to all my fellow Thwacksters for your time and help.


Bill Eckler Expert Dec 28, 2017 1:09 PM

This reminded me of one of our old Apple][ utilities we used to use in the old 300 baud Hayes days... Dalton's Disk Disintegrator which would break up large apps/games into compressed packs to more easily send over the modem. The good ol' days.  My modem must have ran close to 20 hours a day in the old ASCII Express Pro BBS days.


Initial (Posted by mprobus Expert)

Peter Monaghan, CBCP, SCP, ITIL ver.3 Expert Dec 27, 2017 9:01 AM

This word could not be more timely for me. I am in the midst of chewing on a blog post that has taken me weeks to write as my initial attempt fell well short of the mark. So now I am scrapping huge chunks and doing re-writes. And that leaves me struggling with the reality that the effort won't be worth the final product. That is frustrating. What I have learned from my wife, the artist, is that there is value in a worthy initial attempt. You'll be farther along in the creative process even if you end up scrapping it and starting over. Or if you completely change it so that the final result looks nothing like the initial attempt. The initial attempt is such an important step in the journey...


C Potridge Dec 27, 2017 10:12 AM

I like the statement, "Don’t let your first attempt be your last."  An initial attempt can result in an initial failure, but that doesn't have to define a person, unless you quit trying.


Micah Musick Dec 27, 2017 12:01 PM

I don't know why but this prompt made me think of initiative in D&D. Sometimes when facing a tough tech challenge, I think about rolling initiative to get that initial start on the project. Depending on how much sleep I've had and what mood I'm in I fail that initiative roll something fierce, but I always fight my way back and get rolling one way or another.


Recovery (Posted by jennebarbour Employee)

Mercy K Dec 28, 2017 7:23 AM

To recover takes much effort especially when the norm is comfortable or one sees no hope of a better future ahead. It takes much faith and courage to recover from something one is used to. Before recovery, the lessons learned are tools to aid you in understanding why there was a reason for that experience in the first place.


Peter Monaghan, CBCP, SCP, ITIL ver.3 Expert Dec 28, 2017 10:25 AM

I am a Certified Business Continuity Professional, aka Disaster Recovery. My professional life is preparing for the worst and figuring out how my company would recover. As in life the easiest and quickest path to recovery is preparedness and minimizing the impact of the disaster. The business world has the advantage of usually not having emotions entangled in with it. So it is usually easier to follow the mantra of "...preparedness and minimizing..." So I shall end it with my favorite quote from the Business Continuity Planners world:

          "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth."  - Mike Tyson


Byron Anderson Expert Dec 28, 2017 11:07 AM

I think we are always in some form of Recovery as it's part of growth.  To make something stronger you tear it apart and let it recover, when it does it recovers stronger than it was before.  This is a continuous process throughout our lives.


Daimon Oberholtzer Dec 28, 2017 2:35 PM

How many steps are there in this recovery program? Are there reboots involved and what downtime can we expect?


Segment (Posted by jennebarbour Employee)

Zack Mutchler Expert Dec 29, 2017 1:31 AM

One thing that kept occurring to me throughout: what about a fundamental shift in how companies see their employees? In the past 4ish years, i’ve had the opportunity to interact with about 500 unique clients/companies. there were 2 lasting impressions from these experiences.

1) the best hotel coffee is at residence inn

2) companies that treat their engineers as worker bees will receive neither

I think it is a standard that companies segment their workforce via org charts. but allowing silos to restrict engineering (and other) skill sets is one of the main complaints i heard over casual lunches with the engineering core. the companies who refused to mold to an evolving workforce were almost always the ones with the least happy employees, in my highly (un)scientific research. This speaks loudly to the shift from being specialists back towards being jack-of-all-trades engineers. we can’t keep putting ourselves into comfy little boxes. to thrive, we need to keep pushing. and our companies need to encourage that growth at a molecular level.


Richard Phillips Dec 29, 2017 7:39 AM

Interesting article. I particularly like:  “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” As IT professionals we are called upon to make technology transparent and easy to use. Sometimes we get caught out or upset that the end users don't see how difficult this is at times, but those that get it see that we are doing "magic."


Jason Higgins Dec 29, 2017 9:51 AM

People segment things to make it easier to comprehend, remember and categorize. This applies to everything from phone numbers, to data stores on hard drives, and even your closets. If you just mashed everything together without a segmented order to it, finding things and remember them would be next to impossible. Sit back once and take a look at everything you deal with on a daily basis and see how it is laid out and organized. I bet you will start to see a lot more segmentation to it then you realize was happening. Just looking at my desk here at work I can see layers of segmentation going on just with my little area here.



As I mentioned at the start of this post, there are still two days left to go. Check in over the weekend to see what ideas are conjured by the words "Density" and "PostScript", and look for my final wrap-up on the first day of 2018.


Thank you to everyone who has contributed!

There's just a week left and each day is more impressive than the last in terms of the quality of writing, the level of openness, and the creativity of ideas being shared. For those who like metrics (hey, we're all monitoring professionals, who among us DOESN'T like metrics?!?) we're currently going strong with 19,500+ views, over 123 likes/bookmarks, and 1,151 comments.


So just like I did last week as well as the week before, I wanted to share just a few of the hundreds of amazing comments from each days entry. Of course, you can find all the entries here: Word-A-Day  Challenge 2017 .


Backbone (Posted by jennebarbour Employee)

Jeremy Mayfield Expert Dec 16, 2017 2:21 PM

Backbone is something i think of when i look at life and think of where i get strength to keep going, i think of the strength a good spine can give someone to stand.  when damaged well we can see the results easily.  When intact it is the central support to our selves which allows us to move freely, stand strong and climb over our obstacles.   As proven from your story you dont need the backbone to accomplish anything you wish you need the heart to want to do something and the desire to follow through.   In Technology also you can accomplish many thinigs with skills and time, but a good backbone will allow you to more easily maneuver about the systems, monitor for weakness and report on issues with in.  A strong Backbone in the tech world is essential to be a successful business and to have success as a IT pro regardless if that backbone is made of Cisco, HP, or the people around you, or the peer groups you have joined.


L Desrosiers Dec 17, 2017 7:49 AM

IT is the backbone of the company, Unseen and unheard most of the time.


Simeon Castle Dec 18, 2017 6:19 AM

Maybe it's the phrase relating to growing a spine that's created this, but my first thought on the word backbone is to stand up for oneself. To borrow from the (second entry of the) dictionary, the backbone is "the chief support of a system or organization." In an odd way, the two are interlinked; in order to adequately support something (you, your department, your team) you have to sometimes have to take a stand, defend, and support them. I'm a long-time reader of Reddit's TalesFromTechSupport (I recommend it heartily) and sadly, an all-too common theme is one of a breakdown in the relationship between management and employee; where there's a lack of mutual support, and so there's a need for a tale to be told.


Character (Posted by tomiannelli Expert)

Ethan Beach Dec 17, 2017 12:48 PM

Do you need to be a character to succeed? What kind of character? I am in the position of a possible promotion to management and there are two of us going for the same position. I have worked hard and proven myself but I have not been very noticed. I just go to work get my stuff done UN-noticed. It is not in my character to be outgoing and in the spot light. On the other hand the other guy has been very outgoing but has not brought as much to the game as I have. I have the feeling that he has the upper hand on me and is it because of his character?  Do I need to put myself more out there and get noticed more often or will my work do that for me. When I do try I feel uncomfortable and our of character.


Peter Monaghan, CBCP, SCP, ITIL ver.3 Expert Dec 17, 2017 7:45 PM

When discussing character one would be remiss not to remember MLK's poignant quote:

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

As a civilized society this is what we strive toward, and how we define equality. In the business world character is valued but abilities/skills are valued more (If you don't believe me consider how we interview candidates). However, equality in the workplace has become a priority over all. So in the real world we can judge a person on their character, but in the business world we often overlook it. Cue the confusion. There are many of us who refuse to comprise their principles just because they are in the business world and instead maintain a strong character throughout.  Those are the ones who can look themselves in the mirror. That is who I want to be.


Olusegun Odejide Dec 18, 2017 7:20 AM

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power............ Abraham Lincoln


Fragment (Posted by allieeby)

Phillip Collins Dec 18, 2017 8:31 AM

If you think about it, nothing is ever really complete.  Everything we do is just fragments of larger projects.  When planning I always break down my goals into smaller fragments to make them easier to track and obtain.  Our days are full of fragments that make our days complete.  It's how we work with these fragments and not let them fall to the side that makes us who we are.


Simeon Castle Dec 18, 2017 10:20 AM

When I think of the word fragment, the first thing that comes to mind is when I was but a pup and enjoyed running Defragmenter and watching the blocks moving. I know, okay, I don't need you to tell me how bad that is! That was back on Windows 95 or something, it's been a while. The hardware was abysmal (a beige Compaq box my dad bought for £30 from a guy who was clearing out an office) but the experience was magical, and started me down the treacherous path of breaking making computers. It is a fragment of my life, and in and of itself is an experience. As part of the whole of my life, it's now merely represented in my desk coaster, because I've not seen another 1Gb hard drive - or any hard drive with handwriting inside the case - since. At least it's remembered fondly, and I'd hope to be remembered as fondly (if not by using part of my corpse for beverage-holding)


Kevin Small Expert Dec 18, 2017 4:20 PM

What causes a fragment? Dropping a glass? Moving data around on a hard disk? Breaking a promise? There are lots of fragments in our lives...some of our own making.  Think about what is important.

Handle fragile things with care.

Write programs to efficiently use storage.

Honor relationships.


Gateway (Posted by rschroeder Expert)

George S Dec 19, 2017 8:32 AM

A gateway is a portal into something new or different, whether in IT or life. It can act as a transition point to allow or deny access, particularly in IT. Ether way it is a sign that a change is about to happen.


C Potridge Dec 19, 2017 9:55 AM

I love the Marvel reference!  No matter how good your gatekeeper is, vigilance is required to monitor any anomalies on the network that indicate unwanted traffic has slipped past the gatekeeper.


Simeon Castle Dec 19, 2017 11:29 AM

I read this in the morning and came back to it, and I'm not sure what there is to add. Everyone loves a Marvel reference, right? A gateway is in that double-edged role, enabling access for those inside the circle and preventing access from outsiders, with a little help from some other friends... I'm technically in a position to administrate it, but it still limits me, and me peers try and prevent me from accessing it - for good reason, I'm a bit of a 'break-it-and-see' person... But I do have the capacity and, at a push, the responsibility to change it. So simultaneously, I limit it while it limits me.

Yesterday we saw the note on character aspects, and I rather soberly acknowledged that the questions that stood out were the flaws that I disliked the most. I wonder if in a way, we create a gateway of ourselves with our characters to both limit and protect ourselves.



Inheritance (Posted by jennebarbour Employee)

Zack Mutchler Expert Dec 20, 2017 8:42 AM

from a SolarWinds perspective, I would say inheritance is HUGE in our industry. from my time as a consultant/trainer, I would roughly estimate well over 80% of the recipients of professional services and training are admins who inherited their SolarWinds implementation from another admin who left the company and/or neglected their duties as the SolarWinds "guru". It's interesting to see, from the outside, how neglect can ruin an inheritance. I'm sure this echoes in life as well.


Terri Phelps Dec 20, 2017 9:26 AM

I also come from a large family.  Dad is a sarcastic joker (which we have all inherited) and the biggest "fun" between us kids is replacing the current picture in the "Daddy's favorite" picture frame with a picture of our self.  Dad has told me that he loves me best and my inheritance will be his treasured boxes of old Field and Stream magazines.  I'm sure (wink, wink), that he has NOT said this to any of my siblings....


Byron Anderson Expert Dec 20, 2017 10:29 AM

Inheritance can be a double edged sword, you can certainly inherit things you want be it tangible things, valuable things, or knowledge but you can also inherit things you don't want such as debt or bad knowledge that can lead you down the wrong path.  I think it's important that we be mindful of what we are passing down to our children and the next generation.  We want to put them in an even better position than we were in and set them up for success so they can do the same for the next.  Ultimately each generation should be setup to build on the success of the previous creating a continuous improvement process.


Noise (Posted by ams.norman)

Steven Carlson Expert Dec 21, 2017 7:21 AM

I grew up living near a highway but you tune it out so you don't even notice it anymore. When I moved closer to the city for university and work, I lived near a train station. That eventually was also tuned out that you don't notice. On flights, I take a pair of noise cancelling headphones. You don't realise how loud it actually gets until you have a pair. Also helps (slightly) to lessen the jarring of a baby crying or children screaming. I've recently moved away from the city and it is much quieter out here. Not as much traffic, no cars around at night unlike the city, etc.

And obviously in IT, I come across so many customers who have turned on lots of alerts and have a filter moving them all to a "SolarWinds" folder in their email client with the thousands of unread emails. At that point, you've lost the battle. What's the point of having an alert if you're going to ignore the emails?


Mercy K Dec 21, 2017 7:34 AM

This season is almost always synonymous with noise but then, towards the end of the year, you find many people turning down the noise slightly for introspection and afterwards, making plans to be a better version of themselves next year. And on and on the cycle goes.


Olusegun Odejide Dec 22, 2017 8:34 AM

This remind me of signal processing, a major focus is modelling different types of noise and traffic. Rayleigh, Rician, Nakagami, etc. Noise as mentioned by steshi noise can be a good thing sometime.


Object (Posted by Mark Roberts Expert)

Peter Wilson Dec 22, 2017 7:26 AM

Got to love the English language.  I've spent 50+ years learning it and still get caught out.  However, it does make it a lot easier to learn other languages (spoken and programming). Don't read on if you don't like swearing. Reminds me of a great Joey Dunlop statement (the greatest road racing motorcyclist ever).  He had broken down in a race at the Isle of Man TT and was asked what was wrong.  He replied (you will have to work it out because it is all expletives and I have hopefully and appropriately left out some of the letters)  F*** me, the F***ing F***er's F***ing F***ed.  Explained the problem perfectly.  I have it on a T-shirt.


Olusegun Odejide Dec 22, 2017 8:41 AM

The moment a person forms a theory,

his imagination sees in every object
only the traits which favor that theory.
- Thomas Jefferson



Michael Probus Expert Dec 22, 2017 9:46 AM

When I saw the title of today's post, my first thought was which spelling / definition will be used.  I was leaning toward the noun being that the words are IT based, therefore I was thinking programming. We as a society are often judged by the number and value or our objects.  Some seek to obtain such items in order to raise their social status.  Others seek to provide objects to others.  If I am being honest, I would say that I'm in the middle.  I like nice stuff, but I also like giving stuff.  Christmas is one of my favorite times of year as I enjoy the giving more than receiving.

If anyone states otherwise, then I object.  :-D



Of course, that is just the tiniest smattering of comments that caught my eye. Check out the Word-A-Day  Challenge 2017 forum to catch up on the rest. As we head into the final week, be prepared to share your thoughts on Parity, Peripheral, Platform, Utility, Initial, Recovery, Segment, Density, and Postscript!


(This is the second part of a series. You can find Part One here.)


It behooves me to remind you that there are many spoilers beyond this point. If you haven't seen the movie yet, and don't want to know what's coming, bookmark this page to enjoy later.


Get out among the "regular" people, the users. It will feed and inform your work. REALLY meet them, though. Don't just sit on the sidelines, aloof and observant.


At the start of the movie, we see Logan driving a limo for a ride-sharing service. He's out and among the people, which would make many folks feel more connected to the world around them. Hearing stories, experiencing a moment in time that becomes a slice of his own life. He ferries a business executive, a bunch of frat boys shouting "U-S-A" as they cross the border into Mexico, a bachelorette party, and a family on their way to a funeral. As stark as the differences are between passengers, they are not nearly as stark as Logan's emotional disassociation with them.


Contrast this with a scene later in the movie, when Logan, Charles, and Laura sit down to dinner with the farming family they assisted (as mentioned in my previous example). While dancing around the nature of the school, Charles and Logan (acting the part of father and son) express touching affection for their past life and each other. Doing so allows the family who has invited them into their home to join the conversation.


Later, when they are alone, Charles tries to impress this difference on Logan:

Charles: “You know, Logan? This is what a life will explain. A home, people who love each other. A safe place. You should take a moment and feel it.”

Logan: “Yeah. It's great.”

Charles: “Logan. Logan! You still have time.”


The lesson in all of this is that, as an IT professional, you need to get out with the real people in your environment. You have to become involved, to see what they care about and what problems they are trying to solve. You can't, as Logan did when he was driving the limousine, dispassionately observe them from afar and remain aloof. You need to connect, to communicate, and to share.


It's not all on you. The next generation of IT pros is strong, even if they don't have your experience. Know that they will rise to the occasion if you give them the chance.


Near the end of the movie, Logan is so incapacitated that he passes out on the side of the road, and wakes up in a doctor's office. How did he get there? Laura, the 11-year-old who has not spoken a single word so far, whose native language is Spanish, and whose understanding of the events around her are never 100% certain, manages to steal a truck, load Logan into it, and drive him back to town and into a kindly doctor's office.


Just a few scenes later, she once again takes the wheel and completes the drive to the lookout station from which she and her fellow child-mutants plan to make the journey to "Eden.”


Finally, Laura and those same children get Logan up the side of a mountain and nurse him back to health.


The point is, Laura and the rest of the kids are capable. They have skills and abilities that extend beyond their mutant superpowers. Also, they care. They care what happens to this stranger not just because they find him bleeding on the side of the road, but because they see a chance to connect with another person like them, and they take the risk. They even have the audacity to shave Logan's beard into the shape it appears in the X-Men® comic, not to mock him, but to create friendship through a shared joke.


Later, these same kids who giggled unabashedly at the sight of Logan in his iconic muttonchops are able to hold their own against an army of mercenaries. In the end, it is Laura who kills X24, not using her strength, speed, or claws, but by thinking through the problem and literally finding the silver bullet to end the situation.


As IT professionals, we need to remember that the next generation might lack our experience, but that doesn't mean they lack skills, intelligence, commitment, or even common sense. It doesn't mean they can't hold their own. It doesn't mean they won't rise to a challenge. Of course, new team members shouldn't be forced into "sink or swim" scenarios. But it means that, when our own tank is empty, we can look to them for backup while we recharge.


Better still, it means that if we allow them to be a full part of the team, the entire team will be stronger for it.


Powerful tools used indiscriminately can hurt everyone.


One of the key plot points in the movie is Charles' degenerative symptoms. In the movie, he is 90 years old, and although he's relatively lucid, he has moments where he loses touch. The problem is that he is a mutant with one of the most powerful psychic minds on earth, able (if you accept the X-Men Apocalypse story as canon) to speak directly into the minds of every human on the planet while simultaneously having a separate conversation with the X-Men who are trying to save him (and the world). So, when Charles loses touch, let's his control slip even a little, the minds around him are at risk.


This sits at the heart of the "Westchester Incident" that is hinted at throughout the film. Charles loses control and people (possibly his students, with the exception of Logan) die. He loses control again in a hotel in Las Vegas, and everyone in the area is held in a kind of violent stasis, unable to move or even think until Charles is sedated. Everyone affected is left weakened and sick for several minutes afterward.


The takeaway for us is that Charles has (or perhaps it's better to say he IS) a powerful tool. When used with control and finesse, our most powerful tools can perform amazing feats and literally save the world. But when used in an uncontrolled fashion, the results can be devastating.


By way of example, think about DNS. On October 16, 2016, a DDoS attack on one DNS company destabilized it to a point where the internet was practically shut down (at least in parts of the world) for hours. But a few months later, a single 22-year-old registered a domain name and effectively brought the damage from the #WannaCry malware to a complete halt.


But that isn't all I learned! Stay tuned for future installments of this series. And until then, Excelsior!


1 “Logan” (2017), Marvel Entertainment, distributed by 20th Century Fox

We're two weeks into the 2017 Word-a-Day challenge and I cannot begin to describe the incredible depth and meaning of what people are sharing. And boy are you all sharing. So far you have responded with 11,390+ views, 93 likes/bookmarks, and over 800 comments all of which are thought-provoking, heartfelt, and personal. This is the most incredible community and I speak for the entire SolarWinds team when I say that we all feel privileged that you choose to share your time, thoughts, and feelings with us in this way.


As I did last week, I wanted to share just a few of the hundreds of amazing comments from each days entry. As a reminder, you can find all the entries here: Word-A-Day  Challenge 2017 .


Binary (Posted by KMSigma Expert)

Peter Wilson Dec 12, 2017 4:49 AM

I remember a guy doing his PhD when I was at Uni (mid 1980s).  He was building a trinary computer.  He was struggling until I suggested using light instead of electricity.  I have to admit the maths he was doing suddenly made binary seem easy.


Michael Perkins Dec 11, 2017 12:22 PM

It would be nice for us to learn we are not computers, that shades of grey still exist, that one can actually agree with someone on some topics but not others, that you can disagree with another yer still respect or, perish the thought, even like them. As much as binary logic has enabled today's technology and conveniences, humans are not binary.


Kevin Small Expert Dec 11, 2017 8:25 AM

If there is one thing Binary has taught us, it is this...

Just as a series of 1's and 0's... on's and off's...can make a machine result in a certain pattern or path until it is rewritten...reprogrammed...or rebooted...

So a series of right's and wrong's...opportunities taken or missed... can set a person on a pattern or path until a conscious effort is made to reset the trajectory.


Footprint (Posted by Jeremy Mayfield Expert)

Mercy K Dec 10, 2017 11:54 AM

Our footprints are our legacies, we leave our footprints behind by making a difference. We get to determine what our footprints look like when we set our minds on changing things for the better.


Ethan Beach Dec 10, 2017 12:17 PM

This is deep. Made me think back to when I was young and my grandpa was a scout leader. When we go camping we would always leave it better then we found it. Leave only footprints behind. As you say he left a great fossil of himself on this world and is remembered as a great man. Thanks for this post, made me really start thinking about who I am and more things I could do.


Steven Carlson Expert Dec 11, 2017 7:49 AM

it could be the image you posted but it reminds me of the practice of taking imprints of a child's footprint when they are young. It's a little something to remind you of how much they've grown. As an adult, the relationships you forge with other people and the imprint you leave on them will be how you are remembered.


Loop (Posted by Patrick Hubbard Administrator)

Simeon Castle Dec 11, 2017 4:50 AM

Very succinct. Sometimes it feels like every day is a loop where I come into work and try to add a metaphorical line for the next day, get to the weekend. A few of those and the script for the year gets worked on and everything progresses nicely... Until I get to the festive season and suddenly I look up and realise there were bits I meant to implement! Next year, fresh script right? I'll put them in the next version. In this fashion, I've so very easily spent a lot of time wishing for the next line, the next thing, the next major Event. Where what I needed to do was to write myself some new material for the next lines, actually change things up and write what I want to write. In a funny way, that's exactly how I came to be writing this post.


Nick Caldwell Dec 11, 2017 6:17 PM (in response to Phillip Collins)

Some of my coworkers love to "loop" through the same things. They are totally happy doing their normal task 1 in the morning, going to meeting 2 later, task 3 after that, lunch, and so on. I sometimes envy them, but I need much more random tasks. I almost like interruption and being brought off-task, because I find when I get back to it I am actually better focused and have new ideas. Others like to simply loop through the work they have and not be broken out of it. The big thing I have been thinking about lately is how management and organizational structure can protect both their style of working and mine while keeping everyone happy and mostly productive...


Thomas Iannelli Expert Dec 11, 2017 1:33 PM


Life loops, obsessive compulsive disorder, addictions, all come to mind when thinking of loops outside of programming. Some loops are inside functions that are reentrant. For the bad ones in life try to set the semaphores so those loops aren't allowed to execute even if they are called. Contact a friend, use a physical object to remind you don't go there, this loop leads to ill affects.


On the other had for some who have other disorders, loops and repetitive actions are the comfort that lets them get thru their day and life. They are a good thing.


Now if only there were a real traffic loop around Austin?


Obfuscate (Posted by mandevil Employee)

Richard Phillips Dec 12, 2017 8:03 AM

For many years I was in an environment that valued the appearance of character above actual character. What I mean by that was that in a group everyone looked good on the outside, but didn't talk about their struggles, fears, weaknesses. So their home lives, work lives etc. were often in shambles, but you'd never know it to look at them., This kind of thing is not unique to any specific environment it's everywhere. We put on an air - obfuscate - of who we want people to believe that we are (I'm not talking about confidence, but that mask that we wear to prevent people from knowing the real us). Here's the thing, in most cases the people for whom you are putting on the mask are often also wearing a mask. We try to obfuscate as a way of protection, but it usually is just a signal that there is something else going on. I dare you to take off the mask, be open and honest and I bet you'll find that others begin to take off their masks - relationships will grow and everyone will feel better about themselves. (Keep in mind that it will be uncomfortable at first and of course there will be those that try to take advantage of your vulnerability - be wise)


George S Dec 12, 2017 8:22 AM

Obfuscatation is at the heart of some of our pitfalls in technology. It is a vendor that "looks" like the fix a problem, yet when pressed further do not.  It is that google post that does the same. It's source is varied and widespread. It is what keeps us up at night, and drives us nuts every day. It is why when we encounter clarity of any kind in technology we are appreciative.


Jeremy Mayfield Expert Dec 12, 2017 9:14 AM

I would say software licensing and cloud computing can be Obfuscate.   I find that the more i read about volume licensing and cloud computing etc. the less clear things get.   I know i need it, i know i use it, I am just not sure why its better, because it sure doesn't seem to save me any money and or ever seem to end.  I am always needing to get more, and i still haven't figured out why.


Bootstrap (Posted by karlap)

Olusegun Odejide Dec 13, 2017 8:09 AM

None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We got here because somebody - a parent, a teacher, an Ivy League crony or a few nuns - bent down and helped us pick up our boots. ............Thurgood Marshall


America always pivots between collective responsibility and the idea that the individual can pull himself up by his bootstraps. ..........Randi Weingarten


Richard Phillips Dec 13, 2017 9:05 AM

I never thought of this word in that way.


Overcoming challenges is often what defines a person. It's not how many times you get knocked down, it's how many times you get up. In IT our jobs demand that we find solutions to matters, sometimes simple sometimes overwhelmingly complex. But IT is binary and even though complex there is a specific answer, if not multiple answers.


In life things are different - the feelings, impressions, emotions, circumstances and a multitude of other things challenge us to not only find a solution, but find one that doesn't harm or ignore others. The idea of bootstrapping your life to overcome and succeed combined with the many challenges often defines not just our personal success, but the success and happiness of those around us.


Jennifer Hicks Dec 13, 2017 9:51 AM

There are few things better than “punching above your weight” at work, or solving a problem on your own.  I’ve always equated bootstrapping as a solitary activity and not a team sport, but I guess you can say a team can pull its self up by the boot straps.  The essay that started this discussion was not a solitary effort, rather it was two people working together and I think the lesson here is that sometimes it’s better to ask for help than to go it on your own.


Cookie (Posted by aguidry Employee)

Michael Probus Expert Dec 14, 2017 9:24 AM

I'm an Oreo person myself.  Sit me down with some Oreos and milk, and I'm good to go until the package is empty.  I did hear on the radio this morning suggesting dunking in peanut butter or cool whip.  Maybe I'll try one of those next. With relation to the theories, I thought Hansel and Gretel left breadcrumbs, not cookies. One must look at cookies (not the yummy kind) from their own point of view.  As a "normal" internet user, cookies are scary and dangerous.  From the perspective of the organization issuing the cookie, they are useful in tracking internet usage and trends.  When used for the right reason, cookies are useful (and delicious).


Jeremy Mayfield Expert Dec 14, 2017 9:44 AM

I like Chocolate chip, oatmeal and no bake cookies.   Internet cookies i do not like.   I usually set all browsers to remove cookies on exit.   I never save them.   This causes issues with certain sites but over all I'd rather not have the trail leading anyone back to where I have been.  And as bad as that sounds, its not in a bad way, more so for security and company privacy.  I log all traffic, mine included in the web filter and it is audited regularly.


George S Dec 14, 2017 5:35 PM (in response to Leon Adato)

My eldest daughter and her husband are seriously into barbeque competitions.... Their sons (my grandson's 8 and 9) have learned to by watch mom and dad. So much so that they now have their own smoker and they made meatloaf for a first dish; in addition they participate in the kids portion of the competitions that their parents attend. When the come to my house they ask my wife to teach them how to bake ("mom's not really good at that" - their quote not mine!) It's important for kids to feel comfortable and try things like cooking, it teaches the importance of math, reading and following directions and improvising when things don't go well. ps. am waiting for this next generation to come up with their own bacon recipies... ( will share them sqlrockstar and rschroeder )


Argument (Posted by designerfx Expert)

Vinay BY Expert Dec 15, 2017 7:02 AM

Arguments are as well healthy sometimes, I totally agree with you -> on what you have mentioned above, but then it can as well turn out to be positive. For example, a healthy argument leads to a conclusion or provides justification to what you have to prove in a right way (you are standing by what you believe in or what could be achieved).

I am assuming like minded people wouldn't mind having a healthy argument, this indeed would help both of them in understanding the subject (IT) in a better way.


Brian Turcotte Dec 15, 2017 9:58 AM

I never really understood why they call additions to a command line executable arguments.  I'm just trying to get along with my programs.  Sure I may talk loud to them when I leave Caps Lock on, but I'm not arguing.


Richard Schroeder Expert Dec 15, 2017 11:25 AM

I'm amazed so many technical people focused on the inter-personal-relationship-conversation path and avoided the technical script argument.  Perhaps scripting is more absolute, while people attempting to persuade is more personal. I just saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi for free last night (the Force was with me!), and I won't give away any spoilers.  But the arguments presented in the many wonderful sections of the movie were thought-provoking, wry, humorous, or tear-producing. I draw the line between "argument" and "discussion" or even "debate".  An argument between people, to me, indicates a large possibility of hurt feelings and frustrations.  A discussion, in my mind, does not.  Even a debate is something done with considerations and professionalism and kind empathy--again, in my world. An argument indicates a major disagreement, without true dual-winning sides.  Compromise may be a path to success and less hurt, or it can mean backed-up anger that may spill over with too much strength in the future when an unintended straw breaks a camel's back.


Compared to this, computer scripts with arguments in them are simple & boring, no matter the power they own.



Again, that's just a sample. Check out the Word-A-Day  Challenge 2017 forum to get the full story. Coming up in week 3 of the challenge, we'll hear what our community thinks about the words Backbone, Character, Fragment, Gateway, Inheritance, Noise, & Object!

The 2017 Word-a-Day challenge is off to an amazing start, and I wanted to share just a few of the incredible insights and amazing stories being shared in that space. If you hadn't heard about it until now, you can find all the entries here: Word-A-Day  Challenge 2017 .


Meanwhile, a quick reminder about the challenge rules: Each word will appear around midnight US Central time, and you have until midnight the following day to post a *meaningful* comment (you know, something more than "yeah!" or "great job!") for 150 THWACK points. You have until midnight Monday night to make comments on the words that post on Saturday and Sunday, since we here at THWACK would never want to pull you away from your valuable downtime.


So what were people talking about this week?


Identity (Posted by Leon Adato Expert)

Michael Probus Expert Nov 30, 2017 9:27 AM

I find the Where You Are an interesting addition to authentication.  Back in my day when I was teaching class, it was always the first three.  I'm wondering how many organizations are taking into account location when authenticating.  We have monitoring applications that log IP address, so it can easily be obtained, but I don't know that they are being factored in when the user is logging in (except for those that are blocked by ACL).


Simeon Castle Dec 1, 2017 6:11 AM

A personality, in a loose sense, is the sum of all experiences to date; everything from all our senses builds how we think and act and live. From this also comes the desires and ways we would act, talk and think. I've very recently taken the step to leave a decade career and lifelong ambition to join you in getting Thwack points IT administration. When I took that step, I changed my identity - who I am and who I will become. Sometimes it takes the Earth to make a small change, and sometimes it takes a word to change a life.


Mark Roberts Expert Dec 1, 2017 9:27 AM

An immediate thought that came out of reading the first days challenge, is related to me finding out I had a half brother I did not know existed (as did my Father) 3 years ago. We, along with my brother, Father and Mother became close very quickly after our first meeting, with the relationship very much based on our shared identity. The premise that we are who we are based on our life and the experiences within has also very strongly been proven to be based on nature as well. The similarities in our looks is one thing, but the shared mannerisms, way of speaking and many other traits along has brought much debate and sometimes with our wives consternation as now our sense of humours are spread across three of us.



Access (Posted by Eric CourtesyIT Expert)

Mercy K Dec 3, 2017 7:38 AM

Access is a big deal, it shows you where one belongs in a particular place; it is the evidence of belonging.


James Percy Dec 4, 2017 9:56 AM

Access is ones ability to gain entry into a place. For some that place was Studio 54, where it was difficult to gain access. For others access is gain entrance to a place that gives us an ability to do something, like gaining entrance to a group that allows me to change permissions in a virtual world.


Damon Goff Dec 4, 2017 12:56 PM

At my previous job access seemed to be a daily fight. I can't remember a single day where there wasn't a user testing to see if they could weasel their way into having access to something that they shouldn't have, and didn't need (they all thought they did). The biggest fight was always over WiFi access for personal devices. Our setup was simple, one SSID for company owned devices that only two people knew they password to and a second for guests/personal devices. Enough of the managers complained to the big boss over this that he came to me and told me to change the way we do things. Give all users the password. I argued with him over it and we came to an agreement that we would do an isolated test before allowing everyone access. I would broadcast a new SSID that was a clone of the existing and only hand out the password to a small group. Not even a day had gone by before I start noticing strange activity and unknown devices connecting to this new SSID at all hours. And wouldn't you know it, a select few almost immediately gave the password to just about everyone they knew! I really enjoyed the I told you so after I showed the big boss.


Insecure (Posted by Peter Monaghan, CBCP, SCP, ITIL ver.3 Expert)

Thomas Iannelli Expert Dec 3, 2017 11:23 AM

I recall a conversation when I was in the Air Force about how fighter jets are very dependent up their thrust to stay in the air, unlike the good old C-130s. It was the fighters' very instability that made them such a dynamic force in air combat. It makes me look at the instability of what I know in IT and feel comfortable with that. While it may make me insecure, if I apply the correct amount of thrust to stay in it, I can keep flying in the very dynamic career of IT professional.


Ani Love Dec 3, 2017 11:47 AM

Confidence is silent, insecurities are LOUD


Steven Carlson Expert Dec 4, 2017 12:07 AM

Admittedly, my initial introduction to a lot of SolarWinds MVPs made me feel pretty insecure - "They know so much more than me! Why am I here?".  Over time however I have realised that this has pushed me to increase my depth of knowledge and that there are times where I have been able to provide assistance to them. We're better as a whole than the individual parts.


Imposter (Posted by Joshua Biggley Expert)

Michael Probus Expert Dec 4, 2017 7:32 AM

Good write up.  Not what I envisioned when I saw the title, but I assume that is what you were going for.  Thinking outside the box. Too many times, people just try to fit in.  They are afraid to be themselves as they don't know how they will be perceived by others. Then there are the times when someone pretends to know something they don't for fear to being looked upon negatively. As you said it.  Be yourself.  If you don't know something, just ask.  Everyone had to learn at some point.  If someone doesn't like you for how you are, then they don't deserve to know you.


Kamil Nepsinsky Dec 4, 2017 9:03 AM


James Percy Dec 4, 2017 10:08 AM

At first I wanted to ask if I am Batman, or an imposter. But then I think when the band Kiss replaced their drummer Peter Chris, and Eric Singer then puts on the make up and persona of the original character, is Eric now an imposter? Or is he just playing a roll that was passed on.



Code (Posted by Craig Norborg Expert)

Ethan Beach Dec 7, 2017 4:16 PM

My kid at only 8 years old already took a Minecraft coding class. Man how young they are learning.


James Percy Dec 5, 2017 12:45 PM

When I think back on childhood, a code was more like a cipher, something you needed to de-code to understand. Something you needed the secrete decoder ring or tool for. In later life as I became a magician the code was more about ethics, where we agreed to not frivolously or intentionally give away certain secrets that may be revealed in how something may work. At work we have a code of conduct or a list of rules we must abide by. And in IT I feel here code bandied about as a term referring to programming.


Just looking over all the contexts and definitions and meanings of the work code, leads me to ponder other languages. It is interesting how in English we can have one word that can mean multiple things depending on context, however in other languages, even ancient ones, like Greek,  there are multiple words used that making those languages more complex but also more descriptive and precise.


Graeme Brown Dec 5, 2017 10:14 AM

I remember seeing the word code in many places but what first struck me was how the word applies to genetics AND information technology. When you consider the history of the word, it's a simple word with a very generic meaning, now it's use seems restricted to mystical deep uses. that will change however as people learn to question the norm and seek out true meaning....in all things.



FUD (Posted by thegreateebzies Administrator)

Michael Perkins Dec 7, 2017 10:38 AM

I first heard about FUD from geeky pursuits. For along time, though, I actually used it far more to describe things political, especially in political campaigns (e.g., negative campaign ads).


The way, in short, that I like to deal with FUD hits each aspect:
Fear - Apprehension is generally OK. It is alright to be concerned, but not to be paralyzed or ruled by fear.Uncertainty - The more I know, the dumber I think I am, since I realize even more of what I don't know. Not being G-D, I cannot know everything, so some uncertainty is understandable.

Doubt - F and U definitely imply D. That doubt, however, can lead you to ask questions to perhaps catch something not foreseen, which is good.

Use FUD to guide you to where your concerns are and put efforts there to research and prove or alleviate them. Turn FUD into a productive force. Just don't let it paralyze you.


Alex Sheppard Dec 7, 2017 8:42 AM

"I must not fear!  Fear is the mind killer!  Fear is the littledeath that brings total obliteration!  I will face my fears.  I will allow them to pass over me, and over me."

   - Paul Atreides, "Dune"


Also, for those who don't already know, F.E.A.R is an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real!


Steven Carlson Expert Dec 7, 2017 8:09 AM

While not work-related, I've gone through a bout of FUD lately with my first home purchase. We went in with a bit of risk knowing there was some existing damage that needed repairing (uncertainty) but the damage looks to be more than anticipated. I have had doubts about whether I've made the right choice, and fearful of what else would come up. However, I've since overcome most of that (except for a little bit of the fear) and we're pushing ahead with what we have and fixing it up properly for our peace of mind.



Pattern (Posted by kneps)

C Potridge Dec 7, 2017 2:38 PM

Better safe than sorry, run from all tigers, real or imagined.


Richard Schroeder Expert Dec 7, 2017 2:56 PM

I loved the "Faces In Places" search--thank you for sharing that.


Yes, sometimes the pattern only appears from far away--not being able to see the forest for the trees is a hurdle we don't sometimes don't even know we've encountered.


Other times we are in our own pattern (a.k.a.: "rut") from having recently diagnosed and troubleshot an issue with a particular technology. Our solution, and that recent troubleshooting pattern, can lead a person to easily waste time by digging into that specific issue, when in fact the problem is unrelated.


There's a character in Ursula K. LeGuin's EarthSea saga called "The Master Patterner" who is enigmatic and subtle.  http://www.bookrags.com/questions/english-and-literature/The_Other_Wind/who-is-master-patterner-from-the-other-wind-and-…   Enjoy her works as I do, and another pattern is made.


Thomas Iannelli Expert Dec 7, 2017 3:18 PM

I recently listened to an episode of the "You Are Not So Smart" podcast that had interesting comments to make on how artificial intelligence is using patterns it finds in historical input data which create biases that we may not want as a society as we go forward. The ability to recognize patterns and go "Oh, that one is bad, we should change that," is going to an important part of how we code AI.


Virtual Posted by Richard Letts Expert()

Richard Schroeder Expert Dec 8, 2017 9:34 AM

A definition for virtual I learned long ago, is "In essence, but not in fact."  An important distinction! And I learned "virtual" has nothing to do with the goodness of "virtue"; the two words are not related except by spelling and sound for my purposes. Knowing this, you can better understand product claims and news reports with a more critical eye when you hear "virtual" or "virtually".


Virtually the only differences between a "real" router or server and equivalent "virtual" models are form factor and management/setup process.  We may be accustomed to a hardware box dedicated to routing, or to a pizza box server taking requests for applications or files.  We reduce costs and extend flexibility and increase uptime by moving to virtual hardware that performs the same services when our environment and budget scale to the need.  But the function of the original hardware server or router is duplicated exactly by the virtual appliance, and more flexibility and options are gained through the virtues virtual routers and servers.


William Gonzalez Dec 8, 2017 9:56 AM

The challenge is trying to get management to virtualize very server. They keep insisting that we need physical boxes and it drives me crazy.


Matt R Expert Dec 8, 2017 10:43 AM (in response to Christopher Good)

I will always be forever reminded that virtualization (nee virtual) is good, as long as it is *understood*. It's critical that people know what it means to virtualize and what it doesn't mean. Do you have flexibility? Yes. HA? Ideally yes. Do you have redundancy? Hopefully yes. Do you still have physical hosting that virtualization? Yes.  Do you have enough hardware and properly allocated hardware so that people can do what they need? Again, hopefully yes. So it's helpful to remember that not everything can or will ever be virtual because we still live in a physical world. That being said, the benefits are immense, but the planning needs to be there from the start. Otherwise it's trying to ask normal people to figure out rocket science and realize they missed something (core) to keep a virtual environment up. Or pushing to go virtual when you don't even have enough resources to do it.



Again, that's just a sample. Check out the Word-a-Day 2017 forum to get the full story. Meanwhile, stay tuned this coming week as we ponder Binary, Footprint, Loop, Obfuscate, Bootstrap, Cookie, and Argument!

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