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A Look at IT "Addictions"

Level 17

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.

Monitors

(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.

Training/Certifications

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.

News

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.

Collectibles

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.)

Community

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.

41 Comments
Level 13

For me it has been book series - discworld and Game of thrones have been recent examples. I've struggled through some dire books in the hopes that the author would regain the spark that drew me to the series in the first place. Even some with questionable attitudes to society in order to get to the good bits. The questionable bits eventually became too much and I stopped buying and reading that series.

MVP
MVP

I think it is difficult to hoard piles of stuff on your desk because so many health and safety rules dictate a tidy tesk. Coffee is definitely the exception. We have a free coffee machine here that vends brown coffee flavoured liquid. Its an experience in itself.

My phone is so good that I don't need anything else. Its an old phone too. When it breaks i'll replace it but mobile tech doesn't seem to be giving me anything extra that means I feel the need to fork out some more cash for a newer device.

I do fight against the compulsion to keep old tech bits. I see old stuff that is being sent off to waste disposal and I feel such a strong urge to keep it and reuse it. I know the office would soon descend into utter chaos if we all did this, so I refrain and drink some more brown liquid.

My desk at home is covered in interesting figurines, shells, crystalline rock formations (I like rocks), gaming tech stuff. Just don't look in my drawers, there are numerous connectors, old switches, routers, probes, sensors, toolkits and an array of bric-a-brac.

I do believe certification is good. I don't get time to do it often though and I have a fear of failure so I don't do as many exams as I should. I know that experience is much better than any exam.

My rule for monitors is "quality" not "quantity". I went from a multi armed monitor holder device with six monitors attached to it, to one good quality 27 inch display. Never looked back.

News is something I love, Twitter is my source. So I always have a twitter tab open. I also enjoy pulling conspiracy theories apart.

I am a member of some interesting communities having been heavily involved in helping those who wish to leave/recover religious cults and who have suffered abuse as a result. I fight for animal rights rescuing Lepus europaeus and other Lagomorphs.

Skeptics in the pub meetings inspire me, keeps my tech fresh and allows me to examine other viewpoints.

I'm always at tech events whenever I can find time to drag myself away from my tech and when I can brave the transport system into London.

MVP
MVP

Cool article

MVP
MVP

acmtix

I too do not go for as many certifications for fear of failing and having to retake the test. I'm due by end of this year to recert for the CCNA but not in a huge hurry to do so because of this.

Discworld.... <happy sigh>

Level 15

I work with a couple guys that get a new phone, smartwatch, or tablet every couple of months.

Level 14

Ok, so I'm not the typical "nerd" or "geek." YES, I obsess over several of the not-to-be-mentioned examples above, but I have also started obsessing over OCR in the past few years. Not to be confused with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which I am as well), but Obstacle Course Racing...like Spartan, Savage, Tough Mudder; to name a few. These help me get out from behind the keyboard, stay healthy and motivated...and most importantly, reduce STRESS! I guess this makes me "a jock in geeks clothing?"

American Ninja Warrior, or BUST! If a meteorologist can do it, we can!

D

Level 14

I'm worried now.  I've been in this game for 30 years and I don't have any of the above.

I don't feel the need to check stuff over and over.  If I've got it right I will get an e-mail alert in the event of a problem.

I definitely don't want the latest and greatest (e.g. my phone is 6+ years old).

Monitors.  I have two.  Only because it helps me to hide (and I can be filling in a spreadsheet on one whilst looking up the data on the other (yes, I do have to generate a lot of useless data)).

Training etc.  I was a contractor for 20 years.  Having to pay for stuff yourself helps to concentrate the mind.

News.  I quite like finding out who is dead but tech news doesn't really interest me.

Collectables.  I have a fairly large Sci Fi book collection but it hasn't been an obsession.  It just happened over many years and with no aim in mind.

Community.  This is probably the only one I'm actively engaged in.

However, I am addicted to beer, bacon, rugby and motorcycle racing.  Maybe I do need help.  

Perhaps my #1 I.T. Distraction is Thwack.  (sigh)  I admit it; I'm a Thwack junkie.

But NPM and its modules are equally "distracting", if that word is fair.

Non-actionable Alerts is another thing I focus on, and they are good things to reduce.  (If only I could get the Security Team to stop scanning my UPS's and ATS's ports and user names/passwords . . .  I could save thousands of alerts per month . . . but I DO need those devices to report if someone's trying to get into them using bad passwords, locked-down ports, or incorrect snmp community strings . . . hmmm . . .  turning off alerts, or filtering them, is risky---like throwing the baby out with the bathwater . . .)

Non-I.T. items of distraction have ALWAYS included fishing lures.  They're the perfect item of addition:

  • Shiny!
  • Pretty colors!
  • Different patterns!
  • Get every color and every pattern of every different lure in every size!
  • Fish (reportedly) respond differently to different colors of lures, and this varies by water clarity, brightness of day, time of year, spawning behavior, and whenever the lure manufacturers need a new influx of cash.
  • They are tools for the job, and you can rarely be effective and efficient without the right tool for the job.
  • The DO make an impressive display, no matter whether seen hung on a wall in the sporting goods stores, neatly organized in a tackle box, or online or in magazines.

As I've aged, I've taken a practical approach to fishing lures and I try to frequently step back when walking through a tackle shop, taking time to realize "I ALWAYS catch the most fish with a crawler harness and live bait.  I won't use that shiny new spoon or plug, and if I do use it, it won't catch as much as live bait will.  So look at the pretty displays, but STOP BUYING stuff you won't use!". 

Maybe once a year a particularly dashing and handsome lure will hook me, and I'll drop $6.99 + tax on another thing I won't use.

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Level 20

I like this article.  We do have some IT addictions.

Level 12

In the same boat. Pun intended.

Level 11

Hah,  I was thinking the same thing as I started going over the list and realizing I'm really not checking off any boxes...

Level 14

I'm impressed.

Level 14

addictions.... hmmm...

Coffee - check!

the need for toys (all kinds) - check!

Multiple screens - Check!

News Junkie - Triple check!

My Distractions

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Level 12

Definitely that 3rd monitor for the sports and IT news

Give me all the monitors. I won't even deny the addiction. Give. Me. More.

Level 15

Monitors, cool wireless KB and Mouse combos, i love wireless charging for mice and KB and phone.   I really like software tech that goes with hardware, like my shoretel phone system, it has a cool communicator well now called connect client.   al the benefits of a soft-phone while still being able to have a hardware phone. 

I really love my screen-beams wireless HDMI tool, and who doesn't love their SPF+ inserts...   now if someone could invent a portable SSD that is truly wireless where it communicated via bluetooth, but you just needed to leave it in your bag lets say but could communicate with it.   all in the size of a 2.5 inch SSD...

Level 9

Constantly checking logs

For me it is stringed fretted instruments and associated equipment like amplifiers.  I am still looking for a nice mid range priced (under $600) mandolin and a small amplifier for the living room.

The amplifier is the big issue since I want a Mesa Boogie Mark V 35 combo with a single 12 inch speaker and will not settle for less.  I have wanted this amp for years (including its predecessor the Mark V 25).  I do not own it because it is about $2100 delivered.   Every time I go to Hollywood California I stop by Mesa Boogie of Hollywood to check out and play the amp.  It will be mine. Oh yes, it will be mine.

Waynes World Want GIF

To buy it, I might have to sell my 1979 Fender Twin Reverb that I have owned for almost 39 years.  I have been fighting the urge to sell that amp for the last two years but the MB Mark V 35 is so much better than any amp I own.

Someone asked how many instruments I own....I am really not sure but it is about fifteenth.

Front

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Back

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RT

I have a bunch of left-handed guitars (which is good since I'm left-handed!), a decent pile of recording equipment, and other assorted ephemera related to playing and recording music.

I've also got too many pairs of running shoes, but I'm getting better about getting rid of old pairs. My wife manages to conceal her gratitude for this amazing breakthrough 🙂

So far, that's the extent of my personal life addiction at this time. I treat all my IT stuff like cattle, so no real attachment there.

That's a great amp! DO IT!

Level 9

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At my last job I would have to tell peopel all the time. "Stop trying to live on the Bleeding Edge of technology."

this was mainly told to people who would put EA into production as soon as they got it.

Collectibles...

All three of my overhead bins are collections of pop culture legos and funko pops was well as Atari 2600 posters and books.

I was on the same track--I found a bass amp that was super-lightweight and efficient and I heard it in concert and loved it.  I found out the brand and model and it was several thousand dollars more than I could justify.  Sigh.  I shopped around and found it's no longer made, and is still far out of my budget even on e-bay.

On the other hand, I spend a LOT of time fishing and exploring in my boat, watching the chart plotter / depth finder / fish finder / GPS, and the Side Imaging unit I'd purchased eight years ago wasn't as fun and big and cool as the latest & greatest one on the market.  So with some judicious and intense research and shopping, I found I could leverage the power of the network to buy it in January, and I've only been waiting for warm weather to install it.  It won't earn me $$ like that bass amplifier could, but I spend something like 800 hours a summer fishing.  I figure to get more enjoyment out of the dollars with the new toy in the boat than I would from hauling my bass amp and guitars around playing gigs (which ARE a lot of fun!).  When the fish aren't biting, I'll have new tech to play with.  Maybe it'll even show me where they are . . .

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Level 15

That's pretty cool! I wonder what all you could find on the bottom of the lake? I know I lost an electric downrigger off the back of mine into Lake Michigan

Level 15

In the same boat. Pun intended (2)

MVP
MVP

Once again another great blog from adatole​. I love the writing style and your tongue in cheek attitude on this one. We all have our "things" for me I'm a car guy. I collect 1/18th scale Porsche and VW models. I have a Forza racing simulator with 3 screens, surround sound, racing seat, wheel and pedal set and soon to install a set of "butt kickers" for added effect. I go to road races when ever I can and yes, I work on my own cars. (New garage and I'm looking to install a lift)

Thanks for a great post and adding some humor to my day.

MVP
MVP

I've always been into the flight simulators. So much so in fact that I built a custom simulator that mocks up most of the functional components of the Cessna 172. This includes working circuit breakers, radio panels etc. Last big piece will someday be adding motion to it.

I too collect cars, I have a 65 Mercury comet that I am in the process of restoring from the ground up and a 81 corvette that I tend to use as a daily driver as much as possible in the summer months here in Ohio. For the Comet I have a 1/25th scale replica and for the vette I was fortunate enough to find a 1/8th scale version which I was able to have a local paint shop match the color so it matches the full scale version to a T. My true love of models however is 1/48th scale WWII bombers though I am also working on building a whole fleet of blue angels at the moment as I would like to have one of every aircraft they flew, along with all six aircraft represented in the A4 Skyhwak livery as well as the support aircraft Fat Albert which is going to be pretty good sized when I get it finished!

Like you I too am also looking into a lift eventually so that I can do my own work even easier. though on the comet we pulled and rebuilt the engine/transmission and every other mechanical piece without a lift.

One trait that I do find to be especially strong in the IT "Geek" realm, that is only rivaled by history buffs, is accuracy. Sci-fi, comic book adaptions, fantasy role playing, etc. The accuracy of the finest details is imperative. Change a color of a flag or the spelling of a name and the fanbase could lose their collective minds.

MVP
MVP

While not an audio purist or what I would consider more than a weekend audiophile when I can get away with it, I tend to listen to a fair amount of music when head down into work especially coding at the office. 

Being in a cubicile farm, headphones are a must....  Even then most "amplifier" sections of a laptop or pc tend to be noisy.  

So I had invested in a Schiit tube amp to power my sennheiser headphones.

This is the Vahalla 2..

Vahalla 2 tube amp

I use a USB digital out (DAC - Digital Audio Converter) to get the signal out without the noise to feed the headphone amp.

This is the Schiit Modi 2 DAC I use

Schiit Modi 2

I have been updating the audio on the Harley as well...plus LED lights.
Harley addiction is real..  The HD in Harley Davidson stands for "Hundred Dollars" which is what it seems to cost you whenever you

into the dealership and walk out with a new item to customize your bike.

My other "addictions" include Nikon glass for my camera's.

Since buying a Nikon D750, I have been studying what glass I want to add.  But I must remain focused...Mesa Boogie first!  Oh no, a squirrel!

RT

LOTS of stuff can be seen laying on the bottom.  Especially near busy water ways, or in flooded reservoirs.  Boats, MANY cars, bridges, foundations of flooded homes, roads, crashed (or intentionally sunken) airplanes, etc.  Not to mention schools of fish.  And if you're in the right part of the world, large reptiles!

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Can you see the upside-down car here?

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Level 7

I couldn't really check any of those boxes besides coffee.  Outside of the office, I do freely admit to an attraction to analogue synths, especially Moog. 

How far that technology has come is amazing.  I remember building a Heathkit Digital Depth Sounder that uses Nixie tubes. 

I still have it and its transponder.  It is hard to part with something you built with your father when you were in Middle School.

RT 

Not my picture below....but I am at work.

Level 7

I may or may not have run out and bought a Fender Deluxe Reverb 65 Reissue and a 2014 Gibson Les Paul Traditional Pro-II this weekend... and these certainly don't join my:

Fender Champ 600

Peavey Delta Blues 15

Crate V32 Palamino

Line6 SpiderValve112

Vox AD100VT

or my:

Gretch Electromatic 5422 TG

HLK Southern Belle

Epiphone Les Paul Studio LE

Epiphone WildKat

Kimberly Telecaster

Applause by Ovation

Hohner MW1200 N

Ibanez Classical

Ibanez Classical Single cut

Mitchell 6 string

Squire MB-4 Bass

Epiphone EB-0 Bass

And a couple other acoustics floating around...

I may have a GAS problem.

Congratulations! I love that amp - one of the best reissues in a long while!

Level 7

Nice collection! My next adventure is buying and restoring an old Polivoks.  

Here's a sunken tugboat I viewed using the new side-imaging sonar in my boat just a few weeks ago in the Duluth (MN) harbor.  The "Essayons" is 85' long and served the U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers well during ther time.

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And here's the sad story of the boat:

Hard-luck tug sinks in Duluth harbor | Duluth News Tribune

I've had my eye on an Acoustic Image bass amp/speaker combo for a few years.  I don't play bass out enough to justify upgrading my existing gear, but I DO like the size & sound of the Acoustic Image equipment.

I'd been obsessing over a GK bass amp/speaker for a long time--big, powerful, warm sound in a small package.  I wish I'd bought it when I was drooling over it all those years ago.  On the other hand, I've done quite nicely with what I have, and have not thrown my back out yet while moving the gear in/out of cars & venues, despite its size. 

Level 15

That is one sweet radar unit rschroeder

Thank you!  It really has made my summer a fun one, I confess.  I'm a technophile, and totally willing to lay back with the 250-page manual for this this thing, and also cruise the vendors' sites and blog-o-sphere and read up on how to properly install it and effectively use it.

I won't boast about the numbers & sizes, but I've caught enough fish that I'm happy to SEE them in the water via this tool, and target them as best I may, rather than blindly hoping I might catch a fish without knowing they're anywhere near me.

Some days I'm totally content to map a lake and peer at things on the bottom I never knew existed, happy to be enjoying life in a new way.

I've taken a line from James Taylor and applied it to my personal existence:  "The secret to life is enjoying the passage of time."  I recognized that I can drop out of the rat race and the high stress, that I can focus on enjoying what I'm doing at the moment (for example, driving to work) and appreciate the road and the other drivers and my car's ride.  Similarly, I no longer need to catch and keep fish to be happy.  I gave up keeping them over a year ago, and I'm happier than ever before.  Maybe because I have a toy like this sonar unit to play with (as if I don't get ENOUGH screen time at work and at home!), or maybe because I'm happy to know those fish are safely released and available to be shared with other fishers, able to procreate and make more fish for the future.

I'm happier taking things less intensely, less stressfully, no matter what they are.  Which means I can cruise slowly and see more about me--and now I can do it below water as well as above!

About the Author
In my sordid career, I have been an actor, bug exterminator and wild-animal remover (nothing crazy like pumas or wildebeasts. Just skunks and raccoons.), electrician, carpenter, stage-combat instructor, American Sign Language interpreter, and Sunday school teacher. Oh, and I work with computers. Since 1989 (when you got a free copy of Windows 286 on twelve 5¼” floppies when you bought a copy of Excel 1.0) I have worked as a classroom instructor, courseware designer, desktop support tech, server support engineer, and software distribution expert. Then about 14 years ago I got involved with systems monitoring. I've worked with a wide range of tools: Tivoli, Nagios, Patrol, ZenOss, OpenView, SiteScope, and of course SolarWinds. I've designed solutions for companies that were extremely modest (~10 systems) to those that were mind-bogglingly large (250,000 systems in 5,000 locations). During that time, I've had to chance to learn about monitoring all types of systems – routers, switches, load-balancers, and SAN fabric as well as windows, linux, and unix servers running on physical and virtual platforms.