[ Originally a Facebook post, copied here for posterity. ]
Some thirty years ago I was told the story of a server with an oil lamp on the side (the kind that Greek Orthodox people light to honor God and the Saints). It was put there to humor the situation: the server need not break under any circumstance.
Well, it has been my experience of many years, sectors and shops of different sizes, that no matter what, there is always at least one key system that “needs” an oil lamp by its side in the organization. A system that is critical enough to warrant all the attention it gets, yet so critical that nobody risks upgrading / changing / phasing it out during their tenure (the system is guaranteed to outlive them; I count three such systems that have outlived me). Untouchable systems that get replaced only when they physically die.
Seek out who needs an oil lamp. Plan accordingly.
[ There’s another “law” that follows as a result of the oil-lamp, but maybe for another time. ]
I’m into this for so many years, I cannot even remember when I started. root, IT guy, system administrator, goto person, SRE, DevOps, whatever acronym life brings next. And all that, because at some point in time while still an undergraduate, I told my friend Panos:
“You see those guys? One day, we’ll be doing their work.”
“Nah”, he said, “they’re gods”.
Because that’s what they looked to us. They still do to me. Because at least one of them, with whom I’ve kept contact, is a moving CS encyclopedia. And then it struck me. They did not really want to do the work. They needed a platform to test all the cool things they read about, in production. They were architects before it was cool.
And that is what their “divine” power was: to know about all things CS. We did end up doing their work.
Somehow, that’s what drives me. I drop things off along the way (“I will not invest in learning this”) but still, I do not drop as many as the typical 9to5er. And that takes its toll, it is painful and once in a while rewarding.
Happy Sysadmin Day.
These thoughts are triggered by the hey release, but they are otherwise unrelated.
Every now and then, an application comes along, grabs substantial userbase and claims to have solved the “issue” with email, texting and whatever memorabilia you want to share with your friends. Provided you’re part of their locked garden. Various pricing models are applied here. Math your heart out.
However, here is the thing: each one of them, requires your lock-in to that application. That’s how I ended up with 16 texting (or similar) applications on my phone. Because my contacts, personal and customers demand their favorite platform for my attention.
And that is why email will never die. It works most of the time and it does not matter who your provider is: Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, Protonmail, Fastmail, a local Exchange server, some postfix running on an RPi. It does not matter. Granted, when your message does not go through, there may be insurmountable hoops to jump, but in the end, email is still the ubiquitous text application that works for everyone, everywhere between big walled gardens and even your own backyard if you care to run it on your own. And that is why, even though email is not instant messaging, people (OK not my kids) still treat it like it being such.
I am still undecided whether to invest in Hey. The application looks good, the web client also, but the cost of switching from my current walled garden (that also offers some identity services) is big.
I was reading the beginning of the History of Clojure (a language that I have no time to invest in learning, but still interesting to me):
I started working on Clojure in 2005, during a sabbatical I funded out of retirement savings. The purpose of the sabbatical was to give myself the opportunity to work on whatever I found interesting, without regard to outcome, commercial viability or the opinions of others. One might say these are prerequisites for working on Lisps or functional languages.
If you want to make any dent in the world, you either make it at a personal cost (not always monetary), or with other people’s money. Savings I have none. Self realizations are evident.