Stuff IT People Like: Not KISSing

In the IT universe, “they” are the antimatter to the effeciency freaks’ matter (you can read about people who like KISSing in my last SITPL episode). “They” are the people who inject needless complexity into everything they touch. Only it’s not needless – at least in their minds. “They” need complexity to fulfill their lives. “They” are not happy unless they’re complaining about how hard it is to use magnetized needles to code their own memory management schemes for the DB2 servers. “They” rationalize the three layers of firewalls that each utilize port knocking rules which when graphed out looks like a player piano’s music sheet for Rachmaninoff’s third piano concerto.

Who are “they”? “They” are that special breed of IT people that other IT people love to hate. Something like a cross between a ferrett, Barney Fife and a chansaw with a few heeping portions of OCD and passive agression thrown in for kicks. Typically, in my experience, the demographic that falls in this category is the older set. “Older” of course means anyone that can’t tell the difference between the red pill and the blue pill. Anyone old enough to have memorized 8085 opcodes (and if you even knew that 8085 wasn’t a typo for 8086, you might be close). Anyone old enough to have been around when ASM was a high level language.

Of course, age is not the only determining factor, but in my experience it seems to be a significant part of the equation. Other factors include but are not limited to obsessive compulsive disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, extreme insecurity and a desire to learn spoken languages that only exist in science fiction.

At the core of the issue, there are two types of anti-KISSers. Those who rationalize it and those who don’t. Those who rationalize it might give varying degrees of assent to the notion that they’re “solutions” are a bit mirey. However they tend to justify their actions using euphamisms like “creative”, “resourceful” and “job security”. Job security is admittedly a compelling argument. It’s hard to fire someone when only 4 living humans know enough about ADA to maintin the custom SMTP server that the SysAdmin built… who incidentally is working hard on killing those last three people.

And who can honestly deny a man or woman the particularly intense gratification of creating a beowulf cluster from a few hundred abacuses? “Wait, no one can do that! It’s against the basic laws of science!” Oh yeah? Let me introduce you to Mel, our DBA, who majored in comptuer science right after he came back from three tours in Vietnam with a black belt in “Get-outa-my-face!”

Those who don’t rationalize their complexity are the ones who are completely unaware that there is anything out of line with coordinating 500 client backups with tar* and self modifying python scripts implementing a tower of hanoi scheme on fourteen-hundred 8-track tapes written to with a Decca solid state 8-track recorder. They also don’t see any problem with documenting the process in Klingon and deeply resent any notions to the contrary. Sujatlh ‘e’ yImev and naDevvo’ yIghoS! Dor-sho-gha!

To be perfectly honest, I can’t deny the fact that it’s fun (in a demented way) to pretend you’re MacGuyver and use pinecones and fruit striped gum to get Microsoft Dynamics to consume FoxPro files and make it all be visible through a frankenstein Quatro Pro 6 spreadsheet running on the CFO’s Windows 95 machine.

And this is certainly not a knock against those admins who really do only have pinecones and fruit striped gum to work with. This is a frustrated satire against those who, knowingly or not, manage to make things harder than they have to be. Just KISS IT you fools!

The end result of not KISSing is always the same: Death. The death of work weeks involving less than 50 hours of work. The death of untold weekends. The death of unclaimed vacation time. Possibly the death of a career. Even the death of a life. Yes, my life. Why? Because I’m going to have a heart attack if Mel… yes, you Mel… doesn’t stop manually issuing SCSI commands to the disk controllers to synchronize the rotational speeds of our SAN disks to coincide with the aphelion and perihelion of the earth just to theoretically save 28 kilojoules of heat expenditure per year. Mel, are you listening to me?!

Okay. I’ll get out of your face. Just put the Qutluch down. *sigh*

*Note to the ungeeky: this tar, not that tar.


  1. Christian Paredes

    October 8, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    I wholeheartedly agree.

    It’s extremely aggravating to deal with solutions that are too complex for their own good, and it’s also aggravating to deal with someone who wants to inject a ton of cleverness in their code and methodology.

    The way I personally approach things is the following:

    1. Use standard libraries, tools, etc. before writing any custom code that does the same thing.
    2. Go for readability and simplicity before anything else. Sometimes, even if I can accomplish the same thing with good ol’ awk, sed, and whatever else, if the resulting shell script is unreadable, then I sometimes take the time to rewrite the thing in Ruby/Python or whatever other language.


    • Wesley.Nonapeptide

      October 8, 2010 at 7:27 pm

      A gold star for you, Christian! I’m sure you make your coworkers, successors and project-mates very, very happy. =)


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