"Indispensable guys who like everything done with free software"



  • Read this elsewhere and gave it a thought.

    You know what? These guys are not the WTF per se. Free software is damn good for most tasks, especially if the tasks revolve around maintaining a Subversion repository (and yes, SVN is open source, like it or not).

    I'm still going to blame the management.

    In my experience, I've never seen a company demand, let alone allocate any time towards documenting how the infrastructure is set up in this place. The first reason being that 1) the sysadmin can keep it all in his head, why write it down? And 2) the sysadmin has got more important things to do (like changing light bulbs, repairing microwave ovens, replacing toner in printers, printing brochures for marketing -- I'm quoting what I've actually seen).

    The companies see no profit from documentation, and sysadmins pretty much hate writing most of the time. The companies forget that a sysadmin is not a person but a position, and the next guy, while knowing how to do stuff in general, may have a difficult time figuring out how things are done here.

    Again, a really professional sysadmin would insist on documentation, but what if he hasn't any power here? What if he had hard time convincing the company allocating resources to do backups? And I've seen that too.

    Hence, the problem is not "we had a Linux guy as a sysadmin, gave no shit how he configured stuff, and everything broke down when he left." I don't buy that. The company is TRWTF for not having healthy processes, and doubly WTF if that's a fucking software development company.



  • @wft said:

    The companies see no profit from documentation

    How much profit do they see on door locks?



  • The reasoning: why describe what you did if you know it all anyway?



  • @wft said:

    Again, a really professional sysadmin would insist on documentation, but what if he hasn't any power here?

    You don't need power. Management asks tech people for estimates and asks them when they are done. If you always bake documentation into estimates and never say you're done until the documentation is done, then it becomes non-negotiable, Also, don't make the mistake of leaving all of the documentation until the end or they will simply give you another task since "it all seems to be working fine".

    If you allow yourself to be talked out of documentation, and someone takes over your job with no documentation, it's your fault, not management's.



  • +1

    This goes for personell in general. It's only after the person is gone is that you realize how much you relied on their unspoken knowledge.

    I'm following a drama in a different IT-related company where I know some of the people indirectly. The main guy is an asshole with temper issues. As in, pay people shit, scream and yell, slam keyboard against the wall, that sort of stuff. So there's a constant churn of people, as young college graduates get in, get their 1-2 years of experience and run away (one of the runaways is my "connection").

    Anyway, over the years, he managed to collect a team of people who somehow not only kept putting up with his shit, but also gained a lot of priceless business domain knowledge. The kind of knowledge that allowed him to step back into the management role, and delegate a lot of business to this "permanent kernel" of his company. They knew where all the money is, how/what forms need to be filled, and a TON of specialist electronics knowledge and know-how. Most of it not documented in any way.

    Last week, two of them has had enough and quit. Then he, in a fit of range, blamed the third guy for the high churn rate and fired him as well.

    So now, he's got contracts to fill, booming business with orders piling in, and ONLY ONE GUY left able to do any of that at all.

    Lesson: treat your people well, but also have them document everything your business relies on.



  • On the other hand... There are some people that blame the previous guy for everything. I have a habit of coming into jobs where the previous guy left a mess and it usually doesn't take me all that long to figure stuff out and get the ship righted. Of course, my job would have been easier if my predecessor had been organized, but not that much easier. Some people get nothing done for months and end up re-writing huge swaths of code. Sometimes it turns out that there was good documentation, but he never managed to find it.

    I've also seen another variant of this problem. At my current job, there is an abnormally high tolerance for complicated manual processes. In the past year, twice, we had personnel turnover where person A trained person B on the way out the door, then person B left days or weeks later and didn't know the process well enough to adequately train person C. I strongly prefer to simplify or automate the process rather than rely on documentation/training.



  • I don't want to say this is one of the stupidest things I've ever heard....

    But this is one of the stupidest things I've ever heard. Documentation is absolutely crucial if you want to have a long lasting business/product that is maintained over the span of multiple developers. But I guess that's what you get from Management.



  • I'm confused what the tie between documentation and free software is.



  • @wft said:

    What if he had hard time convincing the company allocating resources to do backups?

    Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt.

    Was denied budget two years in a row to replace a failed backup system. As in already stopped working.

    Was using DFS replication to "back up" to another site nightly (better than nothing). Good thing too.

    One fine morning, the main VM server, which was running (unbeknownst to anyone) on a snapshot since 9 months earlier (a :wtf: all by itself), reverted to the snapshot. Over 70 employees, including all the senior officers, weren't happy that their data was unavailable. As soon as I was apprised of the problem and the "cause" (real cause to be discovered and mentioned in a moment), I disabled replication on the backup server to prevent data loss and started copying the current data onto a removable drive to transport back to the main site.

    Took 3 days to restore over 1TB of data. Why? Because on day 2 during restore the VM crashed (i.e., reverted) again. This time, the consultants figured out the SAN allocation was over-provisioned (the real cause of the snapshot's failure to auto-clear, which our consultants should have been monitoring) & corrected it. In the end, we lost only that morning's work + 3 days of production while everyone was scrambling.

    After I got the system up and running again with restored information, the top guy in the company asked me if having that replacement backup system would have made a difference. I merely said: "Yes. Reduce 3 days restoration to <3 hours." I got approval that afternoon.

    Typical accident: multiple :wtf:'s creating a perfect storm.

    @wft said:

    And I've seen that too.

    My condolences.



  • @Jaime said:

    If you always bake documentation into estimates and never say you're done until the documentation is done, then it becomes non-negotiable,

    HA!

    Obviously you've never been in a bidding war with other companies vying for business.

    @Kian said:

    I'm confused what the tie between documentation and free software is.

    There isn't. The title has blame baked into it, can you tell?


  • BINNED

    @cartman82 said:

    Last week, two of them has had enough and quit. Then he, in a fit of range, blamed the third guy for the high churn rate and fired him as well.

    Hmm, do I see a new competition forming, with additional benefit of one less asshole. I am sure 3rd guy is thinking the same.



  • On the issue of "why allow this to be done to you, just resign".

    Well, this can be problematic even if the job market is not very scarce and the company really WTFy.

    Take my case. I'm an immigrant and I don't have the freedom of changing jobs at will like everyone else. Changing a job requires lots of paperwork to be filed, with deadlines and shit, and failure is not an option because if I fail to land a job, I get a boot off the country as well (which I don't want).

    Thus, search for the job is complicated — many companies are not familiar with what exactly paperwork needs to be done, some are afraid that their shady practices may surface, some just don't want the hassle (those willing to take the hassle have dedicated people working with immigrant offices, monitoring the legal news etc). I changed jobs twice here; both job searches took me several months and many more failed interviews than I'd like.

    When I do find a company, I must get into long negotiations so they make sure I'm the right fit and I make sure they are the right fit before I jump ship — I don't want to go through this hell anytime soon again. But while on the job search, I must keep my current job no matter how many :wtf:s there are.

    There are other legit reasons, like savings exhaustion when you just land any job to refill your purse while searching for something better.



  • @redwizard said:

    Obviously you've never been in a bidding war with other companies vying for business.

    We include that part under the "Architecture" part.



  • That'll teach you to not be born American.



  • I'm already not born American, since my birth. To not be born American is my innate ability.



  • Yeah well like crotch-scratching, it's not an ability that's helping you out much.



  • @blakeyrat said:

    Yeah well unlike crotch-scratching, it's not an ability that's helping you out much.

    Though maybe that explains a lot. <about whom is an exercise left to the reader>



  • Why you gots to ruin my joke. Why you gots to be like that.



  • I read the last sentence.... then it made sense what you were saying.
    Until then I was like.... "context?"



  • @cartman82 said:

    As in, pay people shit, scream and yell, slam keyboard against the wall, that sort of stuff

    I do all that. Of course there's no one working directly for me... but I guess I am paying no one shit too, so yeah.

    @cartman82 said:

    also have them document everything your business relies on.

    That is assuming the owner can actually do the work.


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