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Who do I kid? -- Sheryl Crow
Doc and another Cluetrain co-author, David Wienberger, tend to have bright ideas every once in a while and open a new web site to see how far the ideas go. Doc's latest is the IT Garage.
One of the ideas he is persuing in the Garage is Do It Yourself - IT. Which he abbreviates as DIY-IT. Since he is involved with the open source movement and Linux, he's thinking that Linux is the answer for the Do It Yourself type. Personally, I think that is in the past. I don't think Doc is taking into account the power of the IT suits in corporate America today.
We all use Linux daily, although probably not on the desktop. Google has over 100,000 servers running Linux, so if you use Google for searching, you're using Linux. Many of the other top sites are also Linux or are BSD based.
However, I don't think you can hook a DIY-IT Linux box up in the corporate environment any longer. To do so would be considered a security breach and you all know how serious those things are taken today.
I have mentioned that I've been around the industry for a long time. During the entire time, the IT suits have maintained strict standards that everyone must meet. They lost control for a few years when the PC came on the scene, but they have regained that control. Their control is sold today as a security issue, which admittedly is a significant problem with the distributed networks of computers that all companies now run.
Doc thinks DIY-IT is alive and well today and I say that it had its fling in the 1970's and 1980's and has been dying ever since.
Let's back up for a little history lesson. Back in the era of IBM mainframes, IT was the lord and master. The rank and file of the business world had to stand in line with hat in hand to just get an audience with the analysis department to look at their problem and see if IT could help. A six month wait for the analysis was not uncommon. A two year wait for a software application wasn't unheard of.
In the 1970's, users, being the impatient SOBs that they are, found a DIY work around for the IT bottleneck -- it was called timesharing. By learning a simple programming language called Basic, and renting time on someone's big computer, they could use a KSR-35 teletype and Do It Themselves.
Minicomputers came along and made excellent timeshare hosts. To save costs, minis were bought and timesharing was brought in-house. IT controlled the minis, but the users still could do whatever they wanted on them. (If you looked at the files, you'd have seen lots of ASCII art.)
Then in the 1980's, the personal computer was born. The first one I saw at work was an Apple II that my boss's boss bought and brought in to run Visicalc spreadsheets. That was soon followed by Radio Shack's Trash 80's and the IBM PC. None of these were bought by the IT department. All were either personal purchases or were bought on department budgets for very specific tasks. (Local computer shops would sell you a PC in four parts so you could buy one with four purchase ord ers -- none of which went over your departmental manager's approval limit.)
IT didn't notice and didn't care -- they already had too much backlog for their big iron.
Suddenly, however, those department PCs needed to have printers and since laser printers were expensive, it made sense to share one. Thus, print servers and networking was born. Who better to pull cables than the expert IT troops? Thus, they got reluctantly dragged into the new paradigm.
They played catch up for a long time. When they started taking inventory, they found [personal] computers everywhere doing everything. And, before they got their arms completely around the issue, web servers starting sprouting up to furnish internet and intranet service. Chaotic is the word.
The driving force for all this change was the Do It Yourself - IT mentality of the end users. Too many things needed to get done and IT was not responsive. The new PC's were easy to program -- they all came bundled with Basic and the thought was the same as back in the Timesharing days: Good enough now beats perfect in the distant future.
IT in most organizations is still not responsive to user needs. It is the most hated of all departments, in fact. But they are once again in the driver's seat. You cannot do any DIY-IT without their approval and consent. Period.
What happened? They own the network. And they own the servers. You can't do any DIY projects without access to both.
You can't sneak a connection to their network without getting caught. You cannot get the data you need unless you are connected to the network. You can do all of the fancy Excel spreadsheets you want, but you can't do much else. You can't put a Linux computer on your desktop, because they won't allow it. You can't get a specialized software package for your PC unless they bless it. With the managed desktop software they run, you can't do anything without them knowing -- when I save to my C: drive on my work computer, the file actually goes out over the network to the server my PC is connected to and then back to my PC. (Yeah, I know, I think making my PC a fancy VT terminal is dumb too.)
IT is back in total control. They own the network. They own the servers and all of the data. They manage your PC remotely. Do It Yourself is dead in the corporate environment.
And to paraphrase Andy Rooney: "IT likes that."
QUESTIONS? COMMENTS? Email DC.
We'd like to keep DC writing for Your World's Magazine. You can help! If you enjoyed this column, encourage him to stay with it. Suggest ideas for future "Memoirs." Share your concerns with him. It would be appreciated. Cheers!
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