Righteous indignation and ignorance of your subject matter are a potent combination. In ‘Role Fragmentation: Divide and Conquer - Why IT Administrators Have Become All-Powerful Demi-Gods’, Robin Sharp sets out the thesis that the whole problem with software development today is that the developers aren’t given enough leeway, don’t get enough respect, and have to spend far too much of their time dealing with those arrogant pains-in-the-ass, admins. From reviewing the comments on the site and in the /. thread, it appears that this view is not uncommon among developers — and the opposite view, best expressed as “this job would be great, except for the damnfool developers!”, is pretty common in the sysadmin set too.
Now, being an admin myself, I’ve run into both of these perspectives a few thousand times — to the point where I’ve come around to the viewpoint being articulated by the few sane voices in the threads: there are spectacular examples of idiotcy on both sides of the fence, widespread amounts of just-competent-enough-to-not-get-fired-itis, and a few shining examples of competence working together to keep the whole show limping along.
In thinking about this, I noticed a curious difference between the developers and the admins: the developers realize they have a problem, and are trying to fix it, or at least talking about ways to make things better. You’ve got Design Patterns, Anti-Patterns, eXtreme, Agile, and/or Pragmatic Programming, and all the rest of the methodologies du jour. The Portland Pattern Repository’s Wiki (aka WardsWiki) has an absolutely astounding amount of peer-reviewed thought on the art and practice of computer programming, and it’s getting bigger by the day.
But whither the sysadmins? There are a few books available — Frisch’s ORA classic, Kirk Bauer’s recent book on automation — but those tend to focus on specific details and documentation, not abstract principles and patterns. There’s some overlap with best practices from programming, but there are also things unique to sysadminery. Why isn’t anybody talking about those? I can see a great need for something like WardsWiki, but devoted to systems administration, rather than programming. I have registered sysadminery.com; I’m going to set up a wiki just as soon as I save this entry. We’ll see what happens next.