Collaboration

Computer geeks make the best researchers


Research studies have shown that most computer professionals do not like to socialize and they like to work alone. That is not to say that they are not social. In fact, social interaction is a key factor to job satisfaction.  However, that social need is filled in many cases by online interaction with other computer professionals. Are you surprised?

I can just see you now, sitting there with your morning cup of coffee.  You just finished reading the online news from your favorite sites.  Now you are checking out the latest stories on Tech Republic.  For many of you this is routine. For others, this may be the first time you have read a Tech Republic story.

We don't often think about what an amazing thing it is to get news and information via the Internet and our favorite web browser.  Who would have thought even fifteen years ago how dramatically the web would change lives?  In 1993 I installed my first copy of NCSA Mosaic and marveled at the support for sound, video, forms, bookmarks, and history.

Finding information in the old days 

I was in the research business in those days, digging through online documentation of computer manufacturers.  When I say online, I mean that in the loosest sense of the word.  Some vendors had placed text files describing their product offerings on a dial-up BBS.  Others used a FAXback system to send out their latest spec sheets.  The web browser changed all that.

Overnight, dozens of web servers sprang up and we were able to get our documents much quicker.  We also discovered that many more databases were available in this new format.  My company published pocket-sized sales guide booklets for IBM, Apple and Compaq each quarter.  Our job became so much easier with the Internet and the web.

Today, I could not do my job without the Internet and the browser.  I know I can safely guess that many of you would not have a job were it not for these modern miracles.  Those who make a living designing web pages or maintaining web server farms would not be employed today.  There would be a whole lot less people employed who program routers.

Using the Internet on the job 

As a tech support manager for a small company my job would be a whole lot different were it not for the Internet.  Sure, I know that the Internet existed before 1993 but for most companies, that's when they started using e-mail or the web.  I think I wrote my first web page in 1995 - writing in raw HTML in a plain old text editor.

A large part of my day consists of monitoring web servers, e-mail servers and in helping employees with e-mail.  I still occasionally get a call about a lost e-mail or a complaint about "the slow Internet". Even after all these years I am still in the end-user education business.  You would think employees would be a bit more computer savvy by now.

Admittedly, many of these calls for support come from the older executives.  Most of them have no clue about the differences between file types and don't care about the size of the enormous PowerPoint slides they send back and forth between multiple offices.  My job is just to make sure they can send their bloated e-mails wherever they want.

Computer professionals are just better at research 

My point is that you and I may be a little bit different from the people we support.  We are much more comfortable finding information online than your average employee.  It still amazes me how many people will ask me to help them find something that a few simple keystrokes and clicks in Google will bring right to their face in less than ten seconds.

Are computer geeks just better researchers?  I think so.  We seem to delight in knowing where the latest tech toys are to be found.  Perhaps it is because we have spent so much time finding out information for others via Google that we quickly know which sites are legitimate and which sites are garbage.  To others, it seems like we know magic.

Tech Web Sites

We hang out on Tech Republic, Slashdot, Engadget, C|NET, NewsForge, InformationWeek, TechCrunch, ars technica, Something Awful, InfoWorld, TechWeb, ITWorld, ChannelWeb, ZDNet, eWeek, PC Magazine, TechDirt, TechNews, CIO, ComputerWorld, PC World, Silicon Valley, ExtremeTech, WindowsITPro, MCPMag, Tom' s Hardware and many, many more.

Our jobs require us to be experts in some form of technology.  We keep up in our field by constant reading on the web.  In most cases, because we are so busy putting out fires during the day, we do our reading early in the morning or late at night.  If you are like me, you spend at least an hour a day in reading tech news, and maybe just as much in writing.

What do you think?  Would you rate yourself a good researcher?  Do you get paid to know where to find things on the Internet?  And just how much time do you spend writing comments in online forums and blogs?

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