Collaboration optimize

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?

16 comments
BALTHOR
BALTHOR

But you're never a Geek.Computers and the Internet are word of mouth,self taught,hunt and peck.If you can erase the hard drive and install an OS then you're Top Dog.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

My humble opinion is that we are a lot more curious and the subject matter is not always that important. As a networking person I lurk at NetworkingWorld , Wi-Fi Planet, and the DesignLine websites. For other than techy stuff I like Slate and the BBC. For local I use MinnPost.com

CG IT
CG IT

Keeping up with everything going on from the latest security advances to virtual servers. From Windows 2008 Server and Vista Business to Macs. Wireless and VoIP is a time consumer. I probably spend a good 2 hours on forums and blogs, another 2 or 3 hours on reading. Probably spend another 2 hours going over log files and an actual hour average per day fixing something that broke. BUT, when the network has a problem, I've worked 16 hour days, especially if a server needs to be restored from backup. On average I probably use 5 or 6 different sites. Microsoft Technet Discussion Groups, Microsoft Small Business Discussion Groups, Techrepublic, Overclockers Cafe, Official SBS Blogs, I spend some time on the SMB Univeristy at Cisco Systems, PC Mag, Cnet, Znet, Gamespot, MCP Magazine, Windows IT Pro, PC Gamer,

Jaqui
Jaqui

yup. after watching two people spend three hours between them trying to find information on something it only took me one search query, and the top three results had exactly what they were looking for. total time 1 minute.

tim
tim

I seem to go in cycles of reading a lot of online tech news some days and writing comments in forums and blogs other days. But I use Google everyday just to do my job. I'm not an expert at all the ways you can use it to do searches, but I think I'm pretty good. I mean how hard can it be? Read the post: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/techofalltrades/?p=129 How about you? Is Tech Republic a part of your daily routine? I listed a lot of tech sites in the article. Do you visit many of them? What others are your favorites for tech news and interaction with other techs? I'm especially curious about other tech forums out there. My son, who is also a bit of a computer dude, lives in ars technica. I'm more of a Tech Republic kind of guy. What other tech forums do you like?

tim
tim

Makes sense to me. I don't care what eveyone else says. Today you make sense. I'm going to take your comment as a self revelation about your work environment. Tell us more about the work you do.

CG IT
CG IT

lol I think it was on that podcast spotlight... so given that now we all wonder.... you need to get Sonja to interview you...

CG IT
CG IT

thanks for posting the sites... those are pretty cool sites.

tim
tim

I'm gald to learn that I am not the only one that experiences this phenomnon. Some days are swamped with break fixes and some are just as quiet as can be. That's when I am able to get caught up on tech reading. I too have put in sixteen hour days when something goes wrong on the network. Those are great sites, CG! I will check them out and add them to my list of regular visits. I especially appreciate the MS sites. I visit Technet when I am researching a problem but have not checked out the discussion groups there. Thanks.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

but still visit Ars Technica regularly and keep it bookmarked. I have consumed a lot of valuable information there. My other favorite, though not as often visited lately, spot is the forums at GRC. I spent a whole lot of time there many years ago and gathered a lot of valuable home user security information there. Had I not, my bet is that viruses would have driven me away from the PC as something I enjoy. Am I a good searcher? Yes and no. I have yet to get nesting down pat. But I am good with keywords, and usually get what I am looking for on the first results page.

neilb
neilb

I do so want to hear if BALTHOR sounds like he types! :D

tim
tim

It's been a while since I visited Steve's site. Thanks for reminding me. I need to check it out and see what he's done lately. Used to sell a lot of his product in the late 80's. Sounds like he has moved from a disk drive expert to a security / AV expert. Can't wait.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

I either look up a post from BALTHOR or try to determine how s/he would resolve it. Then after the momentary agony, I go and figure it out... LOL

neilb
neilb

Every time I get a difficult problem, I sit back and meditate on the fact that someone has BALTHOR for a user. There is ALWAYS someone worse off than me! :D

Tig2
Tig2

S/He used to post all his/her post titles in all caps. S/He has graduated to mixed case. Makes you wonder if the meds are kicking in! :D

Tig2
Tig2

Tim, if you aren't reading Steve regularly, you are really missing out. I use his tools for every Windows machine in the family and wouldn't be without them. And his online scan is the best! There are a bunch of his signature "tiny" apps designed to close the holes in Windows that are open by design. If you haven't been there lately, grab your security geek hat and sit back and enjoy.