Thursday, May 20, 2010

Chapter One - 1

Back then I worked as a network administrator for a company inside the Beltway that had a couple of big defense department contracts. The one that employed me and 312 other people was the contract for the new prototype Stealth F-34A that was supposed to go into testing very soon. It looked like something out of Star Wars from what I had seen. It was Super Duper Top Secret but if you do my job you have access anywhere. I was fascinated by it and repelled at the same time. Fascinated because I liked science fiction. Repelled because it looked so evil. Not a good evil either if there is such a thing. It was death and suffering evil. Of course I kept that opinion to myself. It helped that most people didn't care what I thought anyway.

I think my background in networks was what enabled me to see how bad things were and how bad they were going to be. Networks are all about interconnectivity, multiple nodes, interlocking electronic crap and software that all had to work together and correctly all the time. If it didn't, then my daily routine went from somewhat boring, which I liked, to incredibly stressful. People freaked when the network went down. They also didn't want to hear about how it was really multiple networks that were run by different entities and they had all become entwined like one big mutant kudzu forest. They just wanted the "Network" up now!

That was my first big realization. The entire world, or least the part I lived in was just one big freaking network. Since I knew how patched together mine was, how, since funding for new equipment had been cut to nothing a few years before, and how a lot of it was black box to me, and everyone else, because the people who designed it had been let go and never left any documentation behind, well that was terrifying. Especially as the points of failure were growing all the time. I wasn't the only one out there running a patched together piece of shit that I had no money to maintain.

My other realization, it quickly followed the first one, was the people in charge cared less. They didn't want to know that we had problems and they that they were only going to get worse. They just wanted to make money. Some of them didn't I realized even care about the money. They just liked running things. If parts of my network and the apps running on it were black boxes to me then the entire company was a black box to them. All they knew was that their needs had to be met. Screw everyone and everything else. That was my first inkling in to how bad things had become.


  1. Now that's interesting. I am also a network guy, and believed, earlier than most I know, how bad things could get. Not so much the network effects as the positive-feedback loops ('vicious cycles' to the layman) that I could see waiting to be tripped.

    And of course it's not over yet.

  2. bobn,

    It occurred to me that a network is nothing but an electronic map of our physical worlds systems. You could use the same tools to diagram a State government down to town level that you would use to document a network