Wanker Management: The IT Plague

In response to a comment by John Udell What if being non-communicative weren’t an option?, itself part of an extended conversation spurred by a Fortune article on Esther Dyson about institutional information sharing, or “knowledge management” if you want to be jargonish, Dorothea Salo, of Caveat Lector, blogs:

Wanker management believes that the company has One Voice; that voice comes down from On High and must neither be contradicted nor amplified nor qualified—and it must particularly never admit a mistake. Wanker management believes that smart workers exist basically to feed knowledge upward so that it can be properly incorporated into the One Voice—at which point, of course, any trace of the worker originating the knowledge is extinguished.

Salo has accurately described a phenomonen that seems heart-rendingly common in IT organizations, where the life blood of the organization is information, and systems of hardware and software rely on living intelligent actively engaged people to share information and work collaboratively. Information is such cases must be shared if the organization is to thrive. All too often management subdivides the organization into cells, deliberately destroying lines of communication, and even forbidding information sharing so that all information flows in one direction, up the hierarchichal org chart, and never circulates naturally throughout the organization.

Warblogs, Tekkies, Journalists

The first attestation that I can find of “warblog,” or its suffixed forms “warblogger, warblogging” is in Matt Welch’s 9/18/2001 3:06 post, where he uses the form “war blog.” Welch essentially defines war blog in his introduction to the sub-site he titles War Blog: “discussion of the crisis triggered by the Sept. 11 massacre.” The term war blog and its related forms have evolved to mean a web blog inspired by the events of September 11, 2001, whether or not the blog is itself primarily about September 11, or war. In general such blogs do tend to be overtly political. Dave Winer has published his own definition here.

I’ve already posted about the derivation of “tekkie” or “techie” from the same Indo-European root that gives us both text and technology, and a host of other related words. I find the term “tekkie” somewhat offensive. I’ve certainly had it applied to me by academics who should know better; it is, I suppose, marginally better than the other term I often hear—”computer person.” It is in part those attitudes that inspired me to describe myself as a digital medievalist.

The nascent controversy between “war” bloggers and “tekkies,” is, as I’ve indicated previously, somewhat half-witted in concept, and would appear to have been constructed by journalists who do not understand the history of their own profession.

Theirs is a profession born from the union of technology, in the form of the printing press, and war. People needed a way to communicate news efficiently over great distance, more efficiently than a single town crier or herald, or Irish bard carrying scela or “tidings,” could do. Within 25 years of Gutenberg’s press one-sheets crudely printed with the latest scoop (based on a letter) about Columbus were circulating in Barcelona before Columbus arrived there. America’s first newspaper was largely a source of war news and gossip, much like those in Europe. At first news items were culled from private correspondence and day-books, or journals; later publishers contracted with travelers for detailed correspondence to be “repurposed” and printed in the newspaper. In a sense then, web blogs are a return to the roots of journalism.

Information Architecture or Scholarship

According to Gerry McGovern at New ThinkingJ R R Tolkien was an information architect.”
McGovern writes:

Information architecture is concerned with the organization and layout of content. It is a discipline that has evolved over centuries, finding its roots in writing and printing. J R R Tolkien was a master information architect. He created complex genealogical and geographical architectures. If you want to master information architecture you need to acquire the type of skills Tolkien exhibits.

We used to call that scholarship. A scholar is, after all, what Tolkien “was,” in adddition to being an inventive writer and artist. He certainly identified himself in his roles as a philologist and medievalist as a scholar, as did his employer, Oxford University.

It is the task, and the joy, of scholars to accumulate information, organize it, and provide a naviagation system, whether of pages and indices or links to assist readers in making use of the information. It’s what they do.

Berkeley offers Blogging Class

According to Wired, the University of California at Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism will offer a class in blogging next fall. The class will be taught by John Batelle, who co-founded Wired magazine, and Paul Grabowicz, the school’s new media program director.

This of course, intrigues me mightily. It also gives me hope that I can manage something similar at UCLA. There’s one particular faculty member I know of who I really must get to take a look at blogging. It’s got such enormous potential for composition, in English or in other languages, or writing in general.