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Rules of IT. - Ed's journal
Rules of IT.
OK, so I work in IT. I do vaguely system-admin type things.
I would like to share with you the 'golden rules':

1/ Don't do what a computer does better. There's an old adage - why keep a dog, and then bark yourself. Computers aren't very creative, but they are good at doing simple tasks reliably and repeatably. Humans are the opposite. What that means is if you do something more than once, you should be automating it - both because it then becomes available for reference next time you need to, and because it reduces likelihood of errors.

2/ Don't duplicate information. Any time you duplicate information, it will get out of sync. Once it does this, it's essentially worthless, because you can't trust it any more. If my spreadsheet says one thing, and yours says something else... who's do we trust? Are there going to be some entries in mine that are more correct? That doesn't mean you can't maintain copies, or references - just remember that there is only one authorative source of that information, and that your copy isn't it.

3/ Use the right tool for the job. You wouldn't use a hacksaw blade to paint a wall. Databases for data management, spreadsheets for sheet calculations. Scripting languages when you need to script something, and huge bloaty java applications almost never. If it seems like hard work to do something trivial, then there's quite a good chance you are using the wrong tool.

4/ Proactive laziness is good. Document, Comment, script. Make everything someone else will use idiot proof, and aim to spend your life drinking coffee and surfing the web. It is far better to have everything you've touched very easy for the next person to understand, than it is to make them come and ask you every time they need something adjusted.

5/ Plan for the worst. Backup stuff you can't afford to lose. Send spare copies somewhere else if you need to. Think about what you will have to do if it does go all a bit wrong, and consider how much that will hurt. My PC has a whole bunch of nothing on it, and the 3 or so documents that it would be vaguely inconvenient to have to redo are copied elsewhere.

6/ Public means public. In Cyberspace, everyone will hear you scream - sooner or later. Anything you post somewhere 'public' will sooner or later make it's way into search engines, archive.org, mailing list digests. It might even get pinged on something like Google Alerts. Just assume that anything you just wrote and posted 'public' will be seen by everyone, from your mum to your employer. Post wisely.

7/ Understand the difference between 'Information' and 'Data'. Data is a set of numbers relating to something. Information is the meaning of those numbers. So just bear in mind what it is you're measuring with your data, and what information you're getting out. Don't forget. Half the people you meet are mentally below average.
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