Of Age and Passion
July 24, 2013
Over the last couple years I have spent a fair number of brain cycles considering why it is that user groups in the IBM i and Power System space aren’t doing as well as I think they should. This week I finally figured it out. Maybe you knew this, maybe not. Intellectually I think I did but I didn’t want to admit it. What was the trigger? A conversation with my 19 year old son, coupled with someone’s birthday today.
I have been considering building a new desktop system with multiple VMs. I won’t go into the reasons here but it needs certain features. My son has built, rebuilt, and built his PC again and his sister’s and friends as well, several times. When he first did so he asked questions, now he provides advice! He understands video chipsets and memory ranking front side bus speeds and power supply loading. He gets the advantages of HDMI over DVI and VGA and all that. He can tell you why a 6 core might be a better setup than dual 4 core processors.. and a lot more.
So what, right? Lots of guys can do that. Thing is that of all the stuff he knows about that, I personally taught him perhaps 10%. Sure I could have taught him more but he went digging, and he tried stuff, and he learned, and he shows enthusiasm and passion! When I do explain or suggest something he listens intently, offers input, and responds with “I get it” and “ah ha!” or perhaps a follow on question. He goes off and tries what I suggest.
What do we have in the land of IBM i? We have what Angus calls, ‘5250 disease,’ which is people over 50 years old and over 250 lbs! It sounds like a joke, and it’s clearly a play on the data stream used for our favorite green screen display, but sadly it is all too true. While this post is not about the system’s name, that’s one of the most obvious places where this disease manifests itself. To a person, if they try to convince me that the name “AS/400” or “OS/400” is the way to go and IBM should “change it back” then they have ‘5250 disease.’ Barring a miracle, it’s terminal (pun intended!)
If you are over 50 can you escape the disease? Some of you can, many cannot as it’s not a physical thing, it’s all in your head. How can you tell if you suffer from it? Ask yourself these questions:
- If you want IBM to return to the names of the past, you might be a 5250.
- If you think SEU on the green screen is the bomb, you might be a 5250.
- If you think ILE and SQL and external procedures are unnecessary complications, you might be a 5250.
- If you think IBM i access is a slow pig and you never use it, you might be a 5250.
- If you cling to your character based input touting its efficiency and accuracy over web interfaces, you might be a 5250.
- If you you’re certain that everything you need to know is answered in a technical forum or wiki, you might be a 5250.
- If the happiest day of your year is when your company moves another application off the i and thus off your plate, you might be a 5250.
- If you know how many years till retirement.. yeah you get it.
Sadly for some of you reading this you have the disease and it IS terminal. You may have given up even before getting this far! You no longer wonder things like “What’s that PHP thing all about and how could I use it to better my company?” or “Web Query, that sounds cool!” or “How could I get that scale data directly into my shipping program with no entry at all?” You make up excuses for not attending your local users group monthly meetings, its annual education, COMMON, IBM University or any other education. You might attend a webinar or two if it’s free because it looks good to the boss, but you don’t have passion any longer.
So what does COMMON, WMCPA, OMNI, OCEAN, MITEC, NEUGC, TUG, or (Insert your favorite LUG here) need to do to survive? Throw you out. Give you the boot. Heave you overboard. Dump your sorry backside. Your “AS/400” attitude is no longer wanted. Keep it to yourself, work to retirement, and enjoy it! Seriously, just don’t spread it around. Your defending of your twinax console has gotten stale and boring. Yes I’ve tired of the name argument but more tired of what it means about you. You’re a downer and you’re denting my passion.
Neither Obamacare or anything the Republicans have proposed can help you either. This problem requires the change of mindset and that’s not easy when you have no passion, and you’re old. So I’m giving up on you, seriously you are toast or as I’ve heard said: “you’re dead to me.”
These groups all need more people of passion! They need to get more young folks involved. Get some infectious energy, ideas, visions for betterment, an attitude of i CAN, do that. People who will ask questions, get ideas, suggest enhancements, make plans, enthuse others. We want those who say wacko things like “Hey, why can’t we run PHP on i?, ” or other seemingly nutty ideas from left field.
Just because you’re old though don’t quit! Many of you have heard of Miguel Cabrera, the Detroit Tiger’s, star 3rd baseman. He’s so good that last year he won baseball’s rare Triple Crown, (best average, most RBI’s, most HRs) and he could do it again this year. We need guys like Miggy! However, most have no idea who is Tommy Brookens. Tommy was never a star when he played with the Bengals from ’79-90 but Tommy could do anything! If you check his position statistics, he shows up as having played C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, OF, CF, RF, and DH! While I don’t see a ‘P’ in there I swear I remember him doing short relief one time. At the end of his playing days he didn’t leave the game instead he works today, 23 years later, as the Tiger’s 3rd base coach., The point here is that ‘old guys’ don’t have to disappear! It’s not purely an age thing. Their skills and knowledge have value, they still can have the passion! They might not be able to hit or throw a laser from 3rd like Miggy but they know the mechanics and can offer seasoned opinions and skilled observations. What you don’t want to see is Tommy trying to tell Miggy: “You know in my day we didn’t wear that funny guard on our shoes or those silly batting gloves. I think you should scrap that stuff!” Comments like that are not going to over will with the team and that would be the end of Tommy.
The point is PASSION. If you have it, Show it! Pass it along, give it to others too! Just because you’re old doesn’t mean you can’t have it, it’s just applied differently. Use the skills you have. Use that knowledge of the system, your company, your industry to guide and lead. Enforce rules you know are there for a valid reason but don’t make new ones that just enforce ‘the past.’ Don’t go away just because you’re old go away because you’ve lost the passion. Stop being a downer to the rest of us and instead send us someone with passion!