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What Counts for a DBA: Laziness


What Counts for a DBA: Laziness

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Louis Davidson (@drsql)
Louis Davidson (@drsql)
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Comments posted to this topic are about the item What Counts for a DBA: Laziness



theboyholty
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I think its a little unfair to suggest that Charles Babbage invented the computer out of laziness, or even that a DBA might create new processes out of laziness either. I'd be a little insulted if someone looked at a new automated database system that I had just built and said, "Wow, you must be one lazy so and so".
Surely you (and Larry Wall) are mistaking laziness for a desire for greater efficiency, accuracy and dependability. A lazy person would just leave it for someone else and get on with something easier, such as brewing up or hanging round other peoples' desks discussing the weekend's sports results - which is what the majority of lazy people in my office seem to do.
Chris Harshman
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I agree with the editorial. After all, if I had to manually do things on each of my dozen servers every day, I'd be more likely to miss one or make a mistake, and it seems like alot of work. With automation that I've built, I can see that "all's well" with my SQL Servers in a couple of minutes reading my morning reports. Although none of my scripts or tools that I've built have genuine people personalities. Maybe my expectations of how the systems should behave or tell me that something is wrong is unreasonable, but then again, doesn't "all progress depend on the unreasonable man"?
http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/George_Bernard_Shaw
So I build scripts and tools around the existing systems to be lazy! :-D
Louis Davidson (@drsql)
Louis Davidson (@drsql)
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@theboyholty

I have a series of posts about bits of characteristics that lend themselves to being a good DBA, and this is just one such bit (and a goal is to use a term that sounds negative and spin it positively). I do think however, that laziness is a major driving factor in helping one invent better ways of automating processes, because you could just have easily kept doing things by hand and possibly played the martyr over how hard it is to do that task daily.

I don't know that I can agree that a good deal of the impetus for creating the first computers wasn't laziness, though speed and correctness is obviously in there.

Now, to be sure, if one can see the laziness in the actual work you have done, well, that is another story. That was one of my points, was how hard an inventor (and a programmer is a form of inventor, in my mind) will work to avoid having to do manual, repetitive work. Could I balance my checkbook manually? Probably... Would I ever again? Not a chance, and if Microsoft Money ever stops working I guarantee that I will find another tool, or if they all stink like the last time I tried to replace Money, I will build my own. Of course, that effort would take me orders of magnitude more time than just managing my checkbook by hand, but the effort to do the repetitive task makes me feel bad, whereas the process of creating the tool to automate the process has little repetition involved and ends up eliminating a task I don't like.

So in the overall equation, a great programmer isn't "good for nothing lazy", but is too lazy to do repetitive tasks that a machine can do for them.



Louis Davidson (@drsql)
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@Chris Harshman

Funny you mention "I'd be more likely to miss one or make a mistake" because this too is a sign of laziness (and I am very afflicted with it myself.) In the wikipedia entry for Babbage, there is this quote from a book on his works: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Babbage

In 1812 he was sitting in his rooms in the Analytical Society looking at a table of logarithms, which he knew to be full of mistakes, when the idea occurred to him of computing all tabular functions by machinery...

—B. V. Bowden, Faster than thought, Pitman

If his mind had gone to the idea of just fixing the tables, that problem could have been solved, but instead of that laborious task, he went off on a tangent to find a better way that didn't involve a slide rule and meticulous work. Of course, computers aren't perfect (and less so when humans write the programs) but for all practical purposes, they can do 99.99999% of calculations (perhaps even more) well enough that it is definitely better than spending the time otherwise.



TravisDBA
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boyholty,

It's not really surprising in today's world that many people today predominantly feel like this or have this state of mind. We have a system now that increasingly penalizes and taxes hard work while subsidizing laziness. I mean, go figure? Laziness, back in my day, used to be a trait to be ashamed of. However, it seems now, people are actually embracing it and cashing in on it while the gravy train is in town.:-D

"Technology is a weird thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other. ...:-D"
Louis Davidson (@drsql)
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@TravisDBA

I dn't know that think that laziness isn't something to brag about in a straightforward way, and I completely agree with you about how it is not improving. But laziness coupled with intellectuality has actually always been a great trait in all employees, though one that can make employers uneasy until they end up.

For example, consider the legend of John Henry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Henry_(folklore)) He felt he could work harder than the machine and is considered a hero (though to be realistic, a failure!). There is clearly no folk song about the person who created a machine that could drive steel rails, but that person did a lot more for transportation (even though he was no doubt a nerd!) than 100 John Henry's could. Of course if that nerd was supposed to be driving steel but was instead working on a machine to do it, he would have been branded as a lazy person and probably fired. And that opinion wouldn't have changed much even once he was a multi-millionaire and owned the company he was fired from Smile

And your quote fits perfect to that story.



TravisDBA
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Louis Davidson (@drsql) (3/25/2013)
@TravisDBA

I dn't know that think that laziness isn't something to brag about in a straightforward way, and I completely agree with you about how it is not improving. .


Louis,

Your right, it is not improving, and the main reason for that I believe, is because that "state of mind" that I spoke of above has resulted in a "culture shift' in this country over time. Whether anyone wants to recognize it or not, we have morphed into an "entitlement culture'. I'm not sold yet on whether that is a "great trait", as you tend to infer. I still look for hard working DBA's in interviews, not intellectual+lazy ones.:-D

"Technology is a weird thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other. ...:-D"
Louis Davidson (@drsql)
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@TravisDBA

>>I'm not sold yet on whether that is a "great trait", as you tend to infer. I still look for hard working DBA's in interviews, not intellectual+lazy ones<<

I think the problem here is that I wouldn't want either trait as a standalone trait. This blog is part of a series (https://www.simple-talk.com/blogs/author/2155-louis-davidson/) of traits that all add up to a great DBA (over 20 at last count). So the ideal DBA (or person truly) is both hard working AND lazy AND intellectual.

I (let's say have) work (ed) with many hard working, absolutely awesome people. Many of these would work on a problem for days, then report back they were finished. Looking at their code, they have done everything the absolutely most difficult way possible, and worst yet, often without tools that are commonly known (or easily creatable, like using sys.tables to get a list of tables rather than typing themselves to make some setting for all tables.) When I get the code and review, due to my years of not doing things manually, and always looking for a shortcut, I can often solve their problems in 10 minutes instead of 10 days.

I don't think we are in disagreement here at all, just hopefully that the trait in the topic as the primary driving factor would not exactly be the best case. In fact, most of the other traits in my series imply/require hard work Tenacity for sure, Curiosity, even Failure as a trait is more about hard work in the face of failure and learning from the failure than anything.



TravisDBA
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Louis Davidson (@drsql) (3/25/2013)
@TravisDBA

>>I'm not sold yet on whether that is a "great trait", as you tend to infer. I still look for hard working DBA's in interviews, not intellectual+lazy ones<<

I think the problem here is that I wouldn't want either trait as a standalone trait. This blog is part of a series (https://www.simple-talk.com/blogs/author/2155-louis-davidson/) of traits that all add up to a great DBA (over 20 at last count). So the ideal DBA (or person truly) is both hard working AND lazy AND intellectual.

I (let's say have) work (ed) with many hard working, absolutely awesome people. Many of these would work on a problem for days, then report back they were finished. Looking at their code, they have done everything the absolutely most difficult way possible, and worst yet, often without tools that are commonly known (or easily creatable, like using sys.tables to get a list of tables rather than typing themselves to make some setting for all tables.) When I get the code and review, due to my years of not doing things manually, and always looking for a shortcut, I can often solve their problems in 10 minutes instead of 10 days.

I don't think we are in disagreement here at all, just hopefully that the trait in the topic as the primary driving factor would not exactly be the best case. In fact, most of the other traits in my series imply/require hard work Tenacity for sure, Curiosity, even Failure as a trait is more about hard work in the face of failure and learning from the failure than anything.



Louis,

I think we are close in agreement as you say. I think the primary difference is semantics. You are talking about laziness as a "process" or the "easiest way to accomplish something" rather than the hard way, or what I like to call " not going the long way around the barn". Working smarter instead of harder, and I totally get that, but that is not "laziness' that is efficiency. Whereas, I am talking about laziness as a general "work ethic change of attitude" or an "entitlement culture shift" in this country. Those are two different things in my opinion.:-D

"Technology is a weird thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other. ...:-D"
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