A short rant about the abuse of computing power

This simple rule should be known by everyone who ever intends to sit in front of a computer keyboard:

If you find you are doing something tedious or repetitive on a computer, you are doing it wrong.

Such a simple rule and yet so many people fail to grasp it – sadly, many of these are self-proclaimed “IT Professionals(tm)”.

Computers are machines that were designed to do repetitive and tedious tasks faster, more efficiently, and with no wear – thus saving the human race from the misery of menial tasks.

How would Charles Babbage feel if he were given some brief glimpses into the 21st century workplace and could observe these all too common scenarios:

  1. Printing out email and then carrying it over to someone, who reads it, writes notes on the paper and then sends it back for the original person to retype and respond.
  2. Entering data into a spreadsheet/database by hand from a print-out that originated from someone else’s database.
  3. Writing out address labels for addresses that are kept on computer.
  4. Using Powerpoint for anything whatsoever.
  5. Printing out a spreadsheet and adding-up the column totals using a calculator.

The list of these dreadful abuses of technology is endless, and there are entire websites devoted to it.

So what do you do if you are instructed to do one of these tedious and pointless things? Having recognised the golden rule is being broken, you should start asking some questions. Firstly, in any admin department there should be at least one tech-savvy admin person who can do a mail-merge, import, or whatever simple thing is required to simplify the task. If not, ask an IT person – they should be able to provide a simple method of doing the task more efficiently. If not, then you are clearly surrounded by idiots – look for a new job. If you really like your job, then go to the Library, get a Dummies guide, and read it. Once you start displaying wizard-like skills and helping people save time, you will suddenly become more valuable.

But what if you are an IT person and you find yourself in the position of having to perform a routine and tedious task? Move up the ladder and ask an SA or a developer if there’s any way the job “can be scripted”. Uncooperative or surly SA’s and devs usually have profoundly large egos and so you may need a little social engineering. If one refuses to help, tell him the other guy said he’d do it, and in a very short time instead. They’ll usually bend.

Whatever you do, don’t abuse these amazing and powerful machines by using them as expensive typewriters.

Here I am, brain the size of a planet, and they ask me to take you to the bridge. Call that job satisfaction, ’cause I don’t.
— Marvin the paranoid android


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