Here is my contribution to the Rules for IT series: Leave the ideology to someone else.
Charles Bukowski, the dead poet, is the subject of a fascinating film, Bukowski—Born Into This, that I had on last night while I was working the beta release of our new product. It was late and the film was helpful"As the spirit wanes, the form appears." — Bukowski, keeping me from spinning into the last-minute panic and despair that can precede a product launch.
About two o'clock in the morning, I heard Bukowski's publisher talking about the New Formalists, a group of poets that wanted to take poetry back to the strict forms, such as sonnets and metered verse, alledgedly because they were offended by the likes of Bukowski's rude honesty in free verse.
I looked up at the screen in time to see a poem that reduced the entire problem of change to one sentence.
"As the spirit wanes, the form appears," Bukowski had written in one of his shortest poems, which was published in a tiny little book that the founder of Black Sparrow Press held as he spoke to the filmmaker. He said Bukowski, unlike many poets, had never lost his spirit, so he'd never had to resort to formalism to make up for his waning talent.
It's possible to enjoy formalist poetry and Bukowski, though you have to be looking for clever use of meter to get all the jokes in formalism. I don't seek out one form over others in literature as much as I look for really good stories and great authorial voices.
Now, when I hear arguments about the meaning of blogging, the right or wrong way to blog corporately or that podcasting should be one thing and not another, I am reminded of formalists, who insist anything drawn outside their lines isn't art at all. Mastery of meter makes a formalist, but not all poets are formalists. One would think, listening to the bickering about blogging, that the technology for laying out text is more important than the words on a page, that the business model that conveys a video is more important than the message it brings.
Why did blogging take off? The easy-publication and -syndication technologies it is built on provided a platform for many voices. Like the Web, it opened new talent to global audiences. Arguing in generalities about blogging or podcasting, for example, by saying that corporations should not blog or that all podcasts must be free with no commercial strings attached, betrays how people who are running out of good ideas—the spirit Bukowski never lost—tend to turn to arguments about form to cover their lack of substance.
Blogging is a lot of things, I defy anyone to reduce it to a few sentences. Podcasting is an outlet for many kinds of talent, through many kinds of economic relationships, from gifting to subscriptions and advertising-support, not an encoding format or a business model, but an expressive medium. If the form and function of new media are going to rest with a few zealots who define them for the rest of the world, these media are already bankrupt.
So, as you contemplate your use of information technology, against my better judgment I offer this rule: Leave the ideology to someone else if you want to get the most out of your effort, no matter how you measure the results. That's how you let the spirit flow.
Our IT Commandments:
- Thou shalt not outsource mission critical functions
- Thou shalt not pretend
- Thou shalt honor and empower thy (Unix) sysadmins
- Thou shalt leave the ideology to someone else
- Thou shalt not condemn departments doing their own IT
- Thou shalt put thy users first, above all else
- Thou shalt give something back to the community
- Thou shalt not use nonsecure protocols on thy network
- Thou shalt free thy content
- Thou shalt not ignore security risks when choosing platforms
- Thou shalt not fear change
- Thou shalt document all thy works
- Thou shalt loosely couple