ThatJeffSmith

I am a Dirty Tool Pusher

A better title might be ‘Tools are Too Cool for School’ or ‘If you don’t use Tools You are Dumber Than a Caveman’ or…well, you get the idea I think.

My focus of course falls squarely in the IT and RDBMS domain. It is also not a huge secret that I spend a lot of time advocating a specific database tool for a little independent software company. I want to take a step back this morning though and take a look at IT tools in general and open up the discussion on why some folks are not using the tools they SHOULD be.

That’s right, I said SHOULD. If you are not using the right tool for the job, you are just wasting your time and energy.

Why do I care so much about tools?
Yes, it is in my own best interest to be a tool advocate – it’s my job. But that does not explain why I entered this career path or why I am so passionate about it. I started where everyone else did, the bottom. I was thrown into the RDBMS/UNIX/MPE/Apache/HTML/CGI/Perl world with little more than what I had picked up in 4 years of university study. I knew a good bit of UNIX shell programming, I knew a bit of SQL, and I was OK’ish with HTML, but that was about it. To say that I was overwhelmed would be a massive understatement.

It really took me about 6 months to start to feel comfortable in my job. Once I got the basics down, I started looking for some things that would make my job easier so I could move on and extend my skill-set in other directions. It was the tools (Reflections was the BIG one back then) that I had available that really helped me accelerate that learning curve (and no I wasn’t using Toad).

The Command Line Is NOT Evil (my typing skills are apparently suspect though)

Real DBAs Use the Command Line (not Tools)
Feel free to substitute ‘DBA’ with your own job title, but I have heard this phrase so many times that I almost began to believe it. Or at least believe the people who said it were being honest. I’m not saying people that say this are liars, but I do think they are being less than honest with themselves.

You say you only use the command line interface. OK. When you are working on your massive script, do you use VI or Notepad to write that up? Well, that’s a tool. Why are you using it? Because it saves you time, right? No one is asking you to pick up a tool because they want you to sacrifice your 20 years of IT experience and brain. They are just trying to make the task at hand a little less painful. At the same time, it would be wrong to assume that a tool can replace those years of experience. In other words, you would not want to give a newbie do-it-your-self-er a compound miter saw if they had never mastered the art of basic geometry and familiarity with power tools. And of course, a master-carpenter is going to pick up a nail gun every now and then.

What am I trying to say? I guess it boils down to
Don’t Let your Ego get in the Way of Your Productivity

I also think there’s a little bit of fear involved as well. Fear that a tool or utility or sexy program is going to make what you do seem a bit less mysterious or valued. Can just anyone keep a production system up and running well? Hardly. Do tools lower the bar a bit? Maybe at the surface, but as tools can make a job easier to accomplish the same tool can also create problems just as easily. If you are a hiring manager, please don’t confuse expertise with a tool as expertise in a technology.

Don’t Miss Out on These Great Tools

  • Regex – A programmer’s best friend
  • Debuggers & Profilers
  • IDEs – Because I said so, try not to think too much here, just do it.
  • Powershell – Command-line awesomesauce for the Windows crowd