Happy Holidays . . . and . . . Why You Should Never Be a Fanboi/gurl of Anything Ever

This is the last post before Christmas, so Happy Holidays!

Quick: Name something that you believe is utterly and completely without flaw. It’s a thing that is totally perfect, no need to argue.

Could be anything. A movie. A song. An album. A TV Show. Anything. And yes, this is still a tech blog (I’ll get to the tech part, I promise).

I can name a few. The Christmas movie Die Hard. The “What’s New Pussycat?” routine by John Mulaney. Sigourney Weaver in Aliens.

If you find it easy to make this list, then maybe you have a tendency for Fanboi/gurl-ism. I do not. That last paragraph took me like an hour.

Let’s make sure we level set and define the word fanboi. From dictionary.com:

Fanboy – sometimes fan·boi . An obsessive male fan, especially of comic books, science fiction, video games, music, or electronic devices:
Apple fanboys lined up to buy the new iPhone.

dictionary.com

There is also an official definition for “fangurl“:

Fangirl – sometimes fan·gurl . An obsessive female fan, especially of comic books, science fiction, video games, music, or electronic devices:

A web forum for Star Wars fangirls.

dictionary.com

Let’s just call them “fantheys” from here on out, shall we?

I think there are two implications with fantheys:

  1. I don’t believe it’s a stretch to say that fanthey-ism can stretch into the world of Information Technology. There are the AWS fantheys. The Azure fantheys. The VMware fantheys. The Apple fantheys. The EHRMERGERD KURBERNETERS! fantheys.
  2. The key word in that definition is “obsession”. The word “obsession” comes with a whole mess of synonyms and implications. Most of them having to do with irrationality and turning a blind eye to the shortcomings/faults of a thing, and the possible strengths of a different thing, which leads to all kinds of irresponsible engineer behavior.

Therefore I firmly believe, and this is the recurring theme of this post, that not acknowledging the flaws of a thing will ultimately lead to your own embarrassment, and it’s not professionally responsible or tenable to maintain a position of fanthey-ism in the face of evidence that proves the thing you are a fanthey about isn’t always the best solution.

Yeah I said it.

How are you able to fix the flaws of a thing if you don’t acknowledge them? Don’t you think that maybe . . . just maybe . . . if you could acknowledge those flaws you can fix them? Or work around them? Or maybe ** GASP! ** find a better solution?

NERD ALERT! Evaluative and Comparative Reasoning

I have always held the position that with any intellectual pursuit, with few exceptions, one should evaluate the pros and cons of anything one studies. This includes everything from Economic Theory to Political Theory to Game Theory, and appropriate to the topic at hand, solutions/vendor evaluation in IT.

It does not include things like evaluating whether or not toilet paper should unroll from the top or bottom (only a mouth-breather would unroll it from the bottom). The science is settled on that one.

What I am advocating here are actually two forms of reasoning, both from Critical Thinking:

  1. Evaluative Reasoning – a form of critical thinking that involves appraisal of the effectiveness, validity, meaning, or relevance of any act, idea, feeling, technique, or object.
  2. Comparative Reasoning – Establishes the importance of something by comparing it against something else. This is also known as “Comparative Analysis”.

In other words, evaluating solutions is an exercise in objectively weighing pros and cons.

Read This Part If You Read Nothing Else

I am so in love with the concept that I have a rule I go by to check myself:

If it feels good to think something, it is all the more reason to question that thing.

Bryan Sullins

Complacency makes me uncomfortable. Can’t stand it. When I want to believe something I even try to talk myself out of it because I like being able to back up my position. Sometimes I change my position/belief, sometimes I don’t. It depends on an analysis of the facts.

And no, the irony is not lost on me that my Fanboi thing is making sure I am not a Fanboi.

Yeah! Let that one sink in!

Evaluating Solutions: A Primer

Doing this is both necessary but tedious. Unless you are the type who watches multi-hour episodes of deep analysis videos on a multitude of subjects on Youtube . . . (I mean, I wouldn’t know anything about that) . . . then it can get pretty tedious.

But it’s your job and your responsibility as an engineer to do this.

You should be like that meme where Zach Galifianakis is doing those calculations in The Hangover. In case you’ve never seen it, it’s this:

Zach Galifianakis – The Hangover

Here are some things you can do to be good at evaluating solutions:

  1. Do your best to remain objective. Yes, I am aware Philosophy nerds, that true objectivity is arguably impossible except for a narrowly defined set of criteria (I saw a 4-hour Youtube video on it), but it’s like Nirvana, which is something to be strived for, but never achieved (I think I saw a video on that too).
  2. Gather information about the solution: I always read the White Papers, the Features list, everything I can, especially if I am comparing two different solutions/vendors. I have gotten into a habit of picturing the Pros/Cons T-chart in my mind.
  3. If you are comparing solutions/vendors, anything they have in common cancels out. You are looking for the differences. Use a Venn Diagram for comparison.

    SIDEBAR RANT: On a slightly related note, Storage Vendors: FFS, please stop talking about storage deduplication like it’s new and unique. Every a-hole storage vendor does it in the year 2021. When you treat it like “it’s this new thing!” it’s so condescending. Same thing goes for any vendor who has a REST API. NEWS FLASH: EVERYONE HAS A REST API. It is not a differentiating factor anymore.
  4. If you are comparing solutions, are those differences important to you?
  5. Pro Tip – Tech Support should be included in this evaluation.
  6. What kind of knowledge do you and your peers have about the solution and is that knowledge transferrable?
  7. Do a cost comparison and include an ROI.
  8. Constantly evaluate. This is an ongoing process. You may say no to a solution now, but months or years from now, it might just be what you need.

How to Spot a Fanthey

Now that we know this, let’s talk about how to spot a Fanthey. It’s really easy:

  1. They don’t do any evaluation (as described above) and just laser-focus on using their solution.
  2. There is a lack of “couching language”. They will speak with total confidence.
  3. They will sometimes lie about their thing having a feature, or using language like, “Oh, I am sure it does that.”
  4. It’s near impossible to criticize their solution and even more impossible to get them to entertain other solutions.

Basically, you’ll know it when you see it.

The question is, what do you do then? Well it depends on where this person is on the Org Chart. It also depends on how your peers feel about it. There is strength in numbers. Use them.

Also, try to plead your case by doing your homework. Worst case scenario, at least you have done your due diligence.

Questions? Hit me up on twitter @RussianLitGuy or email me at bryansullins@thinkingoutcloud.org. I would love to hear from you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s