19 December 2013

IT Aphorisms

An aphorism is a concise or laconic statement that expresses an element of truth, and maybe a sting in the tail. such as ‘I’m an atheist, thank God’, or ‘The bearing of a child takes nine months, no matter how many women are assigned.’ An aphorism that is too often repeated becomes a cliché.

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The literature of Information Technology in general is short of aphorisms. It IT, we don’t tend to use them much, Although DBAs will recognise Paul Randal’s famous ‘The answer, as always, is that it depends.’ we generally pine for the seventies when greats such as Fred Brooks Jr, with his classic ‘The Mythical Man-Month’, used the form to perfection. It is full of aphorisms such as ‘our estimating techniques fallaciously confuse effort with progress, hiding the assumption that men and months are interchangeable’, ‘Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later..’, or ‘How does a project get to be a year late?… One day at a time’. Fred Brooks wrote in a flowing prose style of extended aphorisms and the book is as fresh as when it appeared in 1975

I’d like to attempt to revive the tradition of the aphorism in IT writing and presentations, and to get you started I came up with a few to give you the idea of the sort of humour I enjoy. I hope you’ll contribute your own aphorisms as comments.

  • “Excuse this complex and intricate code, I didn’t have the time to make it simple.”
  • “If every well-known DBA in the world was laid end-to-end, I’d assume it was the effect of the evening Partying at SQL PASS.”
  • “I’m not afraid of hard work, unless it is me doing it.”
  • “The only time you can predict the release date of software is after it has happened.”
  • “Only a youngster can make a fortune with a startup, since age brings the knowledge and experience that it is impossible.”
  • “There are eight golden rules to the management of an IT project, and it is a shame that nobody knows what they are.”
  • “The brain is wonderful. It starts working when one wakes up, and ceases only when developing SQL code.”
  • “Developers have knowledge but can’t express it, whereas trainers have none, but can’t stop.”
  • “Every software team should have a fool or two in it, if only to test the software to ensure it is fool-proof.”
  • “Cursors were created tongue-in cheek, but procedural programmers didn’t understand the joke.”
  • “Software companies that plagiarise the work of others are always the most suspicious of being plagiarised”
  • “A Project Manager determines the success of a project as much as a weather forecaster determines the weather.”
  • “I like to work in a team where the other developers are clever enough to understand my code, but stupid enough to admire it.”
  • “The IT Manager’s job is to produce long words to cover up the mistakes of his staff”
  • “Running his code is like plodding over a field of sticky clay after it has rained.”
  • “DBAs do not die, they are just dropped by The SuperUser”
  • “The moment a finished application looks as good as the rigged prototype, it is time to deploy”.
  • “Programming is like cycling. Whatever direction you take it is an uphill struggle against the wind.”
  • “I find that Agile is exhausting. It takes all my energy to appear reasonable and accommodating”
  • “A good database works better than a human because it doesn’t stop every few minutes to look at Twitter.”
  • “A month of programming can often save a day of thought.”
  • “An onion will make you cry, but your manager is the only vegetable that can make you laugh”
  • “When visited by the IT director, we all expected him to sit on his elbow.”
  • “As a programmer, I attribute my successes to jogging, abstinence and fasting. I’ve never done any of them.
  • “How come one can continue writing code through the night without tiredness, whereas writing a thank-you note leaves one drained and exhausted.”
  • “God sends us the data, the devil gives us the DBAs”
  • “My Big Data is unreliable, but the insights I gain from it are fascinating.”
  • “The first mistake a DBA makes is in becoming one.”
  • “Our developers are all graduates, not so much from Redbrick universities as white-tile ones.”
  • “A bug is nothing more than an opportunity to refactor code.”
  • “That ain’t a database, it’s a spreadsheet!”
  • “In the middle of the crowded railway carriage, he farted. He just said ‘Rollback’, and we all knew he as a DBA.”
  • “The act of prayer should never be like negotiating a service-level agreement with God.”
  • “A DBA should always stand up to programmers, the worm may turn, but the other side is pretty similar.”
  • “In programming, it is wiser to profit from good advice than to give it.”
  • “The only people who are confident that they understand IT issues are the senior management.”
  • “A database is a rational logical universe. The DBA, however, may still believe in the tooth faries”
  • “A good way of flattering a manager is to praise him for always detecting flattery.”
  • “DBAs don’t grow old, they merely lose their row locks
  • “It is better to understand part of the way SQL Server works than to misunderstand all of it.”
  • “To discover a programmers faults, praise him to his team-members.”
  • “The best way of punishing a development team is to have it managed by a programmer.”
  • “Jesus was the first financial DBA: he upset the tables of the moneylenders.”

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Phil Factor (real name withheld to protect the guilty), aka Database Mole, has 30 years of experience with database-intensive applications. Despite having once been shouted at by a furious Bill Gates at an exhibition in the early 1980s, he has remained resolutely anonymous throughout his career. See also :

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