Confessions of a non-uber IT expert

I was having a conversation with an uber-geek friend a couple days ago, and he started showing me how his place was networked. As the different types of protocols went over my head (and I assure you it wasn’t as straightforward as ‘TCP/IP’), I grew increasingly confused and indicated as much.
The uber-geek friend looked at me quizzically. He didn’t believe I didn’t understand him, as he got a different impression about my aptitude from my blog! I insisted I was no expert in protocols, and never claimed to be. He said, “but you were a designer!” But does a web designer need to know such advanced protocols? HTTP and FTP were all I used. HTML was the key. Everything else was handled by the tech guys who set up file sharing and firewalls, databases and servers. My job wasn’t System Administrator.
So if any of you have any notions of me being some super expert in any techy area, I am NOT. I used to design, I know CSS to a certain level, I know how certain things work although I no longer code for a living. I haggle with vendors more than the average client does, just to make sure everything works. And if they still have problems figuring things out (as with some designers new to CSS), I’m the first to give them advice.
Yes, I have fixed some people’s computer problems and I know some workarounds for various types of software. I have learnt how to fix a serious problem with my Mac by going into Unix mode – but that was simply a case of following instructions. I’ve taught myself how to wire up my home studio, but without knowing all the jargon that comes along with the equipment. Simplicity is good. It helps one focus on the bigger issues in life. That is one quality I find lacking in certain types of people.
I haven’t invented a new programming language; I don’t know Rails or Java or Perl; I knew enough about Coldfusion tags to move content around in my design, but that was it. I set up a Movable Type blog but did so by reading the instructions. I installed plugins likewise, by following instructions. I don’t really hack things. I know how to use Yahoo! Pipes for mashups and filters and I’m happy with that.
I subscribe to 700 feeds, most of which I don’t read regularly anymore because I either don’t have the time, or I’ve lost interest, so the few of you who give me surprised stares when I don’t know the latest update on some sensational local blog, please shove off or do something more valuable with your own time. Ditto to those who like to throw acronyms around in a typically Singaporean way, and sound surprised when I ask what those acronyms mean. To them, I say MYOB! CB! FO! 😛 (Don’t ask me what they mean.)
I buy gadgety stuff, but don’t expect me to know what are all the differences between my HTC Touch and several other new iPhone imitation models popping up all over the world, because I am not interested in spending time poring over spec sheets and comparing prices. If I buy a 1 Terabyte hard disk drive, it’s 1 TB to me, not 500GB because I want it that way; I know I really need the space.
For all it’s worth, I have learnt a lot of things on my own, and find it surprising that sometimes I’m expected to know even more than that. You may have got a degree in it; I do not. You may still base your career on it; I no longer do. I hire vendors to do that now. Oh, and you are…?
My life plans are changing and so is my focus. Whatever I need to know, I will find out. Without intending to offend anyone in particular, the frank truth is: whatever I don’t need to know, doesn’t matter to me, even if it does to you. Don’t expect me to devote hours, days or weeks to become an expert like you on a topic that won’t improve my life. I’d rather have friends like you as experts and leave it as that. Strength in diversity, you know what I mean.
[Note to self: Use this post as a Memorandum of Understanding in future encounters with hardcore, purist geeks who mean well but may not realise they are perturbing me.]


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