Angus: Grandstanding

Wandering the Las Vegas casino between my ‘hotel’ room and some kind of ‘food’ establishment, I ended up walking behind some gentleman who was sauntering the venue pretending to be someone. He was over-dressed, coiffed perfectly, and obviously enjoying the fact that he was self-important. It seems that almost everyone in this place is here for the excess – something which does not appeal to me, so I am not blinded by the flashing lights and the strutting/showing off/name-dropping/acting up that goes on in a place with a reputation “what happens in Vegas….”. It reminded me of earlier this week at the COMMON Annual Conference in Minneapolis.

During the IBM i Q&A session, one of the attendees complained that the name had been changed, and continued to use the old name. His complaint was further extended to the lack of a “sound-off” session at the beginning of the COMMON conference. For those who don’t know, the “sound-off” session was held following the COMMON conference opening session, and gave an opportunity to address the IBM team responsible for the platform. The open mic allowed attendees to “sound off” about their questions, concerns, complaints, or the occasional kudo.

When these questions were asked in this week’s Q&A, the IBM response was calm, measured and absolutely perfect. IBM’s commitment to Power Systems was clear, and we learned that a brand for our OS that would appropriately represent the platform for the long term was a careful consideration. From the answer, a few more people learned that IBM does have a long term commitment to IBM i, and the future of IBM i on Power Systems is important to IBM.

While this is not something new to many people in our community, not everyone has had a chance to understand this. When IBM speaks to us about this in person, it begins to make more sense to the those living in the glorious past of what the platform once was. With this understanding, ignorance of the modern IBM i OS and its ability to run on the mainstream IBM Power Systems servers is addressed, and slowly, our community becomes one again. The complaints about the name change are starting to dissipate, and even if it is slowly, the community is beginning to spread the word.

On the other question of why there was no longer a “sound off” session, the explanation was brilliant. Translating will not do it justice, however the essence can be distilled here. First, a “sound off” session at the beginning of a conference can set the tone of an entire conference. Evolving that session into a Q&A session adds value to the people who can now interact more closely with the IBM i representatives, it appears to resolve more open issues, and tends to result in a more positive outcome. Any negative impact caused by a large number of small but loud complaints no longer lowers the tone of the conference.

Second, a perspective was offered to us that the “sound off” session provided an opportunity for several members of the audience to “grandstand”. Looking back and reviewing the history of this event, “grandstand” is the perfect definition. Every year, without fail, there were some well known members of the COMMON audience and our community who found their voice at the “sound off” session. Their rants included complaints important to themselves, positions they personally wished to advocate, and lots of noise. The evolution to Q&A session means this “grandstanding” has lost a forum. This year’s Annual Conference was positive and upbeat, and the energy was high. Certainly, evolving “sound off” into a Q&A session has contributed to that, and IBM deserves many kudos for that.

This morning’s Mr. Self-Important was a reminder that grandstanding is far more pervasive than a “sound-off” session at a COMMON conference. Vegas is full of people who run around for a few days with a head full of “memememe”. The gang of guys I rode with in the elevator last night were all trying to one-up each other on who was the best or worst at something they had done that evening.

And our community online has a cadre of grandstanders. Watching the forums is sometimes an exercise in laughter, sometimes humility, sometimes disgust. It is unnerving to have someone scream (ok, so it reads that way) about “get your facts straight” when they spread FLUD (Fear, Lies, Uncertainty, Doubt). If you lie, while asking others to stop lying, you are grandstanding. A couple of other pundits like to insult people for any actions with which they disagree. One of them represents a reasonably well-known vendor, and promotes their product mercilessly – just more grandstanding. All the while, they continue to sling personal insults, and slander and libel – grandstanding with some ultimately horrible and possibly legal consequences.

I am often accused of personal promotion, and that would definitely be a form of grandstanding. With this recent realization of the prominence of memememe, I will definitely be more careful to qualify my online words to check for grandstanding. Recently, I wrote a one-line response to a message in a public forum, and the subsequent backlash taught me many lessons in the difference between intent and the result, between my inside voice and that of the reader. Of course, I will also work hard to prevent losing the impact of the words or the effectiveness of the message. Certainly, better choice of forums and better choice of topics or ‘partners’ for any online debate will help.

How about you? When you write on public forums, message lists, news items, etc, what is your motive? I expect that there will be some people reading this who will immediately identify instances of grandstanding, and there will be some who still won’t recognize their own. There is a lot of negative noise in our community and industry, and we can help in two ways – first by not grandstanding, and second by not even acknowledging someone who is. Let them play with themselves!

This topic is not an easy one, since our faceless posturing online can be interpreted in many ways. However, I encourage you to question your motives, and write accordingly.

6 Comments

Aaron BartellMay 9th, 2011 at 7:57 am

Good post. I know I have done the post-in-the-forum-to-hear-the-sound-of-my-own-voice before and I am doing my best to re-evaluate how best to contribute to the community. It’s something we should all be careful about because, as I learned at COMMON, that stops many from participating – people would rather not contribute if they know there are some jerks that will treat them poorly no matter what they say.

I also agree with the Q&A vs. sound off – makes a lot of sense. I have grown tired with the name change argument, and that would inevitably come up in the sound off. The Q&A approach gives everyone the ability to be fully informed vs. slighted by a single loud voice.

Congrats on the VP of COMMON seat. I think you will do good in that role – you aren’t afraid to speak the mind of the people :-)

AaronBartell.com

BobMay 10th, 2011 at 11:31 am

Urban dictionary defines grandstanding (showboating) thus;

“Brilliant persons of an upstanding community. Usually with huge bottoms.”

To this end, maye Common should come with a surgeon general’s warning that it may cause obesity! Don’t beleive?, see http://urlq.us/1a.

Scott KlementMay 10th, 2011 at 2:02 pm

I think the sound off was a good idea — but it got stale. The same things were said every year, and IBM chose not to act upon them, causing the same thing to be said next year, and so forth.

Regarding Trevor’s favorite topic — that of the name of the system — my current complaint is not the same old tired “they changed the name” grumble that everyone else seems to have. My current complaint is that far too many people on our community don’t know what the name actually is.

In a recent forum thread, someone asked straight out “What is the official name of our system today?”, and got many answers such as “IBM iSeries, or IBM i for short” (which is totally wrong) or “The hardware used to be i5, but they dropped the 5, now it’s just i” (also wrong), or “they just changed it to System i instead of iSeries” (right, but outdated) or “it’s now i/OS running on POWER7″ (also wrong… i/OS is Apple. Just the letter i, by itself, is our operating system. And the hardware is called Power Systems. POWER7 is the CPU family.)

Unfortunately, my calm responses were largely ignored, as people cited “proof” that one incorrect name or another was the “right” one by posting links to IBM’s web site.

Historically, there were many folks referring to AS/400 when they really meant OS/400, including IBM. That mistake was ubiquitous. Then the hardware was named iSeries, iSeries i5, System i5, and System i. All names where the letter i is prominent…. so it seems reasonable to most people that i is the name of the hardware. They’re wrong, of course, but you can see why they’re confused. Likewise, if you look up the hardware on IBM’s web site, it’s all referred to as POWER7, not Power Systems, so you can see why they’re confused about that, too.

How hard would it really be for IBM to put up a web site that clarifies what the name of the hardware and operating system actually are?

I hope this isn’t grandstanding.

angustheitchapMay 10th, 2011 at 2:08 pm

@Scott, here is the irony. You say that people don’t know the name, and it is true that the name is not well noted by IBM. However, EVERY presentation from an IBMer at COMMON had it right. Even the IBM i Q&A had it right.

Just one note – the OS is not named just the letter i (it would be mighty hard for us to google that!)..
The name of the OS is IBM i.

How do I know? Other than watching IBM closer than most of the people to whom you refer, I also went to this website: http://www.ibm.com/as400 :-)

Aaron BartellMay 11th, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Trevor, that link has mention of “Power of i”. So in some cases it is just “i”. I think “IBM i” is just our “easier” way of better declaring what we are talking about.

Am I wrong?
AaronBartell.com

angustheitchapMay 11th, 2011 at 6:04 pm

@Aaron: And large apologies to Scott. The brand name is just ‘i’ – he is 100% correct.

My misunderstanding was when Ross Mauri introduced the OS name at COMMON in 2008, he told us to google “IBM i”, because googling ‘i’ was going to be ineffective (my translation of his words).

I do strongly believe in using ‘IBM i’ when writing, but speaking ‘IBM i’ or just ‘i’ is more a matter of preference and context. Certainly just saying ‘i’ will connect it to ‘iSeries’ and ‘System i’ supporters.

I shall now go back and slap myself silly, then re-work a bunch of my noise :-)

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