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I’ve followed Tom Limoncelli’s blog for quite a while; his books The Practice of System and Network Administration and Time Management for System Administrators were infinitely helpful in the early days of my professional life, and are among the few (literally, 4 or 5) books that live on my desk. His insight and information into the soft skills of SA work - time management, hiring, working in teams, etc. - is not only excellent, but also all too rare in a largely technical field.

Anyway, Tom posted the below article to his blog about a book that recently came out, “Taming Information Technology: Lessons from Studies of System Administrators” by Eser Kandogan, Paul Maglio, Eben Haber and John Bailey. I haven’t read the book yet, and at $56, it’s going to be a while before my book budget recovers enough to justify it. But going on what I’ve read from Tom and others, I want it. Not only do I want to read it, but I want to pass it around to my parents and in-laws and everyone else who has asked what I do for a living, and I found myself at a loss for a less-than-6-hour-long explanation. So, here’s what Tom wrote on it:

Dear Mom And Dad,

Many times I’ve tried to explain to you what I do for a living. “Computer system administrator” or “sysadmin” is a career that is difficult to explain and I’m sure my attempts have left you even more confused. I have good news. Oxford University Press has just published a book by 4 scientists who video taped sysadmins doing their job, analysed what they do, and explains it to the non-computer person. They do it by telling compelling stories of sysadmins at work plus they give interesting analysis with great insight.

Why did they do this? Because businesses depend on technology more and more and that means they depend on sysadmins more and more. Yet most CEOs don’t understand what we do. The scientists made some interesting discoveries: that our jobs are high-stress, high-risk, and highly collaborative. We invent our own tools, often on the spot, to solve complex problems. We are men and women of every age group. It is a career unlike any other. These are things that most people don’t know about our profession. The book is very engaging: Some of the chapters read like the opening scene of “Indiana Jones”; others like “Gorillas in the Mist.” Kandogan, Maglio, Haber and Bailey have put together a very serious, scientific book with care and compassion.

I’m not one of the sysadmins they studied but every story they tell reminds me of real experiences I have had.

I hope you enjoy reading this book. I know I did.

Pre-order it here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0195374126/tomontime-20

Sincerely your son,
 Tom

P.S. In all seriousness, I read a preview copy of this book and highly recommend it to others. You may have seen the authors speak at Usenix LISA or LOPSA PICC conferences where they showed clips of the video tapes they made. The book conveys the same stories, plus many more, with interesting analysis. If you think that the profession of system administration would benefit from non-sysadmins better understanding what we do, I highly recommend you pre-order this book and share it. You can pre-order it here: “Taming Information Technology: Lessons from Studies of System Administrators” by Eser Kandogan, Paul Maglio, Eben Haber and John Bailey

More about the book here: http://everythingsysadmin.com/2012/07/kandogan.html

If you have any interest, I encourage you to go out and buy the book. If you know someone who’s an SA, you should buy them the book. If you can justify any sort of book budget at work, you should buy the book. And while you’re at it, if you haven’t read Tom’s other books, you should buy those too. You might be in the unfortunate position - like I am - of probably never being able to implement most of his suggestions at work, but at least you’ll be aware of them…


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