Whiners are Agents of Change

Whiners are Agents of Change

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Whining is not a bad thing. In fact, I have a theory that although necessity may be the mother of invention, whining is in the mix somewhere. In this theory, exists four types of people. People who whine and don’t fix things. People who whine and pay other people to fix things for them. People who don’t whine. And people who whine and take care of their own shit. There are only two people who get things done in the group and they are agents of change.

How Bitching Can Change the World

There is no such thing as perfection. I think of this as I drive my car over the roads in Missouri and the roads in Arizona were better, but they weren’t perfect. But there is one thing you can be sure of, the roads we have now are better than brick roads. And if there wasn’t evolution in the paving industry, it would tak a lot of bricks these days to build an interstate. And this would not be possible if it weren’t for bitching.

I fix problems or suggest the right tools to people in need. That seems to be the biggest part of my day. Problems are the result of imperfection and if it people thought things could never be changed, they wouldn’t bitch. They wouldn’t tear open the case of something to see if there was a better way of making it work.

So I am thankful for the people who bitch. I bitch a lot myself. It got me into the job I do now. I never meant to write the software I do. I just had to. I was tired of bitching about the software I was using and took things in my own hands.

The Gamble of Early Adoption

I have been the early adopter of many technologies. It has always been a wager of time and sometimes even a wager of money. I have tried to adopt things by popularity but it just doesn’t seem to work for me. I have an aversion to the main stream. I will be there when I have to but when Podunk news channels tell you to like them on Facebook with every chance they get, I am usually out of there.

But newness can also be a drug, an escape from the daily grind and you may or may not being getting any value out of the time. But I do think of all the sites and technologies that have come and gone. They were the newest things in their time, but they only had a short time. Angel investors had hope but there was just something missing in the whole plan.

Working alone, you don’t have angel investors but you do have time. But you may not have much and that may be all you have to spend. So early adoption of a technology or technique that may not pan out in the long run is the same type of dilemma.

An Inventor Is Not Necessarily a User

A lot of the tools you use for your current job have been invented by an outsider. I don’t care what job you work in. An outsider has no sense of the priorities of doing your job. Sometimes this outsider is an engineer who has no sense of utility. Or it may be an efficiency expert looking over your shoulder but never stepping foot in your shoes. Tool designers sometimes just don’t have the necessary insight into the job their tool was made for.

And nowhere is this more apparent than in software. I hat my tv remote and my microwave and few other things I can name. Who wrote the software for that crap. When I worked in part stores, I had a computer but hadn’t done any programming in years. I did use a lot of software though as started to pick up the design aesthetic of good, useable software. And the parts store software just sucked. I walked into the same store the other day and they use their website. I am not sure what point that proves. But after looking at the software a billion dollar company ran their whole chain of stores on, I realized I could do better.

I mentioned software because that is what I know best, but I know whatever job you do, you have probably invented or dreamed of some new tool, technology or way of doing things that just works better. And what I am saying is there is probably an army of you’s out there just waiting for you yourself to take the first step.

You Don't Have to Be Satisfied With What You Have

Authority was created to keep things from changing. Well, I don’t know if that is true of not, but it sure sounds right. Authority told us for the longest time that women didn’t have the right to vote, that black people could be kept as slaves and that the earth was flat. On a long enough timeline, authority does not have that great of a track record. It is always being proved wrong and a new authority put in its place.

Yeah, history was real. It’s not just a comic book. And people thought some stupid things in the past. And today is the past of the future. From school all the way through our working years we are taught to respect authority. It is hard to break out of that mold for some. For others, it is all they can do to pretend they fit in it until they can find a way out. And that way out is in not be satisfied with your lot in life or even validating the phrase “lot in life”. Your life is what you make of it.

I am writing the same coding and doing the same job that requires a degree to do some places, but I did not take no for an answer. I did my own thing and started making money doing it and other people saw it. It took a while, but it was interesting. There were ups and downs, but at least in my work realm, I am my authority and I can change things.

Creation is Destruction

I remember fighting with another developer in the beginning days of CSS about the future of CSS. I had used tables and I had used CSS. I give everything a shot. My opinion was, after using both, CSS was the way to go. I just was. It made for better looking sites that could be tweaked from a file that didn’t affect anything else about the page or the code running the page. The other guide took the side of tables.

Creation of new technologies destroys others. This argument I had was not a “Beta-Max vs. VHS” argument. Two technologies were not fighting over which would win. This was a change in standards. A change in the way a site was designed. The new technology that every browser understood was the obvious choice. Creation of one thing means the destruction of others. Without renewal, we live in the past.

Whine On

So go ahead and whine. Whine until the solution seems obvious and the problem silly. Because sometimes it is and your idea on fixing things may just be the right one. Everyone who looked at the problem in the past may have said, “It’s just the way it’s done.”, have been fighting a mountain of corporate bureaucracy or have been just too stupid to bitch in the first place.

Yeah, I said it. Sheep just go with the flow.

Tear the problem apart and putting back together, because if you are running your own business, you may be the only one to oil that squeaky wheel. And that problem will bother you until you do. But if you whine and do nothing, you are just wasting air.

And I am proud to say I am a whiner. If I don’t like the way things are, I change them. But don’t go picking around too much, because I have built a look of things as a result of my whining and sometimes I can only focus on one squeaky wheel at a time. It’s a slow process and Ozymandias be damned, as long as I see the result, it really doesn’t matter what you see.

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Stephan Miller

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Kansas City Software Engineer and Author

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