Down the Docks

January 11, 2006

How Irrational Fear Takes Hold

Filed under: Technology — ealing @ 3:38 pm

There are many possible reasons why people dislike a particular technology. Some are fair, and some are not. Among the unfair reasons are the Not-Invented-Here syndrome, a fear of the new, or a slavish devotion to one paradigm or another. The reason I want to look at is a groupthink style that seems to evolve in IT shops, reminiscent of the one about the bananas, the monkeys and the electric shocks.

Although IT people don’t beat each other up too often, there can be a tendancy to form negative opinions of technologies without really examining the evidence. If everyone around you disapproved of using foreign keys, your resistance would be worn down, and eventually you too would disapprove of them. The process is much faster if you do not start with any strong opinion.

The bigger problem though, is not the sheer inertia of ‘public’ opinion, but the tiny amount of evidence on which that opinion can be founded. The only thing that’s needed, I suspect, is for one person to have a bad experience with a new technology early on.

Imagine, for instance, that you work with Oracle, and you’re just starting to investigate sequences. Misled by the name and misunderstanding their purpose, you dislike them because they leave gaps. This is despite the facts that gaps cannot be prevented in transactional databases, and that no claim was made that sequences would prevent gaps.

In short, unreasonable expectations, and misunderstanding of the purpose of a technology can create hostility towards it, which spreads easily, and with even less reason, throughout a company or group.

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