Saturday, April 19, 2008

Why I don't work for a big organization

Tweet from a librarian I know:
"It amazes me that organizations skimp on the cheap stuff (disk space) and expect us to use our labor hours to tweeze through our inboxes."

I remember this was true at Houghton Mifflin, the Boston publisher where I worked. HM's installation of Lotus Notes gave us each only so much space. As the guy responsible for pulling together their ebooks*, my inbox was full of large files. I was perpetually up to my chin in water.

But this was six years ago, back when, although you knew what terabyte was, it sounded as far off as terraforming Mars or, say, a petabyte. That six years of Moore's law and the ready example of Gmail has smart, valuable people like picking through messages in her inbox to save space depresses to me no end.

Maybe I'm just touchy, but I have decided to NEVER suffer this kind of thing again. Because it's never just one thing, but a whole set of interlocking inflexibilities and ineptitudes that sap the spirit and undermine contentment and productivity. So I hope that LibraryThing has given me enough professional mojo that, even if it fails, I can choose to never again do computer work for an organization that doesn't understand computers.

*It looks like they're still using most of my code. It was cool in, um, 2001, anyway.

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Blogger Jim said...

Well, right now if you buy a file server and max it out with 1 TB disks, it costs about $600-$1000 per TB, using RAID 5 and power supply redundancy. And that doesn't include backups. If I remember correctly, backups haven't really kept up with plummeting prices of storage, so nowadays, it's cheaper to get 3 cheaper, larger, file servers to back up the production server.

4/19/2008 11:42 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

You're right to point out that professional server space is more expensive than it might seem. People have hit us with that, assuming that our problems could be solved with a $200 drive from BestBuy. Assuming double-costs, however, of $2,000 per TB at scale, we're still talking about $2 to give KGS a gig of storage, and $20 to give her 10 gigs. And if this stuff wastes ten minutes a day that's around 40 hours/year. Unless Karen is paid less than $5/hour, 100 gigs of storage would pay for itself. Anyway, few employees approach these numbers, so the average cost is much lower.

4/19/2008 11:49 AM  
Blogger JLH said...

Oh ,Tim, you've got the mojo alright! You're one smart cookie, and a good one too! More power and glory to LT and you and the rest of the crew! By the way, even a relatively small organization which goes in for terabytes can drive a person crazy. It all depends on values and clientele....

4/19/2008 11:49 AM  
Anonymous selfnoise said...

This is true where I work. Wrestling with my 40mb mailbox limit is hell, particularly since people insist on sending you 4mb uncompressed files on a regular basis. I think the loss in productivity (10-15 minutes every morning, so... what, maybe 6 workdays a year?) has got to kill any cost advantage you have.

4/19/2008 11:51 AM  
OpenID Anders Dahnielson said...

Minor nitpick: Kryder’s Law is the storage density equivalent of Moore's Law.

4/19/2008 1:18 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Don't get me wrong, I think tiny inboxes are stupid. I usually blame it on lazy sysadmins (who don't want to expand the mail server resources), or tightwad IT directors (who have been told to keep costs down). You get that sort of thing when IT ends up a cost center.

4/19/2008 2:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's the "IT is a cost center" crud. Paying other people is paying for "work", even if it's wasted work. The IT C-level person gets credit for using less money, and the others get credit for using more money.

4/19/2008 2:46 PM  
Blogger Steve Oberg said...

Tim, sadly this is the exact same situation at my work. You are right, it is depressing and -- just like the employee parking lots that have tiered parking depending on how important you are -- tells you all you really need to know about corporate mindset.

4/19/2008 10:58 PM  

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