Most of us would probably like to work in a profession recognised for its legality, decency and honesty. At least I hope so. In my line of work, what we have right now is palpable evidence that the IT industry lacks a reliable moral compass.
Imagine this. A major sensationalist tabloid pulls together a team of diverse journalists who are set to work on a national campaign to promote very high usage of sunbeds as a cure for cancer. Why? The newspaper owner's son owns the sunbed franchise.
The health experts criticise the publisher for being irresponsible, unprofessional and lacking in scruples.
The public is mainly undecided, but many take the story on face value and adopt the fad. The intensive use of sunbeds sharply increases. Elsewhere, in unrelated news, the cases of skin cancer show a marked increase. Some blame it on EU legislation for bangers and bananas.
In spite of protests, the press campaign continues over many months.
Eventually, and based on the evidence of recognised health experts and bodies, the press regulatory association tries to get the offending publisher to temper their claims, but without any success. It is only when the government's lawyers step in and threaten the newspaper owners with legal proceedings, do they freeze their campaign. Much later, the editor resigns and the board of directors issue a short apology on the back pages of their much vaunted organ.
We have that in IT. Our current sunbed cure for cancer, if you believe those who are 'bigging it up', is undoubtedly Big Data.
I occasionally post content to Linkedin, some of it (maybe even this piece) gets promoted through the Pulse Big Data channel. There are some reasonable pieces pinned to that channel, but unfortunately, for much of the time what we get is total and moronic Big Data astroturfing. Tantamount to the equivalent of Big Data's very own Big Lie campaign.
The Linkedin Big Data channel reflects life, and it is full of self-aggrandising and shameless marketing guff, shot-through with scandalously flimsy promotions of tendentious success stories, specious claims of value, half-truths about realisable benefits and embarrassing conjecture about the importance of social media and internet logs.
What I am referring to mainly are superficially neutral (yet virally toxic) pieces placed in the public domain in order to promote Big Data at any cost.
Now let's step back a bit.
For over 125 years, the Financial Times (FT) has built up a solid professional reputation for accurate reporting, reliable journalism and informative editorials. The FT is a newspaper trusted by its discerning readership and admired everywhere. In fact, I could not imagine their journalists writing about markets, securities and financial houses the same way that pundits elsewhere write about Big Data, Dark Data and the Internet of Things. Because the FT knows, that maintaining the trust of their readership is far more important than winning the short-term favours of a few market players.
So consider this; if we in IT cannot bring our standards of communicating with the public up to the levels of the financial industry, at minimum, you know what that means don't you?
Exactly. The IT industry will have a far worse public image problem than the bankers and the solicitors currently have, and we all understand the general public appreciation of those professions.
Now, call me old fashioned, but for me that possibility is worthy of serious consideration, and especially by those in IT who confuse no holds barred pimping of fads, trends and technology, in which truth, decency and honesty are optional, for ethical, candid and informative analysis and reporting of the industry.
How will the industry take these criticisms?
To go back to the sunbed analogy what we will most certainly get comments in this vein:
Whilst those who rail against 'the cancer curing advantages of sunbed use' may be right - or at least partially right - the sunbed revolution will continue, just as the IT revolution industry has done, and in spite of people saying that the age of computing would be a passing mania.
So, when someone tells you “intensive sunbed use is just a dangerous fad”, what they actually mean to say is that we don’t need the term any more, as intensive sunbed use is here to stay, as are those who are shrewd, unprincipled and cynical enough to cash-in on the public's gullibility and wilful stupidity when it comes to fads.
Yes, it does get that bad.
We have people who seemingly spend all their waking lives working out not-so-original ways and means of riddling the IT industry with vacuous bullshit, and what Big Data promotion has shown us clearly is that what we have palpable and comprehensive evidence that the IT industry in general lacks a moral compass.
Is that a reflection of IT, of those who create and manipulate IT fads, or of society in general?
Many thanks for reading.