Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Swimming with Snarks

As many people know, I am a developer at heart. In this day and age, being a developer does not mean that you know every programming language or even all the syntax for one. The Internet has changed development forever by putting useful information within easy searching and an unbelievable community of people on-tap that are able to share their wisdom and failings (often tied closely together). Often times I find very helpful communities of people who I can share information with, receive information from, and further our profession. There are some, however, that just.... (sigh)

Being snarky isn't an IT invention, but I think people are super-exposed to it because of the prevalence of IT in our daily lives. You buy a computer from, say, Best Buy and you interface with a computer-minded salesperson. If you have issues, maybe you take it to their Geek Squad for help. You go to sync up your mobile phone with your PC and you may call your nephew - you know, the one that is SO good with computers - and you have an "IT experience" then. At any point along the way you might experience that snarky person that drives me mad. 

I think the prior "age" of snarkiness was primarily identified with the attorney/lawyer crowd. Simultaneously or, probably, predating that would be doctors. And it isn't that it automatically comes with the territory; for every snarky person you come across, there are probably multiples of those that don't treat people with that impertinence. That said, stereotypes often develop from experiences of multiple people over multiple interactions (with some caveats duly noted in history).

At the risk of sounding like I am mutating Jeff Foxworthy's comedy (though he does have geek origins), you might have been "swimming" with snarks (i.e. snarky people) if you experienced any the following favorites of mine (with examples):

  • The Over-Head: A person who you are relying on and likely paying an amount of money that you can't verify as being "fair" or not starts to use technical jargon or terminology unnecessarily
    • Doctor: "It appears you have a subcutaneous contusion or hematoma." You: "Wait... a bruise?"
    • Lawyer: "[insert archaic Old English here]" You: "So... yes?"
    • Tech: "Did you RTFM? OMG! Your DDR-2600 DIMM is not going to properly interface with the bus speed of your mini-ATX board!" You: "I just want this to be faster, dude."
  • The Redirector: A person takes longer to tell you the ways that you could have gotten the information  than the short answer you were hoping for and they eventually provide. My favorite examples of this are on forums for helping people where the snarks lie waiting for someone to ask something that might be found elsewhere (manual, another forum post, etc) and then the feast is on. After 5 or 6 posts that ignore the continued request for help and defense of why they are there to begin with, someone will courteously interject the answer - sometimes halting the attack. I said sometimes.
  • The Pretty Woman: This is an easy one - where the person can't imagine that you can be as versed as you need to be on a topic as they are and are, therefore, not worthy of their time in discussing it. This is a synonym of sorts for the famous scene where Julia Roberts' character attempts to shop on Rodeo Drive for some new clothes and is coldly turned away due to the preconception based on her attire.
The Point
The Internet is pretty diluted with forums where the snarks stalk prey, but there are some places that really shine. I continue to have great successes at places like Stack Overflow as well as on product-specific forums that are maintained even partially by in-house admins.

It's incredibly likely that we have all encountered this at some point and no one really benefits. If you have the opportunity to be a snark or be that rescuing voice that saves the newbie or inexperienced from wading through darker waters for that answer - remember your experiences and where you have been. Don't be a snark.

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