May 16, 2021

Only Good Enough to be Dangerous

wrap1I feel like I didn’t really reach adulthood until I became a commercial river guide. There are a few reasons for this opinion. One is that you probably don’t really become an adult until you are responsible for the health and well-being of someone else. As a guide and more importantly as a trip leader, that responsibility was mine at 21.

Another reason is that you don’t really become an adult until you realize how little you understand. As a teenager who has recently come into one’s own in terms of making decisions sans parental input and generally making your way in the world it can all go to your head. Then add to that the accomplishment of apparent mastery of a sport that is mildly dangerous and you have a cocktail for disaster. Believe me, I know. I’ve seen it in me and I’ve seen it in others. See the picture of me perched on a rock in the middle of a river if you don’t believe me.

I call it “knowing just enough to be dangerous.”

Unfortunately, that also describes my knowledge of programming. Although I’ve been writing software since the mid-80s (seriously, talk to me about BASIC sometime), I’ve never been all that good. I only seem to learn just enough to do what I need and sometimes not even that. Since I’ve never actually been employed as a programmer this level of skill has sufficed, which only enables the problem.

Meanwhile, I’ve had continuous access to computing resources my entire adult life, and recently these resources have been truly astonishing. A 51-node parallel computing cluster, with a terabyte and a half of RAM, for example. And still my skills at bringing machines to their knees through loading huge arrays into RAM, running loops within loops, and other shenanigans continues unabated. You could even call it a talent.

So…yeah. Only good enough to be dangerous, I am. And perhaps you too. Naw, just kidding. You’re just fine.

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Roy Tennant About Roy Tennant

Roy Tennant is a Senior Program Officer for OCLC Research. He is the owner of the Web4Lib and XML4Lib electronic discussions, and the creator and editor of Current Cites, a current awareness newsletter published every month since 1990. His books include "Technology in Libraries: Essays in Honor of Anne Grodzins Lipow" (2008), "Managing the Digital Library" (2004), "XML in Libraries" (2002), "Practical HTML: A Self-Paced Tutorial" (1996), and "Crossing the Internet Threshold: An Instructional Handbook" (1993). Roy wrote a monthly column on digital libraries for Library Journal for a decade and has written numerous articles in other professional journals. In 2003, he received the American Library Association's LITA/Library Hi Tech Award for Excellence in Communication for Continuing Education. Follow him on Twitter @rtennant.