• United States



My final word on curmudgeons

May 26, 20114 mins
Data and Information Security

Days after I wrote about the word curmudgeon, a lot of discussion about it is unfolding on Twitter, making some clarifications appropriate.

Let’s start with some of that response. I take no issue with the opinions expressed. I’m putting them here so they can be easily seen long after the tweets fall to the bottom of everyone’s stream.

First, this tweet from Shalini Sehkar (@0ph3lia): “I’m going to write a blog post in response to @billbrenner70 later, but right now I’m going to wallow in my RAGE.” On Facebook, she continued: “It isn’t me, and I know who he’s talking about…but that article just made me RAGE because he has no (expletive) clue. Can’t wait to write that blog post… it seems like he was calling out a LOT of people.”

I expect she will shred me as only she can, and that’s her right. She’s entitled to her point of view, as is everyone. Yes, I was calling out a lot of people, and I’d do it again, because I think the things I wrote of do get in the way. After awhile, people stop talking about what you bring to the table and focus only on the more outrageous things you say. Personally, I like @0ph3lia and others who aren’t happy with me. I don’t want them to go away.

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Am I (expletive) clueless, as she says? I don’t think so, but I also know that I’m presenting this from my perspective as a journalist who has observed the security scene for a long time — not as someone who has been a security practitioner.

I’m the first to tell you that I never worked a day as a hacker or IT administrator. I’ve spent many a day shadowing people, visiting their work spaces and witnessing the ongoing frustrations of the business up close. But observing someone’s experiences isn’t the same as living them. I get that.

I know what I know because many of you have been kind enough to educate me. And, I’ve absorbed enough of the culture to feel comfortable offering my observations from time to time.

One observation is that some folks want to be curmudgeons so badly that they do and say things that go well beyond what being a curmudgeon is supposedly about.

People don’t like that. So be it.

One thing I should clarify: My goal wasn’t to suggest everybody talk nice all the time. As someone said in the comments section of the blog:

It’s not nice public relations, but every industry has its gripes. By and large, every industry does its function pretty decently considering the situation. So everyone needs some space to vent.

In this interconnected age, that space might be a personal blog or microblog, and that’s fine except that the public can see that normally-private venting.

But don’t forget that the very people who are venting are likely doing so either because they’re raging homeless alcoholics OR because they’re working their fingers to the bone contributing to a project, educating someone, or otherwise swallowing their pride to further the (sometimes selfless) goals of their industry.

Personally, I find myself inspired by curmudgeons, because they’re not afraid to speak the raw bitter truth. They might not be the best people for newbies to approach, but for intermediates those rants can serve as a (hopefully positive) catalyst for action or refinement.

So hopefully everyone won’t be a curmudgeon, and yes we must all try to be selfless servants of the greater ‘Net good, but curmudgeon genocide would be a shame.

That’s a fair point.

Some have also suggested that doing the things I mentioned in the last post are not the things a real curmudgeon does. I agree with that, too.

The folks behind (@attritionorg) weighed in, calling what I said “pathetic.” That got my attention, because I love They express themselves in cranky fashion, but back it up with loads of great content.

I reached out to them, and got back a few responses, including this tweet:

“Perhaps you have seen many other ‘curmudgeons’ than I. Your article just doesn’t jibe with the ones I know of.”

I’m sure that’s true as well.

I tossed out my view the other day and have no regrets. I call it as I see it. But I know my point of view is never the full picture. It’s just one piece of a huge, complex painting.

I hope that clears up a few things. If it doesn’t, I’ll just sit back and take my knocks. If I’m going to opine, I should be prepared to be disagreed with. And so I shall.

–Bill Brenner