More Than I Was, Less Than I Will Become

GravatarNNFor the last ten years, I’ve been working for the same value added reseller (VAR).  It’s been a very fun ride.  I started out as a desktop repair technician.  It just seemed natural after my work on a national inbound helpdesk.  Later, I caught a couple of lucky breaks and started working on Novell servers.  That vaulted me into the system administration side of things.  Then someone decided that I need to learn about switches and routers and phone systems.  That’s how I got to the point where I am today as a network engineer.  That’s not all I do, though.

If you’re reading this, you know all about my secret identity.  If my day job at the VAR has me acting like Bruce Wayne, then my blog is where I get to be Batman.  I write about tech trends and talk about vendors.  Sometimes I say nice things.  Sometimes I don’t.  However, I love what I do.  I find myself driven to learn more about the industry for my writing than anything else.  Sometimes, my learning complements my day job.  Other times the two paths diverge, possibly to never meet up again.  It can be tough to reconcile that.  What I know is that the involvement I have in the industry thanks to my blog has opened my eyes to a much wider world beyond the walls of my office.

Enter Stephen Foskett.  I can still remember the first time he DMed on Twitter and asked if I would be interested in attending a Tech Field Day event.  I was beside myself with excitement to say the least.  When I got to Tech Field Day 5, I was amazed at the opportunity afforded to me to learn about new technology and then go back and write down what I thought about it.  I didn’t have to be nice.  I didn’t even have to write if I didn’t want to.  I had the freedom to say what I wanted.  I loved it.  Then a funny thing happened before I could even leave TFD5.  Stephen asked if I wanted to come back the next month to help him launch Wireless Field Day.  I was overjoyed.  You mean I get to come back?

So began my long history with Gestalt IT and Tech Field Day.  I’ve been to seven Tech Field Day events since TFD5 in February of 2011.  I’ve also been to a couple of roundtables and a meeting or two.  I love every aspect of what Stephen is trying to accomplish.  At times, I wished there was something more I could do.  Thankfully, Stephen was thinking the same thing.  When Network Field Day 5 came around in March of this year, I got another life-changing DM a couple of weeks prior:

We need to talk about your future.  Have you considered becoming the Dread Pirate Roberts?  I think you’d make an excellent Dread Pirate Roberts.

Just for the record, Princess Bride references in a job offer are the most awesome kind of job offers.  Stephen and I spent two hours on the first night of NFD5 talking about what he had in store.  He needed help.  I wanted to help.  He wanted someone enthusiastic to help him do what he does so that more could be done.  I was on board as soon as he said it.  I’d always half-jokingly said that if I could do any job in the world, I do Stephen Foskett’s job.  He talks to people.  He writes great posts.  He knows what the vendors want to sell and what the customers want to buy.  He has connections with the community that others would kill to have a chance to get.  And now he’s giving me a chance to become a part of it.

As of June 1, 2013, I will be taking a position with Stephen Foskett at Gestalt IT.

I’m excited about things all over again.  Sure, I won’t be typing CLI commands into a router any more.  I won’t be answering customer voice mail password reset emails.  What I will be doing is where my passion lies now.  I’m going to spend more time writing and talking to vendors.  I’m going to help Stephen with Tech Field Day events.  I’m going to be a facilitator and an instigator.  If Stephen is the Captain, then I hope to be Number One.  We’re hoping to take the idea of Tech Field Day and run with it.  You’ve already seen some of that plan with the TFD Roundtable events at the major tech conferences this year.  I want to help Stephen take this even further.

This also means that I’m going to spend more time at Tech Field Day events.  I just won’t be sitting in front of the camera for most of them.  I might spend time as a hybrid delegate/staff person on occasion, but I’ll be spending time behind the scenes making everything work like a well-oiled machine.  I’ve always tried to help out as much as I can.  Now it’s going to be my job.

I won’t stop doing what I’m doing here, though.  Part of what brought me to where I am is the blogging and social media activity that got me noticed in the first place.  This just means that I’m going to have more time to research and write in between all the planning.  I plan on taking full advantage of that.  You’ve seen that I’ve been trying to post twice a week so far this year.  I’m going to do my best to keep with that schedule.  I’m going to have much more time in between phone calls and planning sessions to dig into technologies that I wouldn’t otherwise have had time to look at in my old day job.

It’s going to be a busy life for a while.  Between conference season and TFD events, I’m going to be spending a lot of time catching up and getting things ready to go for all the great things that are planned already.  Plus, knowing how I am with things, I’m going to be looking for more opportunities to get more things going.  Maybe I’ll even get Voice Field Day going.  I’m looking forward to the chance to do something amazing with my time.  Something the community loves and wants to be a part of.

I recorded an episode of Who Is with Josh O’brien (@joshobrien77) where I discuss a bit about what brought me to making this change as well as some thoughts about the industry and where I fit in.  You can find it here at his website.

In closing, I want to say a special thanks to each of you out there reading this right now.  You all are the reason why I keep writing and thinking and talking.  Without you I would never have imagined that it was possible to do something with this much passion.  That would also have never led me to finding out that I could make a career out of it.  From the bottom of my heart – thank you for making me believe in myself.

Anatomy of a Blog Post

Did the title of the post catch your eye?  It’s probably a play on words or a quote from a movie.  If the title didn’t do it, the picture normally linked right under it should.  It’s probably something goofy or illustrative of the title.  After that, the next few sentences launch into an overview of the problem.  My blog posts all start out like my real life stories – lots of context so we’re all on the same page before we start discussing things.  Without a good setting, the rest of the story is pretty pointless.  The last sentence of the first paragraph is usually a question or statement relating the background to the main point.

This is the paragraph where the central point discussion starts.  Now that everyone is on the same page, the real analysis can start.  With the opening setting in mind, it’s time to lead into whatever the main point of this blog post will be.  I usually bring up commonly discussed aspects of the problem, such as urban legend or commonly held beliefs.  That way, people are nodding their heads as they read along.  Everything should be laid out on the table as an overview before diving into the topics in depth.

This is a section header designed to catch your eye or a central point that I want to reinforce.

Here is where I start dissecting the points from above.  Each point gets a paragraph and a discussion about the salient points.  Falsehoods are refuted.  Truths are reinforced.  If this is a review, there is discussion of a major section or general theme of the reviewed item.  Self contained sections are easy to digest. Plus, I’ll just keep repeating them all until I’ve brought up all the points from the introductory paragraph.  It try to keep these depth discussions to around three paragraphs because it’s easier for people to remember things with less than twenty seven parts.

There's probably some code or output in this section.  It's easier
 to type in one of these boxes.  Plus, you can usually just copy 
and paste whatever it is into your device.

Here’s where I start trying to wrap everything up and bring all the points and discussion together.  That way the big picture has now been fully developed and fleshed out.  If there are any other pieces that aren’t germane to the discussion or forward-looking statements about how the situation may change in the future, I’ll put them here as things to ponder as you get up from your desk to walk around and hope they hit you later and make you want to leave a comment.


Tom’s Take

Alliteration is awesome, right?  This is the section where I offer my own opinion about things.  Yes, many of my posts are already overloaded with opinion, but here is where I relate the whole thing to me and my outlook on things.  This is also the section where I use the “I” word, whereas I try to avoid it above.  I literally draw a line on the page so people realize this is something a bit different that what comes above.  In many ways, this can serve as a too long, didn’t read portion if you’re only interested in opinion.  I freely admit that I borrowed this idea from Stephen Foskett and his “Stephen’s Stance” closers.  I’ll probably make a flippant comment here and there, but I try to keep things coherent and on point.  And finally, when I wrap up, I usually call back to the title of the post or central theme in a funny way to reinforce what I’ve just talked about.  Anatomically speaking, of course.

If you’re curious where I got the idea for this 300th blog post, you can watch the video from Da Vinci’s Notebook for “Title Of The Song”:

2012 Depleted, Time to Adopt ::2013

It’s been 366 days since my last post about goals for 2012.  How’d I do on my list for the past year?

1. Juniper – Dropped the ball on this one.  I spent more time seeing Juniper gear being installed all over the place and didn’t get my opportunity to fire up the JNCIA-Junos liked I wanted.  I’m planning to change all that sooner rather than later.  Doug Hanks even gave me a good head start on immersion learning of the MX Series.

2. Data Center – I did get a little more time on some Nexus gear, but not nearly enough to call it good for this goal.  Every time I sat down to start looking at UCS, I kept getting pulled away on some other project.  If the rumblings I’m hearing in the DC arena are close to accurate, I’m going to wish I’d spent more time on this.

3. Advanced Virtualization – While I didn’t get around to taking either of the VCAP tests in 2012, I did spend some more time on virtualization.  I was named a vExpert for 2012, gave a virtualization primer presentation, and even attended my first VMUG meeting.  I also started listening to the vBrownBag podcast put on by ProfessionalVMware.  They have a ton of material that I’m going to start reviewing so I can go out and at least take the DCD test soon.

4. Moving to the Cloud – Ah ha! At last something that I nailed.  I moved a lot of my documents and data into cloud-based storage.  I leveraged Dropbox, Skydrive, and Google Docs to keep my documentation consistent across multiple platforms.  As I continue forward, I’m going to keep storing my stuff in the big scary cloud so I can find it whenever I need it.

Looks like I’ve got two fails, one tie, and one win.  Still not the 50% that I had hoped for, but it’s funny how real life tends to pull you in a different direction that you anticipate.  Beyond attending a few more Tech Field Day events and Cisco Live, I also attended a Cisco Unified Communications Partner Beta Training launch event and the Texas IPv6 Task Force Winter Summit.  It was this last event that really got me thinking about what I wanted to do in the coming year.

I think that 2013 is going to be a huge year for IPv6 adoption on the Internet.  We’ve been living in the final depletion phase of IPv4 for a whole year now.  We can no longer ignore the fact that IPv6 is the future.  I think the major issue with IPv6 adoption is getting the word out to people.  Some of the best and brightest are doing their part to talk to people about enabling IPv6.  The Texas IPv6 Task Force meeting showed me that a lot of great people are putting in the time and effort to try and drive people into the future.  However, a lot of this discussion is happening outside of people’s view.  Mailing lists aren’t exactly browsing-friendly.  Not everyone can drop what they’re doing for a day or two to go to a task force meeting.  However, people do have the spare time to read a blog post on occasion.  That’s where I come in.

In 2013, I’m going to do my part to get the word out about IPv6.  I’m going to spend more time writing about it.  I’m going to write posts about enabling it on all manner of things.  Hypervisors, appliances, firewalls, routers, and even desktops are on the plate.  I want to take the things I’m learning about IPv6 and apply them to the world that I work in.  I don’t know how service providers are going to to enable IPv6.  However, I can talk about enabling CallManager to use IPv6 and register IP phones without IPv4 addresses.  I can work out the hard parts and the gotchas so that you won’t have to.  I’ve already decided that any presentation that I give in 2013 will be focused on IPv6.  I’ve already signed up for one slot later in the year with a possibility of having a second.  I applied for a presentation slot at the Rocky Mountain IPv6 Task Force meeting in April.  I want to hone my skills talking to people about IPv6.  I’m also going to try and make a lot more blog posts about IPv6 in the coming year.  I want to take away all the scary uncertainty behind the protocol and make it more agreeable to people that want to learn about it without getting scared off by the litany of RFCs surrounding it.  To that end, I’m going to start referring to this year as ::2013.  The more we get familiar with seeing IPv6 notation in our world, the better off we’ll be in the long run.  Plus, it gives me a tag that I can use to show how important IPv6 is to me.

A shorter set of goals this year doesn’t mean a more modest one.  Focus is a good thing in the long run for me.  Being an agent of change when it comes to IPv6 is something that I’m passionate about.  Sure, I’m still going to make the occasional NAT post.  I may even have some unnice things to say about vendors and IPv6 support.  The overall idea is that we keep the discussion focused on moving forward and making IPv6 more widely adopted.  It’s the least I can do to try and leave my mark on the Internet in some other way besides posting cat pictures or snarky memes.  It’s also a goal that is going to keep progressing and never really be finished until the lights are turned out on the last IPv4 webserver out there.  Until that fateful day, here’s hoping that ::2013 is a good year for all.

WordAds – My Time in Advertising

A few of you probably notice that I started running ads on this blog a while back, say around February.  I also recently turned them off two weeks ago.  I wanted to give you all a little background into what went on with the WordPress WordAds program that I ran for a bit.

This blog is hosted by WordPress.com.  That means that they control all the admin stuff like code updates and server locations.  All I do is log in and write.  This is great for people that don’t really care about the dirty stuff under the hood and would rather spend their constructive time writing.  That’s what I wanted to do for the most part.  Sure, I miss out on all the cooler things, like using Disqus for my comments or hosting other plugins, but all in all I am very happy with the service provided by WordPress.  The major thing that people will tell you that you’re missing out on with a hosted solution is advertising.  WordPress reserves the right to run some advertisements on your blog when you hit a certain traffic level.  Beyond that, there won’t be any ads on the site if you are hosted by WordPress.  That is, until the advent of the WordAds program.

WordAds is a program designed to allow WordPress-hosted blogs that meet certain criteria to run some limited advertisements.  There aren’t many requirements, other than you must be a publicly visible blog with a custom domain name, such as networkingnerd.net as opposed to networkingnerd.wordpress.com.  Since I met the criteria, I jumped in and got setup for WordAds.  This was mostly as a trial run, as I knew that I wasn’t going to make enough money out of my little experiment to quit my day job and become a globe-trotting playboy.  I hoped to collect a bit of money and use it to do something like pay for additional WordPress upgrades or maybe even move to a self-hosted solution at some point down the road.

The setup for WordAds is fairly easy.  Once you’ve indicated your interest in the program and you’ve been vetted by WordPress, all you need to do is log into your control panel and check a box to display your ads.  You can choose to display ads to all your visitors or just the ones that aren’t logged into WordPress.  I set mine up to display to all users.  Once I had selected my ad impression categories, which were a meager list of technology and geeky-type stuff, I turned everything on and began my grand experiment.  The first thing that I noticed is that you aren’t going to get immediate feedback.  It took a month before WordPress reported my earnings, and they only really updated the data once a week or so.  I knew that my coffers weren’t going to be filling up like Scrooge McDuck’s money bin, but a little more real-time feedback or the option to pull that information from a mouse click might have been nice.  The other thing that irked me is that I didn’t have a lot of control over the ads that played.  I tried to keep it to something my audience wouldn’t mind seeing, but it seems that the advertising network had other ideas.  The primary reason that I pulled the whole thing down was that there was an annoying ad for a vehicle that keep auto-playing on rollover and blasting my readers with annoying sound.  Since my readers are my greatest asset, and since I don’t want any of you showing up on my doorstep to punch me for annoying the daylights out of you, I decided to pull down the ads.

The payout structure for WordAds involves PayPal, which isn’t a huge deal since almost everyone that has ever bought anything online probably has a PayPal account at this point.  The kicker is that the payout threshhold is $100 US.  They won’t cut you a check for your earnings until you’ve hit the magic tipping point.  Right now, after about five months of running ads on my blog, I haven’t even hit $50 yet.  My first month, I made a whole $2.  All that’s good for is getting the paperboy off your back.  I know that based on the amount of traffic that I get living off my advertising wasn’t a realistic goal.  I also know how often I tend to click on banner ads, so again since most of my readers are smarter than I am I knew they weren’t likely to click on the banners either.  Instead, I figured I’d just let the ads sit there until I could pull the money out and use it for upgrades.  At this rate, I’ll probably run out of boring things to say before I get to that point.  Instead, I’ve decided to turn off the ads and go back to what I do best – writing boring pieces about CallManager or taunting the NAT folks.  I’m not worried about making any money off of this whole thing.  The little bit that I do have can go back to WordPress for them to buy a round of coffee for the operations team that keeps my blog from crashing every now and then.  If I’m really that concerned about sponsors, I suppose I can start wearing a jumpsuit to work festooned with patches like racing drivers.  Now I just need to work out my rates for that.

Clarification On Comment Policy

Before I get into the Wireless Field Day 2 posts coming up next week, I wanted to take a second and clarify the commenting policy I have on my blog.  That way there isn’t any confusion about comment approvals and such.

I have a pretty open policy when it comes to commenting.  If you take the time to post a comment, I will usually approve it.  I respect the opinions of those that read my blog and welcome any and all feedback.  If a particular post inspires you enough for you to take the time to put keyboard to phosphors and create a response, it is my duty as a blogger to make sure that your voice is heard.  It doesn’t matter if your opinion is different that mine or  if you are correcting misinformation.  I will publish all comments in my queue.  There are two exceptions, however:

1.  Spam – I detest spam comments with the fury of a thousand fiery suns.  I don’t need magic pills, Free*** devices (where *** is a ton of crap restrictions and offer signups) or SEO tips, thank you very much.  I have managed my blog so far without your help kind marketing people of the underbelly of the Internet.  I think I’ll make it a few more posts without you as well.  Comments that are definitely spam are approved to /dev/null and forgotten.  I will usually err on the side of caution when it comes to non-obvious comments.  I also go through the spam folder regularly and rescue non-spam comments.  I do see every one of them at some point, so the bad stuff is really bad stuff in my mind, not just a sorting algorithm.

2.  Hateful Comments – I don’t mind a good discussion, even a heated one.  Hell, I’ve even made a couple of pointed comments myself.  But, there has to be a point to the pointedness.  If you disagree with a particular position and can elucidate that point, even with some harsh or off-color language, I’ll likely approve your point of view.  If your comment is nothing more than “F*** off and die you stupid a**h***!!!!!111!!!”, I will delete it.  That comment adds nothing to the discussion and only seeks to inflame people into being dragged down to a low level of name calling.  When in doubt, remember that even during the height of the American Civil War, when states were shooting at each other, the members of Congress still referred to each other as “The Distinguished Gentlemen from [...]” even as they were yelling obscenities.  A little decorum goes a long way to ensuring your voice is heard, even if it is a bit antagonistic.

With that said, there are times when things slip through or are taken out of context.  While I approve every comment without (much) reservation, I also feel it is my duty to leave comments up and not delete them out of spite.  I will, however, agree to delete a comment should the commentor contact me with the request to remove a specific comment.  I want to be sure that the opinions and positions expressed are accurate for all represented parties.  In the event that a comment reply chain spirals out of control, I reserve the right to remove comments of both parties back to the point where the flaming started.  I’ll leave the original comments unless otherwise asked to remove them.

I’m not a journalist.  I’m not a celebrity blogger.  I’m just some random nerdy guy with a keyboard and some thoughts that I want to share.  Many of you readers out there want to share your thoughts on my thoughts as well.  This post just ensures that we’re all on the same page when it comes to what gets approved and what doesn’t.

Blogging with the Packet Pushers

I’ve always believed that everyone has at least one good story in them.  People have anecdotes about funny times in college or goofy stories about their kids.  Tech-oriented people have even more stories that usually revolve around technology gone bad or interaction with non-technical people.  From the amount of studying and learning that tech-oriented people do, it is inevitable that knowledge is accumulated and waiting to be passed on.  The trick with all these stories and knowledge is finding someone to share it with.

Blogging is my preferred method of getting the thoughts out of my head.  Most of my friends an colleagues do the same.  Some of us have established blogs that have been going for a while now.  Others are just starting out.  However, there are even more of you out there with stories to tell and things to share without a blog.  Maybe you have no desire to keep up with the day-to-day drudgery of maintaining a blog.  Perhaps you don’t think you have enough in you to keep writing day after day.  You have even avoided creating a blog because you couldn’t think of a catchy title.  Let me tell you that I’ve got a deal for you that will eliminate all those issues for you.

As many of you know, I’ve been a regular contributor to the Packet Pushers Podcast.  Recently, Ethan and Greg have redesigned the site and started blogging more and more there.  They’ve also decided to open up the doors and invite some guest bloggers to write content for the site.  This is wonderful for those of you that are worried about blogging.  You don’t have to concern yourself with writing once a week.  Or month.  Or even year.  Just write whenever you feel the need to put something out there.  The Packet Pushers will make sure that everything is spelled correctly and put it up on the site.  You can be sure that your post will be seen by lots of visitors, as the Packet Pushers site gets hundreds every day and several thousand a month.  And you’ll get lots of feedback and comments for sure.

How do you get involved?  Send an email to packetpushers@gmail.com with the subject line “I Want To Blog With The Packet Pushers!”  You’ll get an account on the website for creating your post and the rest will take care of itself.  I look forward to see some of you writing on Packet Pushers and sharing all you’ve learned.  Remember, Too Much Blogging Would Never Be Enough.

365 Days of Blogging

My last real milestone to hit just came up.  This blog has now been around for one whole year.  I’m shocked to say the least.  I never believed that having a scratchpad for jotting down my ideas about troubleshooting would blossom into this.  Those of you that have followed me for a while know that I tend to flit around technologies from wireless to security to switching and back to posts about Apple computers from time to time (even though I don’t own one).  To see that I’ve been able to keep this going for as long as I have is either a testament to my stubbornness or the large amount of cruft floating around in my head.

My initial ideas about troubleshooting hit a writer’s block wall pretty quickly.  I started posting some things about my CCIE studies and the occasional voice-related article.  It took a couple of months before I started writing pieces based more on opinion than fact.  I was afraid at first.  I’m normally the kind of person that keeps my opinions to myself.  However, it was interesting to put my thoughts and ideas down on “paper” and see what people thought of them.  Opinion pieces don’t require paragraphs worth of console output or exhaustive testing.  Of course, they can also be wrong or inaccurate and subject to debate or correction.  Other bloggers have told me that opinion pieces aren’t for them due to the possibility of angering their audience or fear of rejection.  My advice is to give it a shot on something simple first.  Put your thoughts out there and see what the reaction looks like.  Remember the old adage, “If people agree with everything you’ve said, you aren’t doing your job.”

I find myself spending more time commenting on current events in long form now.  I do get a chance to discuss things on Packet Pushers from time to time, but when something really juicy comes up, I can’t resist adding my voice to the din.  Some of these articles are interesting, others not so much.  I tried my hand at adding some link aggregation pages every week or so but found that I didn’t really keep up with new things like I thought I would.  I really spend a lot more time out in the field doing rather than learning.  I’m not one for going over simple things that are well-documented elsewhere.  I tend to talk about the more esoteric configurations or things that you just can’t find anywhere else.  Those posts are as much for my benefit as anyone else’s.  If I know that I’ve run into a particular situation and I write about it, I know I can always find it here as opposed to sifting through Google for hours on end.  I just hope my readers can get some use out of it too.

I still blog about the CCIE a fair amount.  It feels a little different commenting on it from the other side of the line, but people seem to like reading about all things lab related.  There are a ton of great blogs out there that detail the process that lab candidates are going through and the little gems of knowledge that they unearth from time to time, whether it be revelations about Dynamic Trunking Protocol (DTP) or alias lists or even TCL scripts.  I should probably create a CCIE candidate blog list just so those of you out there that hunger for my CCIE-related material can get your fix from them as well.  My CCIE posts tend to be more on the commentary side and focused on the details in the process rather than the content.  I think it’s more of a way to talk about the things that I see are important to keep in mind besides the ability to remember OSPF LSA types on demand.  A “forest for the trees” approach, if you will.

Once again, I’d like to thank all my visitors and readers for your time.  I appreciate your feedback and comments about everything.  You help me be a better blogger with every post.  It helps me to know that the things I post can be useful.  Tanner Ezell and I discussed the idea that people should provide help and support because they can, not because they’re doing it for fame or recognition.  I like helping people solve problems.  It just so happens that the most efficient way for me to do it is by writing a blog.  The more you wonderful people read it, the more popular and well-known it becomes.  While I appreciate that, know that I’ll still be here plugging away and talking about things even if I’m on page 30 of a Google search.