Editorials, Ethics

Keeping It Real – Or Communicating, Without Insulting

One of the things that seems to come up over and over again in talking with data folks is this concept of having to communicate. I’m not saying we’re collectively hermits.  What I mean is that it’s difficult to explain complex topics to people that are impacted by them, but sometimes… they just don’t care.  They want to get their job done and can get this glazed over look in their eyes when you start talking with them.  It’s not any fault of theirs – they need to know what you want to tell, them, sure.  But they just don’t care because they’re totally focused on getting their job done.

This is OK.  And, when those conversations stumble a bit, it’s on us, collectively, to make sure we’re able to explain things in as many ways as possible.

Stick with me here: I take dance lessons.  (Believe me, it’ll be a LOT of dance lessons before any real impact, but that’s not the point)  But, the thing is, as we’re working with different things and the instructor is trying to beat into my head “not THAT way, THIS way” nearly every time it involves talking to me using specific approaches.  I’m a numbers person.  I like to think about things for dance in beats and counts and all of that.  To me, that’s manageable mechanics.  For my better half, it’s all about music cues.  Those are pretty much as dissimilar as it gets when trying to explain what’s next in the dance step.  I was talking with our instructor and she was explaining that part of their challenge is finding the right language and elements to talk with everyone and the fact that nearly all of the time, those approaches are different person-to-person, even in a couple, even in a class of couples, etc. It’s very complex on how to get the point across.

Sound familiar?

Then I read this.  Now, first of all, check out the site.  It’s not exactly a technology site much of the time.  But the thing that got my attention was the last statement.

*Note to fellow geeks. I am not explaining the entire situation. I have left portions out – most people don’t care about the details.

Exactly.  There are just too many moving parts for us to protect everything.  So we need to be much, much better (and getting better all the time) at explaining things in many different ways until we get the “AHA!” moment.  Otherwise, telling someone that a USB key just isn’t secure because it can run code, or can be copied or whatever – it just won’t matter.  And we need these things to matter.

Think about password complexity, about securing your workstation, about not taking unsecure information home with you, about not emailing things you shouldn’t be emailing (but why?!?) and all of that.  About letting people in to work on an AC system and loaning them your access credentials.

It’s all about communications.  Sometimes it’s up the ladder – to get things approved and to get the budget to do what has to be done.  Sometimes it’s fellow employees – sales folks, support folks, managers, people getting stuff done.  We need to learn to be able to explain and help people make sense of the things we’re trying to do and protect.  So much of it is social engineering, but if people don’t understand, they won’t be doing much to help out.