“Glitter and Sparkles…”

Twitter: Refuge of Ignorance? Angry MD gets Angrier! Again.

There are few places where you find a greater combination of ignorance and arrogance than IT. There, I’ve said it. The rare few usually have the word ‘agent’ after it’s name (recruitment, estate…). Chances are many folk will have stopped reading by this early point, especially as they’ll consider my post a form of self-flagellation. However, we have to admit, we’re not great at humility, including me, and the one thing worse than a lack of humility is a heavy dose of arrogance and stupidity.

This evening, I was interacting with the twitter-sphere whilst watching Dragons Den. There was an outdoor fitness product which utilised a radio microphone and music streamed through a 3G/4G service. The problem you have is that there will be areas where streaming music this way won’t work, due to the lack of signal. One twitter commentator came up with the following:

#dragonsden or you could call a number and use your hands free kit

Initial thoughts, OK that’s a fair idea, trying to map to the way telephone conferencing is done, but if you’re like me, or better than me, you’ll have a fair amount of experience in sample rates or converting audio. So the conversation progressed to:

“the hell it does” — music sample rates

Facepalm

So what’s the issue? Well, the music will sound like hold music at best. However, the response given by the other commentator, someone in the DevOps community, sounded very convincing to many other viewers. However, this still doesn’t make it true.

To prove my point, I recorded a snippet of a song from a band I helped out last year. Firstly, a quick #ShoutOut to The Hart Room for letting me acoustically murder their Xmas song, December. If you want to download it, check it out on iTunes , visit their YouTube channel or their site.

You can listen to a snippet of the song online. If you view their video from 30 seconds in, to 50 seconds, you’ll notice the mpeg quality sound. Compare that with the following recordings:

8kHz version (note, this is more than double, nearly triple, the quality of telephone quality music)

1kHz version

The quality of neither of these two are in any way suitable to be used for a workout as the fitness company’s audio. As I said in the twitter conversation, 3kHz is sufficient for telephone conversations or telephone conference calls. To get music in, you need 44.1kHz at 16-bit and 2-channel stereo, which at best, translates to a lossy MP3 sreaming at at 128kbps.

Easy math: 44.1kHz x 2-bytes (i.e. 16-bits) x 2 channels leaves 176.4kbps needed to stream all the audio at normal speed. The remaining 48.4kbps is allowable due to the loss of the signals we can’t hear anyway. That math is how you calculate the upper limit of the bit rate. I could go on…

Why? DEAR GAWD WHHHYYYYY???!!!

This obviously isn’t the first time someone in the IT world has goofed in conversation with me. Also, I grew up being the only person thinking something and it being right. I have checked up on this person, so know what their background is and can probably start to piece together why they may feel the need (knowingly or otherwise) to defend a ludicrous position, but it’s not my place to post any of that. It doesn’t add to the debate in any case and I’m not here to ‘ruin them’. There’s the much bigger goal of preferring to live in a world of smarts. To do that, I’m more interested in where that stems from and why I keep seeing it.

If you think we are engineers, I would encourage you to just take the first year of a civil or aeronautical engineering degree, just the first, then come back and have a retro about it. It’ll be an eye opener. When did the IT world get so jumped up about being the poorest engineering discipline? Trust me, we don’t do engineering. I really wish we did and as someone really active in that movement to push the discipline towards engineering some 15+ years ago, I would not love anything more than that. Despite this, I don’t think software should ever ‘settle’ for being a craft.

Summary

I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last time this happens. It certainly wasn’t the first time, so you’d think I’d be used to it by now, but I think I’m more ired than ever! I’m getting old and my patience is wearing thin. As someone who has to straddle the IT and business world (no, I’m not a BA) it is a bit of a running joke that “IT makes a name for itself talking about things they don’t know anything about”. We try to get ourselves as a cohort to understand that we don’t know everything and we should have a level of trust and humility. The latter is hard, make no mistake. I struggle with it. Sure, we talk a good game, but rarely walk it as well as we say. But why? After all, learning is the central notion of underpinning lean-agility, lean startup and hence, the very reason effective DevOps is now so important. Hey, but unknown-unknowns don’t exist, right?

*sigh*

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