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No, I will not help you Spiceworks.

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Recently, I have been approached by a number of people about Spiceworks.  Many of them wondering if they need to invest effort into migrating off of a helpdesk platform they’ve become comfortable and familiar with.  Others conveying tales of doom.  This has dragged me back into a place I emphatically did not want to go.

I have not really had anything to do with Spiceworks for years, and am emphatically not interested in pursuing this in the future.  In an attempt to never have to deal with this again, I started a thread: https://community.spiceworks.com/topic/2193288-is-spiceworks-still-viable?.  I won’t revisit the whole thing here, but what I will do is post my final, parting post.  One that was ultimately deleted by a mod.

The official reason given for deleting the post was as follows: “While we definitely allow (and encourage) heated discussions, we ask that you keep any criticisms or critiques focused on the topic-at-hand, rather than turning it into an attack against another SpiceHead. Feel free to continue the discussion, but keep it classy!

I leave it up to the reader to decide the validity of that mod, and the link above should provide more than adequate context.  If the question in your mind is “is Trevor a tool”, allow me to settle that for you: yes I am a tool.  If for no other reason than that I let myself get sucked into ceaselessly explaining myself when my intentions are challenged.  This is rarely from some feeling that I need to “defend myself”; it’s usually my obsession with accuracy, but the result is the same.  Whether or not my general toolishness makes me stand out amongst the others in the shed, is grossly inappropriate, or what-have-you is both entirely up the reader, and potentially irrelevant to the larger issues discussed.

I reproduce the deleted post here not out of any petty spite, or desire to have my final say, but because I believe that the contents of this final post – and indeed that entire thread – are an important conversation piece as regards concepts of tribalism, and of toxic online communities.

The deleted post:

@Kenny8416 re: “That is fanning the flames of gossip, and still to me has a smell of trying to achieve that aim ”

Paranoid much?

If I wanted to “fan the flames of gossip”, I have significantly more effective means of doing so at my disposal. If I wanted to “hurt” your cult in some fashion, I could also achieve that end faster and more completely using, well, pretty much any of the other means at my disposal.

The point of this exercise is to not have to actually care about Spiceworks any more. I got out. Years back. I don’t have any beef with Spiceworks (the company), or with any of the staff. Spiceworks (the company) has generally been nice to me, but I never could really get into the culture of the cult.

For a time, I really liked the product. I liked it because the open source versions of ticketing systems, basic monitoring apps, and inventory were all mega-poop-emoji that were hard to set up. Then, over time, Alien Vault put some serious effort into leveling up the open source packages they relied on. Elastic (in the form of ELK) was massively leveled up by Netflix (amongst others). The open source scene changed, and offered products that were both superior to Spiceworks’, and almost as easy to install. Fantastic for tiny SMB shops with part-time sysadmins that doubled as an accountant (or whatever).

But the shops I had introduced to Spiceworks way back were still using it. Inertia is HUGE when it comes to software selection, especially when you don’t have dedicated sysadmins. And over time, I got out of the systems administration game, too. (I do the odd DC architect stuff today, but only for really niche or interesting clients that present some sort of challenge I find educational.)

Back in the day, I was functionally acting as MSPs, but to tiny little shops that made it not worth buying any of the really expensive commercial ticketing/monitoring/inventory systems. This wasn’t my day job. This was a thing I did because other people (predominantly my employers’ customers, and their business-owner friends) kept coming to me. Refusing to help would be impolite, but SMBs in my city are usually barely making payroll, let alone have the money to do literally anything by the book. So I didn’t charge them much, and I didn’t use expensive commercial software. It was what it was.

Spiceworks made it clear, way back in the day, that despite asking repeatedly, they had zero interest in actually developing the product into anything useful for people like me. I lost interest. I might have stayed for community goodness, but it’s relevant that it was the omnipresent drama llama bullhockey that drove me away.

First off, I got real sick in a right hurry of the cloud of canoe hats that would descend any time you lay out the specific restrictions you had to work with. Yes, everyone is away that isn’t the textbook whitepaper way to do something. There isn’t money to do it via whitepaper, which products and approaches get this company to “functional” with the resources to hand? This was once a community to ask those sorts of questions, but not by the time I left. By the time I left, asking those questions here would get you attacked. So I left.

Shortly thereafter (some period of months, I think, it’s a while back), they drive out Nic, and then this Mango Lassi hullabaloo went on. I didn’t get chapter and verse on what went down with that until a couple of days ago, but I knew that it was loud, pointless, and irritating. I looked into Mango Lassi, and decided it was just more of the same, and avoided them too.

But because I had written about Spiceworks, and because I had recommended it, people still associate me with it. Years later. Two entire careers later. I became a writer. I wrote commercial content for a living. I did some tech journalism stuff.

I stopped being a full-time systems administrator years ago, left the employer with all the tiny little clients, and eventually, over time, managed to shed most of those clients. It took effort to excise myself, and I still take their calls when some crisis hits. I was raised to believe that if you can help, you must help. Anything else makes you a monster. It’s a useful worldview if you need to look at yourself in the mirror, not so useful for making money, but I digress.

After becoming a writer full time, I would still occasionally get asked about Spiceworks by companies interested in acting as green guys. My advice was usually “don’t”, because there is a near zero chance that any new vendor will come out of an encounter with the cultists smelling like roses. If you aren’t already in the cult, and you aren’t willing to bare your neck rather a lot to find your place in the byzantine social hierarchy, you’re going to have a bad time of it. It just wasn’t successfully delivering the classic lead generation that most of these startups were seeking, and one wrong statement could cost you anything. The community had become far more insular than back in my day.

But the desire for a Spiceworks-type community still existed, and still exists. My current employer calls them “data center watering holes”. Places on the internet where nerds – preferably enterprise IT decision makers – gather. Thing is, what vendors want – the Facebook of IT into which they can advertise and get lots of juicy leads – and what IT practitioners want – summed up in yesterday’s disconcertingly accurate SMBC – are at odds. But, I digress again.

The point here is that, a few months back, the chatter started to rise above “Trevor, I say these posts by you on Spiceworks…” and started to become very “so I just heard”/”I was just told”. Now by this point, not only was I not a full time sysadmin, but I wasn’t doing much in the way of tech journalism either. My full time had become doing straight up commercial marketing content for vendors. Blogs, whitepapers, what-have-you. Eventually, I took a position as a full time marketing droid for a vendor. I’m not just out, I’m two careers out.

But people kept asking, and are still asking, and I really want them to stop. Yes, I feel an obligation to those I introduced to Spiceworks (the application) oh, so many years ago. And I do honestly want be as helpful to everyone ask I can, answering any and every question I can as honestly as I can.

But this isn’t my world, and it hasn’t been for years and years. I don’t particularly feel like going down the rabbit hole of investigation enough to re-connect with sources, get out the serial-killer tackboard and string, and start separating lies from truth on this. I don’t care. I actively do not want to be involved.

Still, I needed a place to dump the cacophony of questions I am getting. Ask the question here, in public, on Spiceworks’ own turf, and the people asking questions can read into their response/reaction/what-have-you whatever they want. The people asking can see they aren’t the only ones asking, and they have all the information I have, except the names of my sources.

Now, if that is “stirring the pot”, you’re so deep into this cult that simply asking about the state of the cult is the equivalent of a personal attack. That’s a bad place to be. Nobody’s position in any online community ever lasts forever, and if you’ve invested that much of your sense of self into this, when your time comes, it’s going to suck for you. I say this not out of malice, but charity. I’ve been there. A few times. Don’t associate your sense of self with a clique, or a vendor, or an online community. You are more than the entirely temporary social associations that form online.

And if you honestly believe – or even still have some bizarre glimmer of suspicion, after all of the above, that I harbour some dark, secret anti-Spiceworks agenda, then you may be too far gone to save. Spiceworks just doesn’t matter that much. Whether it thrives or dies simply isn’t worth some Machiavellian, Q-anon-class, bullshit infowars “deep state” conspiracy. What am I, subliminally summoning the lizard people with my oogly boogly word choice, and my absolutely spectacular punctuation? Being honest in one obscure thread is an evil attempt to throw shade that will some how drive away the remaining money sacks, triggering the cultpocalypse?

Jibbers Crabst, get over yourselves.

If this place dies, it will die because of you*. It will be because the toxic nature of the community drove away the valuable eyeballs, and that takes way more than any one thread.

If Spiceworks falls over, it will be because the IT decision makers for enterprises (and especially service providers) refuse to hang out here, and that is 100% down to the culture of the community. And that’s sad. Not because I have any remaining emotional investment in the community, but because now I’m in marketing, and boy howdy would it be useful for there to be one community full of juicy, valuable eyeballs to target. Hunting the wild ITDM by visiting every tiny data center watering hole on the desert of the internet is exhausting, because there are now so bloody many of them, and they’re all so small.

In any case, I’ve done my duty. I can now point anyone who asks me anything about Spiceworks right at this thread, and wash my hands of it forever. That was the goal from the outset…and the posts in this thread have absolutely cemented my decision all those years ago to pull the rip cord.

Enjoy your cloister. Make sure you mix your own drinks.


* I realize after the fact that I should probably have specified here that “you” refers not to the individual to whom I was replying, but to a more collective “you”, which encompasses the die-hard Spiceworks community types in general.

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