Going for the gold

Recently, in the fine online publication from the UK called Need-To-Know (www.ntk.net), I found the most wonderful video (see www.ntk.net/ballmer/dancemonkeyboy.mpg). It was of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer dancing around on a stage hollering, "Give it up for me" and "I love this company", demonstrating that he's not quite ready for events like the "Escape from Alcatraz" Triathlon just held in San Francisco (www.bayinsider.com/partners/alcatraz/).

To compete in such an event requires grit and gumption, and my excuse is that if it wasn't for my knee operation, I'd be right there alongside my brother-inlaw Quinn, who was crazy (and fit) enough to participate.

Yep, to be a contender you have to be committed, focused and determined. That doesn't stop you from being realistic about winning or - given the competition - not winning, but you have to be in there to do more than try.

In the network and computer industries we aim to compete seriously and, given the hours many of us work, the concept of marathon performance is not absent from our world. Thus, I would like to offer a plan for an IT Olympics that will test the mettle of the best our industries have to offer:

Event 1: Long-distance customer service. Contestants will line up on the starting grid with telephones with faulty headsets and attempt to diagnose problems presented by end users, most of whom have no understanding of the subject at hand and speak something that sounds like normal language but with a restricted vocabulary.

This event lasts for eight hours a day, five days a week, and the last competitor to attempt to take his life will be declared the winner.

Note: after this event, psychiatric help will be made available to all finalists.

Event 2: Budget balancing. Contestants will attempt to create a budget for staffing a programming, support or other technical department, buying software and hardware and then run the whole mess for less money than the sales department spends on one of their bogus sales meetings at some exotic hotel where they all manage to eat to excess, get hideously drunk, smoke too many cigars and play golf while the rest of the company is covering for their sorry asses.

Event 3: Disappearing Web sites. In this event, contestants will attempt to figure out how and why Fidelity.com disappears from view when the CEO wants to access it, while sites such as eBay never go away.

And they'll do this while dealing with enraged users like the narky guy in shipping who is complaining about not being able to reach Fedex.com, but who is really complaining because he can't access his league site.

Event 4: Hitting the moving target. Armed only with the chicken scratches drawn on a restaurant napkin by the CEO and vice president of marketing, contestants have to implement a major strategic network development such that any random request up to and including a complete redesign can be accommodated within 48 hours. Contestants who attempt to assault members of their senior management will be disqualified.

Event 5: Synchronised installation. Teams are tasked with installing an entire departmental network over a weekend armed only with a screwdriver, an endless supply of pizza and soft drinks, and only the vaguest site plan.

You will agree that these are fine and worthy events for us sturdy IT professionals. My only concern is now getting Ballmer in shape.

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