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Watch the Professionals

I can’t really remember a time when I wasn’t fascinated with diving. As a child, I lived for the James Bond movies featuring big underwater battles between divers, I threw tantrums when I wasn’t allowed to stay up past my bedtime to watch Jacques Cousteau’s TV specials, and I almost drowned myself at one point testing a homemade, three foot long snorkel. And so when I was 12, the earliest age kids were allowed to dive at the time, my very kind and patient parents took me to get certified.

After a few years when it was clear that my enthusiasm hadn’t worn off, we – my father went through the course with me – began buying our own gear. First because it’s more economical, over time, than renting. Second, because the rental gear’s often a bit the worse for wear. For Christmas or my birth one year, then, we arrived at the dive store to get me a BCD. Against the advice of the guys we knew from the dive shop, I chose a fancy looking model – a Tusa, I think.

During the years I used it, it wasn’t a bad piece of gear, but it wasn’t great either. It was a pain in the ass to clean, the bladders sometimes stuck on one side, and it wore out quicker than expected. As they had told me it would.

Over those same years, I had the opportunity to dive in a lot of interesting places, from Key West to Cayman Brac to Bonaire to plain old Rockport, MA. One of the things I noticed was that most of the professionals, pretty much to a person, used the same BCD: workman-like, beat up Scubapro designs. Ugly, even industrial-looking, but functional. Day after day, dive after dive.

Which begged the question that so many ask themselves in so many industries: what did I know about diving that the professionals did not?

Exactly. My next BCD, which I still own today, was a Scubapro.

I relate this story here because I told it to REvolution Computing’s David Smith last week to explain our interest in the R language. At RedMonk, our mission is to learn from, and advocate for, the professionals. And for us, the professionals are the practitioners rather than the purchasers. The developers, the architects, the DBAs, the operators, even the statisticians. Whether they get paid for the jobs or not. When we began looking around at analytics, then, we became interested in R because the professionals – people like Nathan Yau – were using R.

The moral of the story is not that one should blindly use professionals’ tools; that can be just as bad as ignoring them. You don’t need to use Google or Facebook’s infrastructure to run your personal blog, just as developers shouldn’t employ the GPL simply because it’s the same license Linux or MySQL uses. But if you want a no-bullshit take on which technologies actually deliver, you could do a lot worse than watching what the professionals use.

It’s what we do.

Categories: Analytics.

  • http://thesalmonfarm.org Glen

    good analogy and good point (and under 3000 characters) :-)

  • http://www.frenchguys.com Erik Dasque

    I hope the water is getting warmer in Maine, cause I am taking you and your fancy scubapro BCD diving. Yeah, I called it fancy. Professionals use a harness/BP/W

    http://www.thinkingdiver.com/backplate-harness-wing-recreational-divers

    Nonetheless a great article and a fun read for me.

  • http://www.ygolana.com Peter

    Great analogy! I really like it!
    Recently I started posting interestnig analogies I found on the web on blog.ygolana.com. I thought it could be a good idea to create a place where people can share useful analogies such as yours.