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12/16/2005
06:55 PM
John Soat
John Soat
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IT Confidential: Honesty, Integrity, And King Kong's Relevance

The Gallup organization recently released its annual survey, "Honesty And Ethical Ratings Of People In Different Positions," which asked respondents to rate 21 job categories for honesty and ethical behavior. Finishing first, much to my chagrin, was nursing--and for the fourth year in a row. My wife is a nurse, and now I'll never hear the end of it. All I can say is, she must have some kind of "honesty and ethical behavior" button that's switched on at work and switched off once she leaves, because at home she is every bit as selfish, manipulative, and duplicitous as I am (don't tell her I said that). As for journalists, we scored midpack, at No. 10, which I consider a moral victory, given that we usually score lower, much lower, in most public-opinion polls, down around used-car salesmen (who get a bum rap, if you ask me), who scored second from the bottom of this year's list, beating out only telemarketers. You make your own bed, I guess.

What about the IT industry? Unfortunately, there was no such job category listed this year. Businesspeople in general score low in most public-opinion polls (think Michael Douglas' character Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street), and they certainly haven't done themselves any favors in recent years. What I've always found strange about this popular distrust of corporate power is that if you ask anyone about the honesty and integrity of the businesspeople they know personally, they almost always answer very positively. Go figure.

The IT industry has had its share of low moments. Earlier this year, AMD sued Intel over what it characterizes as monopolistic practices, including manipulation and intimidation, charges Intel denies. This year also saw the publication of The Real Story Of Informix Software And Phil White (Sand Hill Publishing). Phil, if you remember, did some hard time for his financial shenanigans.

But I have to hand it to most IT vendors: They seem to have cleaned up their acts considerably. For example, John Swainson is making a heroic effort to change Computer Associates, now known as CA. Ditto for Microsoft and the security problems with Windows. In fact, Microsoft seems to have shed a great deal of its 800-pound-gorilla image and made friends again with a lot of the IT industry. Maybe some genuine competition from Google has made the boys of Redmond more aware of their need to network in good faith. Oracle's acquisition strategy is being looked at with trepidation, but not its sales or support tactics. And those Google guys seem sincere, if a bit clumsy, in living up to their "do no evil" maxim.

Speaking of 800-pound gorillas, I saw the new King Kong movie, and it's not a bad metaphor for the state of IT--and not only because it took an IT department to help pull it off (the IT department is cited in the credits at the end--look for it). King Kong is unoriginal and formulaic, and while there's considerable emphasis on flash and technical wizardry, there's very little in terms of true innovation. Hey, I loved the movie, but it didn't bring a whole lot new to the table. Let's hope 2006 offers up more innovative fare, both in movies and IT.

"It wasn't the airplanes--it was beauty killed the beast." Story of my life. Shoot me an industry tip before I fall on my face, to jsoat@cmp.com, or phone 516-562-5326.

If it's flash, technology savvy, or a big hairy ape you're looking for, watch The News Show at noon ET every weekday.


To discuss this column with other readers, please visit John Soat's forum on the Listening Post.

To find out more about John Soat, please visit his page on the Listening Post.

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