IT is one of the most geographically dispersed professions, as well as being one of the fields with the most varying levels of technical specialization. There are deep, deep specialists like Tim Draegen who helped write the DMARC specification, RFC 7489. Others like Rich Trouton know MacOS better than anyone I’ve ever known, and was awesome enough to join atSpoke on a panel at the MacAdmins Conference 2019 at Penn State (video here). You won’t find a JAMF instance that isn’t running at least one of Rich’s scripts off of his amazingly useful public Github. Then there are equally competent generalists like Ryan Bacon who explained his role in a great episode of the IT Kit podcast here. So this brings us to the question: what sort of online communities does the IT field collaborate with and learn from? I may miss some, but here’s mine (in no particular order):
These range in quality, relevancy, and many other factors.
A very old-school site/community with the tagline “News for nerds, stuff that matters”. The term “Slashdotted” goes back to the days when a link was posted to Slashdot, and since it was either hosted on a dial-up line in someone’s basement or on cheap shared hosting, the traffic from being posted on Slashdot would take the site down within seconds. It follows the IT industry as a whole with a focus on Linux and Open Source, Legal/Ethic issues, and new products, and tends to be both accurate and snarky.
Hacker News is sponsored by YCombinator in a similar way to how IT Kit is being sponsored by atSpoke. Hacker News (often shortened to HN) focuses on the startup community, and the associated tooling and open source projects that drive technology forward. Archive.org only has them going back to February 2007, so HN missed the Web 1.0 Bubble but has solidly been covering Web 2.0 and whatever we’re stalling the state these days! There is an amazing comments section that was once described to be “like Reddit [but] about ⅔ more civilized”. I’m mostly inclined to agree. Co-founders meet on HN, the most difficult coding programs get discussed, and it’s generally a good community. While it focuses more of dev, ops, tooling, and security, I still consider it a good read for any IT professional.
Their tagline is “Biting the hand that feeds IT”, and The Register (shorted to el reg) often does that. I picked up my own love for the site and comprehension of the lingo during a 6-month IT stint in London. If you’re American, Canadian, or a non-english speaker, some of the humor may go right over your head!
El ref is very good at naming and shaming companies for vulnerabilities, unfixed bugs, and malicious prosecution of white-hat security experts. The comment section sounds like the back of the pub, somewhere in the north of England, next to the Ms. PacMan machine, after a few UNIX admins had a few too many pints. It’s mostly accurate but snarky and sometimes involves the telling of implausible tech stories. El reg does any amazing job covered the Data Centre (note the extra “e”!), SAN, SDN, Security/Infosec and Devops.
Macadmins.org is an enormous Slack team/community of IT professionals that leans towards the Apple world, but also has channels for Windows, GSuite, Okta, and almost any other common IT product. It started many years ago as an IRC channel and moved to Slack a few years back. As of today there are almost 29,000 members, with easily a few thousand active every day. Many Macadmins attend the independent MacAdmins Conference at Penn State (this year there were about 600 attendees) and atSpoke was there, where we moderated a panel on the best practices and challenges of managing Slack. I find Macadmins to be my personal favorite resource and the first place I go when I’m lost on any IT issue- Apple or otherwise.
Windows Admins has recently moved over from Slack to Discord. While much smaller than Macadmins (about 1000 members) there are some true experts online everyday focusing on the complex Microsoft products such as WSUS and SCCM. If you’re looking for a Powershell script to solve all of your issues, this is your place!
Being IT, of course there is a subreddit community! The topics cover the gamut, from Microsoft’s regular patch cycle, to confessions of our silliest mistakes, to rants about bosses, end users and co-workers. It follows a similar tone to the rest of reddit- snarky, anonymous, but surprisingly useful and packed with tips and tricks you never would have thought of yourself! For example, today there’s a reminder to check your SPF Records (this is so important for anti-spam and email deliverability) and a useful thread about what the most recent Windows patches break and how to fix them. Who knew reddit could be useful for work?
Bettercloud runs a 3000 person Slack instance that works similarly to Macadmins. It’s more focused on users of BetterCloud and GSuite, but there are also useful channels for Atlassian, Office 365, Salesforce, and the like. It may not be as active, but it’s still a useful resource. Bettercloud does a good job of making it very non-commercial, and really only as a useful support channel for their own product.