Wednesday, September 18, 2013

10 Questions: with Rod Trent

Rod Trent

Introduction

Most IT professionals who work within environments that involve Microsoft products, especially Windows Server and infrastructure-oriented products, keep a (very) short list of web sites on their the tip of their pointy heads for personal projects, or when the wheels come off of the wagon at work.  Among the short lists around this planet we call "Earth" there are probably three or four sites that are common to all of them, and one of those is most certainly MyITforum.

Not only was this one of the first Windows IT community-focused sites, it has consistently remained prominent and relevant ever since.  If you know the web site, then you know the name: Rod Trent.  Rod has a unique way of putting the "word out" on breaking news, trends and events in such a way as to make it feel personal, while not painting it over with a lot of spin or subjectivity.  This makes him a rarity in the IT news and knowledge-sharing world, as it maintains the trust of his followers, whether they tag along on the site itself, or Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+ (probably others I've overlooked as well).  In any case, I present you with 10 questions asked of Rod Trent - Enjoy!

The Questions

Dave: Over the past ten years in particular, it seems like so many IT related web sites have come and gone, yet MyITforum has not only remained, but has maintained it's role in the forefront of the minds of IT professionals.  What would you attribute that to?

Rod: Attributed solely to the community. Truly, people just want a place they can go to get good information to help them in their professional life. It feels good to go somewhere online where you know you can get an answer in a couple minutes instead of hanging on the phone with a vendor for a couple hours, only to hear them say they'll try to replicate the issue and get back to you. myITforum is just full of kind people who don't mind sharing expertise and knowledge.  Many web sites you go to, newbies will be turned off right away by those old-timers who would rather tell people to read the manual than give a helping hand.  myITforum is unique in that there are no stupid, or newbie, questions, and no matter how many times a question is asked, it will always get a useful answer.

A lot of it has to do with how myITforum started. myITforum filled a definite need and was extremely innovative, starting in 1998. We were just coming off the BBS days, and the web was sort of new. Community hadn't made its way to the Internet yet, so we were trailblazers somewhat. We had the luxury of coming on early, which meant we could screw up a bunch until we found the perfect recipe for community. Other web sites, are just that – sites. They aren't community. And, really I wish there was another word that could be used in place of "community" because everyone and their brother, mother, sister, and uncle try to apply it in scenarios where it doesn't fit.  Someone throws up a web site and immediately says "hey, here's our new community, come and join us!"  Community doesn't work that way. Community is built by the people who then decide where they want to congregate.

myITforum is unique in the fact that it was built offline – built by the people – and then an actual web site property was put in place afterward because the people wanted a central location to connect.

Dave: When did you first step into the world of computer technology?  What year?  How old were you and what was the scenario that pulled you in?

Rod: Wow... that's sort of hard to remember since it was so long ago, but I'll give it a shot. Actually, my first computer technology "career" was in computer sales, working for a local, multi-site, computer store. We sold directly to businesses. Yes, I was a salesman. Not a very good one, but it gave me the opportunity to hang around computers all day long. After that, I worked for a local computer rental business which taught me a lot about the computer innards since we built our own computers. And, then I finally progressed to managing a local service center after obtaining a bunch of hardware certifications from Epson, IBM, and HP and networking with Novell.

I had worked with computers prior to my "start", but I guess it all really started with that one sales job.  I was 24 and newly married when I took that job.

Dave: Looking back five years ago, putting yourself into the mindset you had then, what aspects of information technology do you see today that you wouldn't have expected then?

Rod: That's a tough one. I think the best way to answer this, is with a non-answer.  Technology has always excited me. I'm always the first person to latch onto new concepts, new gadgets, and new directions.  What has surprised me the most is actually the lack of technology we have today, or at least, the lack of concepts I expected to be available already.

I grew up a huge Star Trek fan and watching the cool science on the show, I fully expected that we'd have all of those things by now. We don't.  We have a few things that sort of look like what was proposed on the SciFi series, but really we're not even close.  I keep anticipating the next big thing and am a bit forlorn when it shows up and it's only half (or less) of what I imagined.

Dave: Looking ahead five or ten years from today, where do you think computer technology and information technology will go, just in general (specifics are always welcome too)?

Rod: I fully believe we are on the cusp of something monumental in the industry where computing becomes second nature to everyone. IT will become service providers, not engineers and problem solvers like they are today. IT Pros were never really intended for the functions they provide today, but our lack of computability heaped massive tasks on them. If you think about it, really IT Pros today are nothing more than glorified secretaries, except they handle technical bits and stay on call 24x7 instead of faxing and swabbing whiteout.

Computing will become much easier, so that anyone can perform any function they can think up – on any device. The backend will be provided much like a utility company serves sewage and electricity, complete with a monthly subscription fee.

IT Pros will need to evolve and adapt to technology concepts that are just now emerging.

Dave: You obviously get to see a lot of emerging trends and observe how they play out in the markets.  Of all the various fields of technology, which areas do you feel could use the most work when it comes to establishing true "standards"?

Rod: True standards. Is that even real?

From a standards standpoint, I guess what I am looking for is a way to interoperate across all devices. Computing is now about being completely mobile, being able to pick up any device anywhere, and have content and information synched so that my experience is the same everywhere. Each specific vendor has done a great job within their own ecosystem, but they rarely offer the same functionality outside their own ecosystem.  A true standard would mean that the experience would sync across any device no matter if it came from Microsoft, Apple, Google, or another vendor.

Dave: You currently describe yourself, professionally at least, as a "social media marketer".  Can you explain what that means, as if speaking to a crowd of non-technical senior citizens? :)

Rod: Social Media Marketer is a term that has come about through evolution. At its base, it's about community and understanding how to talk to people, which is one of my God-given strengths. But, everyone has to make money, so I've learned over time how to take my strengths and use them to provide marketing over social media.

Dave: What piece of swag from a past tech conference do you cherish most?

Rod: Whew...it's been a long, long, many years of conferences for me. I haven't attended a conference that I didn't either work at or have some part in since 1998. So, I've seen and owned a lot of SWAG. Just recently I went through my office drawers and finally threw out all the SWAG from the past years. If it was memorable, I'd photograph it but still toss it.  That was a lot of work.

There have been many conference bags I've kept and some I've carried for years, but, my favorite SWAG, probably, is my very first speaker shirt (which I still have – and can still wear!). It is from the 1999 SMS Users Conference (what MMS was called before Microsoft acquired the event). It's nothing special, just a standard collared knit shirt with the conference logo on it, but it marks my first public speaking gig.

Dave: Do you feel that the general perception of technological innovation coming from the United States will remain as such in the next decade?

Rod: I really don't see that changing, to tell you the truth. There's too many strong brands in the US still with Microsoft, Google, Apple, HP, and others. Lenovo seems to be the only bright spot outside of the US. Lenovo is innovating and have produced solid business despite the continued downturn in PC sales.

I'm really excited to see what comes from Dell now that they have voted to go private. Attending DellWorld the past couple years, I've heard some great vision stories, but that vision has been put on hold due to all the problems. I expect to see some great things come out of Round Rock, TX.

Dave: Are there any particular companies or technologies that you feel are woefully under-appreciated or undervalued today?

Rod: That's a tough question. In today's industry, there's a lot emerging technologies and solutions that could probably fit in the under-appreciated or undervalued categories. It's just too hard to tell right now how things will shake-out in the next 5 years. So, I can't name any specific company or technology, but really more of a vision of technology.

Someone needs to come the fore providing a centralized and consistent dashboard for managing Cloud data and services. There's a lot of Cloud providers out there, and no two are the same in functionality and price. In the near future, providers will have to start to specialize to compete with the likes of AWS and Windows Azure, providing a single service that's full-featured and affordable. As that happens, data will be spread out across the web and it'll be hard to determine which provider is actually servicing it, making it unmanageable.

Dave: If you could describe the perfect Sunday morning for you, what would it be?

Rod: Ahhh...Sunday morning. Getting up a couple hours earlier than everyone else in the house. Sitting down with a cup of coffee, my Windows tablet, and a good movie for noise.

Conclusion

Thank you for taking the time to read this, I really appreciate it.  I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.  To explore more things Rod is doing, follow the links below.

Links

Some places you can always find me:

myITforum: http://www.myITforum.com
Windows IT Pro: http://windowsITPro.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/rodtrent

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