I’ve heard it said that opinions are like belly buttons: everyone has one. I’m not sure that’s true. Allow me to elaborate over the course of this blog.
I have a CWNE friend….we’ll call him Ben for the sake of this blog. Ben and I don’t agree on much. We both have lots of training and experience in WiFi, but our perspectives on various topics differ. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t disagree on everything. There are some topics where we passionately agree. Ben can hold his own in an argument, let me tell you. Sometimes he’s flat wrong (my opinion, not his…obviously), but he’s not backing down until he sees the proof. That doesn’t make him an asshole, but rather skeptical and opinionated. While some people would like to smack him, I have a healthy amount of respect for him. It’s my opinion that having an opinion means that at least you’ve tried to do your homework. As I was told once in an executive staff meeting, “We expect completed staff work.” I try to dig deeply into a technical topic before running off at the mouth, though I know I sometimes fail. Forgive me for being human. Being wrong is a part of life, but at least I try….at least I have done enough homework (lab work, field work, study, asking, etc.) to have formed an opinion.
If you don’t have an opinion, then you shouldn’t nay-say anyone else’s. It’s like voting…if you don’t vote, then you can’t legitimately gripe about who wins the election. If you don’t like my opinion, don’t gripe to someone else about it, but rather come to me and ask me why I have such an opinion. Maybe you’ll learn something. Maybe you’ll teach me something. Maybe we’ll have a good discussion and innocent bystanders will learn something. What won’t happen is that I won’t berate your opinion. I have one, and you have one. If we disagree, maybe it’s a mismatch in our experience or that one or both of us is missing an important piece of information….who knows. If you have an opinion, I can respect that. What I can’t respect is personal attacks. This is technology, and while many of us are quite passionate about it, that passion shouldn’t spill over into attacking people or their opinion. Discussions, yes. Attacks, no. People are more important than WiFi.
True, False, and It Depends
Some things are true. Some things are wrong. Some things are flexible (e.g. “It Depends”). WiFi design is half science, half art. There is no wrong art, but there certainly is wrong science. While WiFi design isn’t always intuitive, there are some de facto standards we follow in most cases. If you’re one of those people who take the saying “there’s an exception to every rule” to be gospel, then you’re an absolutist…it’s just that you’re absolutely middle-of-the-road and afraid to be wrong. You’re just at the opposite end of the spectrum from me, and many others. I’m not afraid to be wrong at all…and in fact, that tends to be how I learn best. One of the best debates of recent times was between Chuck Lukaszewski and me. I was wrong. I learned…bigtime. Respected engineers dog-piled that conversation in a hurry. It was awesome for everyone. It changed how we teach CCI. Everyone won. There have been lots of others, where I’ve been right and wrong, and each time, it was a big win. Personal attacks, whether direct or passively, would’ve prevented the benefits of such disagreements.
I believe that there should be some truths that we hold dear (e.g. move to 5GHz as fast as we can, CCI is to be avoided to the extent possible, clients are the bulk of the problem, etc.), and then of course there’s some variance in some areas (e.g. If RRM works for you, then use it, and if you don’t want to disable your lower data rates, then don’t).
In the recent discussions of “absolutism”, a concept has been glossed over. There are three kinds of WiFi networks: 1) Crap, 2) So-So, and 3) High Performance. There’s a significant difference between these three….not 1% like some would have you believe. As a network owner/operator, you must choose (even if it’s through not making a choice) which of these three you want to have. It’s my opinion that most people have #1 and #2, but that’s based on my experience over nearly 20 years in WiFi. There are a few folks out there that have #3, but likely much less than you’d think. Most people are fine with having a so-so network, and if that’s you…hey, OK. I would define a so-so network as one where most clients connect most of the time, and performance is mediocre at best. If you want better, better is available. To have better, you either get to do some reading/studying or hire someone to help you.
Is 2.4GHz “dead”? No. That said, like Andrew Von Nagy once said, “It’s on life support.” Every vendor, including Cisco and Apple will tell you that mission critical WiFi networks shouldn’t be implemented on 2.4GHz, and I don’t have to go into the 10+ reasons why in this blog for you to get the point. If you want to say, “He’s wrong, he’s wrong!” because I used a pointed word like “dead” rather than some soft, middle-of-the-road, meaningless word like “busy”, then so be it. Holler all you want. If you think that I honestly don’t know that you can still use 2.4GHz to move data, then perhaps you think I’m a blithering moron. Who’s the extremist now? If you think this of me, please do not attend my classes nor hire me as a consultant. I’m not your guy.
I take on the tough/controversial topics (e.g. the future of 2.4GHz, RRM’s obvious failure in many situations, and soon why AP-on-a-Stick is obsolete) because I think people need to be able to make educated decisions, having all of the information…not just a bunch of vendor marketing. If people want to do the homework for themselves, including reading through all of the vendor docs, with all of their marketing spew, looking for the truth of the matter, then they absolutely should. If you want to listen to my opinion, then I’m OK with that. I will do my absolute best to give you good info. If you think it’s wrong, then do your own homework. Read the documents. Do the designs, deployments, validations, and optimizations yourself. Do the lab testing yourself. And by all means, share your opinions. Perhaps I can learn something from you, and I’m all about learning something new.
A Valuable Lesson
When I was 38 years old (8 years ago for those who are curious), God spoke to me very clearly about something. He said, “You listen to this pastor and that teacher, and then whine and gripe to me about how you disagree on some topics, but you don’t take enough time to read My Word for yourself. If you want to complain, then do so after you’ve studied the topic for yourself. Teachers are not responsible for your accurate understanding of My Word — you are.” So, I offer the audience of this blog the same advice.
Are They All Wrong?
If I say that I don’t like RRM, and I then take substantial time to vet out and explain many reasons why, and then you whine and gripe but aren’t willing to offer accurate/decent counterpoints, why should I (or anyone) care what you think? If you present something I can learn from, I’m all ears…and that doesn’t include vendor marketing spew. Have you considered that a ton of folks agree with me? Are they ALL wrong? If you really think that, I’d tell you that you’re entitled to your opinion. Have I considered that a ton of folks might agree with you? YES. There are many topics (RRM and others) where situations matter, vendor hardware/software quality matters, and the variable set is so great that there is no one right answer. I have an opinion, and I think it’s unreasonable to fault me if I call bullshit on the marketing garbage and spell out what folks should actually consider and how to validate RRM. If you love RRM, or 2.4GHz, or captive web portals for that matter, then implement them until your heart is content. I don’t care.
You know, it’s a little like the election this year. Whether you’re a GOP or Demo, we’re all in the same boat. Each party is screaming “tastes great, less filling” at the tops of their collective lungs. Donald is insane, but Ted is a liar. Hillary is a liar and a cheat, but Bernie is a Socialist. Have you considered that all of those millions of people supporting the candidate you so oppose might be right about a few things? I’m a Republican to the bone, AND YET, I was duly impressed with Bernie’s latest speech. I found myself saying, “he’s not half bad.” I don’t agree with his beliefs, but I do agree with a lot he thinks about how society should function. What I’m saying is that if you disagree with someone’s opinion, start out by giving them the benefit of the doubt. Ask questions. Dig into it yourself before you start screaming “idiot.”
The Baby with the Bathwater
Some people love to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Whether they say that you should never use DFS channels (because an AP’s channel could change) or they say that Devin said something they don’t agree with and then decide he’s an idiot who knows nothing about WiFi. That is absolutism. That is extremism. That is ridiculous. Having an opinion doesn’t mean that you’re an extremist, a techno-terrorist, or even wrong.
Perhaps…just perhaps…it might be a good idea to ASK QUESTIONS before forming such an opinion. If I give a presentation on a topic, you can rest assured that I’ve thought about that topic in excruciating detail and spent a significant amount of hands-on time seeing what is real and what isn’t. Does that mean that I know everything about that topic? No. Can I still learn from you if you have different experience? Yes. That said, I promise you that I will disregard you as soon as you start with attacks. I work a lot. I study a lot. I write and teach a lot. I don’t see my family enough, and never get to have hobbies. There’s a 0% chance that I’ll spend time listening to you attack me.
Every Possible Exception
Listing every possible exception to everything you say (obviously so that nobody can say that you’re wrong about anything), to me, makes you sound like a wishy-washy, people-pleasing, uneducated suck-up who’s in love with mediocrity. That’s my opinion, and it’s not meant as a personal attack on anyone. Sure there are exceptions to lots of things, and it’s fine to discuss such exceptions (and differences of opinion), but it doesn’t mean that opinions are bad, extremist, or any such thing. If you’re offended by my opinion, then I encourage you to consider why and to share your opinion without any personal attacks.
I can respect someone who either asks or asserts, but not someone who wants to gain the spotlight through attacking someone else. That’s cowardly. I also have a problem with someone who wants to attack your opinion, but they can only offer their vendor’s opinion in return…not their own. If your employer won’t let you express your own opinion, and you want to say something to me, then do it privately. I can respect that. Everyone has to eat, and I cannot expect them to offend their employer.
Do your homework and share with others. It’s OK to be wrong. It’s OK to have missed something. It’s OK to collaborate, debate, and even to argue. But…let’s keep it classy folks. We have built an amazing community in the WiFi space, and let’s not ruin it through mediocrity, whining, back-biting, or any other such non-sense. Opinions are good and lead to learning.