Monday, May 14, 2012


NIH is Now Intrinsically Harmful

So you see the acronym NIH. Whadaya think?
For most in the US, it's the "National Institutes of Health".
Try again. This NIH is not a health organization.
It's a disease. NIH == "Not Invented Here". It's a syndrome.

Most of us suffer from NIH, some worse than others.
In other words, I am just as guilty as anyone else. 
Lately, NIH has been on my personal radar because I have been on the observing end.  (Sometimes even a victim of its effects; that is, "on the receiving end", so to speak.) What happens is that you, or someone you know, reject an idea or a proposal or a device because you did not think it up. If it wasn't "invented here", it must be rejected, or so it goes when you are an NIH sufferer.

I thought about perhaps cooking up a piece of satire describing NIH even more clearly as an illness. Thought about equating NIH with tobacco addition or electrolyte imbalance. But it's just not that funny to me ... at least not at the moment.

This can happen with your boss, your team mates, even your family.
You have an idea or you do something or make someone and one of the others disses it: "Why would you/we want to do that??". 
  In my niche of the software industry, NIH is a real problem because our nitchy base environment (CMS on z/VM) is so very different from other environments. NIH hits when one suggests creating new programs for CMS that follow Unix semantics. It works, but a lot of VMers don't like it. Why? "Too much like Unix." or maybe "Doesn't work like traditional CMS.". [insert expected clip from "Fiddler on the Roof" soundtrack here] (I will not enumerate my would-be contributions because it's really not about me.) A computing community that at one time (more than most!) embraced new and different ways of doing things now refuses to embrace new and different inventions. Weird. Sad!

Personally, I make a lot of non-traditional suggestions because interoperability is a form of self-preservation. To clarify, some of the ideas that come to my own mind are those which (hopefully) foster connecting with different systems than our spiffy environment. Might lead to greater control of our own destiny, and who would not want that? If we do things similar to how other systems do them (at the human interface level) then we are less foreign to the other systems. But the benefits are not always clear. [sigh] I can only hope that some of my friends will get active, start coding again, and get our little niche reconnected.

NIH reached a new peak today. Several of us have been collaborating on a big project. I instantiated a couple of collab tools (using free services from one of the big public providers). One old friend took the shared tool I had established (I did not write the supporting code) and cooked up his own. oy vey   And I had gone out of my way to make the other easy for him to use, gave him full control over it. But it wasn't enough. He just had to re-do the thing. It was "not invented here" (at his site).

-- R;