Sunday, 1 January 2012

on contribution paralysis

A small diversion...

I figured I should start by addressing something that Harlan pointed out in this continuing recent twitter discussion regarding “contributing to the community” (stemming from the two posts I mentioned in my last post, along with this new one). He hit the nail on the head with the characterization of the attitude that some of us have towards contributing (namely, being afraid to speak up), describing it as, “paralysis.”

However painful to admit, I have a problem with paralysis, beyond just the fear of looking stupid on the internet before the whole world. I realized that it is something I fight every day in everything I do, whether it is learning something new, meeting new people, snowboarding on a new scary run, or trying out a new recipe when I'm cooking for others. It may be paralyzing fear at first, but it is fighting and overcoming that fear that has brought me satisfying growth in both career and personal endeavors. Like my friend told me (jokingly) when I first started snowboarding - “If you never fall, you're not pushing yourself hard enough.” But I think there's some truth to that - if you are constantly afraid of failing, you're probably not pushing your limits and learning (which reminds me of this recent article).

Part of being able to conquer this fear is having confidence – and the rewarding successes we enjoy after having defeated one of these little obstacles helps to build that confidence. I have been slowly gaining confidence in my own abilities and overcoming the fear of speaking up...I still have a long way to go, but I certainly would never have made it this far this quickly if it weren't for the continuing support and encouragement (however blunt sometimes ;) ) of the active members of the DFIR community.

When I first learned to snowboard, all my friends were already expert skiers and snowboarders. They goaded me into joining them in the back bowls and expert runs, even though I couldn't keep up with them and was scared to death most of the time. But having a constant push of someone more experienced than you can be a great motivation, especially when they can help you learn from your mistakes. That is why I am thankful that we have so many intelligent, caring individuals in this community, who are truly dedicated to growing the field. Thanks guys, for all your help and support.

Well, one quick opening paragraph turned into a post of its own...I think I'll save my technical content for a separate post (hopefully tomorrow if I don't finish tonight). I have a brief overview of a few network forensics analysis tools (NFAT) that I recently evaluated that I wanted to share.



  1. Great post Erika! Your blog post and twitter conversation with Harlan also got me thinking as well. We all suffer from paralysis at times when it comes to contributing and you reminded me, when it comes to sharing and giving back, that merely means providing a point of view, comment, or even posing a question to generate a debate or conversation. It doesn't have to be a forensic tool review or how-to. Simply providing a point of view can spark an idea for someone else. Just as your blog post as given me some good ideas! We all feed off each other for motivation and ideas. Good stuff!

  2. This is exactly the demons I have been dealing with the last few years. I have noticed that I take this a step beyond just not trying out of fear of failure, I have actually been known to sabotage myself to fail so others look better. This dates 25yrs back to elementary school. I allowed my self-esteem to be decimated and never tried to take it back, I wasn't in the mood for conflict, and I wanted people to like me. In a small town it seemed that if you were not part of the popular crowd than you made sure you never out shined them for risk of being ridiculed.

    Coming into the DFIR field, there are plenty of people who know more then me, and those experienced forensicators footsteps is the path I plan to follow in the future. But to get there I must change my self-sabotaging behavior and trusting my instincts and experience.

    Like you said in your post, if you never fail your not really pushing yourself hard enough.... I have started pushing myself harder over the last 6 months, this has been made easier by the support of some of my Idols in the DFIR field. It is going to be a challenge and if this wasn't something I wasn't passionate about then I would not be pushing through this behavior and improving it.

  3. Yes, and there may be "simple" ways to contribute to the community, but as my bass teacher @bassmeant says, "Simple isn't easy." ;)

  4. I think quite a few people in the information security field think that because they do not know everything, they know nothing. It is easy to look af the works of the giants in the field and despair. That was one of the hurdles that I had to overcome before I could really start to contribute.

  5. Erika,

    This is a very good post! As I responded on Twitter, I have seen this sort of paralysis time and time again. Thanks for communicating your sense of what's going on, and taking the time to do some introspection. Confidence in what you do can be a huge hurdle to overcome, thanks for putting this out seems that others share in your feelings.