Why Is This Industry So Damn Anti-Intellectual?

Maybe it's unfair to compare our industry to software development or 'pure' IT, but it strikes me that people in our industry are far less passionate / motivated / knowledgeable about their technology / business.

Of course, there are some people who certainly are, but those appear to be the exception rather than the rule.

Examples of this:

  • The lack of serious discussion, blogging, social media, etc. of industry people. Outside of IPVM, what really is out there?
  • How poorly lots of people do on quizzes we offer even on things that are fairly basic or cover major news events. How can you be a professional and not know these things?
  • How out of it a lot of people obviously are who we run into at trade shows, etc.

Net / net, it seems a lot of people just don't care and there's not a culture in this industry that makes people feel bad about being willfully ignorant.



No offense to others in my industry but people with broad technical knowledge are pretty rare in the Casino Surveillance vertical. In part, that is because casinos are mostly unwilling to pay salaries commensurate with the skills necessary to install and manage modern Enterprise-level systems. In our area, starting pay for technicians is ~$16.00/hr with no provision for skills and/or experience. You cannot find qualified people at that pay level so we have typically hired the best we could find and train them over time. And that assumes that at least one person in the department has a sufficient level of knowledge to provide the necessary training - many casinos don't. I assume that translates into other verticals.

Related, even our Slot Department and our IT Department apparently have similar issues and our Technician starting pay is closely related to theirs by HR.

I think our industry in general's concentration on sales represents this, as shown by IPVM's salary surveys. Management also shares the blame. In many industries, management comes from the sales end. This engenders an attitude where sales ability is given preference over technical ability. Techs (and engineers) are often looked upon as a necessary evil, versus an asset.

Regarding discussions and knowledge sharing: I've attempted to get other Casino Surveillance departments to join a group dedicated to sharing technical knowledge and met with apathy. My experiences lead me to believe that few in the industry can separate sales competition from technical knowledge. The apparent result is that companies tend to hoard knowledge in an attempt to maintain advantages over their competition.

Finally, the Security industry in general appears to distrust technical people. Whether that is due to an innate distrust of people in general or a fear of technology by the unknowlegeable is debatable.

I do think money is one important factor. In general, as our compensation results show (integrator / manufacturer), security does not really pay that well compared to other high technology industries, so I am sure there is a drain / strain of talent out.

By the way, IPVM has a quite a number of casino members (I see this because casinos often generate invoices). Perhaps we need to spend more time encouraging them to comment / participate.

LOL! If you can get them to do that, you're a better man than I am Gunga Din....

Related - there is also little incentive to learn new skills. In my experience, it typically isn't reflected by raises or promotions.

That's a good point. Also tends to be difficult to switch jobs too, especially for integrators (non-competes) and for technical roles in manufacturers (need to move typically).

And there are very few startups in our industry :(

I've noticed that too, and have a theory that I've developed over the last few years that might explain some of it.

For the longest time the primary equipment in the security industry didn't really change much. We got IP cameras around 1999 or so, but they really didn't take off mainstream until around 2010 (~5 years ago). But, the 30 or 40 years before that had little change. We went from cameras with actual film in them to CCTV cameras, and then small incremental changes from there. You could mostly learn what worked, and what plugged into what, and be a security "expert".

Converged/integrated systems were unheard of in mainstream applications not that long ago. Most of the work in security was more physical (pulling cables, installing door hardware, mounting stuff to other stuff) for the longest time. Security was also never really a glamorous career, it was equipment that most companies bought because they had to, or they wanted to minimize some liabilities, much like insurance. It wasn't like IT equipment that enabled a business to expand in new directions, communicate faster, etc.

This added up to the kind of thing that made for a really nice "family business" in a lot of cases. Startup costs were low, barriers to entry were minimal (some prior experience, or taking a certification test) and the work was basic enough that even that one uncle who always seemed a little off could work in the business effectively.

The mainstream security business wasn't really all that "intellectual" until about the last 5-8 years. Meanwhile, there are still a lot of people who got into the business becaust it was easy, or comfortable or whatever, and didn't see the revolution happening.

Now that we have IP/Ethernet as the primary backbone, we're seeing more IT-style integrators coming into this business. The timing, for them, works well because basic IT work has gotten so simple and commoditized that many of these firms need to expand into new realms.

We have highly skilled and agressive IT-style integrators competing for business against legacy guys who often don't fundementally understand the underlying principles of the equipment they're working with. But this is slow moving tidal wave. Give it another 8-10 years, and I think you'll see a much different landscape.

And that's why so many of them want solutions ;) (half kidding)

It will be interesting to see how much the industry changes given how much more technical it is now than 10 years ago. Unfortunately, management is typically controlled by the old old boy network.

John, nothing like getting things started with a provocative assertion! I’ll bite… I’ve seen an inexorable, albeit slow, shift in the last 15 years towards a more “intellectual” composition within security. I think new technologies like biometrics, analytics and the cloud have been largely driving this, but even the now played out transitions like IP cameras, next gen EAC readers (with integrated controllers) and network storage have required a more sophisticated command of technology. I think the fact that the industry is so cost sensitive retards rapid and widespread adoption of new technologies, and that in turn curtails the pace of investment in new products which in turn constrains the number of tech savvy people thinking about and working on new solutions. If it’s painfully slow now, I dare say it would be much worse without IPVM.

I am not entirely sure I agree with your contention. Perhaps you could site something specific. I find many to be very curious, knowledgeable and insightful. Perhaps not as much as some industry leaders, but comparatively, just as much as in other industries. I am not sure of your age John, but the world is changing to be sure; incrementally, every day. It is up to todays leaders to set the standards. Our mentors are nearly all gone now. We are the mentors now. To a great degree, if things are not to our liking, we have to share some of the responsibility.

We serve as a bridge from yesterday to tomorrow. So if there is something you don't like, institute some change.

But to be specific, I would like to know more about what it is exactly that has you so frustrated. I get that way myself from time to time. To be specific myself, there is a lack of "natural curiosity" in most of the workforce today, not just our industry, but all of the workforce. I refer to it as turning over that rock, just to see whats there. I'm curious. Why did things happen the way they did, when they did, how things work, etc. Most of my family are voracious readers. They read all kinds of things, but largely fiction. I read tech. I read history. I read finance. I find that both entertaining and useful. It puts everyone else to sleep.

I also don't think that has ever changed. The older I get the more convinced I become that people, as a whole, have never really been all that curious about how things around them work, the timing of things, why now? etc. For the most part, people have always had problems living past their finger tips. It's not an indictment, it is just a fact.

Could be I am wrong. Have been before, will again.


Thanks for the thoughtful response.

I agree with your assessment about society as a whole not being terribly curious / intellectual / knowledgeable.

However, I definitely believe that other technology fields (e.g., 'pure' IT and software development) are radically more intellectually interested than surveillance / physical security. For example, StackOverflow, HackerNews, ServerFault, just to name a few sites that show the level of activity / interest. The fields / market are bigger so there's that but look at what's out there for discussions / reviews / Q&A for security / surveillance. It's abyssmal.

Even in my own experience coming from the IT / software to being in security, it's day and night different. Most people in IT / software care a lot about studying and improving. That continues not to be my experience in surveillance. Again, there are exceptions and there are super talented passionate people in surveillance, often hidden throughout the world, but far from the norm.

I was unaware of your background and that would force me to change my remarks. Certainly IT is more of a curious bunch. Geeks don't have anything else to do on a Friday night...(sorry, I could not pass that up). While the IT world is more modern thinking and curious (just my opinion) they have to be by nature. Their entire world is moving ones and zeros from here to there in the most efficient means possible. That is a very simple view of what they do, but that is all they do all day. All IT devices are just that. They are appliances on the network that are sending ones and zeros. What it actually does after that is of little interest to the average IT person. Even in that discipline, some are naturally curious and some are not. It is my experience that they don't know and don't really care (unless it is something way cool like 3D printing).

The sheer tonnage of devices that are now on an average network is staggering compared to just 5 years ago and will only continue to multiply. A lot of the perceived curiousity and change and education is being forced onto them by changes in technology and other departments within their own company. Those departments want to leverage the "network" to get the latest greatest capabilities. That puts IT at the center of nearly everything whether they want to be or not. The other part of their discipline is staying ahead of the hackers, and we can all see every day how well that is going.

One poster mentioned how slow our industry has been to change. True to some degree. I too have been around since film cameras. I have seen true analog, tube cameras, solid state cameras, VCR's, DVR's etc. We were once totally independant of networks with dedicated cable runs for nearly everything. Now we largely dependant on bandwidth whether we like it or not. We are driven by the same forces that other industries are - customers. That's why I watch the CES show every year. That is where WE will be next year (Incidentally I can't wait for drones to get here in security; talk about a wow factor!).

Most, not all but most, security companies have to be multi-faceted. You have to have knowledge about your own equipment, electricity, electronics, construction (how a wall and a building is put together), building codes, ADA requirements, and now networks, hubs, routers, servers, Windows, Apple, Unix, SQL, etc. Just layers and layers of stuff. The percpetion is that the average IT guy just takes the cable once it is delivered to him and does his thing (over simplified I know). We often have to do it all. From design to training and back again. The average end-user does not have a go-to IT department person. Fewer and fewer even have anyone on-site. IT now is remote. They don't even have a Facilities group.

Just in sheer numbers, most businesses are small business. More often than not, we are his electrician, his constuction foreman, his project manager and his network group and more. Some AT&T outsourced installer delivers a modem (often times they hide the thing somewhere and for sure put a password in the router) with a network cable and just walk away. The rest is up to us.

Interestingly enough, I tought our first ever "networking 101" class here just this past Monday. That is not to say that we have had no exposure, but that is to say that we now are offically training on it as a group. (We have trained on IT before, just not as a group dedicated to that topic). We have a variety of technicians, each of different ages, each with different backgrounds, experience and interest. The "youngung's" get it quickly, but they don't know why something is the way it is. They have no frame of reference. The older guys struggle, but if it is taught in layers, everyone comes away with an understanding. I wanted to bring everyone up to at least to the same point in their training and hopefully make it easier for everyone to understand not only what they are doing but why things are the way they are. When you use WireShark, this is what that data means. Then once we have a foundation identified, we start from there and build up. There will be much more network training in the future. We only spent two hours on our products. The rest of the day was spent on networks. But almost every time we enter a home or business, we are interfacing with a network of some type, somewhere.

It was important (for some reason I have not fully come to grips with yet) that they all understand the history of where we were, where we are and where we are going. A lot went into security before IT got here. A lot of thought went into IT too. Now they are merging. I wanted them exposed to both at the same time, to see one's influence over the other. I don't want them to be afraid of it. I don't want them to stand there picking their collective noses. I want them to embrace it.

Anyway, I hope that sheds some light on it for ya!

I actually do agree with your remarks about the written narrative in our industry. There is very little of it, and most of what there is, is sales driven.

I think you out to reevaluate your criteria for judging a large group of people. Perhaps your New Years hangover is still lingering?

perhaps the world does not revolve around this website; maybe we have better things to focus on than yet another survey from a website. Perhaps the group of people that are most active on the site are not representative of the entire segment of the industry. Perhaps people read Posts like this and are so turned off that they don't bother to participate, or cancel their membership all together.

i believe the reviews on this site are good reads. I think the opinions on it are worthless. This conceded remark turns me off greatly. I am turned off to think that I financially support this. If you are so easily able to paint broad strokes, how can your reviews be trustworthy.

"If you are so easily able to paint broad strokes, how can your reviews be trustworthy."

It's based on a lot of data (ten thousand plus quiz results, surveys, etc.) and a lot of interactions with people across the industry.

And as I disclaimed in the second paragraph:

"Of course, there are some people who certainly are, but those appear to be the exception rather than the rule."

Are you saying the rule in this industry is that people are passionate, motivated and knowledgeable about the technology and business of the industry? If so, show me some examples anywhere.

From what I have seen the average IPVM member is way more knowledgeable than the average non member. And that's not simply because of IPVM, the type of people who pay money and read IPVM during a Holiday week tend to be more highly motivated to learn than the average person.

I am not sure why you are so upset but if you have some concrete evidence that adds to the discussion, feel free to share.

well that certainly should get a dialog flowing.

Why Is This Industry So Damn Anti-Intellectual?

"This conceded remark turns me off greatly."

Referring to the question on which this post is based, For the most part people think they know it all, and what they know they don't know - they tell themselves it isn't important enough to learn.

It is a changing industry, people are holding their cards close to their chest. However, I have found that if you invest in friendships within associations, ( I belong to CSAA, PPVAR, TEC) and you are willing to share - people reciprocate. I like to invest my time with people that are as curious as me.

Another aspect, is that people generally lack the ability to ask good questions.

Unlike many aspects of 'pure IT', the requisite knowledge barrier is pretty tepid for 'Security'. I mean, you can literally start as pushy door knocker for an alarmco and rise to become CEO of one of the industry's biggest companies. There is no real pressure that encourages or rewards academic thought/development for most of the market.

It is also a very tiny niche that represents a fraction of the budget of IT responsibilities. For many, thinking about Security is 12th on a 10 point list. Not the same for 'pure IT' that potentially affects broad swaths of a business.

I don't think Security is 'anti-intellectual' in as much as it is really uncommon and not a priority. Until the money flows to/from that direction, it will remain the same.

Someone offline suggested to me a reason for this is that security skews older than IT / software and that that the older one gets the more important other things are in one's life (family, etc.). To be clear, this person was actually against my 'anti-intellecutal' position, counterarguing that it was an issue of personal priorities.

Afternoon All

I fear we'll at the point in the dealer/provider ownership cycle where the existing ownership is awaiting retirement and the heir and heiress are waiting to take up the reins of business.

A few example of this is the dealer/provider who would rather sell legacy based solutions as opposed to IP based solutions just because there more at easy with legacy based solutions. The security dealer who awakes one day with the idea that they should pivot their dealer/provider venture into an integrator based organization without giving any through to hiring a draftsman, engineer or a business development individual. Or the dealer/provider who will not give a through to building a website that reflects our technology based era — to name a few.

In the end time will correct there and other examples but can the industry wait that long?

Just a through or two...

Richard, That's an interesting point. I'll run a survey this month to see what integrators are seeing in their own local markets for transition / succession.

I also came from IT software companies (Storage and backup software). I think one factor is that IT has a lot of "giants" that set the tone. EMC/VMware, Microsoft, Cisco, Oracle, IBM, etc. For better or worse, the IT industry revolves around these companies and what they deliver. Certifications in these technologies are important for a lot of people in IT, so this creates a culture of continuing education beyond what I've seen in Security. Many of the large tradeshows are tied to specific manufacturers (VMworld, TechEd, etc.) and the exhibition hall is a secondary focus. The primary focus is the education.

While Security has lots of companies, some very large, by comparison it seems "headless" to me and I don't know if that's good or bad. I could argue that an industry without monolith giants has more opportunity for disruptive innovation, but large companies like IBM, EMC and Microsoft do innovate(albiet slowly and usually only to support their established model), but their size does require everyone in the industy to not ignore whatever new innovation (good or bad) they introduce.

  • The lack of serious discussion, blogging, social media, etc. of industry people. Outside of IPVM, what really is out there?

There is nothing else out there.......and there seems to be a general apathy within the industry relative to physical security blogging, social media, or other types of online engagement.

Why is that?

To some degree, the big names in the industry--the manufacturers, associations, and distributors have abused blogging and social media by allowing their marketers to fill it with fluff, sterility, and drivel, using employees who know little to nothing about security, let alone having the ability to speak to the actual technology of security.

At least within the IT industry, those bloggers, envangelists, and online professionals are very often truly people who live and breath what they write and communicate about within their online community. Sans IPVM where do you see that online in the physical security space?

The sales side of our industry is very much immediate gratification focused--whether a public fortune 500 trying to meet shareholder demands or a mom and pop trying to meet the next payroll. That puts leaders in both camps in a position of not thinking strategically about "what could be" with the right investment in a proper online approach. Because the payoff is not immediate and to do it right costs more money and time than the current "half-assed" approach, a robust online effort is set aside.

If we look to the IT side, we see that those companies that have been blogging, evangelizing, and engaging the online community in deep and meaningful ways about online security, cloud risks, network breaches, hacking, and so forth are now about to enjoy some huge sales. Those that have put together a professional, cogent strategy online--relative to engaging the larger online community--now have both the name recognition and the reputation to be the firms that companies will be turning to for protection from the next hacker, malware, and breach in 2015. With Sony and the plethora of others being breached, many companies have to turn to one of these IT firms for solutions--would you pick the online thought leaders of the industry, or the yellow page guys? For me it would be an easy choice.

The physical security world has had those same jarring events--from 9/11 to school shooting after school shooting, and increased mall/retail violence--and guess what? At least from my perspective, not one of the physical security firms out there has done justice to putting forth an online strategy that has engaged those in need of solutions to turn to them as the industry professionals/thought leaders.

Maybe I am asking too much on that front, or maybe the parallel is not quite as clear cut betweeen the physical security side and the IT side.

I only know that the current online engagement for physical security professionals is really left wanting.

There are many other elements of John's great question/post. I've attempted to stick to the one bullet point in this reply, but there are a number of factors impacting why this profession is not as engaged, educated, and motivated (all my opinion) as we could/should be.

"To some degree, the big names in the industry--the manufacturers, associations, and distributors have abused blogging and social media by allowing their marketers to fill it with fluff, sterility, and drivel, using employees who know little to nothing about security, let alone having the ability to speak to the actual technology of security."

That's true.

The sad thing about it is that a lot of these big names could help differentiate themselves against low end competition if they had talented people post on their behalf.

But almost all of them do the same sorry story - e.g., H.264 is good, H.265 may be good, 4K is 4x the resolution of HD, etc., etc. It's so easy for low cost entrants to copy this marketing, that inevitably many people conclude the only difference is more money for a bigger brand.

But if those big name manufacturers really published their own high quality content - technical analysis, real surveys (not pay to validate one's marketing position), insights, critical commentary, think about how much attention (and respect) they would get from serious buyers, dealers, decision makers, in the business.

The challenge is (1) it takes time, you can't just post once and expect the world to flood to you and (2) there's a limited amount of senior people who can produce meaningful publication.

But it certainly could work very well, help convince people that they are truly better / different / superiod and also encourage / reinforce the value of thought / intellectualism in the industry.

I, unlike Paul Blart, chose security, it did not choose me. Yet like Blart, I'm not even sure it wants me. :)

Likewise those who were 'chosen' by security, (usually by 'luck'), don't seem all that happy about it. Even after one is 'adopted' by the industry a sort of occupational denial can linger.

Consider the unsatisfying task of picking a title, whether for business cards, LinkedIn or introducing yourself at a party. Some go to great lengths to avoid certain words, like "security", with their Blartian connotations, often preferring less stigmatized and less understood euphemisms like "Incident Responder", "Risk Management Officer", "Male Nurse", etc.

One reason it can be hard to get to excited about it is that: security done right is often a non-event; unlike a lawyer, for example, whose crowning achievement could be a dramatic courtroom victory, or an artist's masterpiece, or a banker's successful merger, or a game programmer's big release. Successful security is taken for granted, until it's unsuccessful of course.

The corporate gardener is likely to get more accolades than the CSO in most organizations.

Just an outsider's perspective...

What you say is true John.

Firstly, in my opinion the reason is that the average CCTV guy feels or believes there is no need to know these things.

Unlike software and business systems, CCTV has evolved from the old Analogue days where it was plug-and-play and things 'just worked'. That culture has moved along into the IP space.

A disproportionate number of techies still feel that CCTV components should be plugged together and just work. And if it doesn't, call the dealer/distributor.

We see countless cases where the 'old school' CCTV techies are scared of IP and have no idea how to do port mapping. So they either stick to what they know in Analogue/SDI or ask someone to talk them through things. And geez, they hope they don't encounter DDNS requirements..

Secondly, part of the blame falls on the end-user as well I feel.

For the average shopkeeper, CCTV is CCTV and they end up being cost driven. Why pay $4000 for a 4-channel IP system when a competitor sells 'the same' system for $2000. End users see CCTV as the 'product' and are rarely, if ever, given an explanation of technologies and a reason why prices are different.

So, under pricing pressure, why invest more time into understanding the techno stuff if it makes no difference whether you get the deal or not?

When we do software systems, we have to make a business case for it. How it meets the customer requirements and how it builds a better business and saves money etc etc. So we need to know our product inside out to beat off the competition.

This requirement seldoms surfaces in CCTV. Most guys will look at a floor plan and point a stick at where cameras should go...'So you need a 16 channel DVR with 12 cameras, mate'. Does the client see the software? No. Does the client have opportunity to see the coverage of each camera ahead of installation? No. Does the client see one CCTV much like the next vendor's system? Most likely. Does the client care whether they are domes, fixed or varifocal? Not likely. Does the customer case whether his system runs 30fps or 5fps? Not likely.

And thirdly, the manufaturers contribute to the lack of need to know techno stuff by making it easier and easier to set up IP camera systems. You now have Plug-And-Play systems and simply scan a QR code to set up mapping requirements. The average Joe will always take the path of least resistance.

So in the end, we feel that we correctly term ourselves 'integrators' and 'architechts' when we propose systems for clients. We then cover technical aspects, most coverage for least cameras, correct bitstreams and frame rates and storage etc etc...so we HAVE to know the tech stuff.

Point blank, it's the fact that although IT staffers are our best partners for designing and deploying IPVS and IPAC solutions, the slice of attention required by an IT staff for physical security solutions is minimal at best. The security directors and most integrators are largely old school and not IP oriented, and for the most part don't want to go there anyway.

What proves this to me is Cisco's inability to get IPVS off the ground, despite trying to do so back in the 2007-2010 era. Ever see the size of their booth at ISC West? And if you Google "Cisco IPVS", here is the number one hit (dated 2009):

Frequently Asked Questions for the Design and Implementation of IP Video Surveillance - Cisco

Same with IBM, EMC, HP, and other players who SHOULD take an interest in driving their businesses via IPVS.

Being in IT since 1977 (yes, I cut my teeth on mainframes), I know that IT staffers fully understand and appreciate IPVS as an intensive and perhaps interesting IT application, but they rarely get more involved with it than what they have to do to make sure it plays nicely on their networks. They will not blog / listserv / conference about it, and do not see it as an upward step in their career paths.

Our industry is filled with paranoid people, many business owners are afraid to advertise their opinions because they're afraid competitors will steal their ideas. Because of the paranoia, I believe that few are wiling to engage in open conversation about our industry.

*Just my observation, I think it has a lot to do with the distrust we have for people. Due to our experiences in the security industry.

I fear the thread opener may deter people from taking the quizzes. Rest assured everyone, I will bring the curve down!

In my opinion, I think the security/surveillance industry is in a bit of transition still and is searching for an identity. Companies in my market that were once giants locally have almost disappeared as the executive/patriarch running the business moved on or they were left behind by the changes in the market. On the flip side there are many IT companies that don't understand surveillance (this camera is 1MP and so is that one, thus they are the same), guard/PI companies that don't understand integration or construction (Why do we need prints?), and burglar alarm companies pushing the lowest end product available (one $40 model camera fits all situations because we imported in bulk!) all influencing things in different directions. From a customer perspective I would be confused as heck when all I want is reliable product that shows me decent video at a competitive price.

With all of that confusion generated above, it is hard for people to keep up unless they are dedicated to learning. I think that your quiz results would be far worse if administered to non-IPVM members. At least membership to IPVM shows enough interest to have paid for a trade website. How many people in the industry make no use of educational resources beyond the local distributor expo, their engineer who still makes use of a mechanical drafting arm, and the training administered by their camera manufacturer of choice (who is likely the same one they have used for 15 years)? Even worse, imagine being a manufacturers rep or distributor who is bombarded all day with very specific product line info and nothing else.

My sentiments exactly. Its like a prime time current affairs program having a sensational beatup of a story just to get attention but serves no real news or substance.

Self-examination is not something that Anti-Intellectuals normally embrace.

January is the time to be reflective. Its a good question.

I don't understand the fear of disclosing who you are? Call it anti-intellectual; I call it fear of giving up some perceived competitive advantage that most people on industry committees are there to take, rather than to give. Frankly, my competitive advantage is because I am willing to share, people reciprocate and I learn as a result.

In 2015 what is your committment to contribute to our industry?