Saturday, November 28, 2009

Surrounded by bugs

I had an interesting dream, motivated no doubt by events this past summer in my yard. In the dream, I was walking down a sidewalk in Raleigh, body-pillow in hand, and passed a 2-person crew of city employed exterminators. They were polite, greeting me, and going about their business. Except that they didn't warn me that I was walking into an area they just treated. Looking to my left and right, front and back, I found myself on a sidewalk, surrounded on all sides by what was only now apparent as fire-ant ground.

To the rear near the street, what had appeared to be a baseball-pitching mound sized gradation was actually a fire-ant nest. The exterminators had disturbed it to pump in poison. But elsewhere, around the walk, were ground level spots where they had also disturbed. Fire-ants were just no pouring out in all directions. It was one huge nest. Oh, and I was in sandals.

I had been subject to a "drive-by" by the two workers! It didn't help that they had just poisoned the ants -- it wouldn't kick in for several minutes at least. Now it was no longer a question of whether I'd be bitten, but how to find a way to navigate the path and minimize the number of bites.

Awakening, it occurred to me that this dream was perfectly metaphorical in describing modern Web-based applications work. You're surrounded all around by an infrastructure infested with some really ferocious bugs, any one of which is tiny but the cumulative effect of which can be deadly. And navigating them is a real drain on productivity. Who were the city workers? One represents the well-intentioned standards working group people; the other the technology vendors. (It can be hard to tell them apart sometimes.)

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