Living with ratsMarch 2007
One of the things that intrigued me most about the rat infestation of a New York KFC restaurant was reading about Robert Corrigan, the expert that was brought in to help clean up the mess. Corrigan (from nearby Richmond, IN) has been called "the Elvis of the pest control world" for the research he's done on the subject. An Indianapolis Star article describes one of the ways Corrigan achieved his expert status:
The key to Corrigan's success is understanding how bureaucrats and rats think. He learned about the latter during his graduate student days at Purdue University, when he once spent 30 days in a rat-infested barn in Indiana. He lived the nocturnal life of his subjects, watching them eat and reproduce. They crawled all over him. The more he watched the animals, the more he liked them.
As someone who's been terrified of rats ever since I saw the movie Ben as a little kid, the image of Corrigan living 30 days in a rat-infested barn makes me want to crawl into a fetal position atop the highest piece of furniture that I can find.
But it got me to think, how far would I go to become an expert in my field? I think a great web developer does more than just learn a few programming languages and try to keep up with the latest technologies. I thankfully don't have to live in a rat-infested barn, but what kind of immersion is necessary in order to become better at what I do?
- Spend a day watching a novice users work with a web application so I better understand usability?
- Ask script kiddies on IRC to hack my website so I better understand security?
- Build complex applications that never see the light of day so I learn how to fully implement a particular technology component?
- Work on a 5-year old PC and 33.6kbps Internet connection to learn how to optimize web pages?
- Spend a day with my monitor turned off so I understand how a visually impaired person uses the web?
What do you think — what's the rat-infested barn of your industry?