My first Job in IT was for an Internet company who supplied internet access to hundreds of thousands of users in the UK.
One of my tasks was to track down users who had done something bad. Which sounds like a great job – an internet vigilante. I thought I would be tracking down terrorists, or criminals, or gangsters but it was mostly dealing with far worse people than that – lawyers.
The most common request would be from the lawyer of 20th Century Fox, the owner of The Simpsons, asking that I remove pictures of their characters from our web-hosting site. Homer might act stupid but he is very well informed about copyright infringement.
Occasionally I would receive a more interesting request like the time I received a letter from NASA asking me to track down a user who had tried to hack their servers.
I tracked down who it was. I called them up. A man answered. I confirmed they were the person I was after and then explained they were in serious trouble. NASA was threatening to report them to the police. The man burst into tears and screamed “MUM!!! I don’t want to go to jail”
When checking the user details I had forgotten to check the user’s age. He wasn’t a man he was a 12-year-old boy. His mum came on the phone and shouted at me for making her son cry.
One day a man joined my team. I passed the task of hunting down Simpson fans to him. I explained how to do it:
- Get the IP address of the user
- Get the time and date they were online
- Run a DB script using that info.
- Get the username
- Check the user database to get their address and telephone number
- Contact the user.
- Tel them to stop it (whatever it was they were accused of doing)
I showed him how to do the task. I got him to do it again. I got him to do the steps repeatedly until he knew exactly how to do it.
The next day I came to work there was a request from a lawyer. I asked the man to look at it. He said, “What do I do with it?” I said “The task I showed you how to do yesterday” He replied “What task?” He had forgotten all the steps I had showed him the previous day.
Which is a valuable lesson. Doing the same thing again and again is not learning! If you do not understand what you are doing then repeating a task won’t make you any better at it.
Which is why I bought a book on Total Immersion Swimming. The book believes that repeatedly swimming back and forth is the wrong way to get better at swimming because all I am doing is repeating mistakes without learning anything new.
Instead the book recommends if I stop concentrating on laps and instead concentrate on the how and why of swimming then I’ll get faster quicker and easier.
I’m interested in seeing whether this is true. I’ll report back once I’ve given it a try.