I travel a fair bit and it is always an interesting experience these days. Where my anticipation of friction with security and other setbacks has subsided (yes - I have been assimilated), a sense of odd curiousity and fascination has emerged - particularly around how fellow travelers handle the ever-changing policies and regulations at the airport.

While passing through security for a flight recently, the checkpoint aisles were packed. I saw business travelers with that familiar blank stare from a sleepless night in a bad hotel bed. A woman and a child next to me on their way to Colorado. A handful of airport staff taking advantage of privileges to cut to the front but for no apparent reason or rush.

In front of me, a middle-aged couple was emptying carry-on bag contents into bins for the x-ray machine. Their pace was relatively relaxed suggesting they were departing for a vacation. Then a thought hit me as I watched them parsing their bags for items needing special security scanning... had they been living under a rock?

Here are just a few of the things in one of their carry-ons:

  • A large (~ 12 oz.) bottle of contact lens solution
  • (1) tube (~ 8 oz.) of sunscreen
  • Small (3oz) bottle of hand sanitizer
  • Assorted make-up containers (in a nice little zipper bag)
  • and... and ... and ...

I think you get the point. It amazes me that in this media-saturated world we live in that people (many in fact - as I peered over the other aisles, similar things were happening) appear oblivious to the continual frenzy of media stories about travel regulations and recommendations to help negotiate congested airports. Do these people think, "well - I'm not sure what the policies are but I'm sure the security folks will help sort it out". Or, maybe, "I'm not a risk to safety so why would they stop me"?

It's hard not to draw parallels to application delivery and security:

  • Despite attempts to define and broadly publish guidelines for secure and/or optimized apps, people continue to ignore them
  • While not difficult, thinking about what is required is not always hard - it's usually the extra step of doing something which only SEEMS hard
  • A little effort, self-reliance, and accountability can save people time and frustration later
  • The infrastructure folks (TSA or the network) can do more than many think. But, expecting them to "sort it out" to compensate for a lack of preparation and self-thought is simply unreasonable.
  • A small, extra effort is kind to others that share the pipe or manage it's ability to process all traffic
  • Every app is now perceived to be a risk. Not thinking that way from the start (whether on the network, security, or app side of things) leads to many downstream problems, whether risk or simply inefficiency.

Going back to the airport scenario, society likes to slam the folks working hard to enforce security or process tickets at the counter. I admit that I have. But, when looking more closely, they do not appear to be the hold-up or problem. The bigger problem is people not listening, preparing, and paying attention to what they need to do to work WITH the system. And, the 15 minutes expecting the airport security folks to sort things out would be only 5 (or maybe 10) with just a little thought while packing or preparing for the trip.

Cool technology (faster, smarter x-rays, ticket kiosks, etc. -or- iRules, full-proxy network gear, etc) can solve incredibly difficult challenges. But, in the end, people spending a little time listening, thinking, and doing a little more can really make a significant difference, whether getting people through the airport and on their way or delivering applications that are fast and reliable without security holes that put users and companies at risk.

[Listening to: Satellite - Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds - Live at Luther College]