So An IT Consultant Walks Into A Bar…


…where he meets a ferryman, dog, and a horse.

Before you start to think that this is another riddle about ferrying sheeps and wolves across a river, think again.

This isn't going to end well.

Question: What does a ferryman, dog, horse and an IT consultant all have in common?

Answer: They are all Ancient Roman history!

Well that was out of left field, wasn’t it?

Let’s start with the ferryman and the dog.

The boys over at M.I.T., more popularly known for their grand pranks, also had a little stint in theatre.

There’s a play floating out there on the interwebs that attempts to explain an open authentication protocol invented right inside MIT. They called it Kerberos.

If you remember your ancient world history (or refer to Wikipedia), you’ll know that Kerberos is the multi-headed dog that guards the gates of Hades. Not a bad reference for designing a powerful, sophisticated internet authentication sytem that is meant to protect your identify.


As for the ferryman, if  you skip a couple of pages in your ancient history book that you now have open, you’ll quickly recognize this character as Charon, the ferryman who ferries souls from the living to the dead across the river Styx. He will be doing the authentication your (dead) identity.

Look alive son!

The play goes on to explain how Charon attempts to authenticate people who are really dead so that he can ferry them across the river. A sophisticated system explained in a rather simple, geeky way. Definitely worth reading if you’ve some oodles of time to surf the information superhighway. While I don’t think the play made it to Hollywood, but we do know that it was well received in the IT community.

That leaves me to explain the horse and consultant.

If you can’t relate to the ferryman or the dog, you may recognize the horse – the Trojan Horse.

No, not this Trojan.

In the same fashion where the Trojan horse was disguised as a “gift” to the city of Sparta, you may have come across a pop-up window that said you had a special, free gift waiting for you with the small investment of a simple click. And of course, you clicked on it, or you knew a “friend” that did. (I believe you.)

And the next thing you know, your computer screen starts flickering with images, files appear out of nowhere and it takes 1 hour to startup your computer. In your last ditch effort to save everything you can, you encounter the blue screen of death.

Where's Charon now?

It’s all ancient history now, but maybe the city of Sparta should have consulted with someone before hand. Maybe they should’ve consulted a 3rd party? An Oracle perhaps?

There’s a little known IT company called Oracle, that houses IT consultants. As the name suggests, maybe they are also able to foresee and predict the future, much like the Oracles of Delphi. (On second thought…)

A little too much geekiness for one sitting? Yea, I would say so too.

I’m sure I’ve missed many references, but they are all out there. You’ll get a lot of those “Ah ha” moments when you stop and think about it for a moment. Difficult concepts (especially technical ones in my profession) are better explained with stories and simple pictures. There’s a reason why you put so many man hours into creating a visual storyboard (aka a “deck”)  for your clients. You’ll cast a wider audience that way AND they will remember it.

Have you made any “ah ha” moments lately? I’d love to hear from you.


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