The London Underground, commonly known as “The Tube” is the oldest rapid transit system in the world. A few years ago, during a summer before the pandemic, my family and I made our way to London for a vacation. Our excursions almost always required at least one ride on the Tube. We absolutely loved it. It was incredibly convenient! With just a little practice and a route guidance app, you can get just about anywhere in London with very little effort.
Anyone who has traveled the Underground quickly becomes familiar with the public service announcement, “Mind the gap!” A loud audio warning is accompanied by visual signs to remind Underground passengers to take caution crossing the gap between the train doors and the station platforms. For some of the older lines and stations this can be a significant gap which can include nefarious vertical steps. Much to my chagrin, somewhere along my journey, my less than graceful physical skills caused me to bump my toe on one of those vertical gaps. I stumbled out onto the platform. A friendly fellow passenger, concerned about my maneuver, smiled and repeated, “mind the gap.” We both laughed and I shook my head walking off with my much-embarrassed family.
Life is full of gaps. Some of those gaps are risks that we must manage for ourselves and others. Sometimes we see them and raise the alarm. Other times, those warning signs are broadcast by experts. Put on your seat belt. Hot, don’t touch! Wear safety goggles and other personal protection equipment (PPE). Get vaccinated. Walk carefully on wet slippery floors. Don’t fly your drone around high voltage power lines.
Another familiar public service announcement on the Underground is, “See it, say it, sorted.” It’s a call to action to all passengers to report unusual activity to keep everyone safe. As technologist, we are often in the front row seat to see systemic problems, reliability issues, security weaknesses, and the like. Be on the lookout for those dangers and gaps. Raise the alarm if you see a problem. Often the issues are not just technical problems, but issues with process, support and usability. Those are important too. Improving inhumane experiences or user frustrating processes is like an ancient magic that unleashes incredible power and potential. It also helps clumsy dads exit the Tube safely without bruising their egos.
As we journey from point to point on this adventure, we will spot gaps. Our attention and expertise are needed to ensure we can continue to ship value… better, faster, safer and happier for everyone. Mind the gap!