Test Security Woodshop: Lesson 4

Written by Skyler Weisenburger, Account Coordinator, Caveon Test Security

Over the past year, I have rediscovered a passion for woodworking that I lost years ago.  It could have been due to a lack of garage space.  Or, maybe it was because I was a twenty-something, and for years, faced numerous distractions including my education, friends, my marriage, as well as hobbies and activities that have come and gone over the years.

The wick of my woodworking candle was re-ignited while consuming my weekly dose of “viral videos.” The video was a stop-motion video, about 8 minutes long, featuring the construction of a segmented bowl made from wood. The man behind both the making of the bowl, and the video, is Frank Howarth. He’s an architect by trade but has a love for making finely crafted, intricate wooden pieces of art. At this point, I’ve probably seen all of his youtube videos, and they set me on quest to scale-up my own woodshop.

When one decides to build his own woodshop, unless he grows money trees, he gradually acquires various power tools and equipment over time. Not me, though. I’m terribly impatient, and obsessed (just slightly) with my hobbies. I have acquired various pieces of machinery over the past 6 months but still need a few more.

The next item in my “shopping cart” is a large disc sander. It’s basically a flat, spinning wheel with a piece of sandpaper stuck to it. As I was reading various reviews and comments about disc sanders on the market, I came across a thread of someone who had designed and built his own homemade disc sander. I was instantly intrigued, and it appealed to me for two reasons. If I made my own, I could tell both my wife that I saved a ton of money, and also could build it to my own specifications.

In the following days, as I was crafting my sander in my mind, the following concerns had to be addressed:

  • COST – Will making my own sander cost me less money than buying one? Probably – I could save a few hundred dollars building a homemade sander.  Awesome!
  • SAFETY – Is making my own sander safer than buying one that has hundreds of hours of R&D, years of experience behind it, and made from quality components? No way! I’m not a tool fabricator. In fact, I may face safety issues such as parts breaking and flying off during operation, electrical mishaps, etc. Yikes!
  • PRECISION – Will a homemade sander made from wood and scrap metal be as precise as one made by a major manufacturer? Certainly not.
  • VALUE – Will the time spent designing, gathering parts, and building it be worth the cost savings? That depends on what I value my time at. Considering I only get 5-8 hours maximum per week to spend on projects, my woodworking time is precious.
  • TROUBLESHOOTINGWhere can I find replacement parts?  Nevermind!
  • SATISFACTION – Will I feel a greater sense of pride from using a homemade sander than I will from one that is beautifully designed, painted, and finely tuned? Probably not. I find satisfaction in what I make, not in making the tools that make the projects.

In representing Caveon’s web patrol team, I have interacted with a number of test program managers that have faced a similar decision—Do I build my own sander (web monitoring program), or purchase one?   For some, I think they decide, “We can easily do Google searches for our test content, and if we find something that poses a threat, we’ll deal with it on our own.”

While I applaud those do-it-yourselfers who develop an in-house web monitoring system, they should probably conduct a similar exercise to what I describe above:

  • COST – Will it be less expensive to develop an internal program? Consider the learning curve of staff, time spent setting up search parameters, developing bystander notices and DMCA letters, allocating precious staff time toward ongoing search efforts and threat vetting, launching and tracking takedown efforts, continued monitoring of risky websites, etc. There’s no manual for this, by the way. Yikes!
  • SAFETY – Can you ensure adequate training and skills so that your program is suitably protected? How can you be sure? Is your team finding all possible threats, and handling them appropriately?
  • PRECISION – How smooth will your “sander” run? Will it operate properly? Will it be perfectly balanced? Will it be able to handle the work you ask it to perform?
  • VALUE – Will the time it takes to develop and operate a well-run program be worth the potential savings vs outsourcing? Do the math!
  • TROUBLESHOOTING – Where do you turn when you encounter a problem or question? (I ALWAYS do my best to help those with questions but can’t answer those questions I’m not asked.)
  • SATISFACTION – Where will your program be in 6 months? What about 2 years from now? Will your sander still be running smoothly or will parts be flying in all directions? Will you look back and say, “Wow, look how far we’ve come!” or will you have to face the question of, “What have we gotten ourselves into?”

When push came to shove, I decided that designing my own sander, and saving a few dollars wasn’t worth it to me. Ultimately, I shopped around, found what would meet my needs, and went out and bought a very nice piece of equipment. I took it out of the box and was using it an hour later! Best of all, it will last me many years, and I will never be injured by flying shrapnel, imprecise work, and I won’t have spent 30 hours building something that I eventually dumped, only to buy one in the end. Will you build your own “sander” or will you “buy” one? It’s your call.

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