"I never thought that The Princess Diaries and The Shining had anything in common, but who am I to argue with Netflix's magic algorithms?" Neal L. wrote.

Issue History

2014-08-28

Ladies and gentlemen: the story you are about to read is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent. The guilty are too obtuse to recognize themselves in the story, even if their names hadn't been changed.

Playing the part of Alex in this story is you. Your current employer is a stock fund. Your current engagement: to work on FLASH, the in-house developed stock trading system. That's 'stock', the financial instrument, not 'stock', the live kind you find on farms.

When Simon asked us to consider this code from his predecessor's custom-built PHP CMS, we weren't terribly impressed:

$rs = new RecordSet("SELECT * FROM moduleData WHERE moduleID = '".$moduleID."' ORDER BY displayOrder ASC");

Part of what brought me into writing and editing for The Daily WTF was my love of telling stories. I’ve had a very successful career working inside of corporate IT shops, and a huge part of that success comes from my ability to take a complex technical topic and explain it simply. To do that, I fall back on the same storytelling techniques that I use here.

A lot of real-world WTFs could be avoided through better communication, and while I hate the idea of losing out on more fodder for the site, it’s my duty as an IT drone to try and stamp out WTFs.

The Data Migration

2014-08-26

Consider a small European country with more than 20 social insurance institutions, each using their own proprietary software. Now consider sharing data between them. After decades of integration failures, these institutions decided to standardize on a handful of applications. One of these institutions hired Philipp’s firm to migrate their data to DB2.

Philipp’s boss gave him the assignment with a clear conscience. “They have a data transfer interface already established. This should be a quick process.”

However, Philipp’s dreams of webservices, integration end-points, clean XML, and a well organized workflow were shattered when he was handed a few examples of the COBOL-generated flat files the company currently used for data transfer, via FTP. There was no documentation regarding the schema. Philipp sat down with William, an employee at the client site who had worked with this data for the better part of a generation, and had discovered its quirks through trial and error.

When developers first got access to those new-fangled gadgets called computers, memory was a very precious resource. Applications were frequently written as a main controller that would load module overlays into memory, call a function, and then repeat as additional functions were called. It was a horrible way to code, but it was all we had. Unfortunately, as computers came equipped with more and more RAM, this habit of repeating the controller code in every file seems to be quite resilient...

Fast forward several decades, and Jeremy, like the rest of us at some point, was a newbie at his first position as a developer. The application that he was tasked with maintaining had been written by an engineer whose training apparently included learning basic JSP control-structures, and how to perform cut-n-pasting of code from A to B.

Nulltastic!

2014-08-22

"I'm kind of surprised to see these kinds of positive ratings for soundtracks that may or may not exist," writes Bobby S.

Jeremy’s employer, SwissMedia, were upgrading their proprietary CMS to run on new, shiny, PHP5. They planned for bumps in the road, but assembled a rugged upgrade plan with a steel chassis. When the time came to upgrade their largest client, French-Haitian News, Jeremy was behind the wheel.

The first step in the plan was for Jeremy to take a copy of their production database that he could experiment with and work out the kinks. He would then prove it worked with the PHP5 application, and get the stamp of approval to go to production. SwissMedia outsourced their data storage, so he contacted Sebastien at Datamaniaks to handle that part.

Somewhere between getting the data and making it work with the PHP5 application, Jeremy committed the dreaded “forgotten WHERE clause” boner. His local copy of the French-Haitian News DB became unusable. He immediately reached out to Sebastien to help remedy the situation.

States and their abbreviations are among my favorite kinds of data - they almost never ever change and, as such, you can hard code all that information into your app. I mean, why bother fetching it from the database every page load? That's just wasted CPU cycles.

So, I can find merit in the hard-coded approach that the below code takes that Alex E. sent our way. However, I definitely believe that it takes guts for anybody to make a claim about the efficiency of strcmp() when you perform a linear search on an ordered list.

Inheritance

2014-08-19

In life, you will inherit all sorts of things: traits from your direct ancestors, knick-knacks from relatives you tolerated, and sometimes, even money! Of course, there are other things in life that you inherit that you might not even want. The gene for some debilitating disease. The urn filled with the ashes of a relative you particularly despised. Code.

Gerhardt was employed at a C++ shop. Their main product used a third party library. Perhaps used is not quite right; abused is more apt. Every single field that was public (whether it looked like it should be public or not) was ab/used to the max.

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