There are a lot of things that that you can tell about a codebase by looking only at its comments. Seeing things like “// ask Jim for details” imply overly-complex logic that no human (aside from Jim) could understand, while “increment the counter by 1” shows a certain degree of repetitiveness that probably means lots of copy/paste-style code reuse.

Fortunately for “certain” developers, comments are ignored by compilers and never quite make it past source control repositories. Of course with the Web – and its mix of server- and client-side interpreted languages – what’s intended as an internal comment often becomes plain text that is not rendered or seen by the end user. Well, unless they know where to look.

Alex Hobson certainly does know where to look (View->Source), and for no particular reason, just happened to be looking at the source HTML behind the Charles Sturt University website. What he found was certainly intriguing.

<!-- DO NOT CHANGE OR ALTER THE BEGINNING PART OF THE TITLE CODE
     THE SORRY SERVER IS REFERENCING = <title> Charles Sturt Univeristy (CSU),
     IF IT DOES NOT FIND THIS EXACT STRING IT WILL BREAK THE PUBLIC WEB SERVER -->

What a sorry server it must have been. And digging further, he found another interesting tidbit.

<!--  important!/ if you make changes to this file you must copy and repaste 
      the left nav in the following file /cgi-pub/course/newgetcourse_header.txt
      This nav is also referenced in .pl file for single subject study finder 
      /local/WWW/study/single-subject - please contact jroberts@csu.edu.au  
      for any file changes. -->

Based on these comment blocks, I think we’re safe in assuming that this is a rather… interesting implementation. Got any ideas? Share your interpretation in the comments.