Here's the final episode of the Payback series (one of my personal favorites), originally published on 2006-Mar-31 ...


If the name Colin A. Bradley doesn't ring a bell for you, then the application named Payback might. It's an ironically-named accounting system that has been the subject matter of at least three articles:

It's a bit difficult to summarize, so, short of reading the above articles, you can pretty much gauge the quality of the system from the following screenshot of the database tables ...

 

But I digress. Despite the title, today's article is not another peek into the bowels of Payback. I hate to say it, but it's more of a solemn reminder as to why I now "anonymize" every submission that comes in. Unfortunately for Colin, I didn't have such a policy when he introduced Payback ...

When I submitted the first Payback story, I took some care to obscure the system and make it less obvious that it had anything to do with my company. I was a bit worried that I might get in trouble for posting Payback on the Internet, but not all too concerned; after all, this was Payback we're talking about.

Shortly after I submitted the latest Payback story, I took a few weeks off for my wedding and honeymoon. While I was away, one of my work "pals" found TheDailyWTF and recognized some of the code.

On my first day back at work after my honeymoon, my boss called me over to his cube. When I arrived, he had with him the DBA, a few other coders, and his boss (my boss's boss). They were all standing around looking deathly serious. One lady looked to be nearly in tears. It didn't look like the best meeting to walk into after returning from a honeymoon.

My boss's boss handed me a printout of an e-mail, sent from a manager of a different department, addressed to my boss …

Steve,

Do you know about any of your people posting our code to sites on the internet? The reason I ask is because one of my employees here noticed a posting, named "Payback is Hell," on a site calling itself www.TheDailyWtf.com, by someone named Colin. My employee said he recognized some of the posted code and the application's name. He then sent an e-mail discussing the situation to headquarters, and now they have e-mailed me about it. John Strickland [CTO from headquarters] is very angry about this situation and wants us to get to the bottom of the issue as fast as we can. I told him that Colin was out of town but that I would talk to you about the situation immediately.

Let me know,
Nancy

While I was taking all this in and consequently going numb, my boss was on the phone, having a very angry conversation with someone from headquarters …

I don't know, sir! Yes, we will get to the bottom of this, but let me assure you, Colin would never have done something like this!

... (pause) …

Can't we contact the site administrator and get the guy's email or IP address or something?

... (pause) …

Yes sir. I understand fully that this is completely unacceptable!

... (pause) …

Yes sir. He just got back today, and I'll be talking to him about this, you can be sure of that.

... (pause) …

Yes sir. Goodbye sir.

After my boss hung up, I looked at him and tried to tell him that it was indeed me who had submitted the Payback story. But the words just wouldn't come out. It was probably because I was trying to suppress three simultaneous heart attacks. All I could manage was "I ... uhhh ... sssseeenn--- uhhh ... errr"

My boss slammed his hands and the desk, jumped up, and yelled, "What the hell is going on! Why would these people think that you would have done something like this?!?!"

Everyone around him had a complete look of disbelief their face. They all looked at me as if I had just killed someone. But then, my boss just couldn't contain himself any longer and cracked a smile. That's when all the others starting laughing at me ... and laughing ... and laughing ...

As much as I hate being on the receiving end of a practical joke, I was more relieved that I didn't have to go home and explain to my wife of less than three weeks that I had lost my job.

And yes, this is the April Fool's article (not to say that it isn't a true story -- the practical joke did happen). I was going to come up with some spectacularly bad practice in programming and then be all, "haha, April Fools!" But ... well ... you try making up something that tops the real stories shared here.

These days, stories are sanitized much, much more: different line of business, different system name, different location, and so on.