Although I've taken the rest of the year off, I wanted to share a few fun classics this week. "Fisher Price Technology Integration" was originally published on 2006-11-13...
Ryan H was pretty excited to start his new job as a developer. But his excitement quickly faded after he started. It didn't fade into apprehension, disappointment, or regret -- just into nothing; he simply stopped feeling anything at all. This type of apathy is to be expected when one is given the type of assignment that Ryan was given: absolutely nothing. Ryan's day to day job was to sit and patiently wait for the company to start up a project.
Ryan's manager was in the same position; the business was still trying to decide what it wanted to do and their small team was forbidden from doing any type of development work in the mean time. So they all did nothing. Well, not "nothing" nothing -- everyone knows that a lack of work is no excuse for not working -- it was more a delicate balancing act of trying to look busy while not looking so busy as to give the impression that more help is needed. After all, that's how they ended up with Ryan.
But Ryan was not content with doing nothing. He wanted something. Anything. It didn't matter what. Heck, a broom to sweep the floor; at least then he'd have some sense of accomplishment.
Ryan's cries were heard and he was finally granted a task: data entry. His manager was able to justify this by arguing that, since his group would be automating they process eventually, they should learn how it works. And that they did.
To say that the task was "data entry" would be like saying that riding a roller coaster is "driving a car." Bad analogy. I should say, watching a roller coast simulator. Err, no, that doesn't quite work, either. Okay, to say that the task was "data entry" would be like saying that sitting in a chair and staring at the wall is "driving a car."
The "data entry" task that Ryan inherited involved signing on to a Windows Server with Terminal Services, double-clicking an icon on the desktop, entering yesterday's date, clicking the "run" button, and letting the application process data for seven or so hours. And there was one other thing: it was absolutely vital that Ryan switched over to the terminal server and moved the cursor once at least once every fifteen minutes. If that didn't happen, the server would disconnect the session and the "data entry" process would need to run again. For another seven or so hours.
There was no way around the "every fifteen minute" rule: corporate security would not budge on the "idle" session timeout, let alone allow any "mouse moving" programs. Ryan quickly learned to have someone cover for him whenever he'd step away for a meeting, lunch, or anything else. There's nothing more painfully ironic than having to stay at work for another four hours in order to move a mouse every fifteen minutes.
Ryan also learned his lesson about complaining, so he kept his mouth shut. Besides, he eventually got some development work to do and just put up with the mind-numbing nuisance involved in moving the mouse every fifteen minutes. His manager, however, did not have it in him.
When Ryan went on vacation, he came back to find how his manager was able to solve the "data entry" task that he temporarily took over. Being the creative fellow he is, Ryan's manager found a spare workstation, brought in the Fisher Price Vibrating Rocking Chair from his attic, and placed an optical mouse in seat; the process was now able to run unattended because the minute mouse movements would continually reset the timeout counter. To this day, the FP-VRC remains a vital part of their data entry automation process.