Tariq learned on his first day at CyberPolitiburo about the Iron Curtain dividing the company.
"Here, downstairs, all the .NET developers work on the phone bank application," Simone, his new supervisor, told him. She wore a severe, Soviet-style pantsuit with red trim. "Upstairs, with their donor registry, it’s all C++ this, and GCC that. It’s practically the wild west there. There’s never been any reason to talk to each other, so it doesn’t happen."
"Well," Tariq replied, "we work at the same company. Isn’t that reason enough?"
Wanda guided him past red, vaguely Marxist motivational posters hanging from the walls to his cubicle. "As far as I’m concerned," she said, "it’s tantamount to insubordination to even think about it."
Insubordination? Tariq thought. Are the two floors even part of the same company?
Later that week, Simone gave Tariq a new task. "Upstairs wants our phone bank app to pass more information to their donor registry. They haven’t taken well to us using the fax number field for mobile phones."
"Okay, easy enough," Tariq said. "I’ll pull the Inter-Process API from the repo and add a new field. It’s probably XML, right?"
Simone gasped. "Don’t you go changing anything! Just leave things as they are if you can help it." Simone glanced upstairs before leaving Tariq at his desk.
Don’t change too much? Tariq thought as he checked out the IPC API. I can’t imagine it would be too -- OH GOD IN HEAVEN! Tariq discovered that the two CyberPolitiburo apps didn’t use XML, messaging, or any other common IPC method. No, it was worse.
They used the Windows Registry to pass values.
Tariq went to speak to Simone. Her office looked like a Kremlin museum. "I’d like to meet with the developers upstairs to talk about modernizing our IPC methods."
"You know I can’t condone that," Simone said. "And I’m disappointed you would even consider . . . collaborating with them. However, if you feel such a burning desire to visit the other half of this company, I won’t stop you."
"I’ll do that," Tariq said.
A gigantic American flag greeted Tariq when he stepped off the elevator on the second floor. The carpet was navy blue, the walls white, the ceiling tiles spray-painted red. "Howdy, partner!" Someone shouted from the other end of the office. A short man in his twenties, wearing cowboy boots with spurs, stomped to where Tariq stood. "How can I help you? You from downstairs, young’un?"
"I’d like to talk to the manager about our IPC process. I think we need to rethink it."
"Re-think it?!" The developer turned and spit into a nearby trash bin. "I dunno about that."
"You won’t even consider it?"
"Why would we consider it? That phone bank, it was written by a rank amateur we hired for contract. Some eastern European fella, if I recall. We can’t trust any of that tainted .net code, son! That’s why we keep that codebase away from our all-American, C++ repo! Sorry, son, but the answer’s no." The cowboy developer stomped back to his desk.
Guess I’ll have to bring down this Iron Curtain myself, Tariq thought.
Tariq was called into Simone’s office a week later. His heart raced. Sitting in the other chair was the cowboy developer from upstairs.
"Tariq," Simone began, "why did you alter the IPC API without my permission?"
"You mean mine, darlin’," the cowboy said.
"Both of ours," Simone corrected.
"If I hadn’t," Tariq said, "and either one of us screwed up a routine, a race condition could corrupt the Windows Registry. We’d have to have our support tech reinstall windows every time the registry corrupts on a user’s machine."
"We can always hire more technicians," Simone said.
"I dunno about that," the cowboy said. "Maybe you people down here don’t know the value of the American Dollar, but we upstairs would like to keep costs down, if it please you." He turned to Tariq. "Thanks son, but don’t go digging your dirty, .net hands into our code again." The cowboy left.
"Do you know, in the old Soviet Union, what they did to traitors?" Simone asked Tariq.
"Well, I think of myself more like Gorbachev, not Trotsky," Tariq replied. "At least I hope you’ll let me live."
He did. Instead, they let him go that afternoon. Like Trotsky, he vanished from the CyberPolitiburo without a trace, leaving his new IPC API behind.
Photo credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Berlinermauer.jpg