Citizen Blaine is the story of one genius developer’s career. Last time, we saw the start of his arc of success. He started by accomplishing the seemingly impossible, and moved on to design the impossible system.
We last left Rich, the desparate developer on a deadline, trying to trace the mystery of Blaine’s last word- “Rosebud”. His search brought him to Dave, the salty and rude developer who maintains SLED, part of Blaine’s legacy.

“So, Blaine leaves the SLED team to go start his supply-chain crapfest, right?” Dave said. “And allllll of the problems with SLED are somebody else’s fault.” Dave’s eyes picked up an evil gleam as he turned to Rich. “He was home free… until Franz came in.”

SLEDding Uphill

Halfway through the SLED project- the actual halfway point, and not the budgeted and projected halfway point which had come and gone ages ago- the VP of IT was replaced by Franz. SLED wasn’t the only project that was floundering, and someone upstairs was sick of watching money fall down a hole in IT. Franz’s job was to fix that.

Franz was a smart boss, and knew that problems like this often started at the bottom and worked their way up to the top, so he started by talking to the guys in the trenches. His round of interviews eventually brought him to Dave, and when he asked Dave: “Why do you think SLED is so far off target?” Dave took that as license to tell Franz exactly who he thought was responsible.

A short time later, a conference room was repurposed to be used as a team room. Dave and a few of the other developers were sequestered in there, and Dave suspected that it might be as punishment for his inappropriate honesty. Then Blaine entered the room, laptop in tow.

Blaine flopped into a chair, then glared around the table. “Don’t think I don’t know you are working against me,” he said.

“Working against you?” Dave asked, sweetly.

“Yes, against me!” Blaine snapped his laptop open and spent a moment glaring at the screen before looking up to make eye-contact with Dave across the table. “Someone was telling lies to Franz about this project, slandering me to my new boss. And if you think for one second, that I’m going to let you get away with that- I will burn this project to the ground before I let you ruin what I’ve created!”

Franz entered on the heels of that screed, to explain exactly what was going on. “Blaine shall be assisting you on this project until it’s complete. All of the supply-chain activities are on hold until we get this project out to the users. This will happen in six weeks. It does not matter how it looks. It does not matter what sort of quality problems the code has. The users will receive a working product in six weeks, and if you cannot deliver, someone else will. Am I understood?”

When Franz left, Blaine stood up. “You heard him. I’ve already given you the design, and it was elegant in its simplicity. The fact that you failed to implement my vision reflects poorly on your skills as developers, but I refuse to let it reflect poorly on me. Let’s get our heads down and get this done. NOW!”

“We didn’t need Blaine’s help,” Dave said. “Not at that point. Still, it was hilarious to me. Blaine wanted us to track every task in an Excel file he set up, so he could ‘crack the whip’ as needed, but we all got in the habit of lying. Until the last day of the project, we had him in a constant panic that things were still six months behind.”

“That’s cruel!”

Dave shrugged. “The asshead deserved it. Besides, he got to go play boss-man and be a manager upstairs.”

Which is where Rich had started with Blaine. The Supply-Chain team was on the sixth floor, and Blaine’s right-hand was Lisa. At this point, it was almost 6PM, but Lisa gave no indication that she was close to ending her day. “I’ll be with you in one moment,” she said.

One moment turned into 20 minutes, as she scrambled to juggle config files across a dozen servers, manually moved executable files into production environments, blasted out emails warning about the changes, noticing a minor bug and making an emergency patch that she rolled straight out into production.

“Sorry, about that. It’s always busy up here.”

“I can see that… is this normal?”

“Well, it’s been pretty quiet today. This department is always in total chaos.”

The Chains of Supply

One one side of the table sat Lisa and Blaine. On the other side were Mike and Steve, two guys from operations. Blaine slapped the table and said, “Look, we can’t operate on Initech time, here! Our team needs to move at the speed of business.”

“I totally understand that,” Mike said, “we totally understand that. But you can’t just email .exe or .asp files to my team and tell them to drop them in a folder. We have sign-offs and change management processes for a reason.”

“From what I can tell,” Blaine said, “that reason is to slow us down.” Lisa watched him take a deep breath and force himself to be calm. “I’m sorry, but for our team, success is the only option. When we need to change software, it’s usually on a short notice, and if we don’t do it correctly right then, chemicals don’t ship. We need a little more responsiveness from your team.”

“I get that, Blaine, but we work with every team in Initrode. We’re more than happy to help you move to automated deployments-”

“We haven’t got time for that! We don’t even have time for this meeting- in fact, I have to call this here.” Blaine glanced at his watch then back at Mike and Steve. “I’m sorry, but I’m going to send a request to the VP of IT that all of our servers are moved under our team’s control. This works out better for everyone- we get to control our cycle time, and you don’t have to worry about any more meetings like this.”

“So, that’s why I do a lot of server admin work,” Lisa said.

“How often are you changing code in production ?”

“Oh, pretty much every day. I’d love to find a better way, but who has time?”

Rich’s history lesson hadn’t netted him anything, so he swung back to Blaine’s office. It had already been tossed by his peers, but no one had found anything useful, documentation-wise. It was strange being in the office without Blaine or the stamp of his personality that he had left on the space. It felt almost dead- just old binders and tech manuals from a decade past.

That, and Blaine’s USB hub, which he had forgotten. It was a cheap plastic snow-globe, with the water half evaporated out, likely a relic from some department “Secret Santa” exchange. Rich picked it up and gave it a shake anyway, which did little to motivate the white powder within the globe. That’s when he noticed “64MB” embossed on the side. It was a storage device?

Rich ran down the stairs to his cube, snow-globe clutched in his hand. He slammed the cable into his computer, and watched as Windows detected a mass storage device, and then opened an explorer window. The drive’s label was “Rosebud”. Inside was a single folder, crammed with Word documents, Power Point slide decks, and archived emails. It was everything Blaine had even known about about anything in the company.

With a trembling hand, Rich double clicked on the document called “LabellingSystemDocumentation.doc”. Word cranked, opened the document, which had three lines in it:

Used by plants to print labels.
I’ve built this one to be super hard to maintain, it’s so high priority that every time I touch it, I look like a goddamn hero.

[Advertisement] BuildMaster allows you to create a self-service release management platform that allows different teams to manage their applications. Explore how!