Thank-you-word-cloud

Brent's latest software project contained a story for adding a word-cloud to a PDF report that was already being generated on a production server using Java. Instead of being handled by Brent's in-house team, the requirement was assigned—against Brent's wishes—to overseas developers whom the company had recently contracted to "add more horsepower" to things.

Being fairly technical, the product manager found an example word-cloud library, linked to it in the ticket, and commented, "The output should look something like this."

A month passed. Then, Brent reported into work one morning to find a new ticket in JIRA listed as blocking the word-cloud ticket. Its title was Having trouble launching Internet Explorer from Selenium on Linux servers (works fine locally on my Windows development machine).

Brent's confusion left him paralyzed for a few moments. Then he realized, this was probably just a testing ticket that'd somehow gotten linked to the story by accident. To make sure, he called up Bobby, his counterpart from the contracting firm, who'd been the one to file the ticket.

"It's not a mistake," Bobby explained. "The story really is blocked."

"OK, so, you're really trying to launch Internet Explorer on the production app server?" Brent asked. "You realize IE's not installed on that server, right? What do you need it for?"

"It's integral to the implementation I came up with," Bobby replied.

Brent was afraid to ask. "How?"

"I couldn't find a native Java word-cloud library, so this is what I have to do to fulfill the specifications," Bobby said. "First, I take the PDF report data and serialize it to JSON. Then, I import Selenium into the production codebase. Then, I generate an HTML page and a Selenium script. Once Selenium is started, the script launches Internet Explorer and opens the HTML page. Once the HTML page loads, Selenium captures a screenshot of it. With Java, the screenshot is opened, cropped, and then embedded into the PDF report."

Brent was stunned speechless.

"I got this to work on my local machine, but then I tried to test on a server and hit the error," Bobby continued.

That's what you were doing all month? Brent marveled. "Uh, OK ... listen, the implementation you just described is unacceptable. I don't see why we can't keep it within Java. We're coming up on our deadline."

Brent's eyes strayed toward the calendar tacked to his cubicle wall, showing him how few empty squares he had left to deal with this. He took a deep breath, composed himself, then donned his project manager hat to do the managerly thing.

"Leave this alone for now, all right? I'm going to speak with some of my developers and let you know what we decide to do from here."

"OK," Bobby replied.

Once off the call, Brent opened up Outlook and fired off a meeting request for the earliest possible time. A short while later, he looked upon his assembled developers within a dimly lit conference room, half of whom were more interested in their laptops than in the minor crisis Brent related to them.

"What can we do about this on short notice?" he begged. "Is there a native Java library that can generate word-clouds?"

No amount of Internet-hunting turned up anything useful. Brent tugged at his collar. He'd been hoping Bobby had been wrong about that, and that a solution would only require a download and a few lines of code.

"All right. How hard would it be to code our own implementation?" Brent asked.

Cheryl, who'd been typing furiously all meeting, finally let up on the keyboard and shoved away from the table. "Here, I just finished."

As it turned out, her keyboard exercise had not been in the service of bashing trolls in comment threads. Everyone gathered to peek over her shoulder at the PDF-embedded word-cloud it'd taken her minutes to code and generate, an accomplishment that'd eluded their contractors for a whole month.

"Meeting adjourned!" Brent cried in triumph.

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