Recent Feature Articles

Nov 2016

Awful On Purpose

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ExpoSYFY - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (8521128271)

Studying his new work contract, Stewart felt like he'd found a golden ticket. After 2 long and tedious years in the local university's IT department, he was happy for any opportunity to escape that hellhole. TLA Technologies looked like the Garden of Eden by comparison. Instead of being the only person responsible for anything vaguely computer-related—from putting up websites to plugging in power strips—he'd now be working with a "dynamic team of programmers" in a "rapidly growing company tapping into the web development market". Instead of dealing with tools and languages forgotten by history itself, he'd be using "modern, cutting-edge solutions" under "agile and customer-oriented methodologies". And instead of reporting to a pointy-haired supervisor who couldn't tell a computer from a toaster, he'd be working directly under Dave.

Classic WTF: Illicit Process Improvement

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In celebration of Black Friday, also known as "Retail Hellscape", let's look at a retail-oriented classic WTF, which originally ran way back in 2007. We'll resume our regularly scheduled WTFs next week.--Remy

Christian R. was in trouble. Despite his experience across hardware and software, desktops and server clusters, thumb drives and SANs, he hadn't found any freelance work in weeks. It was clear that he'd have to figure something out to pay the bills.

In August, Christian applied at Drab's PCs, a large retail chain focused on computer hardware and software. He'd shopped there for years and had an impressive level of knowledge about their products, so he accepted a position in Technical Sales.


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From: Kirby McCloy
Subject: Concerns about SMERPS
The SMERPS project seems to be going down the wrong path. I thought our quarterly goal was for IT modernization.

The email carried no specific call to action. It barely had a point, and was little more than bad-natured griping. It also came from Kirby, the CTO. The email triggered a four-alarm underpants fire as every manager on the SMERPS project tried to guess what Kirby might possibly mean.

The 10x Developer

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“You’re going to learn quite a bit from Burt,” Burt said. “He’s one of the best.”

Davide blinked. He wondered if his new boss spoke about himself in the third person as a matter of course. Cautiously, he said, “Well… I hope so?”

Alberta Highway 10X (1970s)

The Logic Barrier

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Brad was brought in as a new hire to work on improvements for a big-name ERP system. His supposed role would be that of the "input guy" for a new I/O module where engineers would enter some numbers, they would be crunched, and it would output a wireframe design of what they needed to build. While he got started, the development manager Cindy assured him they'd have an "output guy" soon enough.

A bottle of Monopolowa Vodka

Exceptional Handling

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Sonic 2006

Enterprise Resource Planning software, or ERP for short, is crucial to the operation of many large businesses. Several popular ERP systems have plugin-friendly architecture, the better to sell upgrades their customers will never want or use. This software is primarily aimed at businesses with too many complex process flows to manage by hand—making it the perfect domain for a small, lean startup with 3 developers and 1 customer.

A SNOBOL's Chance

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We’ve all inherited legacy systems. You know the sort; 20 years old, more than 50,000 lines of code, poorly designed - even for its time, completely undocumented externally and useless code comments within, mangled beyond recognition due to countless developers making myriad ad-hoc changes upon changes and so-on. Now imagine such a system written in a tool that’s been around for nearly half a century, but rarely used for the intended purpose of the application.

A group of people rolling a snowball taller than any of them

Reg worked for a firm that built space-rocket related applications; specifically an Ada compiler, written in SNOBOL, for a 15+ years obsolete legacy processor used in the rocket. The system itself consisted of more than 100 SPITBOL (a speedier compiler of SNOBOL) programs, most of which were written by one guy nearly four decades ago, Barry. Barry was a former sixties hippie-turned-coder. Though long since retired, he had been called back to active duty to try and help decipher what this thing does.

The World Tree

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When Nate was wrapping up his senior year of college, he hunted around for a job that would hire an undergrad on flexible hours. He knew that the kinds of companies that tended to hire on those terms could often have… creative practices, but college wasn’t about to pay for itself.

He found a small shop that needed an extra hand. Extremely small- there was only one other developer, Gordon. Nate was prepared to enter a tiny shop with no real practices or procedures, because with only one developer, you don’t expect a lot of rules and bureaucracy.

Tangled tree roots Neroberg

No Account for You

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Ed wasn’t excited about his job. He worked for a large automotive manufacturer. This is the kind of industry that might invest heavily into robots and research and development, but when it comes to managing their supply chain and accounts receivable, their IT infrastructure was frozen in amber circa 1974.

Elaine getting her revenge on the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld

The pay was fine, but the work was frustrating. Things like “Code reviews” and “refactoring” were viewed as “wastes of time” or “developers playing with toys”. Unit tests were a luxury for “lazy” developers- good developers should just be writing code that works. If the work you’re doing isn’t directly involved in getting cars built and shipped, you shouldn’t be doing it.