Recent Articles

Jan 2020

Little to Nothing at All

by in Error'd on

"I wonder, what does a null pharmacist eat for lunch? BaNaNas?" writes Barry M.

The Intern's Gadget

by in CodeSOD on

Pierre is a contractor who supports a variety of companies helping them manage data-science and analytics applications. Code, in these contexts, is written to answer specific questions, driven more by mathematics than program design. That’s a polite way of saying that the vast majority of the code is unreadable nonsense that no one can explain.

One of Pierre’s clients has decided to migrate to that fancy new thing they’ve been hearing about, “the cloud”, and thus they have to move all of their applications to that cloud. This suite of applications involved a website with a pile of “gadgets” that users could string together to do their own data analysis. And one of those gadgets was quickly thrown together by an intern circa 2007.

Exceptoinal Spelling

by in CodeSOD on

Object-oriented languages often let you implement your own exception classes to hook into their structured exception handling. This is, usually, a good thing: you create your own custom types for your various errors, which makes various exception states more clear. PebkacException is more useful than just Exception, and you can build catch blocks specific to your application/API needs.

But there’s a dark side to this feature. People want to hook functionality into their exception objects. Instead of just using them as a signal to announce a failure state, they slap features into them, like exceptions which automatically self log.

Microsoft's English Pluralization Service

by in CodeSOD on

Despite founding The Daily WTF more than fifteen years ago, I still find myself astonished and perplexed by the curious perversions in information technology that you all send in. These days, I spend most of my time doing "CEO of Inedo stuff", which means I don't get to code that much. And when I do, it's usually working with the beautiful, completely WTF- and bug-free code that our that our world-class engineers create.

I mention this, because when I come across TDWTF-worthy code on my own, in the wild, it's a very special occasion. And today, I'm excited to share with you one of the worst pieces of code I've seen in a very long time: EnglishPluralizationServices.cs

A Splash of Color

by in CodeSOD on

YouTube, like any reasonable video service, offers closed captioning. They'll even throw machine learning at the problem, and autogenerate captions, though that is usually only good for comedy, rather than actual accesibility.

Any closed captioning system will generally let you specify the colors of the captions as well as the actual text. YouTube is no exception to that. YouTube offers an online editor, but anyone serious about producing content is going to upload their own subtitle files, and up until recently, this could be done in an XML file which would allowed a lot of control over the styling of the captions.

Amazon Deal or No Deal

by in Error'd on

"Hey Alexa, can you help Amazon with their math?" Timothy W. wrote.

A Short Year

by in Representative Line on

Are we sick of of year rollover bugs yet? Well, let’s just agree that people aren’t sick of making these kinds of bugs.

A long time ago, someone at Oleksandr’s company needed to write a Python script that shipped a 4-digit year to a system that only accepted 2-digit years. So 2010 needed to turn into 10.

Two Heads Are Better Than One

by in Feature Articles on

What, exactly set of features divide a "text editor" from an IDE is a bit of a blurry line. Developers are not the sort to use static, unchangeable tools. They want configuration, they want plugins, they want quick access to a terminal, they want debugging support, and they'll bolt those features into just about anything.

There's a fine line between an IDE that provides nice utility to the developer, and an IDE which is opinionated. I had the misfortune long ago to use the WebSphere IDE, which was essentially a repackaged version of early Eclipse bundled with highly opinionated plugins about how you were supposed to build a Java application. As Matt puts it: "An IDE is, to some, a high-functionality tool for developing applications, and to others a classic example of an Inner Platform."

An Enterprise API

by in CodeSOD on

There’s a simple rule about “enterprise” software: if the word “enterprise” is used in any way to describe the product, it’s a terrible product. Enterprise products are usually pretty special purpose and serve a well-capitalized but usually relatively small market. You aren’t going to sell licenses to millions of companies, but maybe tens of thousands. Often hundreds. There are some extremely niche enterprise products that have only two or three customers.

Lots of money, combined with an actually small market in terms of customers, guarantees no real opportunity for competition. Couple that with the fact that each of your customers wants the off-the-shelf product you’re selling them to have every feature they need for their business case, you’re on a fast track to bloated software, inner platforms, and just general awfulness.

Painful Self-Development

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View my timesheet page

Daniel didn't believe the rumor at first. Whenever his company chased after the hottest new business trends, they usually pursued the worst trends imaginable. But word was that this time, they'd seen fit to mimic Google’s fabled "20% Time."

Text Should Go Here

by in Error'd on

"The fact that Microsoft values my PC's health over copyediting is why I thumbed up this window," Eric wrote.

Switch Off

by in CodeSOD on

There are certain things which you see in code that, at first glance, if you haven’t already learned better, look like they might almost be clever. One of those in any construct that starts with:

switch(true) {…}


by in Feature Articles on

We’re still in the early part of the year, and as little glitches show up from “sliding window” fixes to the Y2K bug, we’re seeing more and more little stories of other date rollover weirdness in our inbox.

Like, for example, the Y2K15 bug, which Encore got to get surprised with. It feels like date issues are turning into a sports game franchise: new releases of the same thing every year.

Gormless and Gone

by in Representative Line on

There’s always a hope that in the future, our code will be better. Eventually, we won’t be dealing with piles of krufty legacy code and unprepared programmers and business users who don’t understand how clicking works. It’s 2020: we officially live in the future. Things aren’t better.

Duane works in Go, and has a piping hot “Representative Line” written in 2020. If, like me, you don’t quite know Go, it still looks pretty terrible at first glance:

An Unreal Json Parser

by in CodeSOD on

As we've discussed in the past, video game code probably shouldn't be held to the standards of your average WTF: they're operating under wildly different constraints. So, for example, when a popular indie game open sources itself, and people find all sorts of horrors in the codebase: hey, the game shipped and made money. This isn't life or death stuff.

It's a little different when you're building the engine. You're not just hacking together whatever you need to make your product work, but putting together a reusable platform to make other people's products work.

Are You Old Enough to Know Better?

by in Error'd on

"I guess my kid cousins won't be putting these together for a while," Travis writes.

The Compliance Ropeway

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"So, let me get this straight," Derrick said. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath while massaging his temples before letting out an exasperated sigh. "Not a single person... in this entire organization... is taking ANY responsibility for Ropeway? No one is even willing to admit that they know anything about this application...?"

The Operations team had grown accustomed to their new director's mannerisms and learned it's just better to stay silent and let Derrick think out loud. Afterall, no one envied his job or his idealistic quest for actual compliance. If had he been at the bank as long as his team had, Derrick would have learned that there's compliance... and then there's "compliance."

Sharing the Power

by in CodeSOD on

"For my sins," John writes, "I'm working on a SharePoint 2010 migration."

This tells us that John has committed a lot of sins. But not as many as one of his coworkers.


by in Feature Articles on

Twenty years out, people have a hard time remembering that Y2K was an actual thing, an actual problem, and it was only solved because people recognized the danger well ahead of time, and invested time and effort into mitigating the worst of it. Disaster didn’t come to pass because people worked their butts off to avoid it.

Gerald E was one of those people. He worked for a cellular provider as a customer service rep, providing technical support and designing the call-center scripts for providing that support. As 1999 cranked on, Gerald was pulled in to the Y2K team to start making support plans for the worst case scenarios.

Yet Another Master of Evil

by in CodeSOD on

As a general rule, if you find yourself writing an extension system for your application, stop and do something else. It's almost always in the case of YAGNI: you ain't gonna need it.

George is a "highly paid consultant", and considers himself one of the "good ones": he delivers well tested, well documented, and clean code to his clients. His peer, Gracie on the other hand… is a more typical representative of the HPC class.

Variable Trust

by in Error'd on

Brian writes, "Of course server %1 is trustworthy, I couldn't do my work without it!"

Untested Builds

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Kaylee E made an "oops" and checked in a unit test with a bug in it which caused the test to fail. She didn't notice right away, and thus the commit hit their CI pipeline and was automatically pulled by the build server. She assumed that when she checked the logs she'd see the error, but she didn't. The build completed, and Tests (0/0) ran successfully.

Now, Kaylee was new to the codebase, and since she'd been doing small changes, she'd simply written and run tests around explicitly the functionality she was testing. She hadn't yet done a full test run locally, so that was her next step. From there, it was easy to see why the build server didn't automatically run tests.

Best of 2019: When Unique Isn't Unique

by in Best of… on
We close out our recap of 2019 and head into the new year with one last flashback: when vendors forget what the definition of "unique" is. Original -- Remy

Palm III 24

Gather 'round, young'uns, for a tale from the Dark Ages of mobile programming: the days before the iPhone launched. Despite what Apple might have you believe, the iPhone wasn't the first portable computing device. Today's submitter, Jack, was working for a company that streamed music to these non-iPhone devices, such as the Palm Treo or the Samsung Blackjack. As launch day approached for the new client for Windows Mobile 6, our submitter realized that he'd yet to try the client on a non-phone device (called a PDA, for those of you too young to recall). So he tracked down an HP iPaq on eBay just so he could verify that it worked on a device without the phone API.