Where are my keys? Cam S. had checked under every couch cushion, in every jacket pocket, under every bed, everywhere for his keys. While checking the kitchen counter for the third time, he glanced at the oven clock. 8:35. Even if the skies had opened up right that minute and his keys descended on a golden platter, he'd still be at least ten minutes late for work.

It was then that he peeked in the garage and beheld a beautiful sight — his keys sitting on the drivers' seat of his truck. If he drove unreasonably, dangerously fast, he might still be able to get to work on time! Cam breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the keys in his truck. His locked truck. Damn it! The only other key was with his wife, who had left for work a while ago. It was clear that it just wasn't in the stars for Cam to go to work that day.

Oh well, there was a silver lining. Working from home means no commute, no finding a parking spot, no changing out of your favorite robot PJs, no not watching Judge Judy and eating Doritos all day — pretty much exactly how the Bible describes heaven.

Cam fired off an email to his boss, "Joel," to let him know that he wouldn't be in that day. Immediately, an out-of-office autoreply came back, so per bank policy, Cam had to email Joel's boss, "Ron," with all of Joel's team CC'd with contact information. Minutes later, a smartass on Cam's team replied-to-all with a snarky "Yeah, whatever, Cam. We all know that by 'working at home' you mean you'll be sitting on your couch in your PJs eating Doritos and watching Judge Judy." It's like he's psychic! Cam thought. Still, he could prove them wrong with his new hobby project — a periodically updating webcam image on his personal web site. Just as soon as he changed out of his PJs and moved the Doritos out of the shot.

It was a pretty crappy webcam — its maximum (and only) resolution was 320x240 with a color palette that rivaled EGA. Fortunately, this resulted in small file sizes (~17kb per image), and since he was hosting the site out of his basement, every little bit of compression helped. Cam fought reply-all with reply-all, opening with "Nuh-uh," and choosing his words carefully to avoid an escalating "yeah-huh!" "nuh-uh!" quagmire: "I'll prove it! Here's a link to my personal web site!"

Rather than continuing in the webcam site direction by adding eighth grade-level poetry, "which Backstreet Boy are you" quiz results, and PayPal donation buttons, he did the unthinkable — actually worked from home. And he managed to get a lot done; answering emails, chipping away at some bug fixes, preparing reports (all the while remembering not to pick his nose on camera).

During a quick lunch break, Cam got a panicked call from his boss's boss, Ron. "Cam, do you still have your webcam on?"

"Yeah, wh-"

"Turn it off. NOW," he said in all caps over the phone.

"Uh, ok." Cam flicked the switch on the webcam off. "So, why exactly is it so urgen-"

"Can'ttalknowbigproblems-" *click*

That was weird, Cam said as he checked his pants fly and the section of the room that was in the shot. Finding nothing that could have upset anyone in the last few snapshots, he shrugged it off and got back to work.

It was then that Cam learned about one negative side-effect of working from home — being the guy that gets to work from home. There's a perception that the work-from-home guy's life is so much better than yours, that they do jack squat all day, and get paid more for it. True or not, it makes people jealous, and jealousy breeds contempt. Contempt breeds blaming. Blaming breeds repercussions for Cam.

See, it seems that there was a brief but major hiccup in a router somewhere between the bank's data center and their T3 provider, causing a dramatic slowdown in outbound network performance, which rippled out into hundreds of branches and affecting thousands of online banking customers. In the troubleshooting process, the lead network engineer caught wind that Cam had been "streaming live video" over the network, and was going to tell! He complained loudly to Ron that Cam had caused the issues and lost some revenues for the bank in the process. Adding to this theory was the fact that the issue had apparently resolved itself close to the time that Cam turned off his webcam.

One week later, Cam is sitting with his boss Joel to discuss the issue. "Cam, I'm going to need you to sign this disciplinary action report before we file it with HR," Joel said weakly.

Appealing to reason, Cam began, "Joel, you know exactly what happened. You know that all that was coming across the network was a static web page with a new image every so often. I never had more than five HTTP sessions at a time. It would take thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of simultaneous users accessing my web site at the same time to consume the bandwidth that it says I consumed on this report."

"I know," he said as his expression sank. Clearly, he'd fought for Cam and been overruled.

"Besides that," Cam continued, "I'm hosting my site at my house. My upstream connection is capped at 360 kbps. There's literally no physical way that anything I did from my house could even make a dent in our massive T3 lines, even if my upstream connection was 100% saturated!"

"I know," Joel said as his face slipped into his hands. At this point, it dawned on Cam that he was lucky that all that was happening to him was a writeup. It sounded as though upper management would prefer to see him hanged. Still, it was absolutely unfair that he'd be made to take the fall.

"Furthermore," Cam pressed, "what about our QoS policies? Surely internal users browsing external web sites have lower priority than-"

"I know," Joel said again. "Look, I've fought them on this. You know I trust you, and that I know you wouldn't ever — that you couldn't ever — do something like this. I'm saying this as a friend; you're better off just signing this. It's not just you; management is pissed at me now, too. It's not fair, but it's how it is."

In the end, there wasn't much Cam could have done. Joel had backed him up and explained the inescapable facts that Cam couldn't have caused the network issues even if he'd tried. Cam signed the form and spent several more years at the bank, eventually rising to the rank of Lead Developer. And the network engineer that had pinned the issues on Cam even learned to respect him as a colleague (though they never spoke of the incident).

Today, even though he'd left the bank for other opportunities, he and Joel occasionally share a laugh over the $30 webcam that brought down the bank's network.

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