Rebecca's first day at Mega Thrift Stores (or MTS) didn't start well. She was hired as an assistant to Maggie, the aging head of Quality Assurance, to handle issues and complaints from regional managers about their resource tracking software. Rebecca asked if they used Bugzilla.

"We don't use Bugzilla here," Maggie told her, with the look of a stern schoolteacher.

"Well, what software should I use?"

"The only software you'll need," Maggie explained, "is your work laptop and Outlook. When filing a report, you will use my email template, attach relevant screenshots, and email the information directly to me."

"How do I find out if it's been fixed?"

"When a patch is distributed and the problem is no longer reproducible."

A shiver ran down Rebecca's spine. She wondered if she shouldn't start sending her resume to other jobs right away.

Papers, Please

The email template Maggie gave her was several screens long, with dozens of questions:

OS Version Number: CPU Make and Model: CPU Speed in Hz: Hard Drive Manufacturer: Hard Drive Capacity: ...(snip)... Mouse Manufacturer: Mouse Interface Standard: USB/PS2 Mouse Adapters Used:

How is any MTS employee going to give me all of this information? Rebecca didn't have to wonder long, as a manager called after. "This is Rebecca, how can I help you?"

"The thing don't work!"

"Could you be more specific?"

"I mean, the thing don't work!"

Five minutes of conversation with the manager gave her only a vague idea of the problem, which involved some button label text getting truncated. She was able to reproduce the issue on her machine, but the manager didn't provide any details about his own machine: not his CPU manufacturer, and certainly not anything regarding mouse adapters.

Undaunted, she left the details blank that she couldn't gather, attached the screenshot, and emailed it to Maggie. She responded moments after:

You MUST fill in all the fields in the template, or the bug can't be submitted!

Rebecca called the manager back, but only got his secretary. Now what? Since she could reproduce the problem on her own machine, she filled in the details using her computer's specs, and resubmitted the issue. Maggie emailed back with a single line:


This is going to be a joy, Rebecca thought.

Coup d'Etat

Rebecca muddled through the next couple of weeks. She continued to paste in her own computer's specs if she couldn't get any from the employees calling her with their frequent software issues. She tried to vary the specs to see if Maggie would notice, but soon decided that she didn't even bother.

One day, Rebecca arrived in the office to find three black-suited men waiting for her. She wondered if someone with her name had run afoul of the FBI.

"Rebecca? We have a serious problem. Your supervisor Maggie has died."

The three black suits explained that since Rebecca was the only employee with direct experience with Maggie, that she would have to take over her responsibilities. Rebecca explained that she had only interacted with Maggie through email. "Well, you're the best we've got," one suit explained. "Why not give it a try?"

Central Planning

Maggie's office was adorned with ancient postcards from Liverpool. Rebecca found her computer, logged in ( guessing Maggie's password was "password") and opened Outlook.

Every email was kept under Inbox. There were no subfolders, nor filters of any kind. Rebecca sorted through the dozens of bug reports she sent Maggie, with the cryptic bug IDs sent back, but there was no indication of how Maggie actually kept track of anything.

Her desktop was similarly cluttered, but one icon stood out from the rest. It was an Excel document, titled ISSUE TRACKING.xlsx, and modified within a day of Maggie's death. Rebecca opened it.

Are you kidding me? The Excel file had a single sheet, containing tens of thousands of lines. Each column was one of the questions on the email report template. In a corner was a button labeled ADD that looked like it might be a macro.

Sure enough, the macro opened a dialog window with all of the template questions. Maggie literally couldn't change anything in the Excel file without breaking the macro she used to enter the information, and all of the fields were required. The bug ID was just the next row number.

"I think I've got the hang of it," Rebecca told the suits waiting outside. The first thing she did was install a local copy of Bugzilla.

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