Alex Papadimoulis

Alex is a speaker and writer who is passionate about looking beyond the code to build great software. In addition to founding Inedo - the makers of BuildMaster, the popular continuous delivery platform - Alex also started The Daily WTF, a fun site dedicated to building software the wrong way.

Classic WTF: Very, Very Well Documented

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It's Independence Day in the US, but today, let's instead celebrate our dependence on good quality documentation. It matters. Even when we measure the size of that documentation in meters, instead of freedom units. Original -- Remy

Just about all of the systems I’ve written about here share quite a few things in common: they are poorly designed, poorly coded, and even more poorly documented. Today, I’m happy to share with you a system that doesn’t quite fit in with all the rest. It’s actually very sound software and, most of all, it’s well documented. Very, very well documented.

George Nacht is a software engineer in certain a Post-Communist European country. In the mid-1990’s, his government decided that it was time to replace their foreign, Soviet-era fighter jets with modern, less expensive aircrafts of domestic design. And since they were modernizing their fleet, they decided to modernize their pilot training as well. This meant that new, interactive flight-simulator software needed to be developed.


Classic WTF: Back That Thang Up

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We're still away for our summer break, skimming our inbox and horrified by all the things you're sending us. Keep doing it. Speaking of horrors, this one's about backups. You know what's about to happen… Original. -- Remy

It ain't easy being number one, especially for R.B.'s company. With €730 million in annual revenues, they're the leader in a relatively small (€1.6 billion) niche market and are constantly struggling to maintain their dominance amongst a handful of vicious competitors. Recently, an executive at the company came up with an astonishingly brilliant plan that would ensure that they stayed on top for many years to come. This plan was named The Convergence.

The Convergence was, in all seriousness, a really good idea. It represented a completely new way of doing business that relied heavily on technology and its ability to integrate the supply chain with the customer experience. It would do nothing short of revolutionizing their entire industry, leaving their competitors struggling just to stay afloat.


Classic WTF: The Source Control Shingle

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It's still a short summer break for a few more days, as always, keep those submissions filling our inbox while we're away. In the meantime, we're also into peak homebuying season. A friend of mine needed a new roof as part of her purchase. Roofs are important, as they provide vital protection for your structure. Unless that structure is your source code… Original. --Remy

The year was 1999 and the dot-com boom was going full-throttle. Companies everywhere were focused on building revolutionary applications using nothing but top-shelf hardware and state-of-the-art software tools. Developers everywhere were trying to figure out if they should play more foosball, more air hockey, or sit back down on their Aeron and write more code. Everywhere, that is, except Boise, Idaho. Or at least, Dave's small corner of it.

At Dave's company, developers worked at a solid pace, using reliable tools, for a stable industry. They were sub-sub-contractors on a giant project commissioned by the U.S. Navy to condense naval vessel documentation. Generally speaking, the complete documentation required for a modern warship-from the GPS calibration instructions to the giant 130-millimeter cannon repair guide-is measured in tons. By condensing the documentation into the electronic equivalent, they could not only save tremendous physical space, but they could make it much easier to navigate.


Classic WTF: Front-Ahead Design

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Summer breaks are a great opportunity to improve yourself. And what's a better way to use your summer break than to take some high end certification training. Prove that you're ready for the FAD! Original --Remy

In the past, I didn’t mix TDWTH and work too often, but with the tweaked name and tweaked direction on content, I knew this article would be a perfect fit.

As some of you know, I fill two important roles in my day job at Inedo, LLC. Not only am I a software developer, but I’m also the Chief Front-Ahead Design Evangelist. In this latter role, it’s my duty to spread and champion the revolutionary software development methodology known as Front Ahead Design (FAD).


Classic WTF: The Great Code Spawn

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We're taking a little summer break this week for our regular articles. Since we're re-using articles, let's start with one about developer efficiency. Why write code when you can automate writing code? Original -- Remy

Several years ago, Dan D’s predecessor, Steve, came to the realization that many of us arrived at one point or another: writing data-access code can get boring and repetitive. To ease the tedium, Steve did what many developers in his position do. He wrote some code to generate a lot of code.

Unfortunately, Steve’s coding skills weren’t all too hot. Worse were his code-writing-code writing skills. In the years since The Great Code Spawn (as it has come to be known), the data-access layer has become an unmaintainable disaster – so much so that, rather than add a new database column, developers have “split” single fields into multiple through bit-shifting and string manipulation.


Classic WTF: All Pain, No Gain

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It's a holiday here in the states. So enjoy this classic from the far off year of 2009. --Remy

"My company has very strict policy on direct access to the database," Steve writes, "no hand-built SQL in the front-end code and always use a stored procedure to access the data. The reasoning behind this was simple and sound: Avoid SQL injection attacks and increase database performance. "

"The execution, however, was not so simple and sound. They went through all the pain of needing to use stored procs, but none of the gain. I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader to see why."


Best of 2020: Copy/Paste Culture

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As per usual, we'll be spending a few days looking back at some of our favorite stories of the year. We start with a visit to a place where copy/pasting isn't just common, it's part of the culture. Original -- Remy

Mark F had just gone to production on the first project at his new job: create a billables reconciliation report that an end-user had requested a few years ago. It was clearly not a high priority, which was exactly why it was the perfect items to assign a new programmer.

"Unfortunately," the end user reported, "it just doesn't seem to be working. It's running fine on test, but when I run it on the live site I'm getting a SELECT permission denied on the object fn_CalculateBusinessDays message. Any idea what that means?"


Classic WTF: 2012

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As we enjoy our holiday today, in this seemingly unending year of 2020, our present to you is a blast from 2012, the year the world was supposed to end. Original --Remy

"Most people spend their New Year's Eve watching the ball drop and celebrating the New Year," writes Jason, "and actually, that's what I planned to do, too. Instead, I found myself debugging our licensing activation system." "Just as I was about to leave the office, I received a torrent of emails with the subject 'License Activation Failed'. One or two every now and then is expected, but dozens and dozens at four o'clock on New Year's Eve... not so good. It took me a moment to realize the significance of 4:00PM, but then it hit me: I'm on Pacific Time, which is UTC -8 hours.

"The error message that was filling up our logs was simply 'INVALID DATE' and for the life of me I couldn't figure out why. Our license code was a 32-bit number that represented the expiration date of the license and the features in the license. 7 of those bits represented the year since 2000, so obviously the date was fine up until 2127. After hours and hours of digging through PL/SQL, Java, JavaScript, Ruby, and some random shell scripts, I found the following.


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