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How it is to be a dev in my country?
At bit of an odd question this week.
For me (in the USA), it's being technical support for *every* website my family uses.
Over the weekend my wife visited her aunt and I get a call.
Wife: "How do I create an ebay account?"
Me: "I don't like where this is going. We already have an account."
Wife: "Not for me, dummy, Aunt T. She found some books she wants to buy on ebay."
Me: "You go thru the process to create an account? Email, name, password, etc."
Wife: "We tried that, but it's not working."
<few seconds of silence>
Me: "Oookaaay...why isn't it working? Is there an error?"
Wife: "I don't know, we already clicked off of it. Something about the email."
<few more seconds of silence>
Me: "Can you reproduce the error and tell me?"
Wife: "Uggh..are you serious? We've done it like 10 times, its not working. Just tell me what I need to do."
Me: "If you can't tell me the error, I can't help you. I'm not there and can't see what you see."
Wife: "Stop being an asshole."
<Aunt T takes the phone>
T: "Said something about using another email address. Does that help you?"
Me: "Are you sure you don't already have a ebay account?"
T: "No, I don't think so. I hate ebay. but I really want these books. I don't want the same problems as last time."
Me: "Last time?"
T: "Yes, I bought a coffee cup on ebay from China and it never arrived."
Me: "OK, so you do have an account?"
T: "I don't know, I mean, I never got the cup."
Me: "What email address did you use? I'll send a 'remind me' email so you can reset the password and login"
<go thru the motions, she is able to login>
T: "Ahhh...I do have an account! There are the golf balls I bought for <husband> for Christmas."
Wife: "Why didn't you do this from the start? I thought you knew a lot about computers. We basically figured this out ourselves. Goodbye!"
Worst code review experience?
Hard to pick just one, but most were in a big meeting room with 4+ other developers not related to the project and with some playing Monday-Morning-Quarterback instead of offering productive feedback.
In one code review, the department mgr reviewed the code from a third party component library.
<brings up the code on the big screen>
Mgr: "I can't read any of this, its a mix of English and something else."
Me: "Its German."
Mgr: "Then why is 'Button' in English? This code is a mess."
Me: "I'm not exactly sure how I should respond, I mean, I didn't write any of this code."
Mgr: "Yes, but you are using it, so it's fair game for a code review."
Me: "Its not really open source, but we can make requests if you found something that needs to be addressed."
Mgr: "Oh yes, all this...whatever this is..<pointing again to the German>"
Me: "I don't think they will change their code to English just so you can read it."
Mgr: "We paid good money, you bet your ass they'll change it!"
Me: "I think the components were like $30 for the unlimited license. They'll tell us to go to hell first. Is there something about my code you want to talk about?"
Mgr: "<Ugggh>...I guess not, I couldn't get past all that German. Why didn't we go with an American company? Hell, why didn't we just write these components ourselves!?"
Me: "Because you gave a directive that if we found components that saved us time, to put in a request, and you approved the request. The company is American, they probably outsourced or hired German developers. I don't know and not sure why we care."
Mgr: "Security! What if they are sending keystrokes back to their servers!"
Me: "Did you see any http or any network access?"
Mgr: "How could I? The code is in German!"
Monday-Morning-Quarterback1: "If it were me, I would have written the components myself and moved on"
Me: "No, I don't think you could for less than $30"
Monday-Morning-Quarterback2: "Meh...we get paid anyway. Just add the time to the estimate."
Mgr: "Exactly! Why do we even have developers who can't read this mess."
Me: "Oh good Lord! Did anyone review or even look at my code for this review!?"
Mgr: "Oh...ok...I guess we're done here. Thanks everyone."
<everyone starts to leave>
Me: "Whoa!...wait a sec..am I supposed to do something?"
Mgr: "Get that company to write their code in English so we can read it. You have their number, call em'...no...wait...give me their number. You keep working, I'll take care of this personally"
In they nicest way possible, the company did tell him to go to hell.18
How to run a productive meeting?
Have a written agenda (provided before the meeting, of course)
No "Lets talk about the service architecture" nonsense. Provide the exact details of what the outcome of the meeting should be. Even been lucky enough to cancel meetings when the agenda points are answered in a reply email. Its awesome.
As conditioned as we are about agendas, a few mgrs still skip the agenda and it ends up as you would imagine. At the end, everyone is like "Why are we here? What did we decide? Looks like we need another meeting..."4
I know folks do their best, but come on Apple, this can't be that hard. Bought an IPhone at an estate sale (elderly individual died suddenly, so no one had knowledge of the apple id, passwords, etc) and I've been trying to convince apple to clear the activation lock. (AS = Apple Support)
<after explaining the situation>
AS: "Have you tried putting the phone in recovery mode? That should clear the lock"
Me: "I've already done that. It prompts for the apple id and password, which I don't have"
AS: "You need to talk to the owner and get the information"
Me: "As I explained, I purchased the phone at an estate sale of someone who died. I have the bill of sale, serial number, the box, obituary. What else do you need?"
AS: "Have you tried contacting a family member? They might have have that information."
Me: "The family members at the sale told us this is all they had. This kind of thing has to happen. I can't believe Apple can't clear the activation lock."
AS: "Yes, we can, but I'm very sorry we take security seriously."
Me: "I understand, what do I do now?"
AS: "Did you log out of the phone? Go to settings ..."
Me: "Yes, I tried all those steps before calling. It prompts for the AppleID and password."
AS: "Did you try entering the password?"
Me: "No, I don't have it. I already explained there is no way to know"
AS: "Yes..yes...sorry...I'm just reading the information in front of me. I found something, have you tried submitting a activation lock removal request?"
Me: "Yes, it was denied, didn't tell me why, which is why I'm calling. What about taking this phone to an Apple store? I have all the paperwork."
AS: "Sure, you can try. You might need the death certificate. The family or the coroner will have a copy."
Me: "What!? Apple requires a death certificate to unlock a phone!? I'm pretty sure not even the family is going to give a total stranger a death certificate"
AS: "Sorry sir, I'm just reading what is in front of me. Without that certificate, there is no way to prove the person died. You can try the Apple store, but they will likely require it."
Me: "That's a lot of drama for unlocking a phone. A *phone*"
AS: "Yes sir, I understand. If there anything else we can do let us know and thank you for being an a apple customer."
Next stop, the Apple Store.12
Longest I've worked without rest + why?
Over 24 hours. Why?
In our old system, the database had fields, for example, a customer like Total97, Total98, etc. to store values by year (or some date-specific value).
Every January 1, we had to add fields to accommodate the upcoming year and make the appropriate code changes to handle the new fields.
One year the UPS shipping rates changed and users didn't want to 'lose' the old rates, so they wanted new fields added (Rate98, Rate99, etc) so they could compare old vs. new. That required a complete re-write of most of the underlying applications because users wanted to see the difference on any/all applications that displayed a shipping rate. I'll throw in asking 'why?' was often answered with "because we pay you to do what we say". Luckily, we had already gotten to work on a lot of this before January 1st, so we were, for the most part, ready.
January 1st rolls around (we had to be in the office at 3:00AM), work thru changes, spend some time testing, and be done before noon. That didn't happen. The accounting system was a system that wasn't in (and had never been) in scope, and when we flipped the switch, one of the accountants comes into the office:
E: "Guys? None of our Excel spreadsheets are working. They are critical to integration with the accounting software"
Us: "What? Why would you be using Excel to integrate with the software instead of their portal?"
E: "We could never figure it out, so we had a consultant write VBA scripts to do the work."
Us: "OK, a lot of fields changed, but shouldn't be a big deal. How many spreadsheets are we talking about?"
E: "Hundreds. We have a separate spreadsheet for every integration point. The consulting company said it scalable, whatever that means."
Us: "What?! Why we just know hearing about this!?"
E: "Don't worry, the consultant said making changes would be easy, let me show you, just open the spreadsheet..click here..<click><click><click>...ignore that error, it always happens...click that <click><click><click>.."
Us: "Oh good lord, this is going to take hours"
E: "Ha! Probably. All this computer stuff is your job and I've got a family to get to. Later"
Us: "Hey 'VP of IS', can we go home and fix these spreadsheets as-needed this week?"
VP-IS: "Let me check with 'VP-FS'"
<few minutes later>
VP-IS: "No, he said Excel is critical to running their department. We stay until Excel is fixed."
Us: "No, no...its these spreadsheets. I doubt FS needs all of them tomorrow morning."
VP-IS: "That's what I said. Spreadsheets, Excel, same thing. I'll order the pizza. Who likes pepperoni!?"
At least he didn't cheap out on the pizza (only 4 of us and he ordered 6 large, extra pepperoni from one of the best pizza places in town)
One problem after another and we didn't get done until almost 6:00AM. Then...
VP-IS: "Great job guys. I've scheduled a meeting at 8:00AM to review what we did so we can document the process for next year. You've got a couple of hours. Feel free to get some breakfast and come back, or eat the left over pizza in the breakroom fridge. There is a lot left"
Us: "Um...sorry...we're going home."
VP-IS: "WHAT!!...OK...fine. I'll schedule the meeting for 12"
Us: "No...we're going home. We'll see you tomorrow."
Useless feature I've built?
Too many to mention. Here's #25.
Modified an existing "Are you sure..?" dialog pop-up (Yes/No buttons) to Yes/No/Cancel. Why? Managers claimed users were "accidentally" clicking 'Yes' when they should have clicked 'No' and causing all kinds of chaos, costing the company money, etc. Managers believed giving the user two chances instead of one would make it easier to avoid the problems they caused.
Me: "Users can click 'No', hit the 'Esc' key, or click the close 'X' button on the window, how will an extra button make it more foolproof?"
Mgr1: "It just will. Andy accidentally deleted inventory and when I asked him if an extra button would have saved them a days worth of re-counts, he said yes."
Mgr2: "Barb accidentally credited a customer $1,500. She promised me she clicked 'No', but the system credited the account anyway. An extra button would have saved us thousands of dollars!"
Me: "Um...these sound like training issues, not an extra button issue."
MyMgr: "PaperTrail, how hard is it to add an extra button?"
Dev1: "Oh yea, adding buttons is easy."
Dev2: "I can do it 5 minutes"
Dev3: "We'll save the company thousands and thousands of dollars!"
<lots of head-knodding and smiles>
MyMgr: "That settles it. PaperTrail, add the extra button!"
Users still screwed things up, but at least they couldn't blame it on not having an extra button.24
Worst fight I've had with a co-worker?
Had my share of 'disagreements', but one that seemed like it could have gone to blows was a developer, 'T', that tried to man-splain me how ADO.Net worked with SQLServer.
<T walks into our work area>
T: "Your solution is going to cause a lot of problems in SQLServer"
Me: "No, its not, your solution is worse. For performance, its better to use ADO.Net connection pooling."
T: "NO! Every single transaction is atomic! SQLServer will prioritize the operation thread, making the whole transaction faster than what you're trying to do."
<T goes on and on about threads, made up nonsense about priority queues, on and on>
Me: "No it won't, unless you change something in the connection string, ADO.Net will utilize connection pooling and use the same SPID, even if you explicitly call Close() on the connection. You are just wasting code thinking that works."
T walks over, stands over me (he's about 6.5", 300+ pounds), maybe 6 inches away
T: "I've been doing .net development for over 10 years. I know what I'm doing!"
I turn my chair to face him, look up, cross my arms.
Me: "I know I'm kinda new to this, but let me show you something ..."
<I threw together a C# console app, simple connect, get some data, close the connection>
Me: "I'll fire up SQLProfiler and we can see the actual connection SPID and when sql server closes the SPID....see....the connection to SQLServer is still has an active SPID after I called Close. When I exit the application, SQLServer will drop the SPD....tada...see?"
T: "Wha...what is that...SQLProfiler? Is that some kind of hacking tool? DBAs should know about that!"
Me: "It's part of the SQLServer client tools, its on everyone's machine, including yours."
T: "Doesn't prove a damn thing! I'm going to do my own experiment and prove my solution works."
Me: "Look forward to seeing what you come up with ... and you haven't been doing .net for 10 years. I was part of the team that reviewed your resume when you were hired. You're going to have to try that on someone else."
About 10 seconds later I hear him from across the room slam his keyboard on his desk.
100% sure he would have kicked my ass, but that day I let him know his bully tactics worked on some, but wouldn't work on me.7
I hate Wednesdays. Networking has the Antimalware service run a full/deep scan every Wednesday and my machine is basically unusable until it finishes.
Devs: "Can we have the scheduled task not run during the day, maybe even on the weekend?"
Gary: "Security is our #1 priority and without proper security methods in place, we'll be open to outside threats. Security begins with you, and ..blah blah blah"
Bite me Gary. I got something for ya.
Get-ScheduledTask | ? TaskName -eq 'Windows Defender Scheduled Scan' | Stop-ScheduledTask9
We receive an email from Splunk when errors go above a certain threshold, and a particular service has been especially problematic this week (throwing hundreds of exceptions). Email response from the team mgr responsible for the service.
"We are working to address these errors. We don’t currently have a way to prevent a user who’s account is locked from logging into the service and performing work."
The exception? NullReferenceException: Object reference not set to an instance of an object.
The code? (paraphrasing)
var user = GetUser(request.Login);
if (user.CanPerformWork) ...
I'm doing my best not to reply .."Really? No way? You do realize we can read code, right?"4
Weekly Group Rant suggestion: What anti-pattern exists that still keeps being propagated or infecting other areas of your code base (like a virus)?
Code samples/screen-shots required.13
Worst collaboration experience story?
I was not directly involved, it was a Delphi -> C# conversion of our customer returns application.
The dev manager was out to prove waterfall was the only development methodology that could make convert the monolith app to a lean, multi-tier, enterprise-worthy application.
Starting out with a team of 7 (3 devs, 2 dbas, team mgr, and the dev department mgr), they spent around 3 months designing, meetings, and more meetings. Armed with 50+ page specification Word document (not counting the countless Visio workflow diagrams and Microsoft Project timeline/ghantt charts), the team was ready to start coding.
The database design, workflow, and UI design (using Visio), was well done/thought out, but problems started on day one.
- Team mgr and Dev mgr split up the 3 devs, 1 dev wrote the database access library tier, 1 wrote the service tier, the other dev wrote the UI (I'll add this was the dev's first experience with WPF).
- Per the specification, all the layers wouldn't be integrated until all of them met the standards (unit tested, free from errors from VS's code analyzer, etc)
- By the time the devs where ready to code, the DBAs were already tasked with other projects, so the Returns app was prioritized to "when we get around to it"
Fast forward 6 months later, all the devs were 'done' coding, having very little/no communication with one another, then the integration. The service and database layers assumed different design patterns and different database relationships and the UI layer required functionality neither layers anticipated (ex. multi-users and the service maintaining some sort of state between them).
Those issues took about a month to work out, then the app began beta testing with real end users. App didn't make it 10 minutes before users gave up. Numerous UI logic errors, runtime errors, and overall app stability. Because the UI was so bad, the dev mgr brought in one of the web developers (she was pretty good at UI design). You might guess how useful someone is being dropped in on complex project , months after-the-fact and being told "Fix it!".
Couple of months of UI re-design and many other changes, the app was ready for beta testing.
In the mean time, the company hired a new customer service manager. When he saw the application, he rejected the app because he re-designed the entire returns process to be more efficient. The application UI was written to the exact step-by-step old returns process with little/no deviation.
With a tremendous amount of push-back (TL;DR), the dev mgr promised to change the app, but only after it was deployed into production (using "we can fix it later" excuse).
Still plagued with numerous bugs, the app was finally deployed. In attempts to save face, there was a company-wide party to celebrate the 'death' of the "old Delphi returns app" and the birth of the new. Cake, drinks, certificates of achievements for the devs, etc.
By the end of the project, the devs hated each other. Finger pointing, petty squabbles, out-right "FU!"s across the cube walls, etc. All the team members were re-assigned to other teams to separate them, leaving a single new hire to fix all the issues.5
Best co-worker quitting story?
"T" I've refereed to in previous rants knew he was close to being fired, so he jumped ship. 'T' sent the usual "I'll miss you guys" email to the department, except me (and a few others that didn't fall for his BS and not scared of him). His mistake was he sent the email out a day early (buddy forwarded me the email) and left the stuff (box of pics, books, etc) he planned on taking with him. One item in particular was a new company provided laptop bag, which technically wasn't his to keep (supposed to leave/turn-in any company provided equipment), so I grabbed the bag and hid it.
The next day I heard him slamming drawers (looking for the bag) and a loud cursing. Other devs peeking over the walls asking what's wrong.
Dev1: "Dude, what's up? Whatcha' looking for?"
T: "Nothing...fuck!...damn it...nothing...assholes...fucking assholes!"
Dev2: "Who's the ass? What's wrong?"
Dev3: "Need help looking for something?"
T: "No..no...nothing...I'm fine...making sure I don't forget anything."
'T' never found out who took the bag and I've had that laptop bag underneath my desk ever since.5
#4 Worst thing I've seen a co-worker do?
Not a direct co-worker, during a fire drill, a call center manger told all the agents to ignore the alarm and keep working.1
#3 Worst thing I've seen a co-worker do?
A 20-something dev, 'A', back in the early days of twitter+facebook would post all his extracurricular activities (drinking, partying, normal young-buck stuff). The dev mgr, 'J', at the time took offense because he felt 'A' was making the company look bad, so 'A' had a target on his back. Nothing 'A' did was good enough and, for example, 'J' had the source control czars review 'A's code to 'review' (aka = find anything wrong). Not sorting the 'using' statements, and extra line after the closing }, petty things like that. For those curious, orders followed+carried out by+led by 'T' in my previous rant.
As time went on and 'T' finding more and more 'wrong' with A's code, 'J' put A on disciplinary probation. 'A' had 90 days to turn himself around, or else.
A bright spot was 'A' was working on a Delphi -> C# conversion, so a lot of the code would be green-field development and by simply following the "standards", 'A' would be fine...so he thought.
About 2 weeks into the probation, 'A' was called into the J's office and berated because the conversion project was behind schedule, and if he didn't get the project back on track, 'A' wouldn't make it 30 days. I sat behind 'A' and he unloaded on me.
<'A' slams his phone on his desk>
Me: "Whoa...whats up?"
A: "Dude, I fucking hate this place, did you hear what they did?"
<I said no, then I think we spent an hour talking about it>
Me: "That all sucks. Don't worry about the code. Nobody cares what T thinks. Its not even your fault the project is behind, the DBAs are tasked with upgrades and it's not like anyone is waiting on you. It'll get done when it's done. Sounds like a witch hunt, what did you do? Be honest."
A: "Well, um...I kinda called out J, T, and those other assholes on facebook. I was drunk, pissed, and ...well...here we are."
Me: "Geez, what a bunch of whiney snowflakes. Keep your head down and you'll get thru it, or don't. Its not like you couldn't find another job tomorrow."
A: "This is my first job out of college and I don't want to disappoint my dad by quitting. I don't even know what I'm supposed to be doing. All J told me was to get better. What the fuk does that even mean?"
Me: "He didn't give you any goals? Crap, for someone who is a stickler for the rules, that's low, even for J."
Fast forward 2 weeks, I was attending MS TechEd and I was with another dev mgr, R.
R: "Did you hear? We had to let 'A' go today."
Me: "What the hell? Why?"
R: "He couldn't cut it, so we had to let him go."
Me: "Cut what? What did he do, specifically?"
R: "I don't know, 'A' was on probation, I guess he didn't meet the goals."
Me: "You guess? We fire a developer working on a major upgrade and you guess? What were these so-called goals?"
R: "Whoa...you're getting a little fire up. I don't know, maybe not adhering to coding standards, not meeting deadlines?"
Me: "OMG...we fire people for not forming code? Are you serious!?"
R: "Oh...yea...that does sound odd when you put it that way. I wish I'd talk to you before we left on this trip"
Me: "What?! You knew they were firing him *before* we left? How long did you know this was happening?"
R: "Honestly, for a while. 'A' really wasn't a team player."
Me: "That's dirty, the whole thing is dirty. We've done some shitty things to people, but this is low, even for J. The probation process is meant to improve, not be used as a witch hunt. I don't like that you stood around and let it happen. You know better."
R: "Yea, you're right, but doesn't change anything. J wanted to do it while most of us were at the conference in case 'A' caused a scene."
Me: "THAT MAKES IT WORSE! 'A' was blindsided and you knew it. He had no one there that could defend him or anything."
R: "Crap, crap, crap...oh crap...jeez...J had this planned all along...crap....there is nothing I can do no...its too late."
Me: "Yes there is. If 'A' comes to you for a letter of recommendation, you write one. If someone calls for reference, you give him a good one."
R: "Yea..yea...crap...I feel like shit...I need to go back to the room and lie down."
As the sun sets, it rises again. Within a couple of weeks, 'A' had another job at a local university. Within a year, he was the department manager, and now he is a vice president (last time I checked) of a college in Kansas City, MO.10
#2 Worst thing I've seen a co-worker do?
Back before we utilized stored procedures (and had an official/credentialed DBA), we used embedded/in-line SQL to fetch data from the database.
var sql = @"Select
Id = @ID"
In attempts to fix database performance issues, a developer, T, started putting all the SQL on one line of code (some sql was formatted on 10+ lines to make it readable and easily copy+paste-able with SSMS)
var sql = "Select ... From...Where...etc";
His justification was putting all the SQL on one line make the code run faster.
T: "Fewer lines of code runs faster, everyone knows that."
Mgmt bought it.
This process took him a few months to complete.
When none of the effort proved to increase performance, T blamed the in-house developed ORM we were using (I wrote it, it was a simple wrapper around ADO.Net with extension methods for creating/setting parameters)
T: "Adding extra layers causes performance problems, everyone knows that."
Mgmt bought it again.
Removing the ORM, again took several months to complete.
By this time, we hired a real DBA and his focus was removing all the in-line SQL to use stored procedures, creating optimization plans, etc (stuff a real DBA does).
In the planning meetings (I was not apart of), T was selected to lead because of his coding optimization skills.
DBA: "I've been reviewing the execution plans, are all the SQL code on one line? What a mess. That has to be worst thing I ever saw."
T: "Yes, the previous developer, PaperTrail, is incompetent. If the code was written correctly the first time using stored procedures, or even formatted so people could read it, we wouldn't have all these performance problems."
DBA didn't know me (yet) and I didn't know about T's shenanigans (aka = lies) until nearly all the database perf issues were resolved and T received a recognition award for all his hard work (which also equaled a nice raise).7
Worst thing I've seen a co-worker do?
Its all relative, I've seen a lot of "worst's". Here's one of many I'll try to post.
A (married) DBA would often come to work drunk, starting fooling around with a couple of devs (which we suspect she had sought adventures outside the IT dept based on rumors), and ultimately got fired because she was caught sleeping at her desk (and she was drunk). One of her conquests told us she came from a very poor childhood and this was her first real high paying job. Abusive husband, being attractive herself, and being surrounded by other attractive, highly intelligent, single bucks (aka horny) that had no morals, equaled bad decisions.
She wasn't the worst, it was the assholes who took advantage of the situation that makes it in my top 10 worst things I've seen.8
Dev walked out of the bathroom stall (I can only assume it was the #2), only washed one hand.
One hand under the auto-soap dispenser, then kinda rinsed the soap off. The other hand never got involved.
That seems weird to me.3
Biggest challenge I overcame as dev? One of many.
Avoiding a life sentence when the 'powers that be' targeted one of my libraries for the root cause of system performance issues and I didn't correct that accusation with a flame thrower.
What the accusation? What I named the library. Yep. The *name* was causing every single problem in the system.
Panorama (very, very expensive APM system at the time) identified my library in it's analysis, the calls to/from SQLServer was the bottleneck
We had one of Panorama's engineers on-site and he asked what (not the actual name) MyLibrary was and (I'll preface I did not know or involved in any of the so-called 'research') a crack team of developers+managers researched the system thoroughly and found MyLibrary was used in just about every project. I wrote the .Net 1.1 MyLibrary as a mini-ORM to simplify the execution of database code (stored procs, etc) and gracefully handle+log database exceptions (auto-logged details such as the target db, stored procedure name, parameter values, etc, everything you'd need to troubleshoot database errors). This was before Dapper and the other fancy tools used by kids these days.
By the time the news got to me, there was a team cobbled together who's only focus was to remove any/every trace of MyLibrary from the code base. Using Waterfall, they calculated it would take at least a year to remove+replace MyLibrary with the equivalent ADO.Net plumbing.
In a department wide meeting:
DeptMgr: "This day forward, no one is to use MyLibrary to access the database! It's slow, unprofessionally named, and the root cause of all the database issues."
Me: "What about MyLibrary is slow? It's excecuting standard the ADO.Net code. Only extra bit of code is the exception handling to capture the details when the exception is logged."
DeptMgr: "We've spent the last 6 weeks with the Panorama engineer and he's identified MyLibrary as the cause. Company has spent over $100,000 on this software and we have to make fact based decisions. Look at this slide ... "
<DeptMgr shows a histogram of the stacktrace, showing MyLibrary as the slowest>
Me: "You do realize that the execution time is the database call itself, not the code. In that example, the invoice call, it's the stored procedure that taking 5 seconds, not MyLibrary."
<at this point, DeptMgr is getting red-face mad>
AreaMgr: "Yes...yes...but if we stopped using MyLibrary, removing the unnecessary layers, will make the code run faster."
<typical headknodd-ers knod their heads in agreement>
Dev01: "The loading of MyLibrary takes CPU cycles away from code that supports our customers. Every CPU cycle counts."
Me: "I'm really confused. Maybe I'm looking at the data wrong. On the slide where you highlighted all the bottlenecks, the histogram shows the latency is the database, I mean...it's right there, in red. Am I looking at it wrong?"
<this was meeting with 20+ other devs, mgrs, a VP, the Panorama engineer>
DeptMgr: "Yes you are! I know MyLibrary is your baby. You need to check your ego at the door and face the facts. Your MyLibrary is a failed experiment and needs to be exterminated from this system!"
Fast forward 9 months, maybe 50% of the projects updated, come across the documentation left from the Panorama. Even after the removal of MyLibrary, there was zero increases in performance. The engineer recommended DBAs start optimizing their indexes and other N+1 problems discovered. I decide to ask the developer who lead the re-write.
Me: "I see that removing MyLibrary did nothing to improve performance."
Dev: "Yes, DeptMgr was pissed. He was ready to throw the Panorama engineer out a window when he said the problems were in the database all along. Didn't you say that?"
Me: "Um, so is this re-write project dead?"
Dev: "No. Removing MyLibrary introduced all kinds of bugs. All the boilerplate ADO.Net code caused a lot of unhandled exceptions, then we had to go back and write exception handling code."
Me: "What a failure. What dipshit would think writing more code leads to less bugs?"
Dev: "I know, I know. We're so far behind schedule. We had to come up with something. I ended up writing a library to make replacing MyLibrary easier. I called it KnightRider. Like the TV show. Everyone is excited to speed up their code with KnightRider. Same method names, same exception handling. All we have to do is replace MyLibrary with KnightRider and we're done."
Me: "Won't the bottlenecks then point to KnightRider?"
Dev: "Meh, not my problem. Panorama meets primarily with the DBAs and the networking team now. I doubt we ever use Panorama to look at our C# code."
Needless to say, I was (still) pissed that they had used MyLibrary as dirty word and a scapegoat for months when they *knew* where the problems were. Pissed enough for a flamethrower? Maybe.9
Worst hack/attack I had to deal with?
Worst, or funniest. A partnership with a Canadian company got turned upside down and our company decided to 'part ways' by simply not returning his phone calls/emails, etc. A big 'jerk move' IMO, but all I was responsible for was a web portal into our system (submitting orders, inventory, etc).
After the separation, I removed the login permissions, but the ex-partner system was set up to 'ping' our site for various updates and we were logging the failed login attempts, maybe 5 a day or so. Our network admin got tired of seeing that error in his logs and reached out to the VP (responsible for the 'break up') and requested he tell the partner their system is still trying to login and stop it. Couple of days later, we were getting random 300, 500, 1000 failed login attempts (causing automated emails to notify that there was a problem). The partner knew that we were likely getting alerted, and kept up the barage. When alerts get high enough, they are sent to the IT-VP, which gets a whole bunch of people involved.
VP-Marketing: "Why are you allowing them into our system?! Cut them off, NOW!"
Me: "I'm not letting them in, I'm stopping them, hence the login error."
VP-Marketing: "That jackass said he will keep trying to get into our system unless we pay him $10,000. Just turn those machines off!"
VP-IT : "We can't. They serve our other international partners."
<slams hand on table>
VP-Marketing: "I don't fucking believe this! How the fuck did you let this happen!?"
VP-IT: "Yes, you shouldn't have allowed the partner into our system to begin with. What are you going to do to fix this situation?"
Me: "Um, we've been testing for months already went live some time ago. I didn't know you defaulted on the contract until last week. 'Jake' is likely running a script. He'll get bored of doing that and in a couple of weeks, he'll stop. I say lets ignore him. This really a network problem, not a coding problem."
IT-MGR: "Now..now...lets not make excuses and point fingers. It's time to fix your code."
IT-VP: "I agree. We're not going to let anyone blackmail us. Make it happen."
So I figure out the partner's IP address, and hard-code the value in my service so it doesn't log the login failure (if IP = '10.50.etc and so on' major hack job). That worked for a couple of days, then (I suspect) the ISP re-assigned a new IP and the errors started up again.
After a few angry emails from the 'powers-that-be', our network admin stops by my desk.
D: "Dude, I'm sorry, I've been so busy. I just heard and I wished they had told me what was going on. I'm going to block his entire domain and send a request to the ISP to shut him down. This was my problem to fix, you should have never been involved."
After 'D' worked his mojo, the errors stopped.
Month later, 'D' gave me an update. He was still logging the traffic from the partner's system (the ISP wanted extensive logs to prove the customer was abusing their service) and like magic one day, it all stopped. ~2 weeks after the 'break up'.8
Most upsetting interview rejection?
Back when I graduated college, I did the usual rounds of interviews with insurance companies, banks, various other institutional businesses set up by the college's career center.
One local insurance company interview I thought went great. Usual 'Where do you see yourself in 5 years?' type questions, told her about my job history, very high level type stuff.
Couple of weeks later I get a letter in the mail and after the usual 'It was great to meet you blah blah blah', it ended with
'State Farm will never consider you for a position with our company.'
Never?! My then fiance (now wife) yelled "WHAT DID YOU DO?!!!" and I racked my brain for anything I might have said or done. The HR lady was attractive, but I didn't stare at any body parts and I didn't make any weird sexual advances (I was nervous enough without *that* going thru my mind).
The college career center floods the local companies with graduates and I was #5 in the waiting room that day. My only guess was they got me confused with someone else.
My fiance wanted me to call them immediately to straighten out any misunderstanding, but I knew what was done, was done. It's not like they would realize "Oh, that's right, it was Bob that kept looking at Karen's breasts, not you...come work for us!" Besides, why would I want to work someplace that didn't know/care who I was?7
"Upgraded" to Visual Studio 2022 and receiving this error several times a day:
TFS Error: TF30063 You are not authorized.
Only solution is to close->re-open VS.
I think I'm 10 restarts away from losing my mind.4
Family reaction story to me being a dev?
- My dad still refers to my profession as 'something in computers'.
- My older sister goes to her weirdo friends for technical advice because she thinks all I do is fill paper in printers (that's a long TL;DR story about a phone upgrade)
- My brother, a car mechanical genius thinks what I do is near God-like. He also races cars and can blabber on about the physics, aero-dynamics, weight ratios, etc and says "Oh, no way. I'm too stupid to do what you do." Then I'm like, "Dude, shut up, I can barely change my oil and you could replace an engine blindfolded", then he just laughs "Yea, probably."
- Baby sister just wants me to fix her phone. "Can you make <insert some random app> do <insert a random behavior the app was never designed to do>?". I'm like "Uh no, I didn't write Instagram", then she's like "I thought you went to school for computers?".
- My mom passed way (long battle with cancer). I'm sure she'd be proud, but still asking me to how to switch the channel so she could watch a movie on the VCR.
I can clearly see having this conversation with my mom.
Me: "Mom, why are you still using a VCR? I bought you a subscription to Netflix"
Mom: "Net what? Do I turn the dial to channel 2 or 3?"
Me: "No, its the Netflix button on the remote."
Mom: "Can't you come over and do this? I just want to watch my shows. Didn't you go to school to learn these things?"
Me: "No mom, that's not...um...never mind. I'll be right over."17
Worst dev team failure I've experienced?
One of several.
Around 2012, a team of devs were tasked to convert a ASPX service to WCF that had one responsibility, returning product data (description, price, availability, etc...simple stuff)
No complex searching, just pass the ID, you get the response.
I was the original developer of the ASPX service, which API was an XML request and returned an XML response. The 'powers-that-be' decided anything XML was evil and had to be purged from the planet. If this thought bubble popped up over your head "Wait a sec...doesn't WCF transmit everything via SOAP, which is XML?", yes, but in their minds SOAP wasn't XML. That's not the worst WTF of this story.
The team, 3 developers, 2 DBAs, network administrators, several web developers, worked on the conversion for about 9 months using the Waterfall method (3~5 months was mostly in meetings and very basic prototyping) and using a test-first approach (their own flavor of TDD). The 'go live' day was to occur at 3:00AM and mandatory that nearly the entire department be on-sight (including the department VP) and available to help troubleshoot any system issues.
3:00AM - Teams start their deployments
3:05AM - Thousands and thousands of errors from all kinds of sources (web exceptions, database exceptions, server exceptions, etc), site goes down, teams roll everything back.
3:30AM - The primary developer remembered he made a last minute change to a stored procedure parameter that hadn't been pushed to production, which caused a side-affect across several layers of their stack.
4:00AM - The developer found his bug, but the manager decided it would be better if everyone went home and get a fresh look at the problem at 8:00AM (yes, he expected everyone to be back in the office at 8:00AM).
About a month later, the team scheduled another 3:00AM deployment (VP was present again), confident that introducing mocking into their testing pipeline would fix any database related errors.
3:00AM - Team starts their deployments.
3:30AM - No major errors, things seem to be going well. High fives, cheers..manager tells everyone to head home.
3:35AM - Site crashes, like white page, no response from the servers kind of crash. Resetting IIS on the servers works, but only for around 10 minutes or so.
4:00AM - Team rolls back, manager is clearly pissed at this point, "Nobody is going fucking home until we figure this out!!"
6:00AM - Diagnostics found the WCF client was causing the server to run out of resources, with a mix of clogging up server bandwidth, and a sprinkle of N+1 scaling problem. Manager lets everyone go home, but be back in the office at 8:00AM to develop a plan so this *never* happens again.
About 2 months later, a 'real' development+integration environment (previously, any+all integration tests were on the developer's machine) and the team scheduled a 6:00AM deployment, but at a much, much smaller scale with just the 3 development team members.
Why? Because the manager 'froze' changes to the ASPX service, the web team still needed various enhancements, so they bypassed the service (not using the ASPX service at all) and wrote their own SQL scripts that hit the database directly and utilized AppFabric/Velocity caching to allow the site to scale. There were only a couple client application using the ASPX service that needed to be converted, so deploying at 6:00AM gave everyone a couple of hours before users got into the office. Service deployed, worked like a champ.
A week later the VP schedules a celebration for the successful migration to WCF. Pizza, cake, the works. The 3 team members received awards (and a envelope, which probably equaled some $$$) and the entire team received a custom Benchmade pocket knife to remember this project's success. Myself and several others just stared at each other, not knowing what to say.
Later, my manager pulls several of us into a conference room
Me: "What the hell? This is one of the biggest failures I've been apart of. We got rewarded for thousands and thousands of dollars of wasted time."
<others expressed the same and expletive sediments>
Mgr: "I know..I know...but that's the story we have to stick with. If the company realizes what a fucking mess this is, we could all be fired."
Me: "What?!! All of us?!"
Mgr: "Well, shit rolls downhill. Dept-Mgr-John is ready to fire anyone he felt could make him look bad, which is why I pulled you guys in here. The other sheep out there will go along with anything he says and more than happy to throw you under the bus. Keep your head down until this blows over. Say nothing."12
My code review nightmare part 3
Performed a review on/against a workplace 'nemesis'. I didn't follow the department standards document (cause I could care less about spacing, sorted usings, etc) and identified over 80 bugs, logic errors, n+1 patterns, memory leaks (yes, even in .net devs can cause em'), and general bad behavior (ex.'eating' exceptions that should be handled or at least logged)
Because 'Jeff' was considered a golden child (that's another long TL;DR), his boss and others took a major offense and demanded I justify my review, item by item.
About 2 hours into the meeting, our department mgr realized embarrassing Jeff any further wasn't doing anyone any good and decided to take matters into his own hands. Thinking 'well, its about time he did his job', I go back to my desk. About an hour later..
Mgr: "I need you in the conference room, RIGHT NOW!"
Mgr: "I spoke to Jeff and I think I know what the problem is. Did you ever train him on any of the problems you identified in the review?"
Me: "Um, no. Why would I?"
Mgr: "Ha!..I was right. So lets agree the problems are partially your fault, OK?"
Me: "Finding the bugs in his code is somehow my fault?"
Mgr: "Yes! For example, the n+1 problem in using the WCF service, you never trained him on how to use the service. You wrote the service, correct?"
Me: "Yes, but it's not my job to teach him how to write C#. I documented the process and have examples in the document to avoid n+1. All he had to do was copy/paste."
Mgr: "But you never sat with Jeff and talked to him like a human being? You sit over there in your silo and are oblivious to the problems you cause. This ends today!"
Me: "What the...I have no idea what you are talking about. What in the world did Jeff tell you?"
Mgr: "He told me enough and I'm putting an end to it. I want a compressive training class developed on how to use your service. I'll give you a month to get your act together and properly train these developers."
3 days later, I submit the power-point presentation and accompanying docs. It was only one WCF with a handful of methods. Mgr approved the training, etc..etc. execute the 'training', and Jeff submits a code review a couple of weeks later. From over 80 issues to around 50. The poop hits the fan again.
Mgr: "What's your problem? When are you going to take your responsibility seriously?"
Me: "Its pretty clear I don't have the problem. All the review items were also verified by other devs. Its not me trying to be an asshole."
Mgr: "Enough with the excuses. If you think you can do a better job *you* make the code changes and submit them for Jeff for review. No More Excuses!"
Couple of days later, I make the changes, submit them for review, and Jeff really couldn't say too much other than "I don't see this as an improvement"
TL;DR, I had been tracking the errors generated by the site due to the bugs prior to my changes. After deployment, # of errors went from thousands per hour to maybe hundreds per day (that's another story) and the site saw significant performance increases, fewer customer complaints, etc..etc.
At a company event, the department VP hands out special recognition awards:
VP: "This award is especially well earned. Not only does this individual exemplify the company's focus on teamwork, he also went above and beyond the call of duty to serve our customers. Jeff, come on up and get this well deserved award."19
My code review nightmare part 2
Team responsible for code 'quality' dictated in their 18+ page coding standard document that all the references in the 'using' block be sorted alphabetically. Easy enough in Visual Studio with the right-click -> 'Remove and Sort Usings', so I thought.
Called into a conference room with other devs and the area manager (because 'Toby' needed an audience) focusing on my lack of code quality and not adhering to the coding standard.
The numerous files in question were unit tests files
<the rest of the usings>
T: "As you can see, none of these files' usings are in alphabetical order"
Me: "Um, I think they are. M comes before S"
T: "The standards clearly dictate system level references are to be sorted first."
Mgr: "Yes, why didn't you sort before checking this code in? T couldn't have made the standards any easier to follow. All you had to do is right-click and sort."
Me: "I did. M comes before S."
T: "No You Didn't! That is not a system reference!"
Me: "I disagree. MSTest references are considered a system level reference, but whatever, I'll move that one line if it upsets you that much."
Mgr: "OK smartass, that's enough disrespect. Just follow the fucking standard."
T: "And learn to sort. It's easy. You should have learned that in college"
<Mgr and T have a laugh>
Me: "Are all your unit tests up to standard? I mean, are the usings sorted correctly?"
T:"Um..well..of course they are!"
Me: "Lets take a look."
I had no idea, a sorted usings seems like a detail no one cares about that much and something people do when bored. I navigate to project I knew T was working on and found nearly all the file's usings weren't sorted. I pick on one..
<the rest of the usings>
Me: "These aren't sorted..."
T: "Uh..um...hey...this file is sorted. N comes before M!"
Me: "Say that again. A little louder please."
Mgr: "NUnit is a system level nuget package. It's fine. We're not wasting time fixing some bug in how Visual Studio sorts"
Me: "Bug? What?..wait...and having me update 10 or so files isn't a waste of time?"
Mgr: "No! Coding standards are never a waste of time! We're done here. This meeting is to review your code and not T's. Fix your bugs and re-submit the code for review..today!"17
My code review nightmare?
All of the reviews that consisted of a group of devs+managers in a conference room and a big screen micro-analyzing every line of code.
"Why did you call the variable that? Wouldn't be be more efficient to use XYZ components? You should switch everything to use ServiceBus."
and/or using the 18+ page coding standard document as a weapon.
PHB:"On page 5, paragraph 9, sub-section A-123, the standards dictate to select all the necessary data from the database. Your query is only selecting 5 fields from the 15 field field table. You might need to access more data in the future and this approach reduces the amount of code change."
Me: "Um, if the data requirements change, wouldn't we have change code anyway?"
PHB: "Application requirements are determined by our users, not you. That's why we have standards."
Me: "Um, that's not what I ..."
PHB: "Next file, oh boy, this one is a mess. On page 9, paragraph 2, sub-section Z-987, the standards dictate to only select the absolute minimum amount of the data from the database. Your query is selecting 3 fields, but the application is only using 2."
Me: "Yes, the application not using the field right now, but the user stated they might need the data for additional review."
PHB: "Did they fill out the proper change request form?"
Me: "No, they ...wait...Aren't the standards on page 9 contradictory to the standards on page 5?"
PHB: "NO! You'll never break your cowboy-coding mindset if you continue to violate standards. You see, standards are our promise to customers to ensure quality. You don't want to break our promises...do you?"7
My process to start new coding project?
Unless it was dictated by the powers that be, my process usually begins/began when I hear..
"It's impossible for us to make the program do that" or equivalent negative comment.
It triggers a "Someone hold my beer" area in my brain.5
Tips for staying focused while wfh?
Telling the wife to stay away. At least twice a day I was sexually harassed. I can't go into details because I'm still traumatized.
If my daughter wasn't home schooled, I'm sure I would have been forced to um...uh...you know...while I was supposed to be working.
Wife: "Honey, quick, kill this spider!!"
<I run into the bedroom>
Me: "Where is the spi...why are you in the bed? No...no...NOOOOO!! I'm reporting you to HR!"
Wife: "Ha!..when you're working from home...I'm HR."12