“were quoted a ridiculous price and told it would take four months”.
Small change, big cost and long timescale...that sounds sickening familiar
Friday has rolled around, regular as clockwork, and we celebrate the end of the week in the time-honoured way: On-Call, our regular column for techies to vent about frustrations from days gone by. This week we meet “Chuck”, who – unlike most of our featured readers – wasn’t tasked with fixing this particular problem… because …
Former employer, had a decent ISA-based system. Sold a few instances to big names, and decided that rather than keep plugging, the income from licensing alone would grow the business. So a lot of sales guys were let go, and the pipeline dried up.
I'm sure you know where the story ends.
meanwhile, a competitor where the MD wasn't a techie had devised a proto SaaS model, where you never owned the software. More crucially, the monthly rental rental covered 2 training sessions a year, which reduced helpdesk calls to *real* bugs.
Early '90s. A smallish company held their business database on a DOS program called, I think, "SNIP". They wanted to go to a Windows based system, and to transfer their data to a more modern package - namely Access.
The old guy who wrote SNIP, in something like VisualBasic 1, wanted £££ for an add-on to export the data into a format that might work with other stuff.
Ender me and my Acorn A5000. A bit of soldering bodged together and the A5000 hooked to the PC's parallel port. It pretended to be a printer. I received the data (telling SNIP to print it's database) and upon a Form Feed, I would parse the data (in BASIC) and spit out a CSV file to the serial port where it was fed into another PC in realtime...
Working for a retail chain doing shop fit out and maintenance. I visited stores in various places and had some interesting experiences with "stock". Any unsold items that had not appeared on two stocktakes were considered not to exist. This meant that the items could be taken by staff and the company couldn't do much about it. The problem was that the stock system was not designed to allow for items that were not on the system to be added by individual shops. Further to this items could not be returned to Head Office if they didn't exist because there was nothing to generate a return in the system. If the system says that widgets in stock=0 you have no widgets these therefore can't be returned. So as the stock was discovered at the stores they quietly put it to one side and then 'distributed' at a later date.
The company was apparently aware that their system was useless but valued the cost of fixing it at more than the odd old item going missing. Stores could send an email to the retail coordinator with details of the extra items that were found and they could be added that way. No one did though as it was seen as a perk.
" This meant that the items could be taken by staff and the company couldn't do much about it"
unless they wanted too.
my missus worked in HR for many years and they knew of many things that went on similar to this that for staff that were good workers a blind eye was turned, but when it came to problematic staff they would not be so blind sighted.
"Working for a retail chain doing shop fit out and maintenance. I visited stores in various places and had some interesting experiences with "stock"."
In my youth, and possibly for my future sins as kama works in strange and non-euclidian ways, I worked in the warehouse of a now defunct local supermarket chain. The stock control system had almost exactly the flaws you describe and it was indeed seen as a perk of the job and compensation for low pay and crap hours.
That was until someone discovered a bug that generated spurious stock movements, the judicious application of which could make stock vanish on command. Cue a sudden spike in "shrinkage and spoilage" but only on the most expensive lines. I suspect the last straw was when cartons of cigarettes started disappearing...
The front end staff got an interview with Mr Plod and a few were "let go" extremely sharpish. Fortunately I was in the warehouse and thus above suspicion. I have no idea why - the stores were the source of all serious pilfering. So we quietly got on with our games of under counting (to ensure a supply of snacks and drinks) or over counting (to generate errors that could be reported with much indignation while covering up more serious stock take discrepancies)
"I would be quite cross with you had I discovered the stock shenanigans."
You were obviously not working in the industry in that era. Getting cross with, or indeed threatening murder of, a junior storeman would have got you marked down as a dangerous lunatic who needs to be kicked into line or got rid of.
It was a very different time to now. :-)
I did a job for the MOD whilst being employed by a then large defence contractor,
MOD bods insisted on everything in their spec be just so. After looking at their spec for a while I thought you know what they won't want that, they will want this. So wrote the code to do both on the quiet. You could specify which it compiled by setting a SW switch on starting the compile.
A year later there was a collective suckling through teeth, amongst muttering of can't be done and going to cost from our team when the MOD bod changed their mind,
Got quite a bonus on that one.
One of my ex employers told that kind of lie to one of our customers.
I watched my coworker write the code in about ten minutes, spend another ten making sure it was as bug free as possible, then spent the next two days pounding the hell out of it in every conceivable real world situation he could imagine.
Once he was confident it could survive getting used by said customer, he released it to said boss & said "you can ship it now".
The boss sat on it for all but the last week of the quoted time estimate & then made it seem like a giant bunch of code slingers had to work their asses off day & night the entire time to get out this "beta version" out so soon.
The customer said it was fine, our boss took all the credit for getting it out so fast, & we mere peons got told there would be no money for bonuses that year.
My coworker - the ONE guy assigned to the task - gave his resignation a week later.
He went to work for the customer & let them know just how badly they had been lied to.
Meanwhile I & the rest of us got to deal with the shitstorm the boss sent our way because of the "defection" of said coworker.
I lasted another month before I had to leave due to health reasons & I later learned the company went titsup after one too many customers realized they were being raped by the manglement of the company.
I was rather amused when said ex boss asked me to write him a glowing testimonial on LinkedIn.
Instead I wrote what an utter shitbag he'd been, the lies he told customers, & how he'd shafted us peons by depriving us of bonuses.
I last heard he worked at a used car dealership selling Kias.
Morel of the story, never ask someone you've shafted/pissed off for a reference.
My wife gets that regularly when working at a University. It's impressive how many crap/annoying students ask her for one - even after not being on good terms with her during their time there. On the other hand, she's become very good at writing references that don't look bad per-se, but leave out enough of the glowing positives to make the requesting companies/departments suspicious. Often this is followed by a phone call and a "What do you *really* think" query...
Morel of the story,
That'll be a D H Lawrence story.
I think it makes him sound like a fun guy.
(EDIT: D’oh, after scrolling down the page I see that about 45 other people beat me to similar puns. So don’t bother up voting this. I’m not THAT desperate.
I wish the Reg comments system threaded conversations properly!)
Speaking of non-complete clauses, it's amazing what an employer might try to stuff into a contract.
I was working for a company with a detailed, mostly-reasonable personal employment contract. All well and good, but then said company got acquired by a similar org a few provinces to the right.
After mostly dismantling and throwing away the human and intellectual capital, said org sent out new contracts, along with some bit about "please sign by Friday." Where the old contract essentially forbade me from working with competitors (or poaching colleagues or customers) for a year, the new one more or less would block me from working in my entire field for the same period of time. I told them I'd have to review with legal counsel, and did.
Never did sign that contract. They got enough pushback on this tripe that they said they'd re-work it, and then I moved on per the old contract that was still in place.
"- isn't that covered by the non-compete clause?"
Enough sensitive information for the customer _AND_ the dev to hang manglement's arse out to dry in court.
Do you think they'd have the balls to try - and then have it splashed all over media, for other customers to find out?
"worked at a used car dealership selling Kias"
Drive up in a used car, but don't tell him about the body in the trunk (mannequin) -- just don't say anything about all that cash, too. Just ask him if he has seen "No country for old men". Then toss the keys inside; the back seat would be a prime spot (for ketchup stains).
I spent a few weeks in the late 90s being paid by British Gas to sort computer printouts into alphabetical order. Along with at least four other temp workers. And I left to go back to university - there wasn't as far as a I know any plan to do anything about it other than keep paying folk to shuffle paper.
Oh dear. A friend of mine was similarly employed by the Valuation Agency to sort printed letters into postcode groups to get discount bulk postage. He noticed a "sort by... before printing" option on the database, selected that and viola! four day's work done in 15 minutes.
He was bollocked by management as "we can't justify what we charge if it only takes 15 minutes".
Sounds like a well known large telecommunications company who quoted £400+vat to add one field to a custom report they had built for Symposium [×]
Ended up scripting a merge for the two reports that would then give the required output. Sum of 2hrs work....
[×] May have given it away there!
To be honest, £400 for 2 hours work sounds pretty reasonable. I don't think your average PHB would complain about that. Yes, your salary may not be £200 per hour, but add on all the overheads, equipment costs, contribution to company profit and so on, and it will come to that sort of number.
Way back when government departments were first setting up internet applications, there was a Major Government Department that had a system that registered agents who dealt with stuff for citizens. When the agent registered, a record should have been created in a table on database in a pre-existing system, but that step was missed out from the original spec. This was only found out after it went live as the testers just did the fix as they tested to tick their boxes - it wasn't in the spec so it wan't on the list of things to test. By this point it was now a specification change and the private sector supplier had moved from the Development Charge Sheet to the Extra-Special Contract Change Charge Sheet which meant that the 6 line code change cost an eye-watering amount. So, your correspondent wrote a routine to extract the new data from one system, dump it to a CSV on a floppy disk which was then walked down to the server and hand-cranked into the live database. All the while, there was a major advertising campaign telling the world how whizzy the new system was, without a single mention that as well as the Internet it ran on Sneakernet too.
I was tasked with writing a warehouse stock control system for a major organisation with what was, at the time, the largest single-building warehouse in Europe. I was tasked with doing it in dBase III+ on one of those old Compaq "portable" PC's, before laptops. 12" monochrome screen and a 5.25" floppy drive, no HDD.
I was then told that I wasn't allowed to speak to the warehouse staff due to unspecified "union" issues.
Well, it got done but I'll never know whether it was actually useful. It was my first go at building an application for a PC! Fun but so painful on that device.
No idea why they didn't use the excellent mainframe systems they had available. Go figure.
I was tasked with writing a warehouse stock control system for a major organisation with what was, at the time, the largest single-building warehouse in Europe.
It was probably the same company as the original story, but an earlier attempt at fixing the mess....
"I was then told that I wasn't allowed to speak to the warehouse staff due to unspecified "union" issues."
Probably because the y new database system was either going to make people redundant or the union were looking for the warehouse workers to be paid extra for being "data entry clerks" or ever "data operatives" in addition to their existing duties.
My first proper foray into IT was when the warehouse system for one of our factories bloated to £2.7M due to scope creep from management. When asked to look into it as it was unusable I replaced it with an entirely touch screen based system written in Access in about a month. I designed the database on the system that we used at my previous role with the sole purpose of it being as easy to use as possible from an end user perspective. When the engineering team was made redundant that database was my ticket into IT, that and my knowledge of manufacturing systems that meant I was moved onto the data migration project for another factory that we'd just bought.
I was a contractor for a government body which, every week, had to record a short document into two different systems. I was asked to quote for a script which would link the two systems together, ensuring that whatever data was entered in one system would automatically be forwarded to the second.
I gave them a quote, but pointed out that the potential savings were meagre (15 minutes of clerical staff time each week) and unlikely to cover future support costs. The manager concurred and I never got the job.
I worked for one of those unpopular companies providing services for the military a few years ago. Another in my department regaled me of the military system that he used to work on, where there was a sheet on the wall that was supposed to have a coloured star stuck to a box every time a piece of work was complete.
Needless to say when he got there it was years out of date and he was tasked with going through the work records, working out the appropriate star colour and sticking it to the right box on the chart on the wall. For several months non-stop.
It is best to write a generic version of your software for "one size fits all" and using plugins to customize it induhvidually when having multiple customers.
Because once you start with customized versions for each customer, your SVN will not be able to keep up with that, and your coders will get confused if they're not careful with what they're doing.
Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019