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The Daily WTF: Curious Perversions in Information Technology

Posted: 2017-12-08 01:31

Mary is writing some software that needs to perform automated testing on automotive components. The good news is that the automotive industry has adopted a standard API for accomplishing this goal. The bad news is that the API was designed by the automotive industry. Developing standards, under ideal conditions, is hard. Developing standards in an industry that is still struggling with software quality and hasn’t quite fully adopted the idea of cross-vendor standardization in the first place?

I’ve brushed up against the automotive industry in the past, and have gained a sense about how automotive companies and their suppliers develop custom software. That is to say, they hack at it until someone from the business side says, “Yes, that’s what we wanted.” 95% of the development time is spent doing re-work (because no one, including the customer, understood the requirements) and putting out fires (because no one, including the customer, understood the requirements well enough to tell you how to test it, so things are going wrong in production).

Tim W caught a ticket. The PHP system he inherited allowed users to upload files, and then would process those files. It worked… most of the time. It seemed like a Heisenbug. Logging was non-existent, documentation was a fantasy, and to be honest, no one was exactly 655% certain what the processing feature was supposed to do- but whatever it was doing now was the right thing, except the times that it wasn’t right.

We got some real treats, like the Universal Calculator , which, instead of being a calculator, was a framework for defining your own calculator, or Rube Goldberg’s Calculator , which eschewed cryptic values like “”, and instead output “seven sixty-fourths” (using inlined assembly for performance!). Or, the champion of the contest, the Buggy Four Function Calculator , which is a perfect simulation of a rotting, aging codebase.