Paranoid decisions and OMG customers

time to read 3 min | 427 words

imageI used to be a consultant for a long while, and that meant that I worked on a lot of customer projects. That led to me seeing and acting is some really strange ways.

Sometimes you go into a codebase and you can’t really believe what you see there. I think that this is similar to how an archeologist feels, seeing just remnants of something and having to deduct what were the forces that drove the people who built it. In some cases, what looks like bad code is actually a reaction to a bad policy that people are trying to workaround.

I think that the strangest of these cases was when I was working for a customer that refused to let external consultants to use their internal source control system. Apparently, they had sensitive stuff there that they couldn’t isolate or something like that. They were using either Team Foundation Server or Visual Source Safe and I didn’t really want to use that source control anyway, so I didn’t push. I did worry about source control, so we had a shared directory being used as a Subversion repository, this was over a decade ago, mind.

So far, so good, and nothing really interesting to talk about. What killed me was that their operations team flat out refused to back up the Subversion folder. That folder was hosted on shared server that belong to the consulting company (but resided at the customer site), and they were unwilling to either back up a “foreign” computer or to provide us with a shared space to host Subversion that they would back up.

For a while, I would backup the Subversion repository every few days to my iPod, then take a copy of the entire source code history with me home. That wasn’t sustainable, and I was deeply concerned about the future of the project over time, so I also added a twist. As part of the build process, we packed the entire source directory of the codebase as an embedded resource into the binary. In this way, if the code was ever lost, which I considered to be a real possibility, I would have a way to recover it all back.

After we handed off the project, I believe they moved the source to their own repository, so we never actually needed that, but I slept a lot better knowing that I had a second string in my bow.

What is your craziest story?