Winning and Losing

After arriving at work this morning and feeling pretty ok about life, the universe, and almost everything for the first time in ages, I opened my e-mail and discovered a cryptic issue recorded by a client about the leviathan I have been obsessing over the development for the last few months.

Over the next couple of hours I turned myself inside out. A huge chunk deep in the brain of the system had been transcribed directly from the original design documentation. It was one of the very few pieces of the jigsaw I hadn’t designed. And under very specific circumstances it was broken.

I’m not going to point fingers, or blame. The interesting thing to me was how different people interpret problems. The original (paper) solution had been clever. The guy that wrote it showed me the pile of crumpled sheets of paper he had gone through while drawing up the formulae. Here’s the thing – he wasn’t a developer. I would be the first to admit that we think very differently than most people – we see problems and solutions differently. Some people might call us weird, or dismiss us as nerdy, but sometimes – just sometimes – you’ll want one of us to help you, and you will witness the swearing, and the pained expressions, and the forcing of a computer to do something that looks magical, but is in reality just very methodical, and unimaginably fast.

I once wrote an assembly language program to count as fast as it could between two kepresses to show our children how fast a computer really was. I showed it to our eldest daughter. In the few hundredths of a second between her best attempts, the computer stretched into many, many millions.

Anyway. I’m getting sidetracked.

After emailing the client with the word “fixed”, I pushed my chair back away from the desk, and wandered down to the kitchen to make a celebratory cup of coffee. On my return I happened to look at the calendar for the week. I had completely missed a conference call with a different client. I have never missed a call before.

Cue immediate apology email. Half a minute after sending it, I realised I mis-typed my direct phone number. Half a minute after that, I realised I made a spelling mistake in the correction email.

I held my head in my hands and began swearing – not for the first or last time today.



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