Stark Industries – Entrance into Madness

This is going to be my first non technical series. I really want to illustrate some insanely frustrating, almost funny (if it wasn’t so maddening) experiences. If you guys have ever read The Daily WTF, this is my personal experience with some WTF’s.

After graduation I took a job at… we will call it Stark Industries. I spent nearly 6 months waiting for my security clearance. During this time I read documentation, did code reviews, and watched A LOT of YouTube.

Code reviews are… extremely boring. Any time a line of code is changed you have to have a formal review of that change with a meeting of about 10 people. I attended around 10 of these a week over teleconference. The groups would always email the code out so attendees could look at it prior to the meeting. This was helpful because I could pull it up in Eclipse, search, use the outline view etc. It made the job easier.

The WTF

I get an email one day from a particular group asking me to review their software. Nothing really out of the ordinary except there was no file attachment. I reply back and ask them to send the software to me. I get another reply back saying that something when wrong and “the rest won’t go through” Curious, I inquire about the size of the file attachment and get up to go pick up some printouts from the printer. As I walk over I notice some people grumbling over the fax machine. As I peer over their shoulders I notice all these papers all over the floor….. Yes, the group had attempted to fax over 300 pages of source code thus jamming the fax machine, creating a huge mess, and making a lot of people angry.

I reply back as politely as possible and suggest that maybe faxing 300 pages is not such a good idea seeing as how the fax machine doesn’t hold that much paper. (…As if it did then it would be a great idea) Again, I ask that they just attach it to the email. I get a reply back with, “I will get Bill to send it to you.” (name changed to protect the innocent) A little later in the day, a visitor comes by my cube holding a huge envelope. Rather than attach the files to the email, Bill had come by my desk and handed me the print outs. Stunned, I asked why he brought these over, rather than emailing them… “Our fax machine broke, and you were just across the hall so I thought I would just bring these over to you… seeya”

I got my manager to send a nasty-gram asking again to send the source code digitally so that it may be effectively reviewed. The next day I have a bunch of attachments in my inbox. Rather than zipping up the source code, Bill had scanned all 300 pages of source code and began sending me the images (in .tif format) to me like 10 at a time. At this point I am frustrated and angry at the sheer stupidity that is going on here. Reviewing that much code is already tedious enough. Reviewing that much code without an IDE is impossible. After many emails I finally get an answer as to why they won’t send me the source code… there are 3 reasons:

  1. “We don’t want you modifying the code and corrupting our source control”
  2. “We don’t have time to help you get a build environment up”
  3. “We don’t want you stealing our software”

When i heard these reasons I was honestly speechless. I could not fathom how someone could really be this… crazy… literally. Firstly, I don’t even know where their source control server is, let alone have an account to access it. Secondly, I don’t need to build their software… just be able to search it and ctrl-click on class references. And thirdly, …seriously wtf… we work at the same company ACROSS THE HALL. I am not going to “steal” your crappy ass software and even if I did what the hell would I do with it???

One lesson I learned at Stark Industries is that nothing ever gets solved without many many meetings about it. After about 10 or so meetings my managers ultimately agreed upon a “solution”. Honestly I think they just got tired of arguing with a brick wall. The deal was that they would send us the source code in protected pdf format so we could “search” it but not copy it, or print it. And, if we wanted to see the code in an IDE, we would have to schedule a time (no longer than 30 minutes) to use one of their machines to view the code in the IDE while one of their developers observed to ensure we did not copy it. The first pdf we recieved was just a pdf of the scans of each page of source code…wtf…useless… Needless to say that code never got reviewed.

This is just one in a long, long, long list of WTF’s that happened to me at Stark Industries.

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