Who, Me? Ah, mild readerfolk, welcome as soon as once more to Who, Me? during which Reg readers very similar to yourselves regale us weekly with tales of technical disasters of their very own making narrowly averted – and generally not averted in any respect.
This week meet a reader we’ll Regomize as “Stan” who as soon as labored because the subscriptions and IT supervisor (an odd mixture of job capabilities if ever there was one) for a enterprise journal. Stan’s chief duty on this twin position was to handle the FileMaker database containing the names and addresses of the journal’s ~20,000 subscribers.
Because it was a enterprise journal, that database featured substantial overlap between the recipients of the journal and the gross sales division’s promoting contacts. The latter often are sometimes despatched free copies of magazines.
Each varieties of subscriber have been lumped collectively in a single desk that included an an infinite variety of fields, a lot of them obscure.
Stan did not design this dastardly DB. He tells us it “had been managed by a succession of individuals with nearly no data of IT, together with the CFO”. He additionally realized that no person was actually certain why a few of these obscure fields had been used, or what they contained.
So the one fields Stan nervous about have been “identify, road, postcode, city and ID.”
Then as now, journal publishers are at all times searching for methods to extend circulation and income. Someday, the boss was trying over Stan’s shoulder whereas he ready a run of letters to subscribers, and seen a subject he hadn’t noticed earlier than: Name2.
“Oh, do we now have a second contact at a few of these locations?” the writer requested.
Stan regarded and, certainly, some 5 p.c of the Name2 fields did certainly include information.
He didn’t, sadly, verify what that information was. However earlier than lengthy the writer had determined the 1,000 or so people within the Name2 subject all deserved their very own magazines.
“Simply duplicate all of the rows which have a Name2 and add them to the desk,” Stan was advised.
Stan did what he was advised and set about printing up ~21,000 subscriber letters to accompany the following distribution of the journal. He labored lengthy into the night time, printing letters, restocking the paper trays, taking the printed letters out and stacking them in containers to be taken to the fulfilment home.
Within the morning, a gross sales individual wandered into the realm, picked up a printed letter, and browse out loud the next greeting on the prime of a letter:
One other was addressed to “Expensive get her drunk and she or he’ll do something”.
Stan checked the tackle on the latter letter. It was going to the sponsor of that very problem of that journal.
At this level – and never earlier than – Stan inspected the content material of that Name2 subject. Amongst some precise names, some odd however benign feedback may very well be discovered – and 23 extremely derogatory feedback.
All the 23 nasty “names” have been related to vital advertisers. Suffice to say it might be a really very dangerous concept for the supposed recipients of these letters to open their mail.
Workers have been subsequently recruited to undergo the 21,000 printed letters, discover the offensive ones, and destroy them.
When the CFO arrived, he was knowledgeable of what had (nearly) occurred. “Ah,” he stated, “some time again I renamed the Remark subject to Name2 as everybody was simply utilizing it to place within the identify of a second contact.”
Have you ever ever inherited a badly constructed system and suffered unexpected penalties as end result? Inform us all about it in an electronic mail to Who, Me? and we’ll share your ache with others.