Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

Intelligent Idiots

My wife works at a preschool.  The powers that be decided it would be a good thing to replace the front door with some sort of a magnetic key lock system.  There is a keypad outside the door, a regular key lock... and the magnetic part of it is connected to a "buzzer button" inside the facility.

Apparently the purpose of the keypad is unknown.  The parents are supposed to use their phone number to gain access.  However, no one gains access unless someone inside buzzes them in.  So when they lock up for the night, to unlock the next morning now means going through the backdoor.

Supposedly, the reasoning behind all of this is for the protection of the children. (???)  I guess business must be considered good if you can lock out your paying customers (parents) and expect them to believe this is a good thing for their kids.

The reason I mention this story, is the other day we were sitting around discussing our current project.  Someone called a person in management a "stupid idiot".  Another said that saying that was redundant because he had never heard of an "intelligent idiot".

I had never thought of a concept of an "intelligent idiot"... but I now have the idea that maybe they really do outnumber the stupid ones.

and in a similar way to the preschool... the project I am on which should have entered integration/system/acceptance testing at least a month ago, expects us to start working shifts on a 24X7 basis to make up for lost time.

The "intelligent idiotic" thing about that... is that none of us have any sort of security access to perform this testing, and the security people say we can't have it because of our "developer status" - that is, we aren't testers.

Management doesn't consider that a priority problem, but working the 24X7 shifts is. <sigh>

Why is this not stupid?  Simple... It's considered intelligent to conform to process and procedures.

Any other stories?

Sunday, August 17, 2003

"Stupid idiots" do exist. My two favourites are the familt that bought a Christmas tree too large for the room, and solved the problem by makng a hole in the ceiling, and the flat I rented which was self-built and had radiators and stoves for oil-fired central heating which was never installed because they realized they'd forgotten the chimney for the exhaust gases.

Stephen Jones
Sunday, August 17, 2003

These sorts of things are pretty common.  I was once on a project where we were supposed to develop an application against a pre-defined database schema (problematic in itself).  When asked to see said schema was told by the DBA that it was secret and none of the developers could see it.  But we were still expected to write the applications against it.

Oren Miller
Sunday, August 17, 2003

Oren wins.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

Oren, let me guess was the database sql server.  If so you could have just logged in as sa by the looks of things

Sunday, August 17, 2003

I once was asked to work on a "scientific" project. The amazing thing was that the answer was preset by manager, and I was not allowed to deviate from that.
Other than this, I had "all the freedom in the world" according to the manager. After studying the subject and trying to explain to him that things were not actually gonna look like he wanted if they were to be "scientific", he yelled at me and told me to get with the program. I got him something that had an appearance of what he wanted, but did not have any valid "science". That did not fly with him either, "that was just fudging".

I suggested to work out a plan together on how to achieve what he wanted. Well, mentioning some writing scared the hell out of him, and he dropped the whole thing.
He still goes around explaining his grand idea with hand waving, and people familiar with the subject still don't understand WTF he is talking about.

The problem is often people have no clue how to do something and how things like that actually get done. Yet these very people insist that they know what you should do.

Mr Curiousity
Sunday, August 17, 2003

Sounds like at Camel when the CIO insisted that an application had to be webforms, but one of the requirements was an offline capability for people in the field. We laid out, point-by-point, the pros and cons of winforms vs. webforms, and tacitly granted that overall it was a toss-up, except that the offline requirement put the ball squarely in winform's court.

He ended up hiring a Microsoft consultant (who was an expert in webforms) to review all the requirements and make an "independent" decision. Apparently the four application architects who'd been hired for their expertise and the *other* Microsoft consultant weren't good enough.


Sunday, August 17, 2003

"Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better idiot- proof programs, and the Universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots. So far, the Universe is winning."
-- Rich Cook

Sunday, August 17, 2003

Oren, let me guess was the database Oracle.  If so you could have just logged in as sys/change_on_install by the looks of things

Sunday, August 17, 2003

No, Mike had it right.  It was the SQL Server/sa super combo :)

Oren Miller
Sunday, August 17, 2003

Mr Curiousity,

that account souds scarily familiar. Creepy.

Just me (Sir to you)
Monday, August 18, 2003

Many moons ago I worked on a Sonar system for the Navy's submarines.  I didn't have a clearance, so I got to know all the frequency bands except 1, the "secret" one.  The bands were along the lines of 10 HZ, 100 HZ, xxx, 10KHZ, 100kHZ.  (not the real frequencies, I don't remember them, but there was a pattern).  Once in a meeting I made the mistake of mentioning the 1 khz band, everyone got real quiet.  Like "who told him the secret".

Monday, August 18, 2003

Hah! I had almost the same experience when *I* was working on sonar stuff.

Chris Tavares
Monday, August 18, 2003

Here's a very timely response to your story.  The names are changed to protect the innocent, and the exact personalities involved are an aggregation of upper management.  The events are real, though.

Today is Monday, August 18th, following the "Big Power Outage of 2003".  Our company hosts a data center with several hundred web applications on a farm with 150+ servers (just to give you an idea of the scope).

As you can imagine, the data center dropped around 4:45 on Thursday, when the rest of the grid around us failed.

We also host a call center with roughly 40 representatives, to support one of our applications.  The general manager told everyone to come in on Friday, whether or not they had power, and to "Bring your flashlights, if necessary".

So Friday morning sees 40 hourly call center staff milling aimlessly about the parking lot, because nobody can get into building, because we have card-reader locks, AND THERE'S NO POWER.  Around 8am a senior manager shows up, goes into the building, picks 5 or 6 people, ushers them into the building to work, and tells the other 35 people to wait in the parking lot.

Three hours later, said senior manager sends the parking lot people home.

Monday morning, said senior manager tells all the (hourly) people that waited in the parking lot for three hours that they're not getting paid.

However, the company spent something on the order of $50k to haul in two generators that WERE NEVER USED because the power came back on before they could get them installed.

So, they saved a few thousand by not paying people for hours they came to work, and spent many many thousands for generators that didn't.  Sigh.  Intelligent Idiots, indeed.

Anonymous, or I'd be shot. Really.
Monday, August 18, 2003

"Monday morning, said senior manager tells all the (hourly) people that waited in the parking lot for three hours that they're not getting paid."

Tell a representative for those people to contact either their union rep, a labor attorney, or the state labor department. The company owes them pay for the time they stood around in the parking lot. Do NOT let management slide by with this.


Monday, August 18, 2003

Horrendous people management skills.  That Pennywise poundfoolish manager will pay 10-fold with company blood for treating employees that way. 

CARDINAL RULE in business:  NEVER EVER screw your employees.  You will pay 10 fold.  Perhaps 100 fold.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Maybe Bella, but only if someone actually does something about it.  I've seen this stuff happen many times and there are always those golden excuses "they might fire me and the economy is so bad".

Joe AA
Tuesday, August 19, 2003

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home