The Downward Spiral (a company WTF)



  • This is an abridged version of a story I submitted to the front page that hopefully will be posted in its entirety, as the full version is embellished a bit more to make it a better read (like an idiot though I didn't save the text I submitted lol).  It tells of a recent WTF I had at a company where I worked for a year and seven months, and the downward spiral that led to my departure.

    In '11 I joined a local software company that had numerous awards (Fortune 500, Top 50 Young CEOs or something like that, Best Place to Work, etc.) and was fairly close to my home.  In the interview with the senior developer and CTO the senior talked about how they were big into design patterns and quality.  This sounded great as I was used to shops not knowing any patterns and not caring about quality at all.

    First day I met the "team": The senior and one other guy (who was not present during my interview) and a web designer.  I went to lunch with them and the manager and other dev (let's call him "Paul") and when I mentioned a few areas that I found in the code working on some bug fixes that could use a bit of refactoring, they got quiet and said in a hushed tone that the CTO doesn't want them to refactor code as he sees it as a waste of time.  This struck me as odd because while he wasn't a developer (mostly a network guy with some PHP with a graphic arts degree; he was the first IT employee of the company and rose to CTO) he seemed to be big into quality when I talked with him in the interview.  Also at this time the senior was promoted to manager, and Paul quit for a few days until the CTO called him and demanded he come back to work (never quite found out why; Paul was asked if he wanted to be the manager and he said no).

    Fast forward a bit later.  We hired two additional developers: A veteran with 10+ years experience and an inexperienced but brilliant junior.  The veteran was all but ignored, being tasked with creating a report and never being able to get the CTO's approval because he (the CTO) focused on things like "I don't like this shade of blue".  The junior and I became good friends and we continually tried to push some solid design principles, but again the manager and Paul kept ignoring it, with a stern "[CTO] wants us to focus on the tasks we've been assigned".  Around this time myself, the web guy, the veteran and junior all started going out to lunch as a group to discuss what we could do to make things better; the manager and Paul never came along.

    In winter the manager up and quit after 3 years; I had been talking to the CTO around this time about pushing for some things like a real bug tracker and using version control correctly (we were copying the entire site every time as nobody knew or bothered to learn how to branch in SVN).  I also wanted to throw my hat in for consideration of being the new manager; CTO said I'll think about it, show me you can handle it.  The veteran, junior and web guy were all good friends at this point and constantly deferred to me to show that I could do it.  Even Paul would defer to me.

    One day we had a meeting about having branches in SVN.  We all accepted the invite, but when the meeting came around Paul had taken ill after lunch and took the rest of the day off, and then he did it the next meeting, and the meeting after that, each time with a different excuse and even the CTO commented in passing once that he was just in a bad mood that day.  Eventually we got him to sit down and he liked the changes... or so we thought.

    The junior and I worked to get things set up and did some demos, and then we pushed it.  Paul immediately panicked saying he couldn't find his files and that he'd lost a week's worth of work, and fired off an email to the CTO to complain, who came down and made us revert everything.  We later found out the code was just in another branch, and Paul didn't understand that concept.

    Later still we tried to switch to Mercurial because we all liked the idea of making changes locally and pushing them later, and also because we were using FogBugz and the CTO liked Kiln.  Again, we had a demo and meetings and Paul seemed cool with it, but literally 10 minutes before we were going live, Paul started saying how this was all very complicated and got the CTO to shut the project down, this after a week or two of planning and making sure everything worked.

    Around this time, the veteran decided to leave; he had been in the company around 5 months and never did get that report since the CTO always rejected it for silly reasons and often would take a week or more to even acknowledge that he needed to view it (CTO had to approve everything).  After he left the CTO called him slow and hinted he would have fired him soon anyways.

    The junior then got fed up with everything, and Paul's constant undermining what we were trying to do to improve, and accepted an offer for nearly double what he was being paid at a shop that was using cutting edge technology.  He since was promoted to Team Lead with not even 2 years experience under his belt.

    This left me and the web guy, and Paul, and the CTO promised me I'd be made the lead officially after we rebuilt the team (we also lost our network administrator around this point, so for those keeping track that was the manager, then around two months later the veteran, one week later the junior, one week later still the network admin; we also around this time lost a VP of sales who had been there maybe a few months, brought in three other managers and subsequently fired two a couple of weeks later).  We eventually hired two more people.

    I was constantly pushing for these improvements since the app crashed several times a day and could barely support 60 of our own users and the company wanted to sell it as a service.  In meetings with the CTO he agreed and told me to go ahead, but every time I'd try Paul would be in the way with disparaging comments and defeatist talk about how the CTO doesn't want that, and we (the developers) should just do as we're told because "he's the boss".  Yet none of this was in the talks with the CTO, who always seemed to agree that we needed better quality.


    After three failed deployments in a row due to code quality, and throwing one of the new devs under the bus (he was not fired though) because as his first task he was told to completely redesign the core page in the application without any input from the users (in fact, he was forbidden from asking the users what they wanted, by order of the CTO), which resulted in a panic as the sales people were all like "WTF is this??" and confused, Order 66 was executed.  At this point keep in mind I was filling the role of Team Lead, with the other devs (including Paul) giving me status updates, and my prioritizing those updates with the CTO.

    One Friday the web guy (who still went to lunch with me every day) asked me to make a change to something on the live site.  I fired up FTP and... incorrect password.  We used a shared password for the server.  Getting a bad feeling (as disturbance in the Force, if you will) I asked Paul if the password had been changed, since nobody mentioned anything, and he fumbled around and said he'd get it for me.  Moments later I was called into the conference room by the CTO, along with HR, and fired.  The reason given?  He said my C# skills weren't that great (an excuse, naturally) and while we had talked about being lead, "that's not the direction we want to take the company".  Paul had evidently known about this as he changed the password without telling anyone (and ironically he forgot what he changed it to, and had to have the guys in the data center reset it on Monday).

    The web guy quit the following week, finally fed up with how nothing ever changed and how three good people (veteran, junior and now myself) were either let go or given nothing until they quit (he also regularly had conversations with the CTO to reinforce what the rest of us devs were saying).  But the company continues to chug along and nobody cares that it crashes constantly, and Paul and the CTO can make sure they keep nothing changing.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    This is the kind of story where it helps to have real names. Just so we know when to run for the hills…



  • WTF indeed. I could praise you more or-- given the forum we're on-- be an asshole.

    My hands are tied.

    @ObiWayneKenobi said:

    This is an abridged version
     

    {wide eyed SRSLY emoticon}

    THIS is an abridged version:

    @Twitter, with 1 character to spare said:

    Coworker sabotages what he can't grasp, gets promoted. CTO on firing rampage. His dev team is now a "PHP for Dummies" book. #InHappierPlace


     



  • The company is fairly small, I doubt it would matter as most people would never run into them outside of my locale.  They have a fairly strong online presence though in shipping large bulky items, but that's about it.

    EDIT: It's abridged because I gloss over some stuff; the one I submitted had names for everyone and a few more anecdotes, like "Paul" walking out of a meeting that went longer than 30 minutes while loudly yelling about him having "real work to do", or almost getting into a fight with the web guy because he and I were talking about critical issues of site stability and, again, Paul was grumbling that we were bothering his "real work" with our conversation about the app not taking upwards of 10 minutes to load a page.



  • @ObiWayneKenobi said:

    This is an abridged version
     

    ARE YOU ABSOLUTELY SURE?



  • Would you prefer a Twitterized version:

    Company has dev who sabotages efforts to improve.  Loses 4 IT employees within 2 months.  Good employee tries to fix things and gets fired.



  • @ObiWayneKenobi said:

    abridged
    You keep using that word.  I don't think it means what you think it means.



  • @ObiWayneKenobi said:

    Would you prefer a Twitterized version:
     

    Well, all stories can be put in a dry tweet; it's the details that give it flavour.



  • @nonpartisan said:

    @ObiWayneKenobi said:

    abridged
    You keep using that word.  I don't think it means what you think it means.

     

    Sure it does.

    Abridged: To reduce the length of (a written text); condense.

    This is condensed from the version I submitted to the site, ergo it's abridged.

     



  •  Well the Danyang–Kunshan Grand Bridge is over 160km long, so there's no reason why "a bridge" has to be short.

     



  • @DCRoss said:

     Well the Danyang–Kunshan Grand Bridge is over 160km long, so there's no reason why "a bridge" has to be short.

     

    Give me one good reason to not ban you instantly.

     



  • @dhromed said:

    Give me one good reason to not ban you instantly.

     

    I brought cake.

     

     



  • The Real WTF is every word of that.



  • @dhromed said:

    @DCRoss said:

     Well the Danyang–Kunshan Grand [b]Purple Dildo[/b] Bridge is over 160km long, so there's no reason why "a bridge" has to be short.

     

    Give me one good reason to not ban you instantly.

     

     

    GYOGRTNBHIFY.

     



  • @DCRoss said:

    I brought cake.
     

    Welcome, friend.



  • Guyz sometimes I read stories that are SOOO LOOOONG they need multiple pieces of paper to be bound together! They're called "books"! You illiterate fucks!



  • @blakeyrat said:

    Guyz sometimes I read stories that are SOOO LOOOONG they need multiple pieces of paper to be bound together! They're called "books"! You illiterate fucks!

    You read books?  Really?!



  • Yeah, I'm reading the latest Jared Diamond right now. Kindle is the best thing I ever bought for my brain.



  • @blakeyrat said:

    Kindle is the best thing I ever bought for my brain.

    I like the feel (and the note taking I do) of physical books too much to switch to a reader (unless they have improved the note take parts since I last looked a year and a half ago).



  • @blakeyrat said:

    You illiterate fucks!
     

    I read the fucking post you twit. It ain't no Heinlein.



  • @locallunatic said:

    You read books?  Really?!

    The idea of there being people that go they whole life without enjoying a single book saddens me
    @blakeyrat said:
    Yeah, I'm reading the latest Jared Diamond right now.

    I haven't read anything by him but seems interesting enough

    @blakeyrat said:

    Kindle is the best thing I ever bought for my brain.

    Honestly I'm not fond of gadgets, they seem fickle to me but if it gets people to read more if at all then I guess is ok, however I'll never part with my physical books if only due to sentimental reasons
    @locallunatic said:
    and the note taking I do

    Scribbling on books?? Sacrilege!! Burn the heretic!! Burn him good!!



  • People who say they "like the feel" of physical books are idiots. Physical books are expensive, bulky, stinky, easily-damaged, and the ink rubs off. Fuck physical books.



  • @blakeyrat said:

    Physical books are expensive,

    What percentage of the cost of a physical book is an ebook?  50%? 25%?

    @blakeyrat said:

    bulky,

    I'll give you that one as it does mean that you need a lot of shelf space.

    @blakeyrat said:

    stinky,

    Some enjoy the smell of old books, though I take it you aren't one.

    @blakeyrat said:

    easily-damaged,

    That's a reason to perfer them (see):

    @serguey123 said:

    @locallunatic said:

    and the note taking I do

    Scribbling on books?? Sacrilege!! Burn the heretic!! Burn him good!!

     

    @blakeyrat said:

    and the ink rubs off.

    Do to how you scream at people for being pedantic, I assume you mean in a way that causes problems rather than the slight amount that only needs to be worried about with things that are hundreds of years old.  I've never had a problem with ink rubbing off, so just what are you doing to your books?  Licking them?



  • @blakeyrat said:

    People who say they "like the feel" of physical books are idiots. Physical books are expensive, bulky, stinky, easily-damaged, and the ink rubs off. Fuck physical books.

    Books last, when taken care of. The oldest book known is ~2500 years old. People are already having issues using older file formats... you honestly expect your eBook to last 2500 years?



    Physical books are expensive... but you can resell them. Or keep them. Or use them without power. Give them to your kids. You don't "Own" your ebook. You have a license to it. Good luck passing your collection along.



    eReaders are easily damaged, screens fade, crack, accounts get locked, books deleted from your account on the whim of a company, a company that might not exist in a year... or 5... or 10.



    It's easy to say you prefer an eReader over a book... but to say that eStuff doesn't have it's downsides is shortsighted.



    Personally, I prefer audio books... makes my hour+ of driving a day much more bearable.



  • @blakeyrat said:

    People who say they "like the feel" of physical books are idiots

    I would call them romantics but I'm ok with idiots
    @blakeyrat said:
    Physical books are expensive, bulky, stinky, easily-damaged, and the ink rubs off.

    Because they are expensive you might value them more. Because they are bulky you can use them as a paperweight, an insect killer or a fine defense tool against bullies (specifically those with hard cover, a corner at proper speed can break noses). Because they are stinky some people enjoy the smell of a book and how that smell changes as the book ages. Because they are fragile you might learn to better care for your possesions. Because the ink rubs off... I got nothing, this has never happened to me. Because they are physical you can actually fuck them, not sure how to do that with a digital copy,


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    Everyone else seems to be preoccupied with the length of your post, so I guess I'll have to play the role of Captain Obvious.

    I can understand not quitting after this:

    @ObiWayneKenobi said:

    Paul quit for a few days until the CTO called him and demanded he come back to work (never quite found out why; Paul was asked if he wanted to be the manager and he said no).

    But shouldn't you have at least updated your resume after this?

    Paul immediately panicked saying he couldn't find his files and that he'd lost a week's worth of work, and fired off an email to the CTO to complain, who came down and made us revert everything.  We later found out the code was just in another branch, and Paul didn't understand that concept.

    Later still we tried to switch to Mercurial because we all liked the idea of making changes locally and pushing them later, and also because we were using FogBugz and the CTO liked Kiln.  Again, we had a demo and meetings and Paul seemed cool with it, but literally 10 minutes before we were going live, Paul started saying how this was all very complicated and got the CTO to shut the project down, this after a week or two of planning and making sure everything worked.



  • @WernerCD said:

    Books last, when taken care of. The oldest book known is ~2500 years old. People are already having issues using older file formats... you honestly expect your eBook to last 2500 years?

    Who gives a shit? I just need it to last a couple months until I've read it.

    @WernerCD said:

    Or use them without power.

    I dunno about your shitty e-reader, but my Kindle has a battery.

    @WernerCD said:

    eReaders are easily damaged,

    I have an old-school Kindle. Thing's a tank.

    @WernerCD said:

    a company that might not exist in a year... or 5... or 10.

    Amazon? Hah.

    @WernerCD said:

    It's easy to say you prefer an eReader over a book... but to say that eStuff doesn't have it's downsides is shortsighted.

    None of those downsides matter to me. Or they're fucking retarded.

    @WernerCD said:

    Personally, I prefer audio books...

    Kindle does those, too.



  • @PedanticCurmudgeon said:

    Everyone else seems to be preoccupied with the length of your post, so I guess I'll have to play the role of Captain Obvious.

    I can understand not quitting after this:

    @ObiWayneKenobi said:

    Paul quit for a few days until the CTO called him and demanded he come back to work (never quite found out why; Paul was asked if he wanted to be the manager and he said no).

    But shouldn't you have at least updated your resume after this?

    Paul immediately panicked saying he couldn't find his files and that he'd lost a week's worth of work, and fired off an email to the CTO to complain, who came down and made us revert everything.  We later found out the code was just in another branch, and Paul didn't understand that concept.

    Later still we tried to switch to Mercurial because we all liked the idea of making changes locally and pushing them later, and also because we were using FogBugz and the CTO liked Kiln.  Again, we had a demo and meetings and Paul seemed cool with it, but literally 10 minutes before we were going live, Paul started saying how this was all very complicated and got the CTO to shut the project down, this after a week or two of planning and making sure everything worked.

     

    Paul quitting happened like my third week at the company; I only found out the reason months later during a lunch with Veteran, Junior and Web Guy (I thought he was just sick for a few days, since I myself had a nasty stomach bug that made me miss like  3 days of work Week #2).  We all had a big laugh at the notion that he quit a job and then basically got told by his ex-boss to "get [his] ass back to work" and did so like a little bitch.

    We all updated our resume after the SVN/Mercurial thing (Veteran and Junior were still there, the Mercurial thing was the last straw).  They got offers faster than I did.  I actually got an offer (and would have left a week after Junior) but I was stupid and naive and fell for the CTO telling me that I'd get promoted to manager, as at the time I wanted more responsibility and something that would give me credible management experience, so I turned it down. Stupid, I know, but I fell for his BS and his telling me that he wanted me to focus on analysis/architectural things with the code to improve it.

    I ended up being out of work for around 3 months afterwards.

     



  • I had a really good comment, but I'm leaving it for the not so "abridged" version.



  • @ubersoldat said:

    I had a really good comment, but I'm leaving it for the not so "abridged" version.
     

    Abridged version: I hope no one notices I have no comment.



  • @ubersoldat said:

    I had a really good comment, but I'm leaving it for the not so "abridged" version.

    Because you want to post it to the ditch of howling apes that is the front pages comments section, instead of here?

    Freak.



  • @serguey123 said:

    you can use them as a paperweight,

    Is your desk in a very windy location? Why do your papers need to be weighted down?



  • @Lorne Kates said:

    WTF indeed. I could praise you more or-- given the forum we're on-- be an asshole.

    My hands are tied.

    @ObiWayneKenobi said:

    This is an abridged version
     

    {wide eyed SRSLY emoticon}


    ಠ_ಠ

    ಠ__ಠ
    ಠ___ಠ
    ಠ____ಠ
    ಠ_____ಠ
    ಠ______ಠ
    ಠ_______ಠ
    ಠ________ಠ
    ಠ_________ಠ


  • @blakeyrat said:

    People who say they "like the feel" of physical books think differently from me in any way at all about anything at all are idiots.

    There you go Blakey.  That's every post you ever made or ever will make summed up in a single generic template.  You needn't bother posting again now.




  • @locallunatic said:

    @blakeyrat said:

    and the ink rubs off.

    [...] I've never had a problem with ink rubbing off, so just what are you doing to your books?  Licking them?

    No - that's what he does with the windows.

  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @blakeyrat said:

    the ink rubs off
    That depends on the quality of the printing. Very cheap printing uses ink that's essentially little more than soot in a minimal glue; it comes off really easily. This is exacerbated by the use of very cheap paper. (This is a combo that is also more commonly used in newspapers than in books.) Higher-cost printing doesn't have nearly as much of a problem; better ink and better paper makes the book endure far better.

    FWIW, the degree to which you have problems also depends on your skin type. People who are very sweaty tend to have more of a problem, because all that sweat acts as a bit of a solvent. It just goes to show that what is an issue for one person might not be for another.



  • @dhromed said:

    it's the details that give it flavour.
    That, or syrup.



  • @Anonymouse said:

    @dhromed said:
    it's the details that give it flavour.
    That, or syrup.
     

    Silly goose! You can't put syrup on a setting and characters!

    Oh wait...

    You can.



  • @locallunatic said:

    unless they have improved the note take parts
    Taking notes isn't the hard part. Getting them off again is. On second thought, maybe I shouldn't have used a water-proof pen.



  • @dhromed said:

    @Anonymouse said:

    @dhromed said:
    it's the details that give it flavour.
    That, or syrup.
     

    Silly goose! You can't put syrup on a setting and characters!

    Oh wait...

    You can.

    No. That's just syrup all the way down.

     



  •  Blakey forgot yet another negative point about books: They take shelf space. Book series even more so. I ran out of such space long ago and now have a cardboard box full of books in my basement.



  • @locallunatic said:

    What percentage of the cost of a physical book is an ebook?  50%? 25%?

    In my experience, it's over 100%.

    Also you people complaining about physical book collections haven't ever heard of public libraries? Or maybe I'm just not enough of a bibliophile to "understand".



  • @MiffTheFox said:

    Also you people complaining about physical book collections haven't ever heard of public libraries

    But but... what about hobos?
    @MiffTheFox said:
    maybe I'm just not enough of a bibliophile to "understand".

    No, not really, I used to go to public libraries all the time when I was younger and when my own collection grew to big I donated most of it to them. I consider them a great idea but unfortunately they are dying along physical books.
    @Qwerty said:
    @serguey123 said:
    you can use them as a paperweight,

    Is your desk in a very windy location? Why do your papers need to be weighted down?

    No it isn't, it's an usage exampl.. wait a minute, you read the rest of the list and windy desks weird where your only objection?



  • @serguey123 said:

    @MiffTheFox said:
    Also you people complaining about physical book collections haven't ever heard of public libraries

    But but... what about hobos?
    You need to read Fahrenheit 541 .. the hobos are the books!
    @serguey123 said:
    No, not really, I used to go to public libraries all the time when I was younger and when my own collection grew to big I donated most of it to them. I consider them a great idea but unfortunately they are dying along physical books.
    My local libraries are transforming, not dying. You can "borrow" ebooks in various formats for free (well, paid for by my local taxes) over the inter-webs and they also have a large collection of movies and audio books. They also have movie nights and show major global sporting events. In addition they are also providing internet cafe like services and you can also book rooms of various sizes. So they are trying to stay relevant by becoming a community based information hub.

    I also heard of a new library in the US that is purely ebook based. You can borrow the ebooks on your own device, or you can borrow and ebook reader as well. And for the kids, they have ebook readers pre-loaded with popular kids material.



  • @dhromed said:

    You can.

    LOOK AT ALL THE ANIMES GUYZ! MY BRAIN IS BURSTING FROM ALL THE ANIMES!



  • @OzPeter said:

    You need to read Fahrenheit 541 .. the hobos are the books!

    Yeah I always wanted to see a Fahrenheit 451 hobo fight. "To Kill a Mockingbird gonna cut you, Moby Dick! To Kill a Mockingbird gonna cut you!"



  • @blakeyrat said:

    Yeah, I'm reading the latest Jared Diamond right now. Kindle is the best thing I ever bought for my brain.
     

     

    I never though I would find myself agreeing with blakey

    is the world about to end ;-)



  • @blakeyrat said:

    People who say they "like the feel" of physical books are idiots. Physical books are expensive, bulky, stinky, easily-damaged, and the ink rubs off. Fuck physical books.
     

    Although this is a bit extreme, I am keeping my physical books on the bookshelf ( where possible i have a kindle version to read to prevent damage).

    Also the kindle is less than ideal for refrence manuals



  • @dhromed said:

    @blakeyrat said:
    You illiterate fucks!
     

    I read the fucking post you twit. It ain't no Heinlein.

     

    Indeed.  Geriatric Gary Stus and incest fixations are notably absent from the post.

     



  • @blakeyrat said:

    @WernerCD said:
    Or use them without power.

    I dunno about your shitty e-reader, but my Kindle has a battery.

     

    I got invited to speak at a conference in Australia a few weeks ago.  The international flight was well over 12 hours.  I brought along some books (Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy--well worth reading BTW) to keep me company.  An e-reader (even a Kindle) would never have lasted that long, even on a battery, but the books did just fine.


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