A WTF From The Other End



  •  http://blogs.wsj.com/biztech/2008/03/17/yahoos-unlimited-email-hits-its-limit/ provides a striking example of the other kind of curious perversion of IT; the one that really, really isn't the programmer's fault.

     Let's go through this point by point, shall we?

    • "Like many other cubicle dwellers saddled with slow-poke corporate
      Microsoft Outlook email, we regularly forward our regular work mail to
      an outside account..."
      Okay, small potatoes so far. Doubtless there are companies out there that would look with great disfavour on this, but hey, who hasn't resorted to a workaround that bends a few company policies in order to get their job done? 

    • "Last week, our email suddenly stopped working. Whenever we tried to log on, we got a “LaunchCascadeError-ymws:Server.MailboxOpenFailed” error message... Invoking certain mainstream media prerogatives, we sent a sternly worded email to Yahoo’s PR department." Okay, biggie number one. He emailed the PR department instead of tech support, using the WSJ's name as leverage, when he owns this service as a private individual. Real professional, buddy; I hope your boss was out of the office when you posted this.
    • "After a day or two, our Yahoo Mail was back. Sort of. The inbox only
      showed a thousand or so messages, all from the last month or so, rather
      then several years worth of more than 55,000 emails in all.
      (Taking
      Yahoo’s “unlimited storage” promise at face value, we use the account
      as a permanent archive.)"
      Emphasis mine. What... the... fuck? I can't imagine any conceivable reason why anyone's working practices or their employer's data retention policy would force them to store that much email, but I'm happy to concede the possibility that someone, somewhere might honestly need to do so. But hasn't this guy ever heard of local backups? You know, for situations like when his ISP deploys a new feature which throws up a weird bug that didn't show up in QA testing? More on that in a moment.
    • "So what happened exactly? Turns out Yahoo isn’t really prepared for
      users doing what we do–namely keeping all their mail in a single
      inbox–as opposed to moving them into sub-folders. (We don’t spend any
      time sorting because doing so defeats the whole purpose of having a
      single back-up email system that doesn’t require any thought or tending.)"
      Oh, yeah, Yahoo were absolutely bloody blind to leave that eventuality out of the QA testing; heaven forfend that they actually credit all their customers with some sense!

    I think I'll let the last word go to a couple of the brighter commentators:



    Come on guys, this seems like
    the perfectly feasable plan to be in compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley
    audits. You know, lets just ignore all security standards and just
    forward everything unencrypted to Yahoo. The part that burns me about
    this article is the overall tone…and then criticism of them for failing
    to follow ’suggested “best practices” of security experts’. Just for
    the record: I can’t stand yahoo mail…but I can’t can’t this article
    even more.


      <i><span class="comment-by">Comment by</span> 
      <span class="comment-author">BP</span>
      -
      </i><span class="comment-date"><i>
      March 25, 2008      at 
      <a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/biztech/2008/03/17/yahoos-unlimited-email-hits-its-limit/#comment-14506">
        <span class="comment-time">8:45 am</span></a></i><a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/biztech/2008/03/17/yahoos-unlimited-email-hits-its-limit/#comment-14506">
      </a></span><p>&nbsp;<i>Even a provincial ‘yahoo’ like
    

    me out here in the backwoods of Idaho knows it is just plain dumb to do
    some to things the big, cityified WSJ did. Let’s see (1) no formal
    corporate policy for archiving company mail, nor apparently any server
    space either, It’s tike to fire the CIO(2) exposure of proprietary
    company infomation on unencrypted servers run by out sourced staff
    somewhere in southeast Asia, it’s time to fire the employee (3)
    priceless gall having the nerve to complain about the failure of the
    system to hold tens of thousands of email messages in one folder, it’s
    time to fire the editor for publishing such foolishness


      <i><span class="comment-by">Comment by</span> 
      <span class="comment-author">Idaho Potato Head</span>
      -
      </i><span class="comment-date"><i>
      March 27, 2008      at 
      <a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/biztech/2008/03/17/yahoos-unlimited-email-hits-its-limit/#comment-15172">
        <span class="comment-time">9:59 am</span></a></i></span></p>


  • Obviously the WSJ writer is flat-out retarded, but Yahoo! Mail is to blame as well.  There should be some mechanism in their software to prevent this kind of problem in the first place.



  • Someone commenting on the Techdirt article where I found this train wreck of a blog entry actually narrowed the likely failure point down to the mail indexing system -which I'd guess covers the Trash folder and maybe a couple of others in addition to the Inbox- choking up after 2 to the 16th, or 65,536 entries. This isn't my area of specialisation -I'm a hardware technician, not a programmer- but it sounds fairly plausible. Doubtless they've fixed it now, though what Yahoo! are going to do when someone accumulates 13 million and change emails in their Inbox is beyond my capacity to envision.

    Still, it's like some guy said about that article about the stupidly long URLs a while back; if you have to ask what the upper limit of something is, you're probably doing it wrong.



  • @Jake Grey said:

    What... the... fuck? I can't imagine any conceivable reason why anyone's working practices or their employer's data retention policy would force them to store that much email, but I'm happy to concede the possibility that someone, somewhere might honestly need to do so.

    We did. Lots of WTF's in my previous jobs usually began with an e-mail asking for something truly WTFy. So we stored all of our e-mails, so when the shit hit the fan, we could easily prove that we did "just like the manager told us to". Basically, it was our CYA insurance.

    Anyway ... we had only 25Mb inbox space, so we did what any other "cubicle dweller" should do: Each of us set up a local "personal folders" pst on the local computer, and moved emails there after they were over a week old. But I assure you that any kind of email forwarding to a "freemail" would've earned someone a visit by SOX auditors at the least.

    Oh, and I'm pretty much opposed to "email forwarding" schemes, even more when people actually forward work mail to free email accounts.



  • @danixdefcon5 said:

    So we stored all of our e-mails, so when the shit hit the fan, we could easily prove that we did "just like the manager told us to".
    Fair point, but I just ran the math; this guy would have to receive thirty emails a day for five years straight without deleting anything to fill his inbox to that level. Is it even remotely possible that every single one was necessary for Sarbannes-Oxley compliance, or anything else for that matter? I'm sure I remember reading that letting the archives get cluttered with extraneous crap is a violation as well; its potential usefulness as a smokescreen is certainly obvious.



  • @Jake Grey said:

    this guy would have to receive thirty emails a day for five years straight without deleting anything to fill his inbox to that level.

    Just curious - how much email do you get a day at work? Because I easily get hundreds of emails a day. (I don't keep them all of course.) But if they automated their email to always be forwarded to another email box, I could easily see reaching that limit in a matter of months.



  • @Jake Grey said:

    this guy would have to receive thirty emails a day for five years straight without deleting anything to fill his inbox to that level. Is it even remotely possible that every single one was necessary for Sarbannes-Oxley compliance, or anything else for that matter?

    30 emails a day? Try 30 emails every 3 hours. Sometimes more. Then there was the "Team inbox" which was basically a common inbox for our team, that one went at a rate of 80 emails a day, in an easy day. For the record, when I left my job, the PST file I had for backup was hitting around 700Mb, and I had only been there a year. Some coworkers were hitting around 2Gb's, and most of them had been only 2 years in the company. I'm pretty sure the e-mail count was well above the 100k mark for some of us!

    That said, I'm glad my current job doesn't suffer as much from e-mails. Most communication is made by the organization's IM, phone, or just simply talking to the other people.



  • I can only log into the company mail server from the company network - which basically means I can only read corporate emails from my office. If we don't get the support guys to set the mail server to redirect to other accounts, we can't read our work-related email at home, for example. Alright, people should leave work stuff for work hours, and take it easy on holidays and weekends and such, but it's not fun when you get scolded for not responding to a freaking urgent email. And yeah, I know how WTF'y this is.



  • 'danixdefcon5'/'dcardani': I've actually spent most of my working life (all fifteen months between high school and college) in the kind of job where I was lucky if I got a desk, never mind a corporate email account. Thank you both for totally validating my decision to go for A+ Certification rather than something programming-based!



  • You serious Clark? Have fun (no respect from your co-workers) with that one.



  •  Yahoo's mail system has several WTF's. A long whole back (10+ years ago) Yahoo bought geocities. I had a geocities account back then (I know, the real WTF) and the account name contains a - in it. Now a - is a valid character in an email address, however every time Yahoo goes through a major upgrade my email account is unable to recieve mail because their mail system can't process incoming mail when the account name contains a - in it. The kicker is, sending email to the same account @geocities.com delivers the mail to my yahoo account even when the @yahoo.com address doesn't work.

    Also note you can't actually create a yahoo account right now with a dash in it, you either never could or haven't been able to for a very very long time.

     



  • @Jake Grey said:

     http://blogs.wsj.com/biztech/2008/03/17/yahoos-unlimited-email-hits-its-limit/ provides a striking example of the other kind of curious perversion of IT; the one that really, really isn't the programmer's fault.
    I'll agree that doing this with your corporate e-mail is a WTF, but Yahoo mail dying on big folders is definitely a programmer WTF.



  • I stopped using Yahoo Mail years ago when they upgraded from 2 to 100MB. In the process, they "upgraded" to a new interface that worked only in IE. In Firefox, you couldn't do anything at all.



  • @lolwtf said:

    In the process, they "upgraded" to a new interface that worked only in IE. In Firefox, you couldn't do anything at all.
     

    i do not recall such nonsense ever happening ... they always gave you the option to continue using the old interface or "upgrade" to the new one ...

    i still use the same interface i used in '98 or '99 ....



  • Second on the non-sense call. I used Yahoo mail for quite a long time, and Netscape and later Mozilla, and I can't remember it ever breaking. It's quite possible the newer interface broke older versions of Netscape, but I never can remember it flat not working with it. 



  •  Agreed. It might have played up in Firefox when it was frst rolled out, but it was fixed by the time I got around to testing it. Can't say I liked it much, though; the main reason I use the 'classic' webmail interface is that I find it less cumbersome than Outlook, which the new one is shamelessly ripping off.


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