The mystery links

  • A couple of years ago I was working on a redevelopment of a financial intelligence system. The original version had been written by another firm of consultants, then farmed out to an Indian sweatshop where all semblance of consistency and standards were abandoned in favour of low prices.

    Consequently, after 18 months, the system was creaking and falling over, and adding new features had become such a complex adventure into the codebase that even minor tweaks were taking weeks.

    So a re-write was commissioned from a new company and it landed on my desk.

    The people who had written the old system refused to hand over the sourcecode of the original. After checking the contract it turned out that they'd managed to retain all rights to the code and the client had absolutely no right to even see a copy of it, so we were reduced to reverse engineering the whole thing by looking at the live version and talking to the client.

    Some of it was clear. Some of it wasn't. One part that gave us particular problems was the admin screen for lists of articles published on the website. At the top of the page was a cryptic set of single-letter links "A D F J M N O S".

    Clicking on each of the letters seemed to return a list of articles in no particular order, and with no particular criteria.

    After much experimenting and brainstorming we finally hit on the answer: They were the initial letters of the months of the year sorted alphabetically. Thus clicking on "J" would get you all the articles published in January, June and July, for all the three years the system had been running, shuffled according to some algorithm we never did work out so that they weren't even in chronological order.

    We discussed it at length and decided not to implement this particular piece of functionality in the new system and settled for the rather arcane practice of providing a small search box where the users could specify the year and month they wanted to see.

  • You're weird.

  • If you so ask.

  •  @mxsscott said:

    Hey, I thought of the months as well... are you going to call me weird too?

    If only because you didn't think of the year, perhaps ...

  • @Bellinghman said:

    Call me weird, but the moment I saw those letters, I thought of the months.

    ditto. noticed that right away. happens anytime i see j a s o n

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