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  • Writer's pictureAstutely Obtuse Readers

Tales From the Fringe: He Didn't Just Say What I Think He Did, Did He Edition

Updated: May 25

We asked various project professionals to share their horror stories. We asked, “what is a time a client said something that left you dumbstruck.” These are their stories.

Note: while we tried to keep the stories as they were told to us, we did take a few liberties to ensure that no company was named, no person was identified, and some editing to enhance readability.


Story 1: Web-Dev Lead

I worked for a marketing firm in their “digital marketing department.” We built brand and customer-targeted websites for our clients. I was the lead developer for the web-devs, so I was involved in most of the meetings with the business analysts, the account manager, and the clients, so we could fully understand what their needs were for the website we were building.


We had a client that was our longest continuous client. The company had been our client since the early 80s. We were building a new interactive site for this company, meant to drive traffic by offering fun interactive games, polls, quizzes, personality tests, etc. that would all somehow link to their portfolio of services. It was a pretty huge undertaking.


The VP of their web marketing department came into the office screaming that the website wasn’t up yet. We explained that the deployment date was still a couple of months away, and we weren’t quite to the point that we were ready for initial user testing. At the time, we had a staging environment, so that we could keep the components we were actively working on separate from what was ready for UAT, so that we could just deploy all of the work at once. We offered to set up a way for him to access this environment so that he could get an idea of where we were at with the work.


He didn’t like that. He wanted to know why he couldn’t just go to the website and see the work being done live as we worked on it. We told him we would have to deploy it, and we’re not ready to do that. He looked at us and told us to “just deploy it to my computer then. That way, I can go to {companies published website} from only my computer and see the work being done.” I didn’t know what to say to that.


We tried to explain that we had four environments, and what he was asking for was to see our “sandbox” environment (the environment that we did all of the development in), but that wouldn’t give an accurate view of what was being done, besides, what he wanted us to do would be developing on a live website, which is never a good idea. When we told him that all of our lower environments aren’t online and can’t be accessed via the internet (by design), he said “what does the internet have to do with a website?”


Ultimately, we were told to just do what the client wanted, so we began work in production. As much as we tried to limit who had access to the site, we found that somehow people found a workaround. Within the first week, we had nearly 5,000 unique visitors to the site, which barely had any functionality, and probably didn’t even work in some of the less popular browsers.


Story 2: Wearhouse Manager Thinks Software is Magic

At a previous job, I worked for an internal project team that built and implemented software solutions for a local hardware store. The owner of the company owned 7 stores, with two warehouses.


He saw that there was an increased need to offer online sales, so we built a system that monitored the inventory on hand so that the website would automatically update if something wasn’t available. Easy-peasy. After a year of this updated inventory system running, we discovered that the store’s inventory and the warehouse’s inventory were lumped into one big inventory, and it wasn’t being accurately updated when something was sold online. It was a pretty quick fix, and one that probably should have been part of the initial work, but was somehow missed, which I admit was mostly my fault.


We deploy the updates, and everything is going swimmingly. After a month I get a very angry call from the warehouse manager. He claims that the inventory is still messed up, even after our fix was deployed. He threatened to call the owner and get the entire team fired since we clearly weren’t doing our jobs. When asked what the problem was, he said, “manual inventory hasn’t been done since you implemented your fix.”


He thought that the updated inventory software would somehow go through and manually verify the inventory once a week.

An image of a bard, but his lute is replaced by an M.2 SSD
Dammit, we're not tech wizards wielding tech magic, we're tech bards


Story 3: CTO Doesn’t Understand What the Cloud Is

“I don’t understand, why can’t we just move the Cloud over to AWS?”


Company grew really fast. Couldn’t keep up with the infra demands. Moved everything to AWS. During busy times hit a bandwidth cap. Everything slowed down or failed. Told the CTO that we had a bandwidth cap slowing us down and our data access to the cloud. Responded with the above.


Dude was the CTO.


Story 4: Data Analytics Can Be Very Therapeutic

Not related to the project work, per se.


I was working long hours as we got closer to the end of the fiscal year (the respondent worked for the BI/data analytics/financial tech team as a developer). The work was becoming very overwhelming, and getting everyone on the same page was nearly impossible. I started working very closely with the data analytics manager, at times working until seven or eight at night.


One night he asks me, “are you married, have a girlfriend, or fiancée?”


I said yeah, a girlfriend for about six years.


“Does she mind you working late hours?”


Nah, she understands that this is a one-time-a-year thing.


Then he drops the bomb: “my wife hasn’t said a word to me for two weeks.


Oh


“Yeah, I’ve been sleeping in the upstairs guest room since we started ramping everything up. Last thing she said to me was that ‘it’s hard to love someone who’s never home.’”


Me: Jesus, man


“I’ve talked to the sixteen-year-old kid at McDonald’s more than my wife, and she probably cares about me more than my wife does.”


Over the following couple of weeks I learned that he had grown to despise his wife and wanted to be a fireman when he was younger, but after a badly broken leg, one leg was about six inches shorter than the other which causes bad hip and back pain. I didn’t know what to say, so I just let him talk.

A rubber duck that is made to look like Sigmond Freud
Buy him a fucking rubber ducky and be done with it


Story 5: The Never-Ending Search for the New Hotness

This individual builds a bit of software that is used by many gaming companies, that provides better integration with popular game engines. Because the respondent is not allowed to give specifics about what they do, we’ve heavily anonymized the response. Hopefully, it still makes sense.


Boss sends out a message to all developers saying we needed to incorporate ChatGPT into our software. The only thing our software does is bridge a gap between other software, it doesn’t provide any direct service to the user.


When I asked him what purpose ChatGPT would serve, he answered “don’t know, but we can say that it uses ChatGPT when we sell it.”


Story 6: Well, His Heart Was in the Right Place

I manage the website of a small design firm. The site is made up entirely of our portfolio, so that potential customers can get a feel for what we do, and if they want to use our services.

The owner comes in and says that he’s been thinking a lot about this accessibility thing that everyone talks about. He’s concerned that some people won’t be able to get the full experience of our site. Pretty admirable, so I asked him what his thoughts were.


“Well, I was thinking, can we do anything so that a blind person can see our work?”


I was a bit confused but explained that alt-text can be used so that screen readers will speak when the user gets to that point of the page.


“No, no, I don’t want a description of the work, like, can we add anything that would help a blind person see the previous projects”


Um, no. What else do you have?


“I was thinking of adding brail, or sign language so that deaf people can read the information on the site.”


I wish I was kidding.


Story 7: The Never-Ending Search for the New Hotness Language Edition

Webapp/CRM system. ASP.NET/Blazor, everything coded with C#. It was incredibly easy to maintain, scalable, highly customizable, it was perfect.


New architect comes in on day one and says he’s going to analyze our work for the first 90 days, then he’ll make a decision. Day two roles around and he apparently forgot about his 90-day analysis, because he says that we’re transitioning to JavaScript because he can’t read C#. When I asked what benefits JS would have over C# he said, “it’s the most popular programming language in the world.” Right about that time there was a report done by IEEE that showed that JS barely broke the top 10, so I told him that our code was scalable and maintainable in ways that can’t be done in JS. He responded with“those things don’t matter, what matters is being on the cutting edge of an up-and-coming top language.”

I quit the next day.

What happens in one minute?  70,000 hours of netflix is watched.  Google is asked 2.4 million questions.  3 million videos are watched on Snapchat. A new JS framework appears
JS is a cult, but the memes are top-notch


Story 8: The Never-Ending Attempt to Avoid the New Hotness

Ok! Imagine if you will. The PM’s office. It’s a Friday afternoon, about 4:30. The entire PM and BA team is sitting around bitching about the shit we dealt with that week and drinking Coronas. It was a long-standing Friday tradition (we changed the beer to Corona when we returned to the office in 2022).


Our head of PR, we’ll call him Bob, steps in the door and just stands there. He has this nervous look on his face. He’s gone pale and he’s sweating. He’s a 6’3” lump of defeated sadness blocking the light from the halls.


The head of the PMO says “hey Bob, come down for a drink?”


When I say that it was dead quiet for almost a minute, I’m not exaggerating.


This poor husk of a man, then said “we aren’t using crypto are we?”


We don’t use crypto, Bob, we deal in real money.


Bob schlorps away.


We all laugh, and return to our Friday fiesta. Then Bob comes back and darkens our door.


“Hey Bob, change your mind on having a drink with us?”


“We don’t use NFTs do we?”


Uh… no Bob, we don’t use NFTs. Care to share something?


He galumphs his way back into the cold emotionless tiled hallway.


The whole mood has chilled.


Our dead inside head of PR returned shortly before 5:00 and asked how sure we were.


Positive Bob, we’re a bank, we deal with real money, and real tangible things.


“Ok, it’s just there is a lot of really bad press about crypto and NFTs, so if you could maybe open a discovery ticket so that we can confirm. If it came out that we used crypto or NFTs in our software, it would bankrupt the company.”


It was so quiet in the office that you could hear a pin fart.



EDIT: Haha, weird timing... so... In early February 2023, we sent out a message gathering stories from people in various roles of project teams. The last story we received was regarding a PM that worked for a bank (the specific bank was not disclosed to us, and we will not ask her to tell us what bank she worked for). In the story, their head of PR/Marketing was concerned that the bank had interests in NFTs or Crypto-currency. At the time it was amusing that someone would be so weird about it. This article was published prior to it coming out that SVB had failed, and was taken over by the FDIC.

We at Astutely Obtuse and the PM who contributed her story didn't have any insight on the potential failure of SVB, nor do we claim to. We also don't claim that the PR manager had any insight into the failure either.

So please stop asking.

Much love

-Cap'n Monkey

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