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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

It doesn't work that way

Sometimes I forget just how messed up a software project can get. Then I stumble across an old chat log where I was telling a story to someone and it all comes flooding back. I had forgotten this particular event had happened, but it all seems so clear now.

On this day, we had traveled to another part of the company to meet with the last remaining person at the company who had originally written my then-current project. I'm not sure what had happened to everyone else, but this one guy was all that was left by that point. We started talking about different flavors of Secret Sauce and how they work. It was things like what does the admin interface really do, how do you add and drop nodes, and other maintenance type stuff our project needed to do automatically.

I was largely quiet in this meeting, but then this guy started telling a tale about how something or other worked. It was completely wrong. I piped up to say "no, it doesn't do that". You see, prior to joining this particular team, I had worked on others where I actually stood up and ran my own instances of these Secret Sauce cluster servers, and I knew what it took to get them going and keep them happy. As a result, I could answer authoritatively about some things, and that was one of them.

He backed up and said something slightly different. I piped up again: "no, it doesn't do that". This went on for several iterations: he'd change his story and would deliver it in a manner which made him seem absolutely sure of what he was saying, and it would be false.

Later in the day, when this guy wasn't around, I brought it up with one of my teammates. He said something which shocked me.

"He has a tell."

I don't know much about poker, but I knew that some people sometimes twitch or do other unusual things when they're not telling the truth. What this guy was telling me is that this other guy had obviously done it enough in the past to where he had figured him out.

I mean, here we have a guy who's obviously a pathological liar, to the point where someone else can notice it, and that person shares it after the fact, but nothing else happens? This guy is allowed to just keep rolling like this, and we actually booked a meeting with him? What's the point of having a meeting with someone if he's obviously broken in this fashion?

Now that I think about it, this guy probably wrote the massive backdoor which lurked in the code for years before I stumbled across it one day.

Of course, given his penchant for lying, if queried about it, he'd probably claim it was a "feature requirement" or something equally bogus. If you're willing to lie continuously, what's one more?