Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity

I think that reality is better than fiction, so take this as a fiction story… well short of…

The full quote that gives nave to this post it’s “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.” Albert Einstein.

Monday lost five hours of my live fixing a technical problem of the biggest proportions, it needed going trough all the C level executives to the actual webmaster, all to fix this common thing that all days is required to do on this business, change the old URL to a new URL, we asked for an .htaccess file to be added on the old server, this is all we asked for:

Redirect / http://foo.bar/

Yes it’s not the actual URL but bare with me, its longer, but is the same, that’s what we asked for, results that the webmaster knows is trade in some weird form, as probably tried what we asked and found it no to work, so he wrote a index.php containing something more or less like this:

header('Status: 301 Moved Permanently', false, 301);
header('Location: new_address');
die;

Well is not bad, but as we moved a dynamically generated site, our users with problems where not requesting the URL but the URL/something/other.php so this was not a solution, let me add that we had currently ~10K users, if only the 10% of they were using bookmarks or navigation bar to get to the site that accounts for probably more than one week of five persons work on answering and give support to our users from all over around, and thankfully still telephonic support was not available, but is going to be implemented (shills).

So as we found the lack of understanding between what we asked and what was implemented a full day of work go to waste as I got asked from my boss to explain to their boss what was happening, why was not fixed and why we where having so much questions as if was new server problem.

Long history short the day ended with me siting with two different department directors, under their supervision explaining that the answers received in chronological order 1) this not works on all servers 2) is not what you need 3) is better the way we implemented 4) your way opens a security hole, risking one production server that we can afford risk were not real answers and at the end asking me, “well then how we can fix this?”, and there I did a stupid mistake, tell that you need to change the behavior of apache and add <Directory> directive to allow the directory where we were asking the .htaccess to excute this got to the ridiculous level of me explaining what the <Directory /var/content/ouroldurl> directive do and why is not a security risk, to what they reply me but this open a security hole, do you accept the responsibility if an attacker hits the server by what you’re asking, and let me pause here to say I know this config and this server it’s Apache!, its not rocket science and this had SELinux enabled and firewall and other protections… so made my second stupid mistake, “Yes, totally I accept full responsibility for this configuration changes!” and then got but send mail to the C executives and head department, well walk out terribly drained as almost lost half day fixing on total four lines of text.

Let me share with you, in life don’t remember more than one other moment of this level of frustration, not because not be able to do something, but because something trivial, well documented, not obscure, not complex but jut in the standard manual can’t be understood by experts on the field, so wrote the mail assuming consequences, got really pissed about all time, resources, and so on, really had trouble to sleep, be totally pissed off, had to avoid doing some things that get me remember… but returned to my primary job, that got me on my feet again and well Wednesday all was like well this some that probably will be to get a real smile when regarded or maybe even worth of daily WTF. Then I got a call, from the department director call me to say “your change is not working anymore, we had not moved anything”, well as I go to my computer ask about, well how is that is not working? “it just happened”… as I type the URL on chromium I got correctly redirected and told them, but then remember the aggressive cache and launch firefox with the cache completely disabled (also fired curl but explaining this to some one that not understand what is an .htaccess file don’t even occurred me to end well) and yes now I see they had fixed the whole problem adding an index.html file that has a message saying “our site has moved to foo.bar click on the next link if you are not redirected”… lot of things pass on my head but the first is if they had not moving I will seeing an error right now that would help me a lot, as I’m asking for what files are currently on that directory, telling me that only the index is there and as I ask for a ls –lah, the other department directory takes the phone and warns me that is putting me on speakerphone so I heard the other department director and also the webmaster, they all greet me and the director boss of webmaster says “here’s the webmaster he will explain”, so I say “yes, I’m hearing” – “this is the best way to fix the problem, this way the users asking for the wrong direction will now know the new direction”, now this I what Monday was, explaining all to a lot of people… a lot happens as I’m hearing his short explanation, and only say –“well, so you have do, and is the best solution, well thanks… thank you all, good day”… truly a lot more happens with me, really thinking on what’s next and how I don’t want to have to explain all this thing over again and on top of all not having really power to push things up, as this is not my job, not my department not my jurisdiction, just call the project leader tell what has happened and what they do so he decide if scale up to the C types, but keeping aside and making clear that not going trough all the meetings anymore as I’m helping in this matter on good will, not my project, not my job, not recognition or money involved, so I keep working but that is the other department job, hang up.

I believe this is the best that can have happened they got pay for fix this kind of problem, that’s they job, so this is not a fix and is going to cause a lot of problems, so let’s get this and go on important things… if the choice where mine just have put their telephone numbers on the main page and send a mass message to ask for support to this department instead of the one that is doing… they manage probably 6 to 10 power users and directors per day, how about have your phone ring all day, every day, give support to think only 1% of the whole users we are attending.

“There are three kind of people: the ones that kill themselves working, the ones that should work and the ones that should kill themselves.” Mario Benedetti

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