Pricey Silly, I didn’t examine the database discipline • The Register | Rank Tech

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Who me? Ah, variety readers, welcome as soon as once more to Who, me? during which Registration Readers such as you regale us weekly with tales of technical disasters that they themselves have narrowly averted, and generally aren’t averted in any respect.

This week we’ll meet a reader we’ll revamp as “Stan,” who as soon as labored as a subscription and IT supervisor (an odd mixture of job features if there ever was one) for a enterprise journal. Stan’s major duty on this twin position was managing the FileMaker database containing the names and addresses of the journal’s roughly 20,000 subscribers.

As a result of it was a enterprise journal, that database had substantial overlap between the journal’s recipients and the gross sales division’s promoting contacts. The latter are normally despatched free copies of magazines.

Each forms of subscribers have been grouped right into a single desk that included an enormous variety of fields, a lot of them obscure.

Stan did not design this funky DB. He tells us that it “had been run by a succession of individuals with virtually no IT information, together with the CFO.” He additionally discovered that nobody was actually certain why a few of these darkish fields had been used, or what they contained.

So the one fields Stan was involved with have been “identify, road, zip code, metropolis, and id”.

Then as now, journal publishers are all the time searching for methods to extend circulation and income. In the future, the boss was trying over Stan’s shoulder as he ready a collection of letters for subscribers and seen a discipline he hadn’t seen earlier than: Name2.

“Oh, do we now have a second contact at a few of these locations?” requested the writer.

Stan appeared, and actually, about 5 % of the fields in Name2 contained information.

Sadly, he didn’t confirm what that information was. However earlier than lengthy the writer had determined that the 1,000 or so folks within the Name2 camp deserved their very own magazines.

“Simply duplicate all of the rows which have a Name2 and add them to the desk,” they advised Stan.

Stan did as he was advised and got down to print ~21,000 subscriber letters to accompany the journal’s upcoming distribution. He labored late into the evening, printing letters, restocking paper trays, taking out printed letters and stacking them in packing containers to take to the mailing home.

Within the morning, a vendor got here to the world, picked up a printed letter, and skim aloud the next greeting on the prime of a letter:

One other was addressed to “Honey, get her drunk and she or he’ll do something.”

Stan checked the tackle on the final letter. It was going to be for the sponsor of that very same concern of that journal.

At this level, and never earlier than, Stan inspected the contents of that Name2 discipline. Amongst some actual names, you could find some unusual however benign feedback, and 23 extremely derogatory feedback.

The 23 unsavory “names” have been related to main advertisers. Suffice to say that it will be a really, very unhealthy thought for the recipients of these letters to open their mail.

Due to this fact, personnel have been recruited to undergo the 21,000 printed letters, discover the offending ones, and destroy them.

When the CFO arrived, he was knowledgeable of what had (virtually) occurred. “Oh,” he mentioned, “I modified the identify of the Remark discipline to Name2 some time again, since everybody used it to enter a second contact’s identify.”

Have you ever ever inherited a poorly constructed system and suffered unintended penalties in consequence? Inform us all about it in an e-mail to Who, Me? and we are going to share your ache with others.

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