Embarrassing Work Screwups

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What stupid things have you done at work? If you make mistakes in your work, is it easy to cover them up?

-- Anonymous, June 20, 2001


A couple months after I was hired, I wrote a program which responds to faults in a distributed system by reassigning tasks to the available systems. It was fairly robust, with one specific exception which I felt was justified because it had a companion "watchdog" program, which ensured that its environment was correct.

A year later, a strange problem occurred, and global systems were down for 28 hours. It turns out they were still using my little program, but not the companion. So my exception, which I thought was safe, wound up costing the company a few million dollars. Boy, was my face red.

-- Anonymous, June 20, 2001

Well, so far on the job (2 years) nothing too erroneous. But I think the worst is sending out a paper or document with obvious mistakes in it and being slammed on peer reviews!

-- Anonymous, June 20, 2001

Well, the best stupid thing I ever witnessed at work (it wasn't me thank goodness!) was when a co-worker, who was just about as cocky as they come, wrote a software application to cache satellite data on a local hard disk rather than have to wait for optical disks to be auto-mounted (this just took a while, and engineers don't like to wait!). So this was supposed to speed up future accesses for the most used data. What it did instead was delete the most used data off of the optical disks and not cache it on the local hard disk...the total opposite of what it should have done. HA! All the other software people just kept chanting, "Glad it wasn't me. Glad it wasn't me!"

-- Anonymous, June 20, 2001

I can lock up any server they let me get my hands on. When I was working as a word processor, most of the work was done on a Tandem mainframe. I'd have to call tech support to get the system unlocked a couple times a week, and after a few months, they pointed out that nobody else EVER locked the thing up. They moved me to a PC after that and told me I could reboot it any time I wanted to.

-- Anonymous, June 20, 2001

I inserted one of Paul Ford's "I just fucked your mother!" error messages into a PowerPoint presentation some years back.

I'll leave it for you to decide if it was a mistake or not.

-- Anonymous, June 22, 2001

I worked for a man named John Ridley at the time, and was really good friends with his daughter, Jen, at the time. Jen also worked for the same company, so often times I'd send her things that I meant to send to him, but NEVER the other way around. Until that fateful day, when I finally managed to get the attention of a guy I had been chasing for some time. I went into huge detail ... swapping spit, the color of the spit, the consistency of the spit ... whatever. Five minutes after sending the email, I got an email from my boss: "Thanks for this, but I think it was meant for the other Ridley". I don't think I came out from under my desk for 5 or 6 days!

-- Anonymous, June 25, 2001

Well, I'm a computer architecture guy, so stupid mistakes don't oft happen, but...

My brother accidentally exploded the $2000.00 superloop for the FPLC device in the protein lab which he runs (due to accidentally running a clean cycle with a backcheck valve sealed). Besides the replacement cost, it was during his first month of working at the job. Boy was he worried! He admitted straight to his boss though. Good kid.

-- Anonymous, June 28, 2001

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