Thanks to Rick Olson for posting this on the rails blog and to Peter Cooper for posting on ruby inside (Hey look, he even started his own contest a few days ago!)- and thanks to everyone who sent in a ridiculous story, of course!
We received a decent number of entries, and - using a pretty advanced tallying mechanism which we implemented in C++ for speed - thoughtbot voted internally for the three best. Here they are...
I think we all enjoyed the contradictory goals in this winning entry - especially considering the client was the Italian government!...
Request ~ We have to expose these data by law, but we don’t want to do so (because they think that transparency may be “risky”). Please publish them in a non human-readable and non machine-readable format, but the solution must validate according to w3c specs and it must be AAA accessible.
Result ~ “WTF?”?
Ah, the sales department. The bane of many a big-organization-developer's existence...
Request ~ I once worked for a company where the salesperson sold to a very large retail client of ours that we had the ability to genderize Asian names that resided in Canada. To this day, I can remember when that came to light, my partner and I were reading the SOW separately and when I came across that gem, I had to read it 4 or 5 times in shock of such a concept. A few minutes later my partner came into my office with SOW in hand and said, “Craig there is something in this that I don’t think we can do”, “I’m betting it has something to do with Asia, Canada and genderization”. Several conversations with the salesperson led to other conversations because he swore that such technology already existed within our company which wasn’t locatable before our kick-off meeting. Needless to say, the salesperson didn’t want to lose face with this major client so I broke the news that such a function didn’t exist and that since a name from China could have a separate gender than a name from Japan, there was no way we could systematically do it with the data we had available.
Result ~ The senior lead from the Company had a big grin and said “Yea, I thought it was pretty incredible that you guys could do that, I was planning on finding out how you did it because I wasn’t sure it could be done” The rest of the project was completed with great success, the salesperson was never allowed to make another commitment to a client with a technical sign off again and I eventually left the company for greener pastures.
Clients and their proprietary algorithms are also quite the pasttime...
Request ~ In designing a doggy dating service, the client wanted to reproduce the eHarmony algorithm for use with dogs. She had developed this convoluted algorithm for determining the compatibility between dogs based on their breeds and their personalities.
Result ~ It took us quite some time to implement this and I’ll never forget this project.
Thanks again to everyone for your submissions. Winners will be kept anonymous to protect their clients - but will be contacted soon to confirm shipping details for the books.