My Secret Life as a Spaghetti Coder
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One cool and sunny winter day, a beautiful young woman named Kate Libby (a.k.a "Acid Burn") was writing some mean code. That code was part of a new system that would integrate aspects of the Organization's SharePoint site with its Active Directory and various databases. (Kate had since grown out of her hackerish ways.)

It was early in the morning when the piece of code had finally passed all the tests and was ready to deploy - just about two hours into the day. At this rate, Kate would be at the pub by noon for a couple of pints, and then off to play a game of pickup Football in the early afternoon down at the park by her office.

Kate hit the deploy button and started packing her things, getting ready to leave. Just a quick verification on the live site and off she'd be.

"Oh jeez, what's wrong now?" Kate asked herself. "Why can't anything just work?" All the unit tests had passed. All the integration tests had passed. All the acceptance tests had passed. All the tests-by-hand had passed. What was the difference between the test site and the live one?

The error messages were largely useless. The last time Kate was getting useless error messages, there was an issue with differences in credentials to AD, SharePoint, the database server, or any combination of them. Kate proceeded under that assumption - it had a relatively high degree of being correct.

Twelve hours into three rewrites (trying different strategies to do the same thing) and several hundred WTFs later, it finally hit her:

"OMFG," yelled Kate.

She noticed that it worked in Firefox, but not in Internet Explorer. After another round of WTFs and some time spent wondering why the different browsers caused a server error, and then some time wondering why SharePoint should error out on its own browser, she realized: The issue wasn't with her code at all - it never had been.

The form was supposed to be a normal form - nothing to do with ASP.NET at all. But ASP didn't care - it wanted to see EnableEventValidation in the @Page directive to let you submit your own form - but only through Internet Explorer.

Kate's story is a tragedy: the essential complexity of the problem took her a couple of hours, while the accidental complexity ate up twelve. It cost her a couple of pints and some good fun on the field.

Luckily, you can avoid twelve hours of useless re-work if you just learn the lesson from Kate Libby's horrific tale: isolate errors before you fix them. Otherwise, you might spend a ridiculous amount of time "fixing" the parts that already work.

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