Come mobile users, gather round and learn how to add up

Javascript boo-boo pinned on server switcheroo

Who, Me? Welcome Reg readers, to this week's Who, Me?, in which we gather round to share in another person's painful memories of technical cockups.

This week, we meet "Fred", who wrote in to tell us about a time about 15 years ago where a rather basic test was seen a little more widely than planned.

At the time, Fred was working for a company that was contracted to run servers for a famous mobile phone company's internet portal.

On the fateful day in question, Fred was working away in Javascript, and wanted to check that very basic functionality was working OK.

"So, on the test server I added a banner to the top of the page saying 'For your information, 2+2=', then calculate 2+2 and add the answer," he said.

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Or at least Fred thought it was the test server.

In fact, Fred was on what had been a test server at one time – but that was no longer the case.

"They swapped some servers around and forgot to tell me," he said, eager to pin some of the blame on unnamed colleagues.

The upshot was that Fred had managed to add a banner saying, "For your information 2+2=4" to the top of every page the phone company served to its customers. Every single page.

Fred braced for impact, fully expecting a news outlet to pick up on his mistake and cause him a bit of trouble – but luckily for him, none did. (El Reg, meanwhile, should probably offer its apologies for missing the scoop.)

Whether the dodgy mathematical banner cost the business any contracts or custom remains a mystery to Fred, because the firm was bought up by a bigger company soon afterwards.

At the time, he said, he hoped that users would think it was a silly advert – although he acknowledged that nothing would have happened if anyone had tried to click on it.

"The funniest part was the email we got from the phone network," Fred said. This read:

"It says 'For your information, 2+2=4' at the top of every page. While I'm normally a big fan of customer education exercises, I'm not sure this one is appropriate."

Have you ever patronised your client's customers? Did anyone notice? Why not tell Who, Me? about your tales of woe and you might see your pseudonym gracing next week's issue. ®

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