If the thing you were doing earlier is 'drop table' commands, ctrl-c, ctrl-v is not your friend

£500k social network scotched less than two weeks after launch


Who, Me? Are you hoping to make it through the week without a major balls-up? El Reg's fingers are crossed for you – but remember, not everyone is that lucky.

On the plus side, that does provide us – and you – with the fodder we need for our Who, Me? column.

Our weekly trip down the memory lanes people would probably rather forget is this time led by "Sid", who had been working on a new social network for a client.

"Everything was great, the launch went well and everyone was happy," he said. "A couple of weeks in and signups were good."

One morning, Sid's boss phoned to say that a client had signed up, but moved jobs so lost his first email and had forgotten his password.

"Having concentrated on the main site so hard, the admin part of the system was still being worked on," Sid recalled. "It wasn't in any state to be used so the only way to sort this out was to edit the user record in the database directly."

Sid didn't think this would be a problem, though, and went ahead with a plan to just change the client's email.

"I won't even have to take a backup of the database," he thought. "This was before the time of virtualization and cheap storage so backups were daily."

And so Sid logged into the database cluster over SSH, fired up the database client and started typing the update command. He copied the chap's email and pasted it into the console.

"To my horror a huge amount of text appeared and the admin console dutifully executed it."

As it happened, just before he was asked to update the email, Sid had been working on the main database creation scripts for the staging server.

"My clipboard was full of 'drop table' commands."

For some reason, Sid's attempt to copy the address had failed and he had, of course, pasted the drop table commands directly into the live database.

"During the initial period of denial I convinced myself that I had cancelled the operation quickly enough, and there was no harm done," Sid said.

"My corner of the office was still quiet, so everything must be OK."

He decided to just try out the system to confirm that everything was, in fact, OK. It wasn't.

"Error 500." The shiny £500,000 system was up in flames.

"Shit," said Sid. "Blood drained from my face, the phone started ringing, and my career flashed before my eyes."

Sid seemed to have recovered from the incident by the time he got in touch with Who, Me?

Maybe the same is true for you – if the distance between your transgression and the present day is so far that you can talk about it without wincing too much, seize the day and share your story with us. ®

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