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Dev's code manages to topple Microsoft's mighty SharePoint

And the app still runs... to this day

On Call Sometimes you take the call. Sometimes you place it. Welcome to an On Call where our reader is on the other side of the telephone.

Today's story comes from "Mark" (not his name) and concerns the time he was charged with developing a document management application for the university department where he worked. The plan was that pretty much all documents would eventually fall under its remit and the powers that be had decided a newfangled tool called "SharePoint" would do the job.

For the uninitiated, SharePoint first showed up in 2001 and has since proven popular among organizations seeking a document management platform. It is highly customizable and has been bent into all manner of shapes to meet the needs of enterprises over the years. However, the product was still in its infancy at the time of Mark's tale and he surrounded himself with guidance on how to use the thing.

"I spent a great deal of time reading manuals (RTFM)," he told us, "as this was the old days before everything was online.

"In SharePoint [back then] you wrote in line mode inside the application calling one function at a time. When you started to use a function a dialog would pop up offering you the different options for that function. You could go down a very deep rabbit hole."

It was great fun. Mark plunged deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole, and his application got bigger and bigger, right up until it stopped working. Mark couldn't figure out what was wrong – the error didn't make sense. Up until that point everything had been been fine.

In those days, one tended to rely on support contracts. And so it was that, despite his position as a lowly programmer, Mark found himself on the phone to one of Microsoft's SharePoint geniuses.

Perhaps he could try condensing his code a bit? Call fewer functions per subroutine?

Sure, Mark did so. The code was rewritten. It still fell over.

Another call was placed and more Microsoft engineers got on the line with more suggestions. Round and round it went until eventually, according to Mark, "the engineers finally admitted that SharePoint had a lines of code limit and I had hit it!"

"I thought this was enterprise, world-class software?" he added. "Silly me."

Armed with the new information, Mark tried again. His final rewrite was three lines short of the limit and, most importantly, did not fall into a heap.

A decade on and "the program still runs," he said.

Ever had to pick up the phone and call for help only to find that the solution to your problem was a little bit undocumented? Or were you the person on the other end of the line having to reveal your secrets to the unworthy? Tell all with an email to On Call. ®

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