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Errors logged as 'nut loose on the keyboard' were – ahem – not a hardware problem

Five developers named Bob were not good at their jobs

On Call Welcome once again, dear reader, to On-Call, The Register's Friday feature in which we share readers' tales of being asked to address avoidable annoyances.

This week, meet a reader we'll Regomize as "Tom" who once worked as the sysadmin supporting a large software development team.

"We had an in-house developed problem ticket system written in Perl 4," Tom told On-Call. "It worked, we were familiar with it and we liked it."

But Tom's boss "really wanted a commercial product."

A little probing by Tom revealed that what he actually wanted was a dashboard that would pump out statistics he could use in monthly reports.

The in-house system lacked such a feature – but the chap who wrote it had a background in statistics so was put to work building a system that would email useful data to the boss.

The team quickly decided that basic statistics like the number of tickets opened and closed was the sort of thing the boss needed. Then they got creative – they started to look for odd correlations they thought the boss might appreciate.

Tom described one of them as "really weird."

"We had five developers named 'Bob' on the team and there was a very high correlation between developers with that name and errors that we tagged as a hardware problem but were really caused by a 'nut loose on keyboard'." Tom suggested another name for such errors is a Reg favorite: PEBCAK, or Problem Exists Between Chair And Keyboard.

Whatever you call them, coders named Bob raised 80 percent of the tickets, and 80 percent of the code clangers were written by Bobs.

Tom and his colleagues therefore started tracking what they called "The Bob rating" and very much enjoyed tracking it.

Eventually the team hired a new lead developer – whose name was not Bob.

But he logged tickets like a Bob. "He started logging PEBCAK after PEBCAK," Tom recalled. "The entire team of admins was really disappointed because it was ruining our Bob numbers."

After what Tom described as a "discussion that took place over a 'business' lunch" a decision was taken to rename the lead developer "Bob" in the ticketing system.

"He wouldn't know, but it would restore the balance in the universe," Tom reasoned.

The scheme came undone when, at a team meeting, a trouble ticket written by "Bob" was discussed and the lead developer recognized it as his own work.

"Two weeks later we installed Remedy" – the commercial trouble ticket system now owned by BMC.

Have you concocted strange statistics to track your IT shop? If so, click here to email your story to On-Call and we may put your tale the front of the queue on a future Friday. ®

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