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BOFH: What the hell's Dutch lobster?

And does it constitute an emergency?

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Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

Episode 29 "Well I still want to know where the hell you were?!" the Boss snaps. "I tried you on your cellphone but I couldn't get hold of you."

"At home. In bed! Curried up after a larger frenzy!" I respond.

"But I paged you! I left a number! You should have called me back!"

"Why?"

"Because I left my number!"

"No, not why should I call you back, why did you page me?"

"Because there was a systems problem up here and I needed you to fix it!"

"Was it an emergency?"

"I... Yes."

"Really?"

"It might have been. How would you have known, you didn't answer the bloody page, did you?"

"No, I didn't. I work under the assumption that had it been an 'emergency' I would have been paged by our automatic system to tell me something important had gone down. I wasn't, which led me to believe that whatever it was you'd called about wasn't an emergency!"

"Well what is an emergency?"

"All sorts of things. But it's easier just to tell you what isn't an emergency worthy of calling someone out for."

"Okay then, what doesn't constitute an emergency?" the Boss snaps belligerently.

"RIGHT! Your not being able to print porn at three in the morning after lengthy drinks with a vendor does not constitute an emergency!" I snap.

"That wasn't porn, I was trying to get an early start on some research on trends in online business models to present and pr..."

"You not being able to close all the windows that just keep popping up with dirty girls on them does not constitute an emergency," the PFY adds helpfully.

"I thought it was some sick form of spamming and that maybe there was a virus loose on the syst.."

"And you not receiving an email from eBay about someone topping your bid on the Hornby model railroad carriage moments before the auction closes does not constitute an emergency!"

"Okay then, so I'll ask you again, WHAT DOES CONSITUTE AN EMERGENCY!?" the Boss shouts.

"The world - plunging into the sun!" I say, with a measure of finality.

"Oh yes, and what would you do then?" he asks dryly.

"Well the PORN would be working for a start!" the PFY chirps.

"It's not good enough, this is a 24-hour operation!!"

"No it's not!"

"Yes it is, people come to our website and expect to be able to do business!"

"So your late night porn browsing is related to our business?"

"I wasn't browsing porn, I was looking for examples of successful network marketing."

"Ah yes, now I understand - You looked through the porn excuse website as well."

"What?"

"The porn excuses website - you know the one that gives you semi-legitimate reasons for looking at what you're looking at."

"Like 'I was verifying the colour balance of pink on my new monitor'," the PFY says.

"Or 'I was looking for NattyCokeSuckers.com and accidentally typed Nasty and C..'"

"No-one would believe that!" the Boss snaps.

"How about 'We've got some friends from Holland coming and I thought Dutch lobster was a seafood dish!'"

"What the hell's Dutch lobster?" the Boss asks.

"You've not travelled, have you?" the PFY sighs, shaking his head.

"You can never go past the old faithful 'I clicked on a link and it just took me there' followed by 'I kept clicking on the pictures trying to get out of it!'"

"I wasn't bloody looking at porn!"

"Suit yourself - so you believe the issue is that we're not available when you need us?"

"You should be available when you're needed."

"You realise what you're suggesting?"

"That you work extra hours when needed, yes."

"But that would mean being on call with occasional shift work!" the PFY says. "And more overtime!"

"I'm aware of the potential costs."

"And then there's the extra staff..."

"What extra staff?"

"We'd need more than two systems people if we were on shift work."

"Occasional shift work," the Boss says, getting a little concerned.

"And the callouts," I add. "Don't forget them. We'd have the contractual stand-down period so as to avoid 'burnout'."

"I..."

"But as it happens I know a couple of ex-operators from waaay back who are looking for work after that big comms outage in the business district. Apparently there was an explosion after a several of the generator's diesel drums were misdelivered to an office right next door to their manager - an office which for some reason also had a large industrial heater delivered and installed only days before. The explosion took out the manager's office but unfortunately nature had just called and he was out at the time."

"You mean fortunately," the Boss adds.

"I... Yes, yes, of course I do. Anyway they're just the sort of people we want - dynamic, able to think on their feet when rushing to the relative protection of an explosion rated stairwell..."

"So you're saying we'd have to take on more of... you..?"

"We'd have to - being a 24 hour operation and all..."

...and that's all there is to it. The carrot and the stick. Or more accurately, a stick, another stick and the promise of two more sticks. ®

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