back to article Inflated figures and customers who were never there. Just another data migration then

The Register's Who, Me? column dips a toe into the world of high finance and iffy numbers as a reader realises that freebies aren't always A Good Thing. "Tom", for that is certainly not his name, was toiling away in the machinery of a large IT consultancy back at the start of the century, dealing with data migration and …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I bet inflated numbers happen everywhere

    I bet every publicly traded company has inflated numbers somewhere in their reporting.

    Funny how the lie just gets perpetuated by those with a vested interest in not being the ones to carry the can.

    We see government agencies doing the same too, they inflate numbers in their reporting to ensure ongoing funding or secure funding for their pet projects. When you define how information is collated you can get the numbers to say what you want.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I bet inflated numbers happen everywhere

      Nobody ever carries the can for that.

      When was the last time the FCA #prosecuted# a director or auditor or CEO or CFO for fiddling the numbers? Nothing's happened to the beancounters who signed off on the accounts at RBS, HBOS, Northern Wreck, etc shortly before these basket cases went bust.

      Why hasn't anyone been punished for the failure to reach their self-imposed targets for daily Covid-19 tests? Who's carried the can for the vapourware "world beating" track and trace app that was promised time and time again?

      1. Vincent Ballard
        Black Helicopters

        Re: I bet inflated numbers happen everywhere

        No-one has been punished for the failure to reach the self-imposed targets for daily CoVID-19 tests because if Johnson fires Hancock now then he'll have to find a different scapegoat when things don't improve.

        1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          Johnson, Hancock

          Future headline: Government collapses when there are no people left in it whose names don't sound like words for the male sex organ. That weren't words for the male sex organ until now.

          In the case of Dido Harding, two separate words.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Johnson, Hancock

            Peter O'Toole agrees!

      2. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        Re: I bet inflated numbers happen everywhere

        Ahem,

        CEOs and CFOs do not 'fiddle the figures', they merely, purely by accident and with the best of intentions present accounts that are correct in their honest and best view as an indication of the financial health of the business at a particular moment in time, to the best of their ability, relying on the figures presented to them by their dedicated and highly trained staff, who also work to the best of their ability.

        So there!

        Anything amiss is definitely NOT THEIR FAULT.

        1. 2+2=5 Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: I bet inflated numbers happen everywhere

          > So there!

          You forgot to add the bit where they say that the auditors haven't reported anything amiss, therefore it is all legal and proper. And if it isn't then it is the auditor's fault for not bringing our wrongdoing to our attention and stopping us from trousering our bonuses.

          1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

            Re: I bet inflated numbers happen everywhere

            Thanks to @ 2+2=5 for pointing out my omission. Indeed one can just ask Mr Luis Alvarez, (my old Boss of bosses) who was completely unaware of an 'issue' in the accounts of the BT Global Services division covering Italy of a mere £530Million:

            https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/feb/13/ex-bt-bosses-named-in-investigation-into-alleged-fraud-in-italy-unit

            "Three former BT executives, including two who were based in London, have been named in an investigation into alleged accounting fraud in the company’s Italian division, a scandal that forced it to write off £530m and claimed the scalp of its European chief.

            ...

            According to Reuters, which first reported the latest development in the BT Italy affair, prosecutors have named Luis Alvarez and Richard Cameron, respectively the former chief executive and former chief financial officer of BT Global Services – one of the biggest divisions of BT Group."

          2. phuzz Silver badge

            Re: I bet inflated numbers happen everywhere

            "it is the auditor's fault for not bringing our wrongdoing to our attention"

            But if they did that, they'd lose a customer...

        2. logicalextreme Silver badge

          Re: I bet inflated numbers happen everywhere

          That money was simply resting in my account.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I bet inflated numbers happen everywhere

      My Parish has just been on the receiving end of a Housing Needs Survey.

      Now we know most of the people in the Parish and know that the death rate roughly equals the rate that offspring earn enough to buy a house. All 5 that reached that threshold in the past year have bought in the village.

      However the District Council conducted a Housing Needs Survey and gathered responses from goodness knows where (they wouldn't tell us), but some people who lived 30-40 miles away said that they needed to move to (basically free) housing in our little Parish. Once you took out all those that had given an earnings in the lowest range (not enough even for shared ownership housing) it left one couple who were already in a shared ownership house in the village, but wanted a larger one and could not afford it. (The wife is stuck at home all day as we have no shops or public transport, and the husband drives a company van, they do not own a car.)

      But it comes to the District Planning Meeting and the Housing Needs Survey says there is a need and so that trumps everything else! Damn lies!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I bet inflated numbers happen everywhere

      Sometime just out of pure stupidity.

      Once worked for $MEGACORP and at a company meeting they announced a £3.2M contract that my group had secured. Not knowing anything about this I was a little surprised.

      Turns out we had a 200K 'feasibility study' but the email had converted the currency symbol to the code A3

    4. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: I bet inflated numbers happen everywhere

      Some companies are more easily able to count "users" than others. Facebook knows the number of "active accounts" but doesn't know how many are fake, or duplicate accounts. Google knows the number of searches they conduct, but translating that into the number of unique people conducting searches would not be possible even with their massive data collection.

      Companies that sell physical goods have an easier time of it, though unless they 'phone home' regularly to see if a new software update is available or similar telling how many are still in a functional and active state would be difficult.

      To really get a 100% guaranteed to be accurate customer count, you have to bill them regularly. Every phone or cable company could tell you down to the person how many customers they had last month, and where they live (or at least where they receive the service they are paying for)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I bet inflated numbers happen everywhere

        Still not 100% accurate if you bill regularly. The billing count will include deadbeats that are going to have their service terminated for non-payment. Since the debit for many of those will never be collected, they're essentially the same as the free accounts.

        Of course, in a transparent world, numbers on churn rates, cancelation rates, etc., would be included in reporting.

  2. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

    I always take such figures with a pinch of salt. My favourite is when something claims to be the "fastest growing" such and such in the wherever. My new religion is the fastest growing in the world – I just invented it one millisecond ago, which means it's gaining a new member every millisecond...

    1. Edwin
      Trollface

      which converts to

      1000 new members per second, or 32 billion new members per year.

      Further marketing wizardry will convert that to "we expect to have the entire global population signed up by the end of next quarter".

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: "fastest growing"

      By definition that means that you have the smallest market share, or you're in a new market that you just created. It's easy to grow fast when you have everything to conquer.

      That's how I always take it.

    3. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      I always take such figures with a pinch of salt

      If the words are coming from the mouth of a marketeer, it's a fair bet to assume that there isn't enough salt in the world to season them properly.

  3. chivo243 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    I keep two ledgers!

    One for the gubbermint to see, and one not! And should someone ask, Simon and Stephen have taught me well!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I keep two ledgers!

      I did this when I was engaged to be married. 'Er indoors couldn't see the point in saving for a rainy day, so every month I "accidentally" transferred £10 into a savings account that I hadn't told her about, so when it came to buying the ring, I could surprise her with a fund she didn't expect. Obviously, once we were married I came clean, and she entered into the spirit of the thing so we could save for the deposit on our first house.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I keep two ledgers!

        First time my daughter moved back home i asked her to pay "rent" and kept it all separate so she had a nice deposit saved up when she moved out.

        Second time i charged her rent and used it to over pay the mortgage....

        1. RobbieM
          Happy

          Re: I keep two ledgers!

          Shouldn't that be lodgers?

          1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

            Re: I keep two ledgers!

            Only if the daughter was named Roger!

    2. DS999 Silver badge

      Trump?

      Is that you?

  4. MatthewSt

    Excrement work!

    I wouldn't like to be responsible for coming up with the original acronym for the Company's Random Allocator Project!

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Excrement work!

      I would.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Excrement work!

      And its successor Suitable Hiring In Termination Summoning Temporary Or Resources Manually?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Data migrations

    Posting anon for good reasons.

    Did a couple of largish migrations back about 2010 - 2012 when I was working for a CRM/utility billing company. I like data and migrating lots of records from an old Mini-computer/ green screen system, info a modern RDMS, I was in my happy place. Both migration projects had over 250k active accounts and 3-4 times that of inactive accounts.

    Some things.. like customers ringing up to pay via credit card, so the CSRs would 'helpfully' type in the full credit card number and other details into memo fields which were not entirely secure. Had to do some query's to find and kill that data.

    One block of several thousands accounts failed a couple of times on our test migrations. Data was weird.. account numbers in completely different ranges, billing data that failed all RI checks. I kept digging until I found and old timer who was retiring but still working a couple of days a week. He was able to explain that the company had brought another small city utility company ~8 years earlier, so they had migrated data (without any referential integrity) via Lotus 123 spreadsheets doing some funky lost lost macros to force the data to fit the main billing system.

    We fixed the data to allow the migration to proceed.. but it clearly showed that thousands of customers had been on the wrong billing plan for years and that they had overpaid. Legally the utility company was in difficult place and to be fair, executives asked me to try and come up with a settlement analysis. Given the long lost nature of the original data, we looked at systems like setting up a virtual billing engine to rerun all the historical billing from scratch.. but just not feasible. In the end the utility company offered the affected customers a one off 'bonus', and new account number. AFAIK, no customers ever queried it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Data migrations

      I once had to deal with a customer whose staff used to type credit card details (including CVV's, Expiry dates, etc) into memo/note fields.with the essential reason being that the staff didn't feel like taking the details again when the customer inevitably called back to place another order.

      This was in a plain text field on a non-encrypted database

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Data migrations

        "I once had to deal with a customer whose staff used to type credit card details"

        And they had a report to send data to a third party via a poorly secured FTP server? Was it based in Malta?

  6. KittenHuffer Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Sometimes they're biggies!

    [cough] Barings Bank! [cough]

    1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

      Re: Sometimes they're biggies!

      I always wish that Nick Leeson had been played by Liam Neeson in the film Rogue Trader.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sometimes they're biggies!

        With soundtrack by Rick Nelson and Nick Mason

      2. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: Sometimes they're biggies!

        It could have had a different ending.

        "If you let my money go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you."

      3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Sometimes they're biggies!

        <phone call> I don't have any money, but I have a special set of skills, and those skills involve highly leveraged bets on the Japanese bubble stock market continuing to go to infinity....

  7. Blofeld's Cat
    Devil

    Hmm ...

    This sounds a bit like the apocryphal tale of how a large company selected an auditor from three candidates.

    The CFO asked just one question to each: "What is two plus two?"

    The first candidate replied "four" and was shown the door. The second said "three plus interest" and the CFO put him on the short list.

    The third - successful - candidate got up from his chair and closed the office door. He then leaned across the CFO's desk and asked in a whisper, "What would you like it to be?"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hmm ...

      I once got to quote for a government contract.

      I was slightly surprised as I worked for a fairly small company.

      I went down to London for the day and sat in a room with a couple of very expensive suits, who kept answering my simple questions regarding the requirements with "no-one else has asked us that yet". I had done something VERY similar for a private company a couple of months before and so was probing some of the corner cases.

      I priced it up at our highest rates and then doubled the time and cost to allow for a few bits that I couldn't second guess (given the lack of responses from the suits).

      Then at my bosses insistence, I doubled the cost and time again.

      When we didn't get the contract, I rang one of the suits who answered that "you obviously didn't understand what we wanted at all, as the other quotes had years where you had months and you missed a few zeros off the price."

      1. A K Stiles
        Meh

        Re: Hmm ...

        About the level of so many of the things I get;

        Them: "How long do you think it will take [you] to do [insert random barely spec'd idea that's only just popped into their head 10 minutes ago] ?"

        Me: "No idea - probably somewhere between 2 days and 2 months"

        Them: "Huh, you always say that, you need to work on your estimating skills"

        Me: "Well it all really depends on what you actually need it to do, how you want it to do it, and how many times, whilst I'm working on it, you schedule in hour long meetings 'just to see where we are', or just want to have a 'quick chat' about how long it might take to do [next random barely spec'd idea that's a result of a conversation you've just had with someone else]"

        Them: ...

        Also them 2 days later: "How long do you think it will take [you] to do [insert random barely spec'd idea that's only just popped into their head 10 minutes ago] ?"

        Me: ...

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: Hmm ...

          Sounds like they cloned my manager and sent him your way...

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. logicalextreme Silver badge

            Re: Hmm ...

            Brilliant. I'm having that one.

      2. Nunyabiznes

        Re: Hmm ...

        They probably did you a favor, albeit unknowingly.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hmm ...

        As they were wearing very expensive suits, I'm guessing they weren't civil servants.

  8. Eclectic Man Silver badge

    Once upon a time ...

    .. I worked for an IT company that had a lot of customers. I had a desk near someone who was on the phone a lot, although not in a call centre way. I eventually found out that his job was to find out what we were providing to customers, what we were billing them for, and if possible, what we were contracted to provide to them. It seems that 'we' had not kept a lot of paper contracts, were supplying things to clients that were not actually on the contracts we had kept, and not providing things that were, and at rates that were not always what was stated on any contract or any charge rate the company had listed anywhere. Often the original sales person had either left (these were long contracts) or really could not remember any 'special deals' that had been agreed verbally at the time.

    Nice chap, but he was rather busy.

    They did not keep contracts of employment either. When I 'accepted' paid redundancy, they could not find my original contract of employment, so assumed I was on 6 months notice. Fortunately I'm a nerd and had kept it so I could show them that my actual notice period was 1 month or whatever statutory redundancy period my length of service merited. Saved me over £7 in tax.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Once upon a time ...

      "Fortunately I'm a nerd and had kept it so I could show them that my actual notice period was 1 month or whatever statutory redundancy period my length of service merited. Saved me over £7 in tax."

      That must have cost you a lot...

  9. TeeCee Gold badge

    Inconvenient truth.

    Back in the eighties, I did once rewrite from scratch a G/L reporting system. My version:

    a) Ran in 45 minutes rather than over four days.

    b) Only bothered printing the title page, report headers and totals page for each section if there were actually transactions in the account range for that section, saving a tree on each run.

    c) Didn't match the original version at all, but was verifiably correct.

    The inconvenient bit was (c), as that shone a glaring light onto the fact that we'd been overreporting revenue to the tune of about £1m a month since Jesus was a lad. We didn't have a big enough carpet to hide that under.

    1. logicalextreme Silver badge

      Re: Inconvenient truth.

      Was in a similar place a couple of years ago, one that was featured on the telly very recently. Had a nice little hissy fit from a director about how the new figures needed to also be incorrect "because that's what we've been using to plan everything". Refused to interact with her after that one and made it clear why.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Inconvenient truth.

      Anon for obvious reasons

      I once installed an Assets Register system for a new client, replacing their inhouse bespoke system with a bog standard package. Everything went swimmingly until we ran our final full-data-set test runs. "Your answers are wrong" they said "the depreciation calculation is claiming much too much depreciation".

      After much checking and my team actually doing a code review of the bespoke system, it transpired that the internal system was broken and they had been under-claiming depreciation for a number of years.

      Since they were a *very* asset-heavy organisation, the amount was a Material Difference in their annual accounts.

      Oh sh!t

      After (I'm sure entirely off the record) discussions between IT, Finance and The Board, we came up with a Wizard Wheeze: all 'old' assets would be depreciated according to a 'special' formula that gave results very close to the old method, but new assets would be depreciated according to 'standard' calculations. They also started an "Equipment Upgrade Programme" to get rid of 'old' assets and replace then with properly-depreciated new ones.

    3. irrelevant

      Re: Inconvenient truth.

      I'm sure I've told this one before, but..

      Many years ago, the small firm I worked for landed a contract to install a room bookings and accounts system for a raft of council owned leisure centres. All went swimmingly (even at the sites without a pool) until it came to the monthly report that went off to the council to show how well the centre was doing. Try as we might, we couldn't get our report to match their old one, even with their historical data in our system. The council had told us how the figures were supposed to have been derived, which was how we had written the report. Theirs was written in, I think, Lotus 123, but it could have been a text editor for the number of calculations it made use of: zero. Every field was just typed manually into the cells.

      In the end we asked the staff how they produced the figures at the end.. "oh, we just fiddle around with them until they look right!"

      We left our report calculating things the "right" way. I am fairly sure they were left with their old pc, though, so they probably carried on making things up to send onwards.

  10. Why Not?

    Migrations across multiple subsidiaries and systems always result in duplicate customers as few systems are coded to dedupe ACME,ACME LTD, A.C.M.E. , Associated Company Made Easy etc. 50% duplication on the top 1000 customers is fairly common.

    If you throw in Cyrillic and other none western alphabets and its a complete mess. As always when you make data entry idiot proof the Universe invents a better idiot.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Previous company had a CRM system. One customer was the BBC. However, in the database was -

      The BBC

      B.B.C.

      BBC

      British Broadcasting Corporation

      There may have be others......

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge
        Joke

        Rename them BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Three, etc.

    2. dmesg

      OpenRefine (https://openrefine.org/) is your friend. Bit of a learning curve, and still takes a lot of manual effort, but it reduces it to the essential amount needed. If you have more than a thousand records or so, time learning it pays off. It's FOSS and based on an earlier Google project (I hear they have some experience with data). There are probably commercial apps/services in the same genre, but OpenRefine did what I needed on a couple data-cleaning projects. Much better than throwing a grep party, or $DEITY forbid, trying to clean dirty data with a spreadsheet.

      1. Glen 1

        "grep party"

        Reminds me of the time as a PFY I tried to write a web scraper/parser in bash/grep/sed. I didn't know there were already tools for that. I didn't google it, because I already had curl and grep. What more could I need?

        Ah, the innocence of youth.

  11. Imhotep Silver badge

    My Word Is My Bond

    I had a position that paid me a 15% bonus in good years. One year we were told that we'd made target and the checks were being cut.

    Then our external auditors told management that they had discovered that our actual profits were tens of millions of dollars less than reported because of bad numbers from one location and that the bonus could not be paid.

    Quite the brouhaha as management told the auditing firm that the checks were cut, people had been told they were getting a bonus and they were going to deliver the checks. None of us knew what was going on in the background - only that the checks were delayed by a day or two. This was a privately held corporation and I was told that it went all the way up to the investment group that was our parent.

    We got the checks. You could generally believe and rely on what management told you there.

  12. DS999 Silver badge

    Not all "fixing things" stories are bad for the customer

    Though it seems like all the stories I've ever heard about fixing accounting systems and correcting revenue counts, customer counts, etc. are always reducing numbers bosses want higher and vice versa, so they are getting news they don't want to hear. But that's not the case for other stuff.

    I consulted for a company about 10 years ago where one of the things I did was to write a script that queried all the storage arrays (there were over 100 worldwide, this was a big company) and figure out how much storage was installed, assigned, and free. I had some problems determining which hosts everything was assigned to, and eventually figured out that a lot of it was assigned to hosts that were no longer present. Turns out I identified a big hole in their server retirement process, if things didn't happen in the correct order (there was some delay in another part) the storage was never freed. I was able to find hundreds of terabytes (back when a terabyte was a bigger deal) or nearly 10% of their worldwide allocation that could be freed.

    After their own staff had poured over my data and assured themselves it was correct they turned my spreadsheet into dozens of storage deallocation tickets for their offshore team, each listing a number of volumes to be removed. I knew the odds of someone screwing up with a project that big were very high, and told them I could modify my script to do the work. It took some convincing but I got them to agree - somewhere high up in their IT food chain must have been a guy who hated the command line, because they liked having everything done with the GUI.

    I was with that client for two years, and what they paid for my services was still much less than what I saved them by recovering all that orphan storage. Too bad I couldn't get a bonus...if I was an employee I probably would have got a $50 gift certificate or something lol

  13. Evil Auditor

    another migration...

    ...another clearing up of customer accounts.

    This one was not relevant regarding published numbers of customers as the only valid currency was gross written premium (insurance business). But the clearing up revealed litterally (misspelling intended) millions of duplicate, or rather multiplicated customer accounts. It appeared that often for each new or even re-newed contract a customer got a new account.

  14. Drew Scriver

    Oh - so many examples to choose from!

    1)

    We once did a validity check on a customer newsletter list. Dropped the number of valid e-mail addresses from 76,000 in half. Informed the internal customer, who asked us to hold off on deleting them until after the weekend, since they had already scheduled a party to celebrate the 75,000-subscriber milestone for Friday night...

    2)

    Consulting firm created a new flagship web site. We had required performance testing, which they did. During the big presentation they brought up the test and told the brass that no errors were encountered during the test. They were not very happy when I pointed out that a) the web servers were configured to respond with a redirect instead of an error code and b) more than a couple of dozen concurrent visitors would increase the page load times to double digits...

    Already mad, they also mentioned that they had done usability testing and moved on with the meeting. I interjected and asked what the outcome of the UX-test had been. I already knew the answer, but it was fun to watch them try to spin "everyone hated it" into something less critical.

    After that they made sure to keep me off the list of invitees.

    3)

    Then there was the time when we were looking for another hosting company. The Finance Dept, Legal guys, and the brass had already approved the contract when my manager gave me a copy of the response to the RFP.

    That's when I discovered that they had listed some incidental sales under recurring income, thus inflating their annual revenue by $7M or so - doubling their actual numbers.

    On my day off I sauntered into the office in my road bike gear to drop off the annotated proposal. eliciting the expected stares. My manager took one look at my notes and escalated it to the VP-level. They swiftly cancelled the signing ceremony with the vendor, which had been planned for noontime that very day...

    A couple of months after that I found myself at some Microsoft training, sitting behind three lead engineers of this vendor. It was a wee bit awkward, to say the least...

  15. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    The remedy, always attend Microsoft training in full bike gear :-)

    1. Glen 1

      motor or pedal?

      The choice will make a big difference

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        I assumed you came on the bike, it is rather a big pose otherwise? And I am a pedal cyclist but I don't want to be known to my operating system provider as "the man with the funny shaped helmet".

        Sometimes it will be convenient to take car or train close enough to take a short bicycle run to finish, perhaps on a foldy uppy one.

  16. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Coat

    Clean the f**king data *before* the migration.

    2 reasons.

    It never gets done otherwise.

    In big systems at some point some clueless f**kwit Bright Young Thing will come up with a cunning plan to (mis)use account names/result codes/birthdates/whatever for some other purpose which they may (or may not) bother to document.They are "special" records*

    The consequences when these look-normal-but-are-not records (every sir name starts with a Q for example, as it's the least common letter for starting words in English according to IBM, and other such truly "special" features) will not be hilarious. :-(

    Think of this as my first, last and only warning to anyone who finds themselves doing one of these things.

    *Why do they do it? As Truffaut puts it in Close Encounters, "It is an event sociologique" :-(

  17. dmesg

    Something similar at M$, long ago.

    I was a contract employee at M$ back in the late '80s. They had a corporate email system known as "wizmail" (I kid you not), and I was duly assigned an email username beginning with "c-". Other people had a similar prefix, as I noticed in recipient lists, while some had "t-" prefixes and others just some simple hash of their name. It was explained to me that "c-" was used to designate contract workers, "t-" indicated temp workers, and permanent employees had no prefix.

    It wasn't always that way, I was told. It used to be that anyone getting an email account could request any reasonable username they liked, subject to availability. No prefixes required or even suggested. That ended when someone realized (during an audit, perhaps as part of email system migration) that because contractor's email addresses were indistinguishable from those of permanent employees, contractors were often kept in the recipient lists of email discussions that would wind up in sensitive areas -- strategy or product planning for example. Even worse, this extended to contractors being included in group aliases. IIRC (and I might not RC on this point), the error was compounded by allowing email users to have email forwards to their outside mail accounts. Many of the contractors had finished their contracts and moved on, but were still valid email users. Oops.

    On a tangentially related note, but a story that should be recorded for posterity, while there I met the product manager for DOS at the time, DOS 4 or 5 I think. In the course of the conversation she told me there were parts of DOS that they didn't dare modify: they had lost the source code for them.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      "they had lost the source code for them."

      DOS 4 was early 90's. So about a decade to lose the source code.

      Windows 1 was released in 1985.

      I wonder how much windows code they have lost since?

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: "they had lost the source code for them."

        I doubt there is any of the 16bit code left, aside from the comments. It was cooperative multitasking.

        There is a long shadow over the API though, quite a lot of the strangeness of Win32 is because of something they did in Win16, and the Win16 part still had to work in parallel for a time.

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