ampersands are the debil
Ampersands are out to get me this week. That’s right, the cute little &. He seems so harmless … and yet he is wreaking havoc on all my tools. At quitting time, nonetheless.
Tuesday, 3 p.m. (Yes, that’s quitting time. I get in at 7. Really!) I get a frantic IM from one of my users, the transfer app isn’t working. Now, we have this transfer app because we have no less than 7 networks. (Ok, ok, so maybe it’s only 4.) So, this transfer app moves a file from one network to a different network. I only worked on the first part of the transfer process, but it’s the first part that the customer sees, so that means I get the frantic IMs. Plus, I’m way more approachable than your average developer, so I get frantic IMs for tools that aren’t even mine. Because, honestly, if you have a choice between adorableness or cranky-pants magoo, you’re gonna go with adorableness. Even if you know adorableness may very well refer you to cranky-pants.
But, anyway, the transfer app stopped working. I’ll spare the details, but it turns out that transferring a file that contains an ampersand in the filename causes the whole tranfer app to just quit working. A DOS, if you will, for all the nerds out there. I haven’t fixed the issue yet, I just told the user to avoid ampersandy filenames for the next week or two. Seeing as it’s been 5 months and this is the first ampersandy filename any of the users have tried to transfer, I’m not *too* worried it’ll happen again before I fix it.
Thursday, 3 p.m. IM from another developer, one of our web apps can’t display search results from certain criteria. I started digging through log files, and I discovered the problem: ampersands. The search results end up in xml, that is xslt-ed into html – and ampersands aren’t allowed in such things. So I patched that up, and proceeded on my merry way. Luckily, that particular web app is in a permanent beta state, which means that we, as developers, don’t guarantee that it will run without kinks. Or even that it will always be available. But, I fixed it in 28 minutes, because that’s the kind of dedication to my customers that I have. Or maybe it just really bothers me when someone finds a bug in one of my tools. Either way, it’s fixed.
Ampersands. are. the. debil.