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Sun, 02 Mar 2014
This week there has been an article floating around about “What happens when placeholder text doesn't get replaced. This reminds me of the time I made this mistake myself.
In 1996 I was programming a web site for a large company which sold cosmetics and skin care products in hundreds of department stores and malls around the country. The technology to actually buy the stuff online wasn't really mature yet, and the web was new enough that the company was worried that selling online would anger the retail channels. They wanted a web page where you would put in your location and it would tell you where the nearby stores were.
The application was simple; it accepted a city and state, looked them
up in an on-disk hash table, and then returned a status code to the
page generator. The status code was for internal use only. For
example, if you didn't fill in the form completely, the program would
return the status code
If the form was filled out correctly, but there was no match in the
database, the program would return a status code that the front end
translated to a suitably apologetic message. The status code I
selected for this was
Which was all very jolly, until one day there was a program bug and
some user in Podunk, Iowa submitted the form and got back a page with
Anyone could have seen that coming; I have no excuse.