Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Friday 26/03/2004Ack! Just before lunchtime, the whole editorial team is shocked out of its intense copy-centric concentration by a fusillade of feeps and bleeps from their PCs.

Friday 26/03/2004
Ack! Just before lunchtime, the whole editorial team is shocked out of its intense copy-centric concentration by a fusillade of feeps and bleeps from their PCs. It is Outlook, which reports receipt of a thundering cascade of incoming email. This goes on for some time, leaving us all shaken and cowering under a few hundred items of inbox mayhem.

What prompted this denial of service attack? A brief investigation reveals an unlikely culprit -- but let me take you back to yesterday evening where the seeds were sown for the events of today.

As part of our general share in the gentle recovery that online IT media is experiencing, we have been shaking off those winter blues with a bit of an office revamp. Plants have sprung up, new sleek LCD monitors have shouldered their bulky CRT ancestors off desks, a pool table has appeared and a large office fridge purchased.

It's these last two items that feature most strongly on Thursday evening, as the final rounds of the company pool championship are played in front of a crowd of cheering workmates and just to one side of the office fridge, bursting at its shiny metal seams with beer. By the end, silicon.com's own Tony Hallett carried off the cup -- and the fridge was once again empty. There were departures to late-night drinking establishment to carry on the celebrations: it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Come Friday morning, and things are more subdued. People huddle down and get on with their jobs -- which on Friday includes dispatching some of our email newsletters. We have a new piece of software for this, which is much faster than the old package - it can churn through tens of thousands of recipients in no time flat. Faster than you can hit the stop button, certainly... even if you've just accidentally let it activate the internal editorial mailing list as the place to receive bounced emails. It's fast software, but it's not friendly software: if you're in a hurry and a little distracted by the exciting events of the previous evening (for example), it's easy to miss that one vital setting. I'm not saying that using that software can be like picking your nose with a loaded pistol, you understand, just that if it were a jet fighter it would be nicknamed The Widowmaker.

Some time later, as we remove the last messages saying Sally Swan is on maternity leave until June and could we please contact Julian in accounts with any queries, we reflect on the ironies that while we take an unconscionable amount of effort to prevent our email newsletters behaving like spam, every so often recalcitrant software visits retribution upon us anyway.

There's a new verb in the industry – dogfooding, meaning to experience the things you sell. I think we've been thoroughly dogfooded and the feeling's not pedigree, chum.