DevRant: Messy Servers, Zero Documentation

Published on 14 Jun 2021

The previous developer at my current place of employment was really bad at documenting things, even his code comments were rather cryptic or redundant and the way he named things didn't make much sense either. The "documentation" I received were two .txt files with a bunch of login details and passwords, many of which didn't even work.

Do you know what it feels like to be so confused, you don't know where to begin?

That was me for about two months. I poked around the server, trying to figure out what was what, familiarise myself with the bizarre WordPress setup, redirects everywhere, old testing WordPress installs that were forgotten about, broken database connections and just general chaos. I still haven't been able to clean things up in fear of breaking some critical site which I don't know exists.

Fast forward to 2021. I am struggling with a rather puzzling redirect that refuses to work despite setting it up like I always do using the same infrastructure and settings. Someone, before my time, created a primary domain, let's say, and put some WordPress files there. Now, I was asked to make a directory on this site redirect to a new registration form on an external website. Easy, I thought, give me two minutes.

Weeks later, it still doesn't redirect. The hosting support people said that the domain in question is invalid and that I need to delete it and recreate it as a subdomain, or addon domain on the primary domain. I can't, because I do not have access to such privileges. I am still trying to get someone with higher privileges to help me out here and at the same time reassure another colleague badgering me with this redirect, or incorrect registration form loading. I'm talking in circles and nobody seems to understand my problem. Am I being too vague or am I possibly giving people too much information?

At this stage, I kind of want to throw a poorly-baked cake in the face of the individual who left me with this horrendously frustrating mess to sort out without adequate powers, yet I do not want to fall into the victim mentality.

I've created my own documentation, not just login details, of what I've been working on, created private code repos of all the website files (there was not a single version controlled website before I started working at this company) and shared it with relevant managers. We cannot operate in silos like this, it wastes time and confuses the shit out of new people.

Perhaps my biggest frustration is the fact that I've been left to my own devices for a long time and people have a funny perception of computer-minded folks: we must know every little detail about every computer system and procedure in the universe. The second biggest frustration is asking for help and others not understanding my blockers. Maybe this contributes to my loneliness as well?

My wish is for other developers to please pay a little bit more attention to documenting your processes for the next dev who comes along, and not leave them with a gigantic mess to fix which you created in the first place. Take a little more time in giving variable names and function signatures names which humans can understand, to ease the cognitive load.

Some days I wish I could trade places with my dog...