Painful memories

I came across this post whilst catching up on UA. Reading has brought back some of the more painful and frustrating times of once working at the BBC.

I used to work over in BBC Interactive TV, which is part of the same Division as the  Online folks responsible for bbc.co.uk. I remember being incredulous that when I started they were having to use Perl 5.003, no Java, and as is well described in the blog post above, having to perform sleight of hand to get things done.

Now I believe they have at least moved on a version, but are still hamstrung by using legacy systems.

Part of the reason that this was the case was an instance of “not using the bleeding edge”. A perfectly sensible reason. Also security concerns, again sensible reasons. But I feel it was all taken to extremes. This was then coupled with no ability to handle migration and integration to new software versions. In that statement I also include Operating Systems. When I left I believe there were some old Redhat 7.0 systems still in place as production platforms within iTV (these have now been decommissioned).

As a result it is very difficult to be able to move forward onto any newer technologies or use newer systems. Each decision seems to be made about the present situation without considering any longer term implications. The total future view of the infrastructure seems to be about 3 months, if that. At this rate the amount of technical debt is building so high that it will be very hard to bring things back up to date when eventually a critical point is reached. But couple that with a bureaucratic system with consistency more glacial then molasses that permeates every orifice of the organisation to govern it’s changes, and it is all going to grind to a halt. People will leave, talent and knowledge will be lost.

iTV was lucky, we were (fairly) divorced from the Web Infrastructure and could control our own destiny to an extent, we still hit brickwalls fairly regularly. Chief among them no integration or infrastructure support to allow use to integrate and test new platforms. Decision making about use of technologies was another issue.

There is a great need for a shake-up, a big shake-up, and maybe the Move to Salford is a blessing in disguise but it will be too late for many. Meanwhile this situation is causing a lot of grief to people still there, and whichever division you are in, you will see it. To those who are still there, good luck, and I hope you make it.

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