Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Bill O'Reilly Is Not Going Down

Brian Williams got suspended from reading the news for six months after he lied. He exaggerated the danger he faced when he was in a threatening situation. The reason he got suspended was not because he lied, he got suspended because he admitted it.

Bill O'Reilly will not get suspended. He was never in a combat zone, he was amid unrest. Yes it's dangerous, but it ain't war. He dressed up his hand a little bit in his books and in some interviews. Everyone likes to make jokes that it's Fox News and lies are their schtick, but that's not why O'Reilly won't get suspended. Bill won't get suspended because he will never admit he lied.

This is just how the world works. It sucks, but it's true.

Here's an example. One day at work I made a mistake. While trying to fix a problem, I changed a setting on the device that lets people who are outside the company network log in, and it prevented them from being able to do that. After the first phone call where someone couldn't log in I realized what happened and I changed the setting back, and users were able to log in again. I quickly sent out an email telling people what had happened and that the issue was resolved. People were unable to log in to some applications for about five minutes. Less than 10 people were affected.

The next day I got called into my boss' office and was required to sign a document that said I knew I had made a change that I was not supposed to make and that if I continued to make mistakes like that I would be terminated. A bit harsh, but it was true I had made a change I should not have made during production time.

Less than a week later a peer of mine, let's call him Bob (because that's his name) made a mistake. I was going to call it a similar mistake, but that's not true. Bob's mistake was much more catastrophic. Bob made a change to the network that knocked off all users, (we're talking thousands) and prevented them from working for 20-30 minutes. Even the phones went down. Bob and I have the same boss.

At first we didn't know that Bob was responsible for the downtime. We were just concerned with getting all the users back online and getting the company functioning again. The following day we did a post-mortem and Bob denied everything. He literally claimed he was not in the building when the problem occurred, he was outside smoking a cigarette. After checking logs and investigating the issue we were unable to find the cause of the downtime.

The next day one of my more suspicious coworkers had the brilliant idea of looking in the backup logs. Turns out not only had Bob made the changes that caused the downtime, the next day he had methodically erased his presence in the log files that recorded the changes. He waited too long however and the files had been backed up without his knowledge.

We presented our findings at the next datacenter meeting, and Bob still denied everything.  The consensus decision among leadership was that it happened several days ago, it was a "he-said, she-said" situation and another major downtime had happened between then and now, so nobody really cares.

The problem just went away. Enough time had passed that nobody really cared anymore. At the time the passion was high, heads will roll, etc. But less than a week later, all that fire was extinguished. Bob never even got a slap on the wrist. It's sad, yes.

But that's really how the world works. I'm fairly certain if my boss had waited a week to think about my mistake he would have blown it off completely. Especially considering all the things that happened in that week. It didn't even come up in my end of year review. It was completely forgotten by then.

So what's the lesson to be learned from this? If you want to get away with something your only chance is to stall and lie and cover up as much as possible? Well, yes. That's probably true. If a major news story happens in the near future, nobody will remember or care about any controversy that concerns Bill O'Reilly. Remember Gary Condit? On September 10th 2001 he and Chandra Levy were the biggest news story around.

But to me the lesson is, would you rather be like Brian Williams or Bill O'Reilly? I don't know you or how you feel about Fox News and Mr. O'Reilly, but that's an easy decision for me. I can find another job.

P.S. The problem I was trying to fix when I made my mistake? Yeah, it's still a problem. I ain't touching that shit.