Coffee and its Effects on Feature Creep
March 18, 2014 7:56 PM   Subscribe

In 2004, Roy Rapoport set out to write a simple chatbot to help get the development team's coffee orders straight. What he ended up with was a bank. (via)
posted by jenkinsEar (23 comments total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
Later, he writes a bot to track non work-related chatting, and ended up with a machine for infuriating employees.

I'll also take the opportunity to mention Adobe's burrito interface again, because it was a thing of beauty.
posted by zamboni at 8:21 PM on March 18, 2014 [7 favorites]

Great story.

One question: does a 20oz latte with six pumps of vanilla syrup, two packets of artificial sweetener and whipped cream - but only two measly oz of espresso - count as a coffee?

With only 150mg of caffeine in his Caffeinator beverage, the program should have been named Sugarnator.
posted by jb at 8:25 PM on March 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

I'm surprised this didn't get super VC funded.
posted by oceanjesse at 9:05 PM on March 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

posted by Chrysostom at 9:16 PM on March 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

Quite a leap from "writing stuff on paper sucks!" to a chatbot that parses keywords and shit. But I know the mentality that drives this sort of project, and it was probably a fun distraction from other boring life-things.

I will have a Venti Pike with half and half and two splendas. It may contain 300mg of caffeine. It may contain 600mg. Your guess is as good as mine, it's totes rando bro! Every day is a winding road! Fortunately I have been secretly chewing 200mg pills up to 3 at a time in addition to taking small amounts of iocaine powder in the event I must kill a Giant or consume 600mg of caffeine in a sitting.

He should've taken it to the ELIZA level and beyond. "You seem to be drinking something different every day. Is there disorder in your life? You know, you don't have to drink caramel macchiatos to look cool. In fact, they are for weiners."
posted by lordaych at 9:30 PM on March 18, 2014 [6 favorites]

Then he wrote a RPC-based lock management system to ensure distributed consistency and the next thing you know *poof* Google.
posted by GuyZero at 9:34 PM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I can't find it with a trivial google, but I'm pretty sure I've read a different article that goes into a lot more detail on this subject, or a very similar article about another company where the programmers did something very similar (ended up creating an informal bank, complete with shares) while stocking the office soda fridge. I might be suffering from an overactive imagination, though.
posted by immlass at 10:24 PM on March 18, 2014

I just couldn't get into that story.
No sympathetic characters.
posted by Catch at 10:30 PM on March 18, 2014

One time I tried to make my own Tetris clone, and ended up tearing down the Berlin Wall. Reagan insisted on taking the credit, but my name is tattooed on his buttocks
posted by lordaych at 10:35 PM on March 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

I got started the other day helping someone write some code for an online text-based RPG, and somehow the next thing I knew I was writing a project management system. So, yeah. This happens quicker than you'd think.
posted by Sequence at 4:12 AM on March 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I got hired to write a one page report and wound up writing an accounting system to manage $30M worth of grants.
posted by ob1quixote at 4:17 AM on March 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

The thing I can never manage to do is learn how to do something properly enough to get paid for my feature creep, clearly I need to start spending more time around things that have seven-figure grants involved instead of a bunch of bored people on the internet who want better ways to organize their whining about people doing things wrong on the internet.
posted by Sequence at 6:29 AM on March 19, 2014

No email?
posted by blue_beetle at 7:59 AM on March 19, 2014 [5 favorites]

No email?

This joke annotated.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:09 AM on March 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Great story, thanks for posting.
posted by rebent at 8:09 AM on March 19, 2014

> Not the first time coffee has inspired a technological advance.

No indeed.

(Shoutout to cstross)
posted by officer_fred at 10:41 AM on March 19, 2014

This reminds me uncomfortably of having to set up modules in Salesforce for tracking all contacts (not just sales contacts) which somehow turned into our system for sending out corporate gifts, replete with salespeople getting to decide which gifts people got etc. Oh god the horror the horror
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:41 AM on March 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

tl;dr: "Nominum at the time had tons of RPI alumni,"

fucking Engineers....
posted by mikelieman at 11:37 AM on March 19, 2014

(From this link)We (management) knew we intended to not do anything with this information.

I'm amazed anyone who has ever worked in an office could fail to understand why Chatterbox made people paranoid. Unless you were never in a position of subservience, maybe.
posted by winna at 1:41 PM on March 19, 2014

No sympathetic characters.


No email?

Well, eventually we added text messages, so that if you weren't logged in when someone left for coffee, but you wanted some, you wouldn't miss out.

We've barely used it in years, but all this publicity inspired me to check my status. I'm still in the red, apparently.

caffeinator;list my debts
(message sent to caffeinator [CAFFEINE], away)

>> (16:45) Private message from caffeinator [CAFFEINE]:
- Current outstanding debts: $4.65 to jim; $3.00 from drea TCNW (Total Coffee
- Net Worth): $-1.65

posted by tangerine at 2:16 PM on March 19, 2014 [13 favorites]

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