re: How do you populate your development databases? VIEW POST


Ah, so, a little story, that won't answer your question in any way other than please don't do it this way.

Way back when, I worked for a lovely company making, amongst other things, telco billing systems. We wrote them largely in server-side Javascript, which was a wild idea back in ~1999 that would surely never go mainstream. Oh, we also did Agile before it was Agile (anyone remember Extreme Programming?) and a bunch of other stuff that's now rather more mundane.

Anyway, in order to actually Get Stuff Done, we needed to populate the dev systems with test data, so we could test stuff and things. Sorry, that was obvious. Some of the test accounts would need to be large to test overflow issues, others would need outstanding payments to generate those "red reminders", and so on.

To begin with, us sober-minded developers would enter in data such as our own names and addresses. Soon, though, a frantic competition to come up with the most amusing test data emerged. Saddam Hussein, the late dictator of Iraq, ended up in the generic dev database backup. Then, so did one "Liz Windsor", who lived in Buckingham Palace. When we wanted to spin up a system, we'd just restore from this backup. Simples, right? What could possibly go wrong?

So, the great day arrived when we would go live. To ensure that nothing went wrong, we installed the live system in the tried and tested way we'd installed the development and test systems. That was, of course, the least risky way of doing things. Simples, right? What could possibly go... Oh.

Because the next month, several developers got a letter on their doorstep, from the customer, asking them to pay an often vast telephone bill. For many developers, this was clearly listing all the premium-rate porn chat lines (it was the '90's, and yes, these things existed). We spent no small time carefully explaining the situation to the customer, and getting those bills cleared from the system. It wasn't pretty.

Then someone remembered that Her Majesty The Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of The United Kingdom, Fid Def and all that jazz, would also have had a letter carried to her by a highly trained footman. We all thought that the nice red writing demanding immediate payment would, no doubt, contrast nicely with the gold platter is would be borne on.

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