The Bunter Haufen project was the first of my side project to be actually used by others.
At the time, I was working and acting at a local theater in Göttingen. and that theater was cut off federal funding. Various organization have popped up to raise awareness of the issue and try to save the theater, and the Bunter Haufen (“colorful bunch”) was one of those.
What it was
A web presence and a mailing list for the group, with the purpose of coordinating actions and demonstrations, as well as communicating changes and updates to everyone who is interested.
What I learned
It’s one thing to do something for fun, but it’s something else entirely to do
something other people will use. Bugs, issues and workarounds which I, as a
teenage hobbyist would have found acceptable are just not good enough for actual
users. For example, the fact that I used a publicly visible variable called
phil to identify the desired sub page (So if you wanted to see the imprint, you
had to visit
index.php?phil=imprint) seemed fun and edgy to me, but was
somehow confusing for the actual visitors of the page (Remember that back then
it was far more common to actually type out the address of the page you wanted to
So I found the work on that page and mailing list surprisingly demanding, but also very fulfilling.
A Human Mistake Is Not A Virus
Imagine you are still in school. It’s around 6 am, and since you are a teenager, this is brutally early. Your cell phone rings - it’s your teacher, yelling at you!
This teenage nightmare actually happened to me. So why the yelling? Well, over night some spammer has sent an email to the mailing list - which was open for anyone to send anything. This email was bounced back by a full inbox to the whole mailing list - which delivered it back to the account with the overflowing mailbox. Which then bounced it back.
After a while, other emails began overflowing and bouncing mails back, so every bounced mail created a multitude of other emails.
This is where the teacher came in. He was a subscriber to the mailing list and opened his mailbox in the morning and found it full of what looked like spam. He proceeded to clean his inbox, which was immediately stuffed full again with even more spam messages.
I turned off the mailing list immediately, but it took hours for all mails to be either sent or purged.
In hindsight, I find it hilarious that I immediately assumed that it was something I had nothing to do with, and I thought it to be more likely that a virus had somehow in parallel infected several subscribers of the mailbox, than that I just had done a stupid mistake while setting up the mailing list.
How it ended
The theater was saved, simple as that, and both the website and the mailing list were discontinued.
This post is part of my Pet Project Sematary, click here to get to the first post in this series.