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Strange Customer's Requirements

Source: Live Journal

This satire story has been a great hit of the Russian Internet sector more than two weeks since March 24, 2011. The original text was immediately reprinted many times on many web sites (as with ascription to author and without) and repeatedly debated in various forums. Apparently, the issue of irrelevant requirements and an attempt to implement them disturbs not only the information technology specialists.

I have translated the story into English, and I suggest read the topic. Best regards, Igor Bralgin



Mr. Petrov had attended the Tuesday meeting. His brain was taken out, spread out on saucers and savored. Mr. Nedozaytsev, Petrov's big boss, had prudently given the audience dessertspoons after that the show began.

“Colleagues,” said Ms. Morkoveva. “We need help of your company. Our organization is facing a large-scale challenge. We participate in implementation of a project. Let me inform you about project's requirements. We have to draw some red lines. Are you ready to be burdened with this task?”

“Of course!” said Nedozaytsev. As the CEO he was always ready to accept any challenge that would be solved by someone from the team. However, he instantly added: “Can we do??”

The Drawing Department Head, Sidoryahin, quickly nodded: “Yes, sure. Mr. Petrov is our best expert in the field of drawing red lines. He is right now here. We have specially invited him to this meeting to hear his authoritative opinion.”

“Nice to meet you,” Ms. Morkoveva said to Petrov and then continued for all: “Well, you all know me. And this is Lenochka. She is a design expert within our organization.”

Lenochka blushed and smiled embarrassedly. She recently graduated in economic and her attitude to a design was the same as the platypus's attitude to construction of a Zeppelin.

“Well,” said Morkoveva. “There are our requirements. We need to draw the seven red lines. All of these lines must be strictly perpendicular and besides some of them must be drawn in green, and some must be transparent. What do you think this is possible?”

“No,” Petrov said.

“Let's not rush to answer, Petrov,” Sidoryahin said. “We have gotten the task and it must be solved. You are a professional, Petrov. Do not give us any reason to think that you are not.”

“You see,” Petrov explained: “the term ‘red line’ means that the color of the line is red. Drawing a red line in green is not completely impossible, but very close to impossible...”

“Come on, Petrov! What do you mean by ‘impossible’?” Sidoryahin asked.

“I am just explaining the situation. Perhaps there can be some colorblind people for whom the color of line really does not matter, but I am not sure that the whole target audience of your project consists only of such people.”

“That is, if I understood you correctly, is it possible in principle, Petrov?” Morkoveva asked.

Petrov realized that he had gone too far with imagery.

“Ok! Let me say it in simpler words,” he said. “A line as such can be drawn in any color, but in order to get a red line we must only use red color.”

“Petrov, do not confuse us, please. You just said it was possible.”

Petrov silently cursed his loose tongue.

“No, sorry… You understood me wrong. I just want to say that in some extremely rare situations the line color does not matter, but even then the line still will not be red. You know, it will not be red! It will be green. And you need a red one.”

There come a short silence during that just buzz of synapses was be heard.

“And what if,” Nedozaytsev, new idea dawned him, said. “What if we draw these lines in blue?”

“It is still wrong,” Petrov shook his head. “If you draw them in blue, they will be blue.”

Silence became again. This time, Petrov interrupted silence: “And I still do not understand ... What did you mean when you said about transparent color?”

Morkoveva looked at him indulgently as if she were a good teacher and he were a slow student.

“Hmm, I will try to explain... Petrov, don’t you know what ‘transparent’ means?”

“I do.”

“And I hope, there is no reason to explain you what the ‘red line’ is?”

“No reason.”

“Excellent! You'll draw red lines in transparent color.”

Petrov froze for a second pondering over the situation, then asked: “And... Could you describe how result should look like? How do you imagine that?”

“There you go again! Petrov!” Sidoryahin said. “Well, let's not ... We’re not in kindergarten, are we? Who is a red line expert, Ms. Morkoveva or you?”

“I'm just trying to clarify the task details for myself...”

“I don’t understand what is so hard to understand?” Nedozaytsev barged into conversation. “You know what the red line is, don't you?”

“Yes, but...”

“And it’s also clear to you what ‘transparent’ is?”

“Certainly, but...”

“So why should we explain more to you? Petrov, well, let's not stoop to unproductive controversies. The task was assigned for you. The task is clear and precise. If you have any specific questions, so ask.”

“After all, you're a professional,” Sidoryahin added.

“All right, All right...” Petrov gave up. “Forget the color. But there was said something else about the perpendicularity?”

“Yes,” Morkoveva confirmed. “There is requirement that all seven lines should be strictly perpendicular.”

“Perpendicular to what?” Petrov tried to specify his task.

Morkoveva began to look quickly through her papers.

“Uh-uh,” she said finally. “Well... to each other... to everything... or to whatever... I do not know. I expect that you must know what perpendicular lines are,” she retorted finally.

“Yes, of course he do,” Sidoryahin flapped his hands. “Are we professionals, or not?”

“There can be only two perpendicular lines,” Petrov explained patiently. “All seven cannot be perpendicular to each other at the same time. This is the school level geometry.”

Morkoveva shook her head trying to get rid of the reminiscences of her middle school days.

Nedozaytsev slammed his palm on the table: “Petrov, try to avoid this: ‘School geometry, school geometry’. Let's be mutually polite. Let's not make allusions and not stoop to insults. Let's maintain a constructive dialogue. There are no idiots here.”

“I too think so,” Sidoryahin said.

Petrov took a piece of paper.

“Well,” he said. “Let me draw this out for you. Here is the line, right?”

Morkoveva nodded.

“Here is another line...” Petrov said. “Is it perpendicular to the first one?”


“Yes, they are perpendicular.”

“Well, you see!” Morkoveva exclaimed gleefully.

“Wait, that's not all yet. Now I am drawing a third... Is it perpendicular to the first line?”

It was a thoughtful silence again. Without waiting for an answer, Petrov answered himself: “Yes, third line is perpendicular to the first line, but it does not intersect with the second line. The third and the second lines are parallel.”

Silence. Then Morkoveva stood up from his seat and went around the table and stopped behind Petrov looking over his shoulder.

“Well...” she said uncertainly. “Probably, yes.”

“That is it,” Petrov said trying to consolidate his success. “If there are two lines, they can be perpendicular; as soon as they become more...”

“Could you give me the pen?” Morkoveva asked. “I will try...”

Petrov gave the pen. Morkoveva drew carefully a few uncertain lines.

“And if so?”

Petrov sighed: “This is called a triangle and these are not perpendicular lines. In addition, there are three not seven lines.”

Morkoveva pursed up her lips.

“And why are they blue?” suddenly asked Nedozaytsev.

“Oh, and! I wanted to ask too.” Sidoryahin supported Nedozaytsev’s question.

Petrov stared at the picture blinking several times.

“My pen is blue.” he said finally. “I just wanted to demonstrate...”

“Well, maybe this is cause?” Nedozaytsev impatiently interrupted Petrov with a tone of a man who has just solved a complicated problem and rashed to share his decision with others until the thought is not lost. “You have a blue line. Draw red lines and let's see what happens.”

“We will get exactly the same,” Petrov said confidently.

“Well, why the same?” Nedozaytsev said. “How can you be sure if you have not even try? Draw red lines and we will see.”

“I do not have a red pen right now,” Petrov said. “But certainly...”

“Why are you not prepared?” reproachfully said Sidoryahin. “You knew beforehand about meeting.”

“I am absolutely sure,” Petrov desperately said: “that result will be exactly the same with red lines.”

“But you just told us,” Sidoryahin parried: “that a red line must be drawn in red color, I even have recorded your words. And now you are drawing them using a blue pen. Are these red lines in your opinion?”

“Yes, by the way, yes,” Nedozaytsev noted. “I have asked you about blue color. Do you remember what you answered me?”

Suddenly Petrov was rescued by Lenochka who had been studying with interest his picture.

“I think I understand you,” Lenochka said. “You are not talking about the color now, yes? You’re talking about this perp.. per… perper-something-what?”

“Yes, I am talking about perpendicularity of lines,” Petrov thankfully answered. “Perpendicularity and color are not related at all.”

“Wait, Wait... You have confused me completely,” Nedozaytsev said looking from one meeting attendee to another. “So what is our problem? Color or perpendicularity?”

Morkoveva uttered incomprehensible sound and shook her head. She was also confused.

“Both of them,” Petrov said softly.

“I cannot understand it,” Nedozaytsev said eyeing his fingers. “There are simple requirements. Only seven red lines... If twenty lines are required, I would understand difficulty! But we need just seven lines. Simple task. Our customers require seven perpendicular lines. Right?”

Morkoveva nodded.

“And Sidoryahin also does not see problem,” Nedozaytsev said. “Am I right, Sidoryahin? Well then. So what prevents us to perform the task?”

“Geometry,” Petrov said with a sigh.

“Well, just ignore geometry, that's all!” Morkoveva said.

Petrov stayed silent trying to gather his thoughts. His brain came up with one colorful metaphor after another which would explain to others a surreal level of situation. Unfortunately, all metaphors began with the word ‘f#ck!’ that was totally inappropriate in a business conversation.

Nedozaytsev, who tired of waiting for an answer, said: “Petrov, answer in one word can you do it or cannot? I understand that you are a particular specialist and do not see the big picture. Is it so difficult to draw seven lines? We are bullshitting for two hours!”

“Indeed,” Sidoryahin said. “You are only criticizing others and saying ‘Impossible! Impossible!’ Offer us a solution! Even fool can criticize, forgive me for the expression. You are a pro!”

Petrov proclaimed wearily: “Okay. I will draw you two perpendicular red lines. These two lines will be definitely perpendicular. I will draw the rest transparently. They will be transparent and you cannot see them but I will draw them. Will you be satisfied with these?”

“Will these satisfy us?” Morkoveva turned to Lenochka. “Yes, we will be satisfied.”

“Please, couple of lines should be green,” Lenochka added. “And I have a question, can I ask?”

“Yes,” Petrov allowed her by dead voice.

“Can you do one line in the form of a kitten?”

Petrov asked after few minutes of silence: “What?”

“In form of a kitten. Kitten. Our users love small pets. It would be very cool...”

“No,” said Petrov.


“I certainly can depict a cat for you. Although I am not an artist, I can try. Only it will be no longer line. This will be a cat. Line and a cat are two different things.”

“A kitten,” Morkoveva clarified. “Not a cat, just a kitten.. so small and cute... Cats are...”

“Doesn’t matter,” Petrov shook his head.

“In no way?” Lenochka asked disappointedly.

“Petrov, why did you not listen her to the end?” Nedozaytsev said angrily. “She did not end yet and you already said ‘No’”.

“I understood her idea,” Petrov said without raising his eyes from the table. “It is not possible to draw a line in the form of a kitten.”

“And it is not necessary then,” Lenochka enabled. “What about a little bird?”

Petrov looked at her silently and Lenochka understood.

“It is not necessary then,” she repeated again.

Nedozaytsev slammed his palm on the table: “So where were we? What are we going to do?”

“Seven red lines,” Morkoveva said. “Two of them are red, two are green, and the rest of them are transparent. Right? I understand correctly, don't I?”

“Yes,” Sidoryahin had confirmed before Petrov managed to open his mouth.

Nedozaytsev nodded satisfied: “That’s great... Is that it, colleagues? Time to go back to work. Any questions?”

“Oh,” Lenochka said suddenly remembering something. “We also have a red balloon! Tell me, please, can you inflate the balloon for us?”

“Yes, by the way,” Morkoveva said. “Let's discuss this quickly now to avoid a additional meeting.”

“Petrov,” Nedozaytsev turned to him. “Can we do that?”

“How is the balloon related to me?” asked Petrov in surprise.

“It is red,” Lenochka explained.

Petrov was keeping silent stupidly, his fingertips were quivering nervously.

“Petrov,” Nedozaytsev repeated his question nervously. “Can you do it or cannot? This is simple question.”

“In principle I can,” Petrov said carefully. “But...”

“Well,” Nedozaytsev nodded. “Visit their company and inflate the balloon. If necessary, we will cover your travel expenses.”

“Can we do it tomorrow?” Morkoveva asked.

“Of course,” Nedozaytsev answered. “No problem... Well, is that all? Excellent. Good job! Thank you all and goodbye!”

Petrov blinked several times to return to real world, then stood up and went slowly toward the exit. Lenochka caught up with him near the door.

“Can I ask you?” Lenochka said blushing. “When you inflate the balloon, can you inflate it in the form of a kitten?”

Petrov sighed.

“I can do everything,” he said. “I can do absolutely everything. I am a professional.”