White Ford Taurus

So, listening to the 24 hours of SQL Pass webinars. The current topic is “I Was Young and Didn’t Know Any Better” and the panelists are sharing war stories of mistakes they’ve made.

So far they all sound familiar.  So I thought I’d share one of mine.  Well technically not my mistake, but one that I adopted.

Many moons ago, I was advising a company that was involved in building websites for car dealerships.  One day they needed to do an update to the live data.  This was back in the days when all code and updates were cowboy updates.  Of course you ran the query on the live database the first time. You didn’t necessarily have a stating database or even as was later discovered, good backups.

Apparently a customer needed to update a car in their inventory.

UPDATE AUTO set cartype=’White Ford Taurus’

Nice, syntactically valid… and a disaster.  Ayup.  Suddenly every car in the database at every dealership was now a White Ford Taurus.

Ever since then we called that the “White Ford Taurus” problem.

Now, I might mock doing updates on live data, but sometimes its necessary.  I’m curious how others prevent their own “White Ford Taurus” problems.

Personally, I just now make EXTRA effort to make sure I have a WHERE clause.

But I also tend to almost always do it as:

UPDATE AUTO set cartype=’White Ford Taurus’
if @@rowcount<> 1 rollback tran else commit tran

Or sometimes I’ll simply hardcode the rollback tran, run it once, see what happens and then rerun it with a commit tran.

So, if rather than updating the 1 row I want, I find myself updating 1000s of rows, I’ll catch myself and be safe.

Sure, it’s not perfect, both it and using the WHERE clause require me to make sure I don’t forget them.  But the more ways to catch it, the better.

Obviously avoiding ad-hoc updates on live data is preferable, but when you can’t, be extra careful.  And of course make sure you have good backups. But that goes without saying.



4 thoughts on “White Ford Taurus

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