The Story of Buttercup, the Splunk Pwny

UPDATED with new video on 8/13/15:

Original post from 2013:
You may have noticed that we’re quite fond of ponies here at Splunk.  Many have asked what the connection is, so I sent around the story below a while back.  Enough people keep asking that we decided to share with a wider audience… Enjoy:

The Story of Buttercup, the Splunk Pwny
as told by Amritpal Bath

Back around the middle of 2006, engineering already had a large backlog of fixes that needed to be made to the codebase – removing the use of various open source projects, writing our own libraries that would run on more platforms, etc.  It was well understood that some of these projects would be pretty nightmarish – someone would have to be dedicated to them full time if they were ever to get done.

Kim Wallace, our release engineer at the time, told us about a friend of hers.  “He’s only 30 and he’s been working with UNIX since the 80’s!”  That was impressive.  Brad Hall and Stephen Sorkin had both worked with him previously.  Brad said the guy was awesome, and Sorkin flat out said, “Mitch is a badass.”  That was also impressive.

Erik Swan wanted to bring Mitch in right away, but apparently he was reluctant.  According to Kim, he was taking some time off and wanted to do things like clean up his house.  Swan yelled back, “Clean his house?  Tell him we’ll send Amrit over there to clean the place!”  Thanks, Boss.

Whether or not he believed that, Mitch eventually visited Splunk and came on board.  The long haired, trench coat wearing DJ for the Death Guild started studying the codebase, and revisions started pouring in during the nights.


It turned out that Mitch was, as the kids say, “the shit.”  He knew everything about everything, and was crazy productive.  Since then, it’s been said many times that Mitch can churn out more high quality code than any one programmer should be able to on any given day – and he does it day after day.  If you don’t get it yet, everyone was impressed.

So we had to keep him.  And Swan tried.  “Hey Mitch, do you wanna go full time?”  “No…”  “Hey Mitch, you should go full time.”  “Nah.”  “Hey Mitch, are you ready to go full time?”  “No.”  One day, an exasperated Swan sat down and asked Mitch, “What is it that you want?  What would make you switch to full time?  Do you want more money?  More machines?  What??”

Mitch looked at Swan with his trademark half-smile and said, “I want a pony.”  If we could have figured out how to fit one in the King St. office’s elevator, Splunk would have EBayed a Shetland then and there.  But alas, we could not provide Mitch with a pony.  We must have won him over with our charm, however, as he ended up joining as a full time employee anyway.


Fast forward to November 2007.  I was walking through a Target store and saw a toy pony.  “Cool, some kid’s gonna have a nice Christmas.”  Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the thing move its head and shake its tail.  Oh shit – things just got real.  We had to get this for Mitch – it just made too much sense.  But you can’t fit a box that size in the back of a Trans Am, so I did the next best thing and emailed Swan with my findings.  He replied almost immediately, “Order it!  Expense it!”  Our expense reports were silly back then.

Around a week later I got an IM from Morganne Beck. “Umm.. you need to come up here and explain something. There’s something here for you.”  We ran upstairs and saw the big cardboard box covered with pink pony stickers on the side.  Apparently, the conversation with the delivery guy had gone something like this:

Morganne: “Umm.. this isn’t ours.”
UPS guy: “Yes it is.”
Morganne: “It can’t be for us.”
UPS guy: “Trust me, it’s for you.”
Morganne: “You don’t understand, we’re a software company.  We’re not ordering ponies.”
UPS guy: “YOU don’t understand – the address label says it’s for your office.”
Morganne: “Let me see the name on the labe…… it’s probably for us.”


We opened the box and were greeted by a cardboard flap with an amusing message: “To ensure that your children have a magical experience with the FurReals pony, please assemble before presenting it to them.”  We peeled the flap back and immediately understood, as a disembodied horse head stared back at us.  Awesome.  Keen observers will note that this hilarious sign still lives above the entrance to the South Side game room.

Karandeep Bains and I ran to Walgreens and picked up some Spiderman wrapping paper.  We assembled the pony, and Deep filled her up with batteries and turned her on.  If you’ve never seen this procedure before, it’s… It’s filthy. (http://bit.ly/ZZ8hHp)  After turning the pony off again, we wrapped her up and left her waiting at Mitch’s desk – still in the shape of a pony. (http://bit.ly/TMyaDU)  Subtlety has never been our strong suit.

Not long after, Mitch walked into the office and we furiously sent IMs: “He’s here!  Come downstairs!”  Mitch walked over to Swan’s desk to check in and make sure there were no fires that needed to be put out, as usual.  He stood angled toward his own desk, but didn’t notice a thing, so we had to do something.  Deep strolled over to Buttercup and did the nasty again (turned her on).  She shook her head and neighed, and Mitch simply said, “oh.. my god,” as he went over to unwrap her.

It was love at first sight.

(No, really, we were worried about him for a while.)


Amritpal Bath

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