Pollyanna reply-- In Like Flint

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Flint replied to a "who do we trust" question the following way. Since I have heard this a number of times in private, I would like to give a reply. Apologies to G. North/Milne ----------------

"Steve, the fact that most of the world is doing very little about the y2k problem is, face it, most consistent with the notion that the problem itself isn't very large."

Oh really, hmm, lets see, the Citicorp has spent over $650M and isn't done yet. The Feds just asked for another $3B and aren't even close to being half done. I guess this is just programmer welfare/pork while they work on a few small problems to sharpen their skills!! Oh and lets not forget the Department of Defense. Sec Def Cohen has said he will likely suspend all new developement software work (including weapons) and apply those resources to the "small" Y2K problem.

"I'm not arguing that the problem is small, I'm simply pointing out that this is what your observations most clearly indicate."

No, you are pointing out a less than dramatic response by the media/public. Y2K is the antithesis of the 90's media story. There is nothing to photograph (no dead/dying bodies, no sex, no heroes or identifiable villains) and deadly dull sound bites. 99% of the American public are computer illiterates. (Being able to point and click does not give one technical insight.)

"If you assume that you are right, and that everyone in a position to know their own problems are all wrong, and therefore aren't doing as much as you'know' they ought to be, then of course you can conclude that the eventual outcome will be very bad. But this conclusion is not inescapable, it is an artifact of your presuppositions."

That is one of the most tortured exercises in non-thinking I have ever heard. First, your ASSumption is that "those in a position to know their own problems" actually do know the extent of their Y2K problem and are willingly communicating that to the public. Two problems with that position. First, those entities which have made a thorough assessment are only issuing the most vague PR statements. Very happy face, upbeat statements mostly which end with a terse "and testing will continue into 3rd quarter 1999". Name one Fortune 100 company that has said they will FINISH all remediation/testing by Dec 31, 1998. That was the deadline many announced 3 years ago. Second, even amoung some major companys, Y2K has received minor attention by higher management. THEY REALLY DON'T KNOW!!! and thats amazing only if you have never met them....

"Taking all the precautions you can is still eminently sensible."

Can't you at least stick to one side of the argument? Either there is a serious,potentially life threatening problem or there isn't. Milne would say that your kind is exactly what we don't need on the other side of Y2K. Perhaps you will consider starvation and "artifact".

-- R. D..Herring (drherr@erols.com), September 30, 1998


I was trying to illustrate a basic principle of logic, to which you appear allergic.

Consider: Citicorp has announced a remediation budget of $650 million (over 3 years). Now, this is either a large amount or it isn't. You can't have it both ways. As a dollar amount, it is large. Is this 'proof' that the problem is large? Fine. But $650 million is only 2% of Citicorp's IT budget. Surely you won't argue that the same amount is both large and small, and that *both* interpretations support your foregone conclusions?

I didn't 'assume' that those in a position to know actually do know. Probably some have a better handle on it than others. I pointed out that we observe a given (reported) level of effort. If you assume it's sufficient, you conclude the problem is small. If you assume it's inadequate, you conclude the problem is large. Either conclusion is based on an assumption rather than on the observation itself; and the same observation is therefore used to support opposite conclusions! I tried to explain that when you assume your conclusion as a postulate, any observation can be interpreted in support of that conclusion.

Gary North and Paul Milne need no apologies. Both of them 'know' the problem is unsurmountable. Both of them use supporting data as evidence. Both of them use contradictory data as evidence. North has even used *lack* of data as evidence. When you start with an unshakeable conclusion, everything supports it. As your message indicates.

I personally feel the preponderance of evidence available is consistent with a high probability of widescale failures; I'm prepared today to live for a year with no external supply of power, food, water, and many other essentials. I think this is only prudent. I see no need to become irrational to convince myself I'm right. You shouldn't either. The information we *do* have is spotty, largely unreliable and obviously subject to varying interpretation. It really is possible to prepare for the worst without absolute foreknowledge that the worst is coming. If my preparations prove unnecessary, I won't mind. I don't need to be right, I need to be ready. So do you.

As a mental exercise, try starting with the assumption that our lifestyle will undergo nothing more than temporary inconveniences, and re-examine your data in this light. You find that it takes on a totally different meaning. Instead of nobody being compliant, you notice that everyone expects to be. Instead of efforts being inadequate, you notice that organizations consider them realistic. Instead of equating incomplete compliance with certain failure, you notice that near-compliance means minor problems. Citicorp's $650 million means the problem is large, but 2% of IT budget means it's manageable. Announcements that organizations plan to continue testing right up to the end is good news - would you rather they quit testing? Those who underestimated the task are increasing their budgets, as they should. Lawyers are prohibiting their clients from declaring readiness, as well as lack of it. And so on.

Go ahead, you can do it. Helps you understand just how ambiguous our information really is. Fanaticism is the enemy of thought.

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), October 01, 1998.

Whoa, settle down guys.

Whether Y2K is a bump or the Big One, taking precautions is still sensible. I've mentioned in another thread the various potshots that Mother Nature has taken at me over the last decade. I will always have enough "stuff" to hole up for a week or two... regardless of what Y2K will do. It's done that for me, anyway.

I guess what gets everyone edgy is not knowing how it'll all turn out. Many people *think* they know, and tempers tend to flare when they run into other people who "know" that it'll turn out completely the opposite.

It's a truism, courtesy of Sen. Bennett, that if we were at the end of Dec. 1999 with the current level of preparation we'd be toast. But there's 15 months left; time to get at least some things fixed; time to get your food pantry together, your generator, your relocation, whatever; time to help neighbors and relatives prepare. Time, in fact, for everything but panic.

And remember -- just because XYZ Corp just finished assessing all their systems doesn't mean that they don't have some in remediation, some complete, some tested, some back in production. That's what annoys me the most about Gary North's analyses; he's smart enough to know better. But the question remains, will XYZ have enough done to keep going when the Zeros hit?

I suppose I ought to explain my position further, lest I be blindly labeled a Polyanna. The place I work at is compliant; a neighbor's employer is compliant. We can't be the only two in the world. Many small businesses in this area have only recently bought a computer & can fall back on paper & pencil easily enough.

I'm concerned about the financial system. We're a little beyond the paycheck-to-paycheck routine, so I'll have a small amount of cash somewhere safe. I think that utilities & transportation will be hampered to some extent (half capacity?) but won't completely collapse... the recession now beginning will reduce the demand for both, perhaps to the point where they won't be overtaxed.

I don't know for sure, I can only guess. What I do know is that my family will be ready.

"I will not fear. Fear is the mind killer." - Frank Herbert, Dune

-- Larry Kollar (lekollar@nyx.net), October 01, 1998.


Thanks for your serious contribution to the debate.

I want to examine one of your statements carefully. You state that $650 million is only 2% of Citicorp's IT budget. I seriously question that. I looked at their recent financial statements, which don't mention their IT budget but do mention Total Operating Expense, which is roughly $14 billion annually. Let us assume that the Citicorp Y2k budget of $650 million is being spread over about 3 years, so spending at maybe $220 million per year (with the recent increase of $50 million, I'd guess that if anything it's higher annually than I'm estimating). That would make their Y2k budget somewhere in the 1.5-2% of their entire operating budget, not just of their IT budget. In fact, the second quarter 1998 report from Citicorp explicitly mentions Y2k as one of the main reasons that their total operating expenses were up 21% from last year.

Net conclusion to me is that Citicorp thinks their Y2k problem is closer to big than to small.

If you have more detailed financial info than what I have found, please provide, since I consider the Citicorp Y2k budget to be a meaningful piece of data in evaluating Y2k, and I'd like to see that assumption tested in rigorous debate. <<<<<>>>>>.....

-- Dan Hunt (dhunt@hostscorp.com), October 01, 1998.

How much of that IT budget is "routine hosuekeeping" and "data entry"? Those are ongoing required expenses to stay in business (audit money, receive money, spend money, loan money) and so have to continue, regardless of Y2K or not.

That is, what percent of their actual "programming" budget within the entire IT budget is Y2K related? If the entire company's operating budget is being impacted that severely by Y2K, then including the "housekeeping" budget with the programming budget minimizes the apparent problem, and makes the impact of the 500 M (?) spent to date much larger.

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (cook.r@csaatl.com), October 01, 1998.

Hi Dan

You are correct, I was wrong. Citicorp is spending 2% of total operating expenses, not IT budget. I read an estimate that the IT budget is about 10% of Citicorp's total expenses, which means y2k is consuming about 20% of their IT budget.

Someone else (Gartner Group?) estimated that large US organizations are spending an average of maybe 15% of IT budget on y2k, so Citicorp is right in the ballpark. Whether or not the entire ballpark will be crushed by North's Asteroid, I cannot say.

Some of the 'housekeeping' expenses are being redirected, and economists have observed reduced industry expenditures on things like upgrades, consulting, and new development. Hardware sales appear to be a wash, with the reduction in purchases in some organizations made up for by replacement strategies in others.

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), October 01, 1998.

Well Flint, I'm allergic to sloppy logic.

1.) $650M is a "big" figure to any company. Thanks DH for the assist in pointing out that it isn't 4% of IT. In their 10K report they briefly mention deferring other IT projects. Therefore, as a relative hit on the IT budget (based on my experience with a large regional bank), the real percentage over 3 years is probably close to 30%. But even that doesn't tell the whole story because of the $320M spent to date (over 6 quarters), they spent $90M in the second quarter alone (see Aug 10K). Lastly, remember that the Y2K expense is mostly a systems analysis/programming and computer time expense. The normal total IT budget includes everything plus SA/programming for maintenance and ongoing developement. Therefore, Y2K is a much larger percentage of the SA/programming/computer time sub-budget. As far as I know, Citicorp did NOT purchase/lease a separate mainframe as a "time machine" for parallel testing (would love to know if anyone has differing info).

Look, I understand that you are saying that if you take PR statements at face value someone could conclude "whats all the worry about". However, if you do recognize that a PR statement collides with your realworld experience, then it is "logical" to express concern. In this case, ignoring these warnings could be fatal to your fiscal and/or physical health.

I reject your "postulate" that my conclusion is based on an "assumption" rather than an observation. (Boy it takes a contorsionist to reply to your sentences!!) Observation: Citicorp did not start on large scale Y2K until 1997. Observation: They allocated insufficient resources by their own admission. Observation: They have NOT finished remediation and testing will be in 1999. Conclusion: They may or may not finish on time, but it will be close. Observation:Y2K is the largest IT project ever undertaken by Citicorp. In remediating code, you NEVER find all the problems prior to implementation. Its axiomatic to a programmer that for every 5 problems fixed, you will introduce a new error. Y2K is somewhat unique because its virtually impossible to test the entire computer mass at the same time. Conclusion: No matter how well done, some failures will occur post Y2K. Observation: Citicorp is further ahead in remediation than most companies of its size. Conclusion: Many companies of their size will have large scale failure. Etc,etc.

"Fanaticism is the enemy of thought." (but may save your life when you don't understand the cyber velociraptor about to bite your ass!)

-- R. D..Herring (drherr@erols.com), October 01, 1998.

From the beginning Flint has been a weepy eyed pollyanna. The basis of much of his arguement has been like this: "The Firehouse only sent out one firetruck, therefore the blaze is inconsequential". Never mind that it is a five alram fire. Flint judges the extent of the danger by the response itself. Only a fool would do that. And Flint fits the bill nicely.

His writing ALWAAYS indicates that he is preparing and then goes a long way to detract others form doing the same. He talks out of both sides of his face.

I think it is also instructive to understand that Flint lives in a heavily populated area. He will not or can not move away. This colors his thinking. He MUST believe that he will be OK in that situation, therefore the problems CANNOT be so bad.

Typical pollyanna thinking. And masterful fence sitting.

-- Paul Milne (fedinfo@halifax.com), October 07, 1998.

Last time I tried sitting on a fence it hurt my bottom.

Sitting isn't going to fix the problem, nor alert other people, nor prepare yourself/your family IF the troubles occur.

Paul, I agree: get off the fence and get to work. Then maybe the Polyanna predictions will become true.

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (cook.r@csaatl.com), October 07, 1998.

Once again, Paul Milne uses insults and name-calling to make his point. This time it's a little more mild. I see it as counter-productive. When a reader, especially new ones, sees that type of behavior on one side of a debate that reader is naturally drawn toward the other side. Find a better way to get your point across, Mr. Milne, or shut up.

-- Buddy Y. (buddy@bellatlantic.net), October 07, 1998.

I agree with Buddy. Besides, when new people see other posters being blasted, do you think they will want to participate in the forum? What if they have serious questions they need answered? Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but there is no need to be rude. You can educate people with facts, Paul, you don't have to belittle them in the meantime.

-- Gayla Dunbar (privacy@please.com), October 07, 1998.

Someone said over at csy2k that Milne was trying to be the alpha male of the ng. Looks like he is trying the same s*it here..

Go away Miline

Sean in Indy T?T

-- (papaw@my-dejanews.com), October 07, 1998.

Sorry. Milne go away.

Sean in IndyT?T

-- (papaw@my-dejanews.com), October 07, 1998.

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