Ed Yourdon's latest essay...

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Ed Yourdon has published a new essay that outlines where he stands today (November 1998) and addresses many of the issues we have been discussing here in this forum recently. If you haven't already read "The Y2K Crystal Ball: What's Going to Happen on 1 Jan 2000?", you should...slowly and carefully. You'll find it here:


IMHO, he addresses the current state of affairs all too well. As a programmer with nearly 20 years of experience, I found the following statement from the essay personally hit home very hard:

With few, if any, exceptions, all of the optimistic news about Y2K has been self-reported status information; even if the people who tell us the good news are honest, sincere, and competent (an assumption we all have to evaluate for ourselves), they may still be wrong. Ask anyone who has worked on large, complex software projects: things often seem great until the system testing and integration begins. Even if dozens of serious bugs are discovered during testing, the project team and the project manager will exude confidence that the deadline will be met  right up until the day before the deadline, they'll earnestly tell you that the system-killer bug they just found is absolutely, positively, the last bug.

(The bolded words above are Ed's emphasis, not mine)

The average non-programmer would probably not even have noticed this final sentence (in light of the other more interesting sections), but I have seen this effect in action time and time again. This is how it's done in the real world, folks. The size of the task is almost always underestimated while the abilities of the development staff to cope with unrealistic schedule is nearly always overestimated. And nobody wants to be the messenger of the bad news.

In college, I had a Romanian professor for one of my classes (Prof. Theodore Rus -- compiler theory -- for you technically inclined) and every day, he would begin the class with the same 8 words:

"You must remember the size of the task."

He had a thick accent ("Zoo must veemember zee size of zee task" and he would repeat these words often -- emphatically. At first, we all laughed and joked about this seeming idiosyncracy -- we were all convinced he was about 6 bricks shy. By the end of the class, however, we all understood -- all too well -- exactly what he meant.

So it also is with Y2K.


-- Arnie Rimmer (Arnie_Rimmer@usa.net), November 18, 1998


Thanks, Arnie, for the link. Thanks, Ed, for a thoughtful and thought provoking piece.

-- Tricia the Canuck (jayles@telusplanet.net), November 18, 1998.

This is prehaps the most balanced and responsible essay on the status of Y2K that you could ask for. Basically, it admittedly boils down to "nobody knows", but it gives so much in the way of determining what makes sense for you, and why it is truly a personal decision.

I think that this essay has come at the right time, too. This forum thrives on dissecting the latest "news", whether it be time dilation on PCs, a rumor at somebody's bank, the significance of Newt Gingrich stepping down, etc., etc. These events help our personal Y2K "barometers" gauge what we should be doing, but no matter what, the reality is that we will not know, for sure, what Y2K will bring until it happens.

-- Jack (jsprat@eld.net), November 18, 1998.

Ed's essay is a breath of fresh air in a sea of hype, denial, and speculation. It's uncommon to hear someone with his experience admit that he just doesn't know the outcome. I respect his ability to size up a situation and give advice based on what he sees, as opposed to what he thinks he sees or what we WANTS to see (which is all to common in many chat groups).

Another great essay along similar lines, but with a "what WE can ALL do" included can be found at the Futurist web site. The URL for the essay summary is http://www.wfs.org/y2ksumm.htm.

-- Ted Markow (tgmarkow@cmpco.com), November 18, 1998.

Well written, but (as always) let me take issue with the "nobody knows" mantra. I agree nobody knows EXACTLY what will happen. But we are now close enough to say that this cruise ship WILL hit THAT iceberg. The question now is whether the ship will sink or will it limp to port with the dead and wounded. Right now, the seas are getting rougher, the weather colder and we can't seem to find the Captain.

-- R. D..Herring (drherr@erols.com), November 18, 1998.

We've already hit the iceburg. We hit it in 1997. It just isn't obvious the ship is sinking yet.

We can still get on a lifeboat before they start rationing seats...

-- Kevin (mixesmusic@worldnet.att.net), November 19, 1998.

What would Sherlock Holmes say after evaluating the evidence?

-- Andy (andy_rowland@msn.com), November 19, 1998.

Yes "nobody knows", but organisations have to ask themselves, what would happen if their systems do not work or require substantial fixes. Can they support them, can they do without them, can they find alternatives, can they muck through, would anyone even notice. Organisations will have to gear themselves to "muck through" ie survive as best they can.

-- Richard Dale (rdale@figroup.co.uk), November 19, 1998.

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