Programmer Draft : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

I'm surprised, if Ed believes Y2K as he appears to believe it is, that he has not yet proposed a Y2K programmer's draft.

The idea here, since the federal and state governments are so far behind in their preparations, is that the government pass a law that all programmers who are not currently working on Y2K remediation in companies are hereby drafted to fix governmental Y2K problems, and will remain at such posts until problems are repaired.

The end result would be that governments would, in effect, FORCE companies to move all their people into Y2K remediation, at least on the org chart.

There might be a few exemptions, like people who are required for maintenance and continuing to operate "existing" systems.

It would probably kill most of the innovation in the software industry, but then again, how much of that will matter if the economy stops functioning in early 2000?

It's probably too late for something like this.

Since I'm a programmer who is not in a Y2K job, maybe I should find one?

-- Glen Austin (, December 11, 1998


Hi Glen:

The executive orders that are already on the books provide for a 'draft': One example...consider the following from EO 12656:

"Develop... plans and systems to ensure that the Nation's human resources are available to meet essential military and civilian needs in national security emergencies"

So, a national security emergency/martial law declaration would be needed also. The govenment is still wearing an official Y2K happy face but this could change once whatever they are putting in place (Koskinen's crisis management remarks) is done. Then, look out. Hopefully, none of this will happen, but I wouldn't bet on it.

Go to Gary North's Martial Law category for a lot of the details.

-- Rob Michaels (, December 11, 1998.

This of course assumes that there are numerous programmers lying around available for conscription. But there aren't. How many out of work programmers do you know?

They've got to come from somewhere. Are you going to massively redistribute existing programmers? Perhaps steal them from other companies who are struggling with their own Y2K deadlines? You think maybe the companies or the programmers are merrily going to go along with such an idea? It would literally put many companies out of business. It's not very likely at this point in time.

While some isolated conscription might be possible in some very limited/rare instances, the bottom line is that qualified programmers are not nearly as easy to come by as simple cannon fodder and large-scale technical conscription is just not feasible.

Now you might argue that if TSHTF, there will be lots of unemployed programmers made suddenly available. But I would argue that if you wait that long, you've lost not only the battle but the war as well. Despite some highly publicized events to the contrary, you cannot create a qualified programmer with a 6-week 'boot camp'.

No, the time for dramatically increasing the supply of qualified programmers has long since passed.

Bottom line: The hen only lays so many eggs and the hen does not care about executive orders.


-- Arnie Rimmer (, December 11, 1998.

Hi Glen. Just to challenge a few assumptions.. 1. Ed has proposed a programmer draft. I don't think you read his book. 2. I am an out-of-work programmer and have been for two months. Meanwhile Congress has passed a law allowing more H-1B work visas. What this means is that people from other countries come here to do technical work for less money than American programmers. Entire IS

-- Amy (, December 11, 1998.

Entire IS departments have been replaced by foreigners in some cases. My point being, if the government needs workers, all they have to do is pony up the money. A draft isn't even necessary.

-- Amy (, December 11, 1998.

With over 32 years experience as a programmer and analysts, I have I have een many bizarre and hilarious situations(including recent Y2K funnies). One of the potentially biggest jokes will occur when all of the code remidiated eleswhere in the world for U. S. companies, kicks in on 20000101. It is often hard enough to get in sync with the guy in the next cubicle, let along half way around the world. When that code doesn't work there will be pandimonium! I would love to see and hear it, but not be involved. This could be the biggest joke of all.

-- curtis schalek (, December 11, 1998.

I've had to coordinate and test and fix and retest the results of that... (of different programmers from different offices spread around the world.)

It is hard. Real hard. Takes a longer time to get turnarounds and 'explanations" and "test case examples of failures" to alll the right spots in all the offices. Sometimes (oftentimes ?) it takes longer to explain the problem clearly across time zones than it does to change the code.

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (, December 11, 1998.

As a military vet and ex IT guy, I just conjured up a very strange image....

A platoon of recruits double timing down the road flanked by a single drill sargeant, all dressed in black wing tips, starched short sleeved white shirts, pocket protector (with pencils and pens), black poly blend slacks, black rimmed glasses, and black clip-on tie (ala IBM, circa 1965). Chanting in time with their pace...

"I WANNA BE A COBOL RANGER, I WANNA GO TO THE BELTWAY TOWN.... y2k.....Y2K.....good for you!.....GOOD FOR YOU!.....good for me!.....GOOD for me! good......UM GOOD.....real good.....REAL GOOD.....".


-- MVI (, December 11, 1998.

The joke around oot office six months ago was that the Feds might start up a new version of the CCC - a Civilian Computer Corp.

So I asked Ed Yourdon about the chances of such a draft coming into existence.

He was skeptical of such a thing happening, since there would be a real possibility of highly disgruntled programmers flooding the planet with millions of computer viruses in protest.

-- Scott (, December 11, 1998.

Revenge of the nerds. But that is what Y2K is already -- "flooding the planet with millions of computer" failures.

xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx

-- Leska (, December 11, 1998.

Nice to see you posting Amy, thought you were MIA.

Just how much damage could a bunch of truly P.O.ed programmers do? Think about it, if Y2K was unintended, how deep would the pile of sh*t get ala revenge of the nerds? And who would watch over their work, other P.O.ed programmers?

Then again, a *very* desperate government might stoop *very* low to inforce it's will.

-- Uncle Deedah (, December 11, 1998.


Your not being a programmer, I can understand why a draft might seem like a sensible idea.

It's not.

A well-known software management rule factually states: "Throwing more programmers at a late software project makes it later".

Since all late software projects are due to inept management, and Y2k and its probable after-effects are nothing if not a notable instance of gross mismanagement, adding more programmers to those Y2k projects that are already running late will assign them a certain death.

These shops are NOT late because they are understaffed, though that is typically offered as an excuse. Adding more resources simply overburdens the management skills of those who couldn't manage the smaller initial staff in the first place. Furthermore, adding more resources also increases the number, initialization, and maintenance of communication nodes among each member in the project. Soon, all one does is talk/report/meet all day, and nothing gets done.

The solution was to have bitten the quarterly earnings bullet much sooner and have started remediation years ago. This didn't happen. Generally speaking, there is no other solution.

I wish this were not the case. Software is not piling sandbags -- it is the development and implementation of logical abstractions in an unyielding technical morass.

-- Nathan (, December 11, 1998.

Oops, sorry Glen, on the re-read, I see that you ARE a programmer...

-- Nathan (, December 11, 1998.

..yeah, its like the old joke. Get nine pregnant women and you can have a baby in one month.


-- MVI (, December 11, 1998.

The point Nathan makes is absolutely correct - and probably a better reason (than the point I made above) as to why a technical conscription is highly unlikely.(Assuming we don't want to shoot ourselves in the other foot while we're at it.)

-- Arnie Rimmer (, December 11, 1998.

You _really_ don't want a conscripted, pissed-off programmer anywhere near code.

Ever secretly think of entering "delete *.* /y" in a program?

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (, December 13, 1998.

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