"It's Y2K, Stupid"greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
It's not about North, Milne, Yourdon, Hamasaki, Big Dog or the rest of the Doombrood. We didn't start it, cause it, aggravate it or determine its outcome.
It's about Y2K, stupid:
Starting too late, spending too little, drifting deadlines, minimal testing, uncertainty about embedded systems and misinformation, some intentional, some unintentional about it all.
And it's about:
The rest of the world being even that much further behind than the U.S., while 70% of the code is outside our borders.
It's not about opinion or temperament or political convictions, it's about code. It's about Y2K, stupid.
The K boys spun the Senate report into oblivion. That was the drill this week. Give them credit. But don't be taken in by it.
NOTHING HAS CHANGED with respect to uncertainty. Nothing can change, not because we distrust good news (bring it on, bring it on, bring it on, we're hungry and thirsty for every swallow) but because it is too late to fix Y2K.
As Hamasaki said in a simple statement of reality, we have ALREADY moved into fix on failure as the strategy, not the conscious strategy of all but the de facto strategy, based on reality. Will the Gartner group be proven right that we can fix on failure within 72 hours? Don't think so, but sure hope so. Will Infomagic be proven right that the world system will collapse under the weight of the noise? Don't think so, but it is technically possible.
No one can pierce the uncertainty until we endure the event. That's also a fact.
Consequently, Yourdon didn't start this forum in the belief that we bozos would arrive at certainty or even sure knowledge about Y2K. It's impossible to do so in principle due to the singularity and universality of this event, balanced against the indefinitely complex nature of the world system.
This forum isn't about the uncertainty of what will happen next year, which is axiomatic, it's about preparation: physical and intellectual. In the face of uncertainty over an event as potentially diastrous (see the Senate letter, don't blame me) as Y2K, prudent people prepare for the worst.
That the K-boys explicitly urge against preparing for the worst exposes their criminal lack of integrity, all fudged by hypocritical realpolitik about our supply chain. AS if people around the world wouldn't cheerfully stand in line this year to share what minimal supplies can be manufactured in solidarity with each other. 90% would, but our leaders despise the citizenry they purport to lead.
Might your preparations prove laughably too much next year? Yup. Might they prove laughably inadequate next year? Yup. If money or certainty matter that much to you, you're in for the roughest ride of your life.
Prepare with everything you've got while being equally prepared to let it all go as circumstances warrant. Be furious about Y2K, cry over it and have a big laugh ALL at the same time.
Sorry to be so absolute, but if you grasp this post, you GI. If you don't, you don't. That's life. Put this up on your refridgerator as an encouragement if you need to, because the spinners have barely begun trying to blame you and/or make you feel like an idiot.
If, miraculously, the Gartner group and the K-boys "win", it won't make them any the less phony or you the fool. Because it would indeed be a miracle, as absurd and wonderful as life itself. And the pollyanna's can't understand why we will all be so very happy. That's why they DGI.
Sadly, a Y2K bump is a miracle we have no right to and it is extraordinarily unlikely. Therefore, continue preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. "It's Y2K, stupid."
-- BigDog (BigDog@duffer.com), March 11, 1999
Makes me wonder what the Spaceshuttle Challenger Crew would of thought of the strategy of "fix on failure!"
-- John (JBHager@webtv.net), March 11, 1999.
BigDog; Thats some powerful statement to encourage our return to focus. Keep it up. We are all inclined to wander. Thanks,
-- Watchful (email@example.com), March 11, 1999.
-- herecomestheboss (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 11, 1999.
"our leaders despise the citizenry they purport to lead. " BigNob, the preceding quote from you is THE primary reason you and your pack of paranoids have been, and will (I hope) continue to be relegated to the fringes.
I quote the following from a Flint post from earlier today. Nothing could be more eloquent on exposing GI "logic"... "First, we don't trust our collective ability to find and fix these bugs. Small remediation budgets are evidence that the problem is underestimated. Conversely, large budgets are evidence that the problem is intractable. Isolated claims of success are at best too small to be meaningful (and are typically rejected as hype). Isolated claims of hopelessness are evidence that the entire problem is hopeless, regardless of who made the claim. The few geeks who are pessimists are cited as front-line indications that we're hosed. The large majority of geeks who are optimists are cited as showing that geeks can be as blind as the general public. Second, we don't trust the media. At best, they're lazy and ignorant. At worst, they're being controlled by inimical secret interests who determine what is written. Ironically, almost everything we know about the whole problem, we learned through the media. When we find URLs to pessimistic articles, we quote them endlessly. Any URLs to success stories are rejected as PR spin being parroted by the lazy media. The fact that stories on both sides are often written by the same individual doesn't bother us a bit. If he agrees with us, it's facts. If he disagrees, he's clueless. Third, we don't trust the government. The fact that almost everything we know about the government is reported by the (untrustworthy) media doesn't occur to us. If it does occur to us, we apply those same principles we've mastered so well: selectively reject everything we disagree with, and use what's left as consistent proof of our a priori position. Two-thirds of the (US) public approves of Clinton, yet he's viewed here with universal, frothing hatred. Can anyone see a pattern here? Fourth, we don't trust management. Managers are stupid, shortsighted, self-interested, and ignorant. They're responsible for the whole problem to begin with, they waited too long to get it fixed, and when they started at all, they skimped on the resources. Their progress reports are based on the stock price and the status of their stock options, and have nothing to do with actual work accomplished. Unless, of course, they admit to real problems. Then they become factual references and proof we're right. Fifth, we have no faith in the economic system or the infrastructure. We follow chains of hypothetical dominoes to inevitable collapse, ignoring the fact that these systems suffer problems all the time and we deal with them. Wind, lightning, ice knocks power out here and there regularly, and we get by? Ah, but bugs nobody can find will be much worse, and will happen everywhere at once. Strikes cripple manufacturers, bad weather destroys crops over wide areas, and we get by? Ah, but unknown failures with small suppliers will kill manufacturing, and known trivial noncompliances in farming equipment will kill the food supply. How do I know this? I Get It, that's all it takes. Sixth, we're addicted to worst-case assumptions. Incomplete compliance somehow becomes *no* compliance and nobody complains. Trivial noncompliances somehow become certain death of the organization, and nobody complains. Failure to test means certain death. Tests that found problems are proof that y2k cannot be fixed, never mind that the problems the tests unearthed get fixed. Tests that went successfully are faked. Claims of compliance are subjected to demands for impossible levels of proof. Accusations of noncompliance are swallowed whole, and nobody even questions the source of the accusation. And those who disagree with us "don't get it". Doesn't matter how well-informed they are, or how much thought they've put into it. They still don't get it. "
-- Vinnie (email@example.com), March 11, 1999.
Vinnie - pssst - your resume is showing.
Go bother cat-lovers or hamster-haters and leave us relegated fringers be. Scoot!
-- Lisa (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 11, 1999.
Mr. Big Dog:
I want to thank you for your post. You have articulated many of the feelings I have but could not find the words to express. I only wish someone with some "heavy juice" gets a chance to read it.
Bill in South Carolina
-- Bill Solorzano (email@example.com), March 11, 1999.
"Go bother cat-lovers or hamster-haters and leave us relegated fringers be. Scoot! "
In other words, I don't like what you have to say and I can't think of any way to refute your facts. Must be a GI...
-- Vinnie (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 11, 1999.
Vinnie --- You're welcome on this thread and any other, bub. Come back as often as you'd like. You don't agree with me and I don't agree with you. Grownups often don't. "But it's still Y2K, stupid".
-- BigDog (BigDog@duffer.com), March 11, 1999.
" BigNob, the preceding quote from you is THE primary reason you and your pack of paranoids have been, and will (I hope) continue to be relegated to the fringes. "
That is a F*&^*&G insult there, Vinnie: don't get all sensitive on me now.
-- Lisa (email@example.com), March 11, 1999.
Ditto Big Dog.
These things don't fix computer code/processers/data connections:
1. Public opinion poles 2. What you or I think 3. When and if the herd wakes up 4. Reading y2k posts 5. Slamming GI's/DGI's 6. Committes/meetings/reports/articles
It's not about philisophy, opinions, emotions, etc.
The code is broken, worldwide. It's y2k stupid, nothing else.
This problem puts these areas and more at risk of disruptions: -Federal government -State government -Local government -Transportation -Electricity -Telecommunications -Department of Defense -Banking -Insurance -Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Food Stamps, WIC -Oil -Natural Gas -Gasoline -Food -Water -Medicine -Hospitals, Clinics -Manufacturing -Ability to import/export goods -Your job
Thanks again, Big Dog. Everyone, keep preparing and hoping. You just might save yourself and someone else beside you.
-- James Chancellor (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 11, 1999.
While I can't disagree with Big Dog's piece of the picture, I know that it is far from the whole picture.
In another thread, I wrote of mistrust. Want to see an illustration of this: no problem, we have Exhibit A right up top there:
"The K boys spun the Senate report into oblivion. That was the drill this week", "That the K-boys explicitly urge against preparing for the worst exposes their criminal lack of integrity, all fudged by hypocritical realpolitik" , "If, miraculously, the Gartner group and the K-boys "win", it won't make them any the less phony"
Well, those in authority are criminal, hypocritcal, phony spin doctors who lack integrity. Mistrust? No, Big Dog calls this 'reasoned skepticism'. My mistake!
Now consider this list of sins:
"Starting too late, spending too little, drifting deadlines, minimal testing, uncertainty about embedded systems"
Are these true in some cases? Absolutely. Are they true in *all* cases? Absolutely not. Does Big Dog present the other side of the story? No, he does not. He's telling us the Truth, dammit. Balance need not apply.
Who makes a simple statement of reality? Hamasaki (a doomist). Of course Big Dog says it isn't about Hamasaki, it's about y2k. And how do we know where y2k stands? Hamasaki says so! Amazing. I wonder what happened to 'reasoned skepticism' here?
So should we all be preparing? Here Big Dog and I are in complete agreement. The Truth is YES. My mind is made up.
-- Flint (email@example.com), March 11, 1999.
Flint --- You know, it's like Ronald Reagan said, "there you go again."
No, not all in authority, Flint. I was speaking about these two phonies. Excuse me for having an opinion in these politically correct times we live in. I stand by it entirely in their case.
No, not all systems, Flint. I never said so, did I? And you know very well, because you follow this forum like a hawk for reasons that are beyond me (patronizing amusement?), that I often say I take at face value that 80% of the world's systems will be fixed. But you conveniently took it that way to keep sharpening your axe. That my statement is factually correct, taking Y2K as a whole (the fixed systems will creep in late and undertested)? Yes, I'll posit that and stand by it.
I wrote this thread EXPLICITLY as an encouragement to fellow GIs. Your statement that you are preparing can't wipe away yet another attack on all of us, however rationally you try to couch it.
Of course, I'm glad you're preparing. You're welcome in my home any time, now or post-Y2K, with or without preparations. But you DGI.
-- BigDog (BigDog@duffer.com), March 11, 1999.
Yo, Vinnie- most of the time stupidity isn't fatal. Come next year that might not be the case. Glad you feel lucky over there in the mainstream. Hope it works out and you can laugh at us fringies about 16 months from now. I promise you I won't mind, not at all.
-- nobody (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 11, 1999.
You bandy the word trust about as if it were something that those in authority are entitled to as a matter of course.
I, for one, have stated plainly and unequivocally for the record that I do not TRUST the government (for the most part), the MEDIA (for the most part) or MANAGEMENT (for the most part).
Just what is there that makes you so sure that these entities are deserving of our trust?
-- Hardliner (email@example.com), March 11, 1999.
There is a big diference between the 65% approval Clinton enjoys and whether people believe him..by extension, Albright, Cohen, etc. lost credibilty by allowing themselves to be duped and used, and then not resigning. Then congress gives Clinton a pass. This continued degredation of trust begins to infect everyones view of the entire federal government. When the issue is your own personal safety, who will risk believing these people? If Clinton had been forced out immediately, we all would be a lot more trusting of offical pronouncements.
-- curtis schalek (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 11, 1999.
I didn't say they deserved our trust, or that I trusted them. I probably wouldn't be on this forum if I did trust them.
My point was that distrust is overrepresented here. Face it, we cannot independently verify everything we read. Some is true, some false, and most of the time we have no good way to tell the difference. And much of the time, the situation is far from binary. For all we know, the 72-hour recommendation might turn out to be good advice. But we choose to distrust 'them' and laugh at this recommendation. Why? Are our crystal balls that much clearer?
-- Flint (email@example.com), March 11, 1999.
I hardly consider Cory a Doomster. He's only at a 7.0
-- Steve (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 11, 1999.
Bold off, sorry 'bout that!
-- Hardliner (email@example.com), March 11, 1999.
I think we've got a communications problem here.
'Distrust' is not a value, it is the absence of 'Trust', which is a value. It's like 'Honesty'. Can one be "a little bit dishonest"?
Absolute trust of any of the authoritative/informational entities in our society is easily demonstrated to be unreasonable. What logically follows is that distrust exists and becomes the default. How often must someone lie to you before you no longer trust them?
Our crystal balls may not be any more accurate than "theirs", but we know what ours show us, and we only know what proven prevaricators tell us they see in theirs.
The single thing that always connects the criminal with his crime is motive. If we know all the facts, and someone has no reason to lie, he probably won't. If he has something to gain by falsehood however, several million odd years of human history tells us that he will lie.
I am in no way qualified to diagnose the condition of paranoia, but I do know that it is usually a neurotic condition as opposed to a psychotic one. In other words, it usually doesn't incapacitate one's ability to function in society. And, as the old saw goes, even paranoids have enemies. I think it highly unlikely that mistrust of our government or media or management would qualify one for such a condition, particularly in light of such overwhelming evidence that, for the most part, these entities are not trustworthy (I realize that I haven't cited any such evidence, but if you do not accept this at face value, I am prepared to present such citation).
So, what's your point? Is it that some here are too polite to call a spade a spade and refer to mistrust as 'reasoned skepticism'?
You complain of lack of balance, yet what if the situation is truly out of balance? Must we ignore the evidence that overwhelmingly points to TS hitting TF in a more or less major way?
You're right! We are able to verify very little. Mostly what we can do is guess. If I had to guess as to why someone would "bear ill tidings", I'd want to know what (if anything) they had to gain by doing such. I'd want to know the same if they brought good news. Which class of messenger here brings verifiable fact to the table? Either one? I think not.
I've used the term, 'crapshoot' quite often on this forum. I think it's the best that I can do by way of prediction. Now, do you know anyone who did well shooting craps?
-- Hardliner (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 11, 1999.
Uncertainty about impact is not the same as uncertainty about current facts. I stated the facts about Y2K in my post and that is exactly what they are, facts. The likelihood that Gartner is correct is no greater than and may be less than the likelihood that Infomagic is correct.
Actually, the variability of information about Y2K is one of the facts which leads to warranted pessimism about the outcome.
To those of you reading this thread for the first time, however, don't be drawn aside by the usual, tedious opposition to preparation expressed by Vinnie and Flint (Flint, to be charitable, probably doesn't realize that he constantly cuts away at preparation by washing out anything except 'gee, maybe this, maybe that, maybe this, maybe that, maybe .....', which would be okay if it wasn't groundless).
The purpose of this thread, to repeat, was to offer explicit, direct encouragement to all of you real folks out there who are "preparing for the worst, hoping for the best." It is really my personal letter to you (see, we can't really do that on the forum), from my heart, and I continue to stand by every word. You have my greatest admiration and affection.
You are not paranoid, you are not mistrustful, you are not causing panic or making Y2K worse: you are this country's treasure (goes for all you outlanders as well). That the government and media have turned that truth upside-down is just another of those "facts" about Y2K (oops, Flint, there I go being mistrustful again).
"Yes, it's still Y2K, stupid."
-- BigDog (BigDog@duffer.com), March 11, 1999.
Being on the fringe doesn't sound bad to me. Lots of people have been considered to be lunatic fringe and turned out to be correct! Let's see Galileo, Bruno, Copernicus, Columbus...
Nawww, doesn't sound bad to me at all.
-- (email@example.com), March 11, 1999.
As you (should) well know, Flint is as much susceptible to hyperbole as anyone else on this particular NG, and hyperbole makes for poor argument. To wit:
"First, we don't trust our collective ability to find and fix these bugs."
Ability is largely NOT the issue, awareness and time constraints are the issues.
"Small remediation budgets are evidence that the problem is underestimated. Conversely, large budgets are evidence that the problem is intractable."
Small and large are relative terms. Yet it is evident that, across similar sized companies in the same industry, Y2k budgets DO vary widely and may well be indicative of both underestimation and intractability. Some are not getting it right.
"Isolated claims of success are at best too small to be meaningful (and are typically rejected as hype)."
Mathematically, so far, this is true. Whether hype or not remains to be seen.
"Isolated claims of hopelessness are evidence that the entire problem is hopeless, regardless of who made the claim."
Isolated claims of hopelessness MAY be evidence that the entire problem is hopeless. And it matters a great deal who makes these claims. And, as with much of Flint's original piece, the converse is being offered by the Pollys just as often and just as persistently.
"The few geeks who are pessimists are cited as front-line indications that we're hosed. The large majority of geeks who are optimists are cited as showing that geeks can be as blind as the general public."
This would be statistically correct, in general, as the majority of any demographic subsection, given a large enough sample, would reflect the views of the entire population. I'll bet, though, that the minority of GI geeks is larger than the minority of GIs in any other demographic, with perhaps the exceptions of liability lawyers and political insiders.
"Second, we don't trust the media. At best, they're lazy and ignorant. At worst, they're being controlled by inimical secret interests who determine what is written."
No argument. If nothing else comes of Y2k, the entire process of how the media picks up an issue and brings it to the foreground and who the not-disinterested players are behind an issue will be an education to anyone who cares to learn.
"Ironically, almost everything we know about the whole problem, we learned through the media."
Plus company web-sites, government databases, personal web-sites and essays, software metrics, internet news groups, our own companies, our own jobs in those companies, and word of mouth, among others.
"When we find URLs to pessimistic articles, we quote them endlessly. Any URLs to success stories are rejected as PR spin being parroted by the lazy media."
With the optimists as guilty as the pessimists.
"The fact that stories on both sides are often written by the same individual doesn't bother us a bit. If he agrees with us, it's facts. If he disagrees, he's clueless."
I can't think of a single example of this. De Jaeger switched horses in the middle of the stream which has led to much debate, but no person that I have read consistently talks out of both sides of his mouth. However, the government does this all the time, and not just with Y2k. But then, the government is not an individual.
"Third, we don't trust the government."
Government at the highest levels can't be trusted. This is an indisputable fact.
"The fact that almost everything we know about the government is reported by the (untrustworthy) media doesn't occur to us."
Au contraire, it occurs to us ALL the time. That's half the discussion on this thread. Sometimes it seems the unfiltered data, from government databases and reporting is more reliable than the media-filtered versions of this same data. Yet, the government, through it agenda-oriented mouthpieces, manages to do plenty of spinning on its own. To deny these realities is naive in the extreme.
"If it does occur to us, we apply those same principles we've mastered so well: selectively reject everything we disagree with, and use what's left as consistent proof of our a priori position."
Yes, if your view of the world as black and white. The more realistic reality is that each piece of information from whatever source is critically analyzed. Those items that have supporting references, are actually logically cohesive, and do not rely on weenie debate tactics are most likely indicative of the true picture.
"Two-thirds of the (US) public approves of Clinton, yet he's viewed here with universal, frothing hatred. Can anyone see a pattern here?"
Yes, some polls are crap. Another indisputable fact. In what way does the public approve of Clinton? Who conducted the poll? What were the questions? What were the choices? Who was polled? When were they polled? What's your point? Accept all media as gospel?
"Fourth, we don't trust management. Managers are stupid, shortsighted, self-interested, and ignorant."
As in government or any hierarchical organization for that matter, the veracity of management is inversely proportional to the distance from that management. In general, the higher the level from which status reporting emanates, the less reliable it is.
"They're responsible for the whole problem to begin with, they waited too long to get it fixed, and when they started at all, they skimped on the resources."
The origins of Y2k are much more complex than this.
"Their progress reports are based on the stock price and the status of their stock options, and have nothing to do with actual work accomplished. Unless, of course, they admit to real problems. Then they become factual references and proof we're right."
What progress reports?
"Fifth, we have no faith in the economic system or the infrastructure. "
The economic system and the infrastructure are currently heavily software driven. Functioning software is not a matter of faith. Hence, 'faith in the economic system or the infrastructure' is a non sequitur.
"We follow chains of hypothetical dominoes to inevitable collapse, ignoring the fact that these systems suffer problems all the time and we deal with them. Wind, lightning, ice knocks power out here and there regularly, and we get by? Ah, but bugs nobody can find will be much worse, and will happen everywhere at once. Strikes cripple manufacturers, bad weather destroys crops over wide areas, and we get by? Ah, but unknown failures with small suppliers will kill manufacturing, and known trivial noncompliances in farming equipment will kill the food supply. How do I know this? I Get It, that's all it takes."
Following dependencies to their logical conclusion is a useful though, in light of the uncertainties, inconclusive exercise -- at best theory for what MAY happen, within the realm of probabilities. To deny these probabilities (and they are not clearly trivial at this point) is not prudent. And Y2k is not analogous to regional weather or a company strike.
"Sixth, we're addicted to worst-case assumptions."
Actually, the worst-case assumptions are hardly ever discussed. No one really wants to entertain the worst-case, except maybe Infomagic.
"Incomplete compliance somehow becomes *no* compliance and nobody complains."
No, incomplete compliance is merely partial compliance, which, depending on what exactly was modified, may result in operational non-compliance.
"Trivial noncompliances somehow become certain death of the organization, and nobody complains."
I'd rightfully complain, but only if the organization's clients and vendors were also trivially non-compliant.
"Failure to test means certain death."
Failure to test MAY mean certain death.
"Tests that found problems are proof that y2k cannot be fixed, never mind that the problems the tests unearthed get fixed."
No, they're proof that Y2k fixes have problems and that further effort is required to unearth and fix them.
"Tests that went successfully are faked."
For at least some well-publicized tests, this would appear to be true.
"Claims of compliance are subjected to demands for impossible levels of proof. Accusations of noncompliance are swallowed whole, and nobody even questions the source of the accusation."
It sure would be nice to see some supporting data for compliance claims -- ANY supporting data. This is NOT impossible to provide. And it's bad to 'swallow accusations of non-compliance whole' yet it's somehow good to swallow claims of compliance whole?
"And those who disagree with us "don't get it". Doesn't matter how well-informed they are, or how much thought they've put into it. They still don't get it."
What's to get? The only thing to get is that Y2k is couched in uncertainty. Either enough of the code gets fixed in the right places as we approach and cross 2000 or it doesn't. That's practically the entire debate. Will it? We can't tell -- yet.
But the ugly facts are: the industrialized world is heavily computerized; nearly the entire planet is mortally dependent upon the current level of correctly functioning computerization; it has taken 50 years to tune our systems to their current level of reliability; computers are quite literally stupid; remediation is time-consuming, tedious, and error-prone; software projects, including maintenance projects, are frequently delivered late, over budget, and under-featured; just-in-time inventory control has swept the planet; and the global monetary system is largely a confidence scheme susceptible to any number of external and internal shocks.
The upside is that we would all prefer to eat, stay warm, and avoid any VCR's falling from the sky, so we ARE very much motivated to make this work.
-- Nathan (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 11, 1999.
Fascinating. I really enjoyed it, thanks. I'm not entirely sure you addressed what I was driving at, though.
The composite (average) prediction this group produced was *way* in the red zone. What I mean by that is, I personally would put the probability of this group-predicted future at about 1%. This is my opinion, based on my reading of all the material I can get my hands on. Of course, I can't see the future either, and of course I might be missing the obvious because of my own blinders. How can I know until the future gets here?
So the question I was addressing was, what is there about the typical denizen of this group that causes what *I* consider unsupportably gloomy expectations? I really do believe I see some general patterns. The two patterns I see, in a nutshell, are (1) A general presumption of ill intent on the part of those higher in the food chain than we are (management, government, media, etc.); and (2) The application of very unequal standards of evidence, depending on our predisposition to accept or reject each item.
Combined, these patterns introduce a pronounced bias in our expectations, while simultaneously making this bias difficult to notice ("honest, I'm only looking at the facts").
As for preparations, I believe we should be ready as much as possible for anything that *can* go wrong, so as to be best able to handle whatever *does* go wrong. Preparing for a 1% event is eminently reasonable.
-- Flint (email@example.com), March 11, 1999.
et al. At the final bell, all that matters is the state of the code, contingency plans and personal preps. What is the state of the code for the federal govt right now? Obviously, no one can give an exact answer to that, but IT pros with significant design, coding and management experience can reasonably classify agencies into A)acceptable progress, will probably get done on time, B) behind, and probably won't get everything critical done and tested but might get the majority done, C) certain to NOT get done, but might stagger along for awhile in crisis mode and D) Doomed, toasted flesh, gnashing of teeth.
Given that intro, there are a significant number of IT heavyweights (and Yourdon IS a bonafide heavyweight) who would classify the major Fed agencies as:
- SSA class A
- State class B
- HCFA class C
- IRS class C
- DoD class C
- FAA class D
Is there certainty in any of this? NO, there can't be. But there is good data to support the analysis that major govt institutions are in deep trouble. I won't y'all with another repetition of the FAA situation, but it serves as a model for all of government. Underestimate the problem, prevaricate, choose the wrong solution, prevaricate, smile and say all is well, ignore the slipping time tables, blame someone else, choose a new deadline, ignore the missed new deadline, smile and say all is well..... system DEAD. Must be a terrorist's fault!!
-- RD. ->H (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 11, 1999.
I'm clueless! Who is Infomagic?? I'm new to this and we are just starting.
Thanks in advance.
-- Kev Stevens (email@example.com), March 11, 1999.
A stiring rant BigDog, you're on the $$$$. Although that line "It's Y2k, stupid" reminds me too much of that horrible Carville creature. But the quote from Flint is "eloquent", and because Flint is so good at stringing together partially true statements in order to create a thoroughly erroneous impression of the situation, I thought I'd bother to analyze his viewpoint into the grave.
Flint: "First, we don't trust our collective ability to find and fix these bugs." Well, given the time constraints on the fixing process, no we don't. Nor should anyone. If everyone had started 2 years earlier I'd trust their collective ability to make it a BITR.
Flint: "Small remediation budgets are evidence that the problem is underestimated. Conversely, large budgets are evidence that the problem is intractable." These statements are both true of us, but they give a deceptive picture. Flint is trying to imply that these statements show that we spin everything to make a gloomy picture. But just because the statements are, in a way, converse, does not mean that they aren't each true in differing circumstances. Consider the large budget of GM - a billion dollars or so for their oodles of code, their zillion embedded systems, and no doubt some hefty contingency plans. The large budget strongly suggest that they have a large problem to address. Now, by itself, the large budget doesn't proooove intractability, but this piece of evidence COMBINED with a few others, strongly suggests GM will have more than a few problems. Some of these others include expert opinion that there will be approx one error per every ten remediated lines, the admission that only mission critical systems are being addressed leaving NM-CS's to flounder, plus the fact that GM's future is largely out of their own hands, so dependent are their on outside (unremediated) suppliers of everything. There's a hundred more bits of evidence which COMBINE to explain that GM, as one example, may very well face intractable y2k problems.
Elsewhere, large assigned budgets, that at this late date are only 20 or 30 % used up, are strongly suggestive that the necessary work is progressing too slowly. As for small remediation budgets, often they are evidence that a company has underestimated the situation, sometimes they are evidence that the company has relatively little exposure to the problem. Only a buffoon would suggest that the budget, as a singular piece of evidence, is sufficient to force any conclusions; evidence and conclusions just don't relate in such a manner. BUT! COMBINED with other evidence the small budgets can be telling. If Toadsuck, Arkansas has assigned a small remediation budget we might consider that to be ok, given what we generally know about the low-techness of small, backwoods communities. But when the 19 biggest Japanese banks collectively assign a remediation budget of the same size as ONE big US bank, it's gotta get you thinking that maybe the Japs are still underestimating the scale of the problem. Now it's possible to fantasize that like Toadsuck, Arkansas, the Jap banks have relatively little exposure to the problem. But given what is generally knowable about the operation of mega-banks, this idea is proven to be FANTASY. A general knowledge of modern banking technology and practices PLUS the low Jap bank budgets = a recipe for disaster, most likely. Not definately, but most-very-highly-probably.
Flint: "Isolated claims of success are at best too small to be meaningful (and are typically rejected as hype). Isolated claims of hopelessness are evidence that the entire problem is hopeless, regardless of who made the claim." Isolated claims of success ARE too small to be meaningful because at this late stage we ought to be seeing WIDESPREAD claims of success, rather than a deafening silence plus widespread evidence of impending failure. Isolated successes WILL count for nothing until a critical mass of successes is reached; I would put that critical mass at somewhere near 90%, if we are to avoid a depression (at least.) Isolated claims of hopelessness are just a tiny part of the picture that gloomers paint, but they help to bring out the detail of that picture.
Flint: " The few geeks who are pessimists are cited as front-line indications that we're hosed. The large majority of geeks who are optimists are cited as showing that geeks can be as blind as the general public." This is kinda true, but the pessimist-geeks consistently show a better understanding of the issues than do the optimist geeks. There's plenty of optimist geeks who are plainly unfamiliar with y2k's possible ramifications, yet Flint seems to imply that their opinion is as weighty as that of the pessimist geeks who demonstrate greater understanding of y2k. Besides, it's not just a matter of "my geek is bigger than your geek", intelligent people can reach their own conclusions, and will weigh "expert" opinions based upon the strength of reasoning employed, and the mastery of relevent issues demonstrated.
Flint: " Second, we don't trust the media. At best, they're lazy and ignorant. At worst, they're being controlled by inimical secret interests who determine what is written. Ironically, almost everything we know about the whole problem, we learned through the media. When we find URLs to pessimistic articles, we quote them endlessly. Any URLs to success stories are rejected as PR spin being parroted by the lazy media. The fact that stories on both sides are often written by the same individual doesn't bother us a bit. If he agrees with us, it's facts. If he disagrees, he's clueless."
Well, no, we don't trust (with a capital "T") the media. If Flint does, then he's a fool. The media are a very imperfect tool for information gathering. Caution and double-checking and analysis are necessary before believing anything you see or read. That being said, they're all that we've got. Obviously the media is at times perfectly factual and informative, at other times deceptive and blind. Speaking about a multifarious entity like the media as if it were monolithic is one of tricks Flint unwittingly (?) uses so as to achieve the seamless, reasonable sounding bullshit that he is so good at.
As for the media being controlled by inimical secret forces, well sometimes they are, sometimes they aren't. When they're reporting on sports scores and earthquakes and cats stuck up trees, it can be safely assumed that they're operating on their own retarded initiative. When, however, they are reporting on an issue crucial to the Nation's Security, then it's a fair bet that efforts have been made to get the "correct" message to the masses. Only the naieve could disagree. We reject MANY (not "any") happy-face articles because they are demonstrably light-weight: Insufficient stats, deceptive rhetoric, arguments based on premises we otherwise know to be inaccurate. There is GENUINE enthusiasm here at Yourdonites for articles that make a good case for some aspect of y2k having been solved or overblown. Such articles are greatly outnumbered by articles which strongly suggest that the problem is being insufficiently addressed. As for us writing-off dissenting journalist as "clueless", well, they often are. The people on this BBS mostly know a hell of a lot about y2k than most journalists do. We speak from a position of justfied authority when we dis them.
Flint: "Third, we don't trust the government." Maybe this is because we got two brain-cells to rub together. (IMHO, faith in government is right up there with belief in Santa Claus, epistemically speaking.) And besides, government isn't monolithic either. But which part of the government are you more likely to believe: Proven snakes like Clinton and Koskinen, who use deceptions, omissions and misrepresentations to paint a happy-face y2k-picture? Or the GAO's Willemsen who gives a litany of evidence and careful analysis to show that we are in deep doo-doo? You're free to chose, Flint.
Flint says that y2k-doomers " selectively reject everything we disagree with, and use what's left as consistent proof of our a priori position." Now hopefully y2k-doomers are wrong, but to call our position "a priori" is just plain nutzo. There's mountains of evidence that strongly suggests y2k will be really bad; it isn't just some fantasy we concocted. Again, here's hoping we're wrong.
Flint: "Two-thirds of the (US) public approves of Clinton, yet he's viewed here with universal, frothing hatred. Can anyone see a pattern here?" The "pattern" seems to be that we tend to have a different view from the US public. This augurs well for our truth-seeking activities, IMHO. Here at Yourdon's, the people are generally better informed than the US masses are, and not just about y2k.
Flint: " Fourth, we don't trust management". Well, whyever might this be??? Flint actually justifies this for us..."They're responsible for the whole problem to begin with, they waited too long to get it fixed, and when they started at all, they skimped on the resources." Sounds fair enough to me. No wonder that as a class, we think " Managers are stupid, shortsighted, self-interested, and ignorant."
Flint: " Unless, of course, they (managerial status reports)admit to real problems. Then they become factual references and proof we're right" Flint tries to sarcastically imply that there is something wrong with that type of reasoning, but really there ain't. If a company's OWN FIGURES and analysis indicate that they are stuffed, then in all likelihood they are stuffed. If a company's own figures indicate that all is well, then EITHER all is well, or all is not well and they are being deceptive for one or more reasons. Such a situation requires further investigation to be sure. There is NO incentive for a company to paint a gloomier picture than reality, but EVERY reason for them to paint a rosier picture than reality. Hence our well placed suspicion.
Flint: "Fifth, we have no faith in the economic system or the infrastructure." Bollocks!! We flip lightswitches and turn faucets and catch planes every day, confident in the knowledge that they will perform as required. This is not based on faith, but on habit AND on our knowledge of how these systems work. It is because of this knowledge that we can recognise the serious threat posed by y2k. Just because they've always worked in the past doesn't mean they will continue to work when their mechanisms (digitalisms?) are disabled, which they soon might be.
Flint: "We follow chains of hypothetical dominoes to inevitable collapse, ignoring the fact that these systems suffer problems all the time and we deal with them." There's nothing hypothetical about those dominoes, Sunshine. I don't know how Flint could hang around here so much and then seriously offer the "but systems have problems all the time" argument. So, one more time for the mentally infirm:...The systems don't routinely have problems on the scale of the problems that are looming, and they don't routinely have them at the same time as every other system is having problems. Got it?
Flint: " Sixth, we're addicted to worst-case assumptions." Maybe the "buzz" of painful, gnawing, sleepwrecking FEAR is addictive to some, but I doubt they'll be adding it to Coca-Cola anytime soon.
Flint: "Failure to test means certain death." As I understand it, this is pretty much true for large-scale software projects, where "death" means serious non-functionality. That such computer death would usually bring about the death of the enterprise concerned seems to be pretty logical.
Flint ends it all with a fitting description of him and his ilk:
Doesn't matter how well-informed they are, or how much thought they've put into it. They still don't get it. "
So long, and thanks for all the fish.
-- humptydumpty (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 11, 1999.
Reading Bigdog, Flint and Nathan is fascinating. I view Nathan's post as the most balanced, but for best effect Nathan, you should also "rebalance" Bigdog's post.
Simply put, Big Dog seems by nature to be more skeptical and less trustful, where as Flint seems more optimistic and trusting. But both are equally very smart. I've followed Flint's post closely over several months, I discussed and argued with him until I realized that I was no match for him. Big Dog's wisdom gives him an edge over Flint though, in my humble opinion. So, if we're "taking sides" it's mostly because of our own nature, whether we tend to be optimistic or pessimistic.
In the end, both Big Dog and Flint agree on what's important; preparing, and so Big Dog's message is essentially untouched, hyperbole notwistanding, as Nathan so brilliantly put it all in perspective.
It all boils down to optimism and pessimism, and that is the cause of much conflict and white noise about Y2K and on this forum in perticular. The nugget here, Big Dog holds it; we must remained focused on personal preparations.
The stated purpose of this forum again is (click on "About" to view it) "This forum is intended for people who are concerned about the impact of the Y2000 problem on their personal lives, and who want to discuss various fallback contingency plans with other like-minded people. It's not intended to provide advice/guidance for solving Y2000 problems within an IT organization."
Thank you Big Dog for starting this brain knocking thread, Flint for your counterbalancing views, Nathan to put things in perspective, and everyone of us for still caring enough to be here to discuss, argue and keep the forum going.
It's Y2K. In the face of it, we're all stupid.
-- Chris (Catsy@pond.com), March 11, 1999.
And that took me about two hours to write. I didn't realise that in the mean time Nathan had already provided a sufficient demolition of Flint's view. Oh well.
-- HUmptydumpty (email@example.com), March 11, 1999.
I didn't get to see the context of your original piece, so maybe Vinnie left out some important explanatory stuff. Sorry if my response was off base.
The objective of your piece is laudable, but perhaps your assumptions about your audience are open to question. I think the composite average prediction was well overstated by maybe two or three degrees. Using the 1-10 scale was appropriate, but the explanations of each degree were not properly distributed, IMO. For example, if you thought a depression was in the cards, even apart from Y2k, I believe one had to vote a 7 or 8 to get that across, for that was how the scale was labeled. I expressed my concern about this but didn't get any feedback.
-- Nathan (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 11, 1999.
VInnY!!!!! I LoVe YoU!!!! WiLl You mArRiE Me???/ Oh, PulEeZe!!!!! DiEtER LoVeS DgI'S!!!!!!
-- Dieter (email@example.com), March 12, 1999.
humptydumpty-- I still found value from your investment of time. I wish I had the time to explain why, but NO TIME.
And that really is the common thread.
I had to make a choice today about my time next week. Do I accept the invitation to participate in a taped panel discussion for Tokyo politicians to view or do I go to a company? Because there's no time, the politicians lose. I don't really care if politicians 'get it.' They wouldn't know what to do with it after they 'got it.' They, just like cockroaches, seem to always survive. Companies are important because companies are people. People with families.
-- PNG (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 12, 1999.
Chris --- I know what you're getting at, but the "optimistic/pessimistic" thing is exactly what Flint wants everyone to grab onto because it belittles the work of this forum.
Actually, I am extremely optimistic, even about life post-Y2K, EVEN if TEOTWAWKI. Our entire family is having huge amounts of fun, not with the heartbreaking implications of Y2K (I've spoken enough about that) but with the changes WE are proactively making to our lives. We've always done homestead-y sorts of things as hobbyists, but this is inspiring us to think through this question, "why/how do we want to live our lives over the next 30 years and why/how/where do we want to choose our dependence/interdependencies with this age's magical technologies?"
Also, I differ from some others here (one of the things that is most patronizing about Flint is that he washes away the clearly expressed differences between many of the GIs on Yourdon) in that I have NEVER prepared for anything before Y2K. My family and friends have been more likely to become GI watching me do that (with their mouths agog) than for any other reason. They are flabbergasted that I expect a depression.
No. The optimist/pessimist, "this is about temperament" stuff is wrong. Y2K hasn't made me stupid, "it's Y2K, stupid."
Nathan and humpty-dumpty's analyses were extraordinarily well-done and beautifully complemented the encouragement I tried to give at the beginning. As is often true in this forum, posts like Flint's draw out remarkable intellectual response, based on FACTS.
I am an optimist. But, yes, with respect to Y2K's impacts on the world and our life over the next five years or so, I am a pessimist. Don't call me Ishmael but call me "nathan" or "humptydumpty". Other than that, the sooner 2000 and beyond come, the happier I'll be. Like everything in this world, Y2K shows a two-headed aspect, and one of those heads is full of promise and opportunity for a better, not a worse world .... long-term.
-- BigDog (BigDog@duffer.com), March 12, 1999.
"No. The optimist/pessimist, "this is about temperament" stuff is wrong.
Big Dog, that is your view and I respect it. I was simply attempting to stand back and give my perspective as to what I see is going on with all this conflicting arguementation between 2 guys I respect and see as smart GI's. Yes, Flint is a GI. There is a very few absolute facts on this forum; 1) Y2K is real and potential danger to self/family/nation/world 2) No one single person in this forum/world has all the facts about Y2K and can predict the future, i.e., an absolute Y2K expert.
With that said, your opinion about y2K has as much value as Flint's, other things being equal in my eyes.
"Y2K hasn't made me stupid, "it's Y2K, stupid."
I said "It's Y2K. In its face, we're all stupid". That means we're all ignorant of what will really happen, because no one person can extrapolate it all, it's too huge and complicated.
-- Chris (email@example.com), March 12, 1999.
I also inhabit forums whose contributers, shall we say, don't share your philosophy. Check out com.lang.cobol or comp.arch.embedded, for example. Their slogan is, "Most people won't even notice."
There, I try to suggest that God isn't entirely in their corner either, and that there's a wealth of credible evidence that y2k represents a real threat. I ask if they don't consider some preparation sensible, if only as an insurance policy.
How do they react? They march out a bunch of no-big-problem URLs (and you know there's a pretty sizeable arsenal of these). Then they pat themselves on the back and compliment one another for having 'intellectually demolished Flint with the FACTS!' and go on their merry way. They tell me 'go peddle your false doom elsewhere while you still can. The Net is full of gullible fools.'
These people are intelligent, experienced, and informed. They've examined the situation and drawn researched conclusions. NOW, what makes them different? How have they all missed what's so obvious to almost everyone here? Dismissing them as DWGIs is a psychological assessment, pure and simple. Being highly selective with source material is the common characteristic. What special quality do you have, that makes your selection criteria so much superior?
If you really want to get the word out that you have a hotline to the real truth and they're all stupid ("it's y2k, stupid"), why are you hanging out here preaching to the choir? I see that many Yourdonites are already in a state of near-panic, while others lash out blindly at anyone who suggests there is any side to this complex story other than coming apocalypse. Surely reinforcement of this pathology is beyond the point of diminishing returns. Time to relocate your ministry, I think.
-- Flint (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 12, 1999.
Flint --- this will be my last post on this thread. I think I've made my reasons for the post abundantly clear and it had nothing to do with your efforts to promote your personal Y2K agenda as the "rational one". I didn't insert that here: you and Vinnie did.
I have nothing I need to add to Nathan and humpty's posts, except to thank them one last time.
Continued best of luck on your preparations.
-- BigDog (BigDog@duffer.com), March 12, 1999.
to the top!!!
-- Vannevar Bush (mj12@Ft.Meade.com), March 12, 1999.
Kev- Infomagic is about as hardcore a Y2K doom and gloomer as you could ever find, and unfortunately makes a very plausible case for the Y2K problem causing The End Of The World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI). Here is a link to his "Charlotte's Web" treatise; after you link, page down until you get to it. (It will knock your socks off.)
Infomagic's "Charlotte's Web"
-- Jack (email@example.com), March 12, 1999.
Flint asks -- "So the question I was addressing was, what is there about the typical denizen of this group that causes what *I* consider unsupportably gloomy expectations?"
For openers, this forum is in itself a selective process, simply by its stated focus. Persons not interested in, or ignorant of, Y2K are unlikely to appear here. Persons aware of Y2K, but who share Flint's confidence in government and media, are hardly motivated to waste their time here debating questions already authoritatively defined as settled. I suspect these categories comprise a large majority of the population.
What remains are people aware of Y2K and (rightly or wrongly) unpersuaded by government and media. I'm not surprised that the general assessment of this group differs from that put forth by official sources and necessarily self-serving industry reports.
-- Tom Carey (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 14, 1999.
To the top again!
This is a really, really good thread. An living antidote to the whinings of Norm, Y2K"Pro", et al. that there is no intellectually sophisticated reparte in the forum.
-- Franklin Journier (email@example.com), March 19, 1999.