Hoffmeister vs. Yourdon: Point/Counterpoint re my letter to Greenspan

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Hoffmeister posted a critique of my open letter to Alan Greenspan in a thread earlier today; it generated an enormous amount of "sturm and drang," only some of which had to do with the content of Hoff's statement.

In any case, I've posted a detailed response to Hoffmeister on my web site at Hoffmeister vs. Yourdon: Point/Counterpoint re my letter to Greenspan

Comments and feeback -- not only from Hoffmeister, but from everyone else in the community -- welcome.


P.S. I note from the clock on my computer that it's now past midnight, and officially September 22nd. I believe that we're now only 100 days from D-day, which means that we won't have to put up with these debates much longer.

-- Ed Yourdon (HumptyDumptyY2K@yourdon.com), September 22, 1999


Ouch! One hundred days. Napoleon's "Campaign of a Hundred Days" ended at Waterloo in 1815. Will this be Koskinen's Waterloo?

-- Old Git (anon@spamproblems.com), September 22, 1999.

Old Git,

Thank goodness for the forum members with a historical perspective! Once upon a time, I considered myself reasonably knowledgeable about Napoleon's campaigns -- but I don't think I ever knew that he referred to a campaign of a hundred days.

One of the things I'm now doing, as I get to the bottom of my list of preparations, is assembling a reading list for what I assume might be a reasonably long period of hibernation next year. Based on your comments, I think I'll add some history books, especially some things that will help me remember what I once knew about Napoleon.

Thanks for the reminder!


-- Ed Yourdon (HumptyDumptyY2K@yourdon.com), September 22, 1999.


Good Job! I doubt that you wasted too much time composing your response to Hoff, but it's really too bad you had to waste even 10 minuites. I didn't think his arguements held much water in the first place. Best to you and yours.

-- Don Wegner (donfmwyo@earthlink.net), September 22, 1999.

Um, actually, thanks go to Sweetie who is a military history buff with more books on Napoleon than I have on Churchill, which is saying something.

I read your response to Hoffmeister and found it eminently satisfactory. No surprise, I know, but I'm a predictable

-- Old Git (anon@spamproblems.com), September 22, 1999.

Ed, if you want a book about good books, get 'Education of a Wandering Man' by Louis L'Amour. He chronicals the books he read on his way to becoming a self-educated man. I'm only half way through it and already my 'to get' list has doubled.

-- T the C (tricia_canuck@hotmail.com), September 22, 1999.


I have to agree with Don, that Hoffmeister is not even worthy of the time it took you to respond. These blowhard windbags like Hoffmeister and Decker have been hanging around here trying to challenge anyone to a debate about anything just for the sake of debating. They could care less about the subject, they just want to try to win an argument to feed their endless desire for superiority.

Your insightful work is of great value to an awful lot of folks, and you should be proud of it. There is no need to defend it against these trivial challenges. The reason they keep challenging you is because you have become a target of such exceptional stature that if beaten, would boost them to new levels of ego gratification. They do not even deserve the honor of a fight.

-- @ (@@@.@), September 22, 1999.


I relish reading your POINT-BY-POINT debates with Hoffmeister, Flint or any other "credible" polly because it's the only opportunity I know of to examine the logic behind the rhetoric.

Since I don't have any "inside" knowledge about the IT industry, I'm glad to see that your answers to Hoffmeister's critique were in line with my own conclusions.

I can't thank you and Gary North enough for alerting us to this massive problem, and keeping us well informed as the millennium approaches.

Roger Altman

-- Dr. Roger Altman (rogaltman@aol.com), September 22, 1999.

Regarding reading materials for Y2K hybernation. I have been going to thrift stores collecting many interesting out of print books. I will not be bored during Y2K!

-- freddie (freddie@thefreeloader.com), September 22, 1999.

Well done, Ed. Your restraint is admirable, and I should learn from it.

Somebody tell Cherri that Ed knows what "hyperbole" is. :-)

-- Lane Core Jr. (elcore@sgi.net), September 22, 1999.

Re - 100 days. I had thought there were 100 days as of today, but the TASC Y2K Countdown clock and Yardeni's 100-day online conference seem to agree that TOMORROW is the 100 day mark.

A whole extra day of "sturm and drang".. for joy, for joy.

-- Linda (lwmb@psln.com), September 22, 1999.

Thanks Ed. That was a wonderful point-counterpoint.

-- Linda (lwmb@psln.com), September 22, 1999.

I can see it now, Hoffy will say, "Doomers cannot even agree when 100 days until Y2K is, therefore everything that they say about Y2K is in error, therefore...."

Wonderful commentary, Ed. Yours in the end times....

-- King of Spain (madrid@aol.com), September 22, 1999.

Ed, you will be writing even in hibernation :-) Thanks!

May we recommend a unique slant of history which is totally engrossing and attitude/view altering?

Stock up (used paperbacks are easy to find) *EVERYTHING* written by Anne Rice. Nobody writes about history like she does. Not to mention the utterly gripping, rip-roaring stories. Those who look deeper than the norm will find a strong current of fascinating concepts in her books. Be double sure to have her entire series -- 2 themes -- and the standalones are excellent too.

Falls of civilizations are written with such evocative clarity, and she more than any other writer can bring home why today, this day, this age, this world, is actually more evolved than any other within this cycle. When you've read Anne Rice you appreciate every moment of life keenly, while being alertly cognizant of the fact that it will end, end all too soon ...

-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), September 22, 1999.

Mr. Yourdon,

Now I must thank you for this: Not being "computer literate" or having much technical expertise beyond changing a light bulb, if I have too :-), I certainly appreciate your writings as something that I, and I am betting, many others can understand. (I hope that is taken as a compliment.)

I do know, some of us that are not as knowledgable on these matters must depend upon our common sense to sort through the barage of information, pro and con, related to the Y2K issue. No insult intended to Hoffmeister, really, but I read his post very carefully and found myself struggling to comprehend parts (or maybe, admittedly, it's just me).

Either way, as has been said by others before, many folks have trouble seeing "outside of their box" or area of expertise. Personally, alot of the GI's I have met in my area, that have a common sense approach to preparations for next year, have never sat down before a keyboard, studied the gold market or wall street, or debated the ulterior motives of OPEC. "We is plain folk! and I say thank goodness. So thanks for writings that mirror our thoughts and that we CAN draw our own conclusions from AND share (see side note below).

Now you make sure you have alot of "how too" books in that library also. As Big Dog said before, and I will very loosely quote...post Y2K will probably be a blend of old-fashion know how and technilogical innovations/work.

***SIDE NOTE: To regular posters reading this, pro and con, some common sense "summaries" (common sense, not dull) occasionally of news reports and articles and opinions posted here, especially on interconnectedness, would go alot further for some of us to understanding the situation than criticism and one liners (although comedy always welcome!). Give us lurkers something to keep in mind, sort out, print off and/or share with our personal small circles of GI's, the overwhelming majority of whom are not computer, business or commerce experts.

...best to all.

-- Lilly (homesteader145@yahoo.com), September 22, 1999.

Dear Ed:

Before coming to awareness of y2k, I had little to no understanding/recognition of the Ways of Computers; I still know next to nothing, and almost prefer to keep it that way.....

Except for one thing: I wish I could read and understand your computer books -- because I'm certain the kindness, humanity, and eloquence you demonstrated in your point/counterpoint would be there, as well. Few realize the discipline and self-control such generousity of spirit requires.

I read, and I marvel. It gives me real hope: heroes live among us.

Anita Evangelista

-- Anita Evangelista (ale@townsqr.com), September 22, 1999.


In general I agree with you, buttake issue with two aspects of your two posts.

1. If you are including Pete Kind in the inner circle, then there is indeed someone technically competent in that circle. Pete is not your typical Army Signal General or CIO. I am heartened by his involvement. The BS artists are in for trouble.

2. When Mr. Greenspan speaks, he speaks about the Fed, U.S. Banks the investments of banks (hence the stock market), monetary policy and international settlement. Nothing else. When read in this light, and recognizing that the fed has been forcing Y2K conversion at banks, auditing them, forcing mergers of non-compliant banks, making major changes to the banking system in preparation, his testimony makes sense.

In his first testimony to congress on Y2K (which interesting enough is no longer archived on the Fed web page) he testified to the seriousness of the problem. This was the same testimony in which he admitted to have been a programmer and having created Y2K bugs. When he finished describing the seriousness of the problem to the Fed and member banks in the federal reserve system, he was asked about what that implied for businesses in the US. He refused to comment, as outside his purvue.

Where he, and government are wrong I believe is in having kept the public in the dark for so long. Now we are in the "end game". Where public pressure could have forced businesses an local governments to take appropriate corrective measures two years ago. Public pressure may have only negative consequences today.

IMHO we are now at the point where serious preparation(30+ days) will have serious negative consequences.

While I still think 3 days preparation is no preparation (so FEMA and the Red Cross can get to an emergency in 3 days, they can't handle a lot of emergencies at once). I think "the system" can handle up to two weeks preparation at this time, spread over the next 2 months. In the last week, it won't handle any preparation.

-- ng (cantprovideemail@none.com), September 22, 1999.


Thanks for the response. However, I'm also tired of this kind of point-counter point debate and with 100 days left it seems totally unproductive. Your grace in even answering Hoff was admirable indeed. You started off your response with, "As you may recall from my letter" and I think that says it all. Comprehension is the key here and "recall" may not really be possible.

This wont be the end, you know. He'll keep going on and on chasing his tail and I think it's time to put him outside and ignore his barking. People who cannot evolve an opinion or perspective are more interested in themselves rather than the truth. The truth here, as you state often, is no one knows what will happen.

Hoff thinks he knows. I say, let Hoff think what he wants to think. I'll choose just to ignore him.

Thanks again.



-- Michael Taylor (mtdesign3@aol.com), September 22, 1999.

If you are so tired of debates why do you continue to promote it, Ed?

-- Maria (anon@ymous.com), September 22, 1999.

Michael, you think Huffy has AlzHoffMizer's Disease? So do we.
Short-circuiting of recall, and non-comprehension of new concepts, are the first signs of the first stages.

Unfortunate that Medicare & Medicaid are Done For.

For whom does the CULL SCYTHE swing?

It swings for thee, polly-be, it swings for thee.

-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), September 22, 1999.

"...when it comes to safety-critical issues, we tend to "reverse" the normal judicial assumption of "innocent until proven guilty." When critical issues are involved, many of us automatically take the position of "guilty until proven innocent." -E. Yourdon

That's how it should be but unfortunately most people do not take the position of "guilty until proven innocent" for safety issues. If we had we would have a more informed and better prepared population.

-- Sandwich (anon@anon.com), September 22, 1999.

Great job Ed. Hoff - go to the back of the class.

-- a (a@a.a), September 22, 1999.

...the point is that when it comes to safety-critical issues, we tend to "reverse" the normal judicial assumption of "innocent until proven guilty." When critical issues are involved, many of us automatically take the position of "guilty until proven innocent."

Excellent point, Ed!

When looking for potential problems, that could byte us in the ASCII, we look at what DOES NOT work first... or at least... that which could be an indicator of what may/might/will not work. (Easier to spot the clues that need fixing, or contingencies needing to be planned for).

Trusting optimists, like Hoffmeister, tend to focus solely on what works (or appears to) and then claim... no problem for everything else on the planet... everywhere! (Rather like a divine decree coming from a lone fool standing on a bare hilltop yelling at a gale- force wind demanding it stop because he thinks it ought to be sunny). The reasoning person must ask... whos the disconnected one here?

Thanks, once again Ed, for your sincerity and honesty. You make a difference on this spinning globe, and I for one, am glad you stood up to be counted. For all our sakes.


-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), September 22, 1999.

There is a totally different point I'd like to bring up in relation to the "we can fix anything" mindset -- and especially as it relates to the Apollo 13 story.

I've been in the computer industry since 1978. In that time, I've worked in consulting across the country and across many fields. I am seeing a trend which really disturbs me in relation to the CAPABILITY of the "new" people in this industry. They are really good at using the TOOLS which are available, but have lost sight of what underlies those tools.

Recently I was working with some tech engineers, all of which had masters degrees or above. Some technical work needed to be worked out which required the ability to do some (rather simple) algebraic manipulations. These guys had done this kind of thing a zillion times, but all on their fancy plotting calculators, and didn't have a clue how these formulas underlying the function keys really worked. I had to solve the problem for these guys using 20 year old memories back from college and high school math classes! This is not uncommon. The new guys (say those with less than 5 to 7 years of experience) out there don't have the ability to duplicate what has come before them.

Said another way, the techie-type-people who we are counting on to fix these problems can use the tools they were trained to use, but cannot (re)create the tools they need to use in the first place.


If things start to fall apart, as they might, and the state-of-the- art tools are not available, you can forget the majority of these newer programmers being able to help. Their first goal will be to restore the tools they need, then get them all set up, then get their integrated development environments back up and working, THEN they can start to look into fixing the problem! (can you use vi in a character-based window?)

The deeper you look into the situation, the worse it starts to look. The "house of cards" description looks more accurate to me each time I have to deal with these newer guys.

-- Lee

-- Lee Crites (lee_crites@yahoo.com), September 22, 1999.

...the point is that when it comes to safety-critical issues, we tend to "reverse" the normal judicial assumption of "innocent until proven guilty." When critical issues are involved, many of us automatically take the position of "guilty until proven innocent."

Such great points here regarding this issue.

Last night I watched a story on ABC news regarding a certain government nuclear facility which knew full well that it's employees were working in unsafe conditions. Our own government made the decision NOT to tell it's citizen workers that this was the case.

Now, years later, it is discussing ways to make amends to those who have become ill as a result of the unsafe conditions. However, and sadly, it is also discussing how to make right the situation for those families who lost loved ones.

We have an unfortunate recent history in this country of bad management decisions that have directly resulted in illness and death brought about by the very government entrusted to protect us. Somehow, people still manage to keep on their rose colored glasses even when the reality has smacked them in the face.

The world hasn't changed. Management hasn't changed. The situation isn't any better than it was when decisions such as the one I've touched upon were made. If anything, it's become worse.

Lee brings up a great point I can identify with. If things go bad I can revert to creating my work by hand and I'd actually enjoy it. I have the "tools" to do things manually. For many, all they've known and all they have been taught is automation.

We can go manual. We can work around. It's the adjustment period and the fact that a manual system cannot support current population levels that bothers me the most when people try to push this as a viable solution. The bottom line is this situation should have never become such a crisis in the first place and people will die.

There are so many other ways we can use this time to be truly productive. A debate with someone who can only hear their own voice isn't really a debate.



-- Michael Taylor (mtdesign3@aol.com), September 22, 1999.

May I suggest the "Out Of The Ashes" series of books by W.W.Johnstone. Good reading.

-- Mr. Pinochle (pinochledd@aol.com), September 22, 1999.

For anyone interested, my response is here:

Counterpoint: Response for Mr Yourdon

(And yes, Mike, I understand that does not include you)

-- Hoffmeister (hoff_meister@my-deja.com), September 22, 1999.

Maria - The reason Ed keeps getting into these debates is because this is like a volleyball game. When somebody hits the ball into Ed's court, he hits it back. First Greenspan (unknowingly) hit the ball into Ed's court. Ed hit it back. Then Hoffmeister took his turn. Now Ed hits it back.

Ed, I like it. All these people who think you can make big money on Y2k ought to open a business selling water filters or something instead of spitting at you. Unbelievable.

-- Amy Leone (leoneamy@aol.com), September 22, 1999.

Thanks Ed. It is greivous that many millions more of our countrymen, and world citizen, do not have the guts/brains/concern to take what you say to heart and to prepare families and friends.

If future history's of y2k can find the paper, chemicals, ink, banks, publishing companies, distribution channels in order to be written, the name Ed Yourdon will be a shining example of someone who cared, despite the sickening attacks and outright lies of our officials to say all is well....

Still, I would glady be one of those few % of people who would go down in the history books as being of that small group of fools who listened to the likes of Yourdon. Alas, the facts and risks you present so well make this scenario unlikely. And that is a fearful thing, for so many people are running blindly into the y2k hurricane without life jackets or insurance...

-- Walter Skold (wsvnsk2@juno.com), September 22, 1999.

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