What if the Y2K Optimitsts are Right?

greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

A provocative article by Dick Mills on the Westergard Year 2000 site...


What if the Y2K Optimitsts are Right?

I have been accused of approaching the Y2K Problem like an engineer. Since I am an engineer, that makes me proud, not insulted. My examination of the Y2K gem proceeds, one facet at a time. It won't be complete until every facet has been looked at, including the one on the flip side. "What flip side?" you say. Read on.

Suppose that nothing much worthy of note happens in 2000. Suppose that virtually all Y2K projects are successful and that the feared bugs, setbacks, and disruptions never occur. What then? In that event, I foresee the possibility of a software crisis of quite a different kind than expected.

The reason for my concern dates back to 1997. I recall one particular thread on some forum that I paraphrase as follows:

Point: Y2K is a serious problem.
Counterpoint: Don't worry, they're already working on it.
Point: Yes, but look at their track records for on-time, in-budget and debugged deliveries. Half of all software projects are canceled before completion. Many of these organizations have never delivered anything on time in their entire history. Despite rigorous testing and certification, it takes years and years to wring out the bugs. Why should we expect anything different in this case?
Counterpoint: Don't worry, they know that this time it is really serious and they won't allow the project to fail or to be late. There's just too much money at stake to allow it to fail.
Point: Preposterous! You are trivializing the difficulties of managing software projects. You imply that the real reason for late and overspent software projects is simply lack of seriousness.

I think the point about trivialization was very profound. Either the counterpoint person was trivializing the difficulties, or the difficulties were indeed trivial. If anybody knows to whom I should credit this brilliant observation, please let me know.

Now visualize that today is 2000-09-01. Y2K has passed and not much worthy of note happened. Evidently, most Y2K projects were completed on time, close to budget and delivering results with very few bugs. There was also no evidence from 1999 of companies using Herculean methods or bottomless budgets to accomplish the job. What should we conclude? It would seem that software project management is indeed trivial. It further implies that future cases of late or overspent or buggy projects should be assumed to result from mismanagement or incompetence.

Clients and shareholders wishing to sue future software providers for underachievement will have a leg-up because of Y2K. I foresee words like the following in a lawyer's closing arguments.

The defendant was negligent in managing this software project. Defendant's numerous explanations and excuses should be disbelieved because in the Y2K case the defendant proved that he was able to overcome all those difficulties when he was serious about it. The evidence shows that the defendant was simply not serious enough about this project and that constitutes negligence.

That would certainly be a revolutionary change if we were to demand the same precision and predictability in producing intellectual products like software as we do in baking loaves of bread. The consequences could be very constructive or destructive.

On the constructive side, we might succeed in weeding out some of the worst business practices and software sins. Computer science provides us with a pretty high ceiling. Software practices at their best are very good. Unfortunately, much of what we actually have and use is software at its worst. The most effective way to raise the average is to eliminate some of the worst practices. Consumers will have to pay too. Inexpensive packaged software will be a thing of the past.

On the destructive side, I'm very concerned by a backlash if the repercussions of Y2K turn out to be severe. I am reminded of two cases from recent history. First, the case of Cessna and all the other small aircraft manufacturers who withdrew entirely from the business because of excessive product liability. Second, the case of medical doctors. To an objectionable degree, the practice of medicine has been taken away from doctors and given to businessmen and insurance bureaucrats. If either of these things happen to information technology, then it may kill our hopes for a bright new age ushered in by IT.

Constructive or destructive, the only thing I can predict for sure is that trial lawyers will become even richer.

p.s. yyyy-mm-dd is the ISO standard for expressing dates in writing which many countries have approved, including the USA. So far, I seem to the only person on the planet using it. I presume all the rest of you are planning to switch in the next 90 days, right? If not, I presume that your software will allow me to enter and view dates in the standard way, right? Even after the colossal trouble caused by Y2K, we still can't seem to adopt a simple universal way to express the most common of all quantities -- time.

-- Brian E. Smith (besmith@mail.arc.nasa.gov), October 01, 1999


"Constructive or destructive, the only thing I can predict for sure is that trial lawyers will become even richer"

...unless they all get shot at the rollover....

-- Billy-Boy (Rakkasn@Yahoo.com), October 01, 1999.

If Y2K is no big deal, I for one will be one very happy camper! A small prayer for the "bump in the road"!!

-- Helium (Heliumavid@yahoo.com), October 01, 1999.

Golly I hope Mr. Mills is right. Sincerely hope this opinion doesn't offend any Doomers.

(Trying to make brownie points with Diane --- she's keeping track of my "ugly" posts, y'know.....wonder if I have as many as she does yet)

-- Chicken Little (panic@forthebirds.net), October 01, 1999.

Hee hee hee, here's hoping for nuthin at rolloever. Fingers and toes crossed. 4 leaf clover at the ready. Uh, what else am I missing? Oh right, a box of lucky charms. Maybe if we all wish it would go away, I mean really wish, it would?

-- owl (b@a.com), October 01, 1999.

I for one would cheer!

But... I doubt it. *Sigh*

See also...

Y2K Whistle Blower To The Senate Y2K Committee About 3M (E-Mail Alert Via: Dick Mills)

http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id= 001VIC


(BTW, CL... still "lie-ing" around? The Greenspun Admin s/w keeps track of "you"... automatically. Read Phil's book!. The rest of us... remember all your clucking... ad naseum).

-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), October 01, 1999.

What if the Y2K optimists are right?

Oh happy day!

Let me count the ways: First, I get to keep my job. I love working in the computer industry and have no desire to change professions.

Second, we will continue to use modern conveniences and will not take them for granted as much as we have in the past.

Third, I'll have more time for pleasurable pursuits.

Fourth, medical care will be readily available.

Fifth, ... well you get the idea....

Frankly, if the Y2K optimists are right, I just don't see a down side.

-- Arnie Rimmer (Arnie_Rimmer@usa.net), October 01, 1999.

italics off! (sorry)

-- Arnie Rimmer (Arnie_Rimmer@usa.net), October 01, 1999.

The only downside to the optimists being right is that they'll give me shit for a year. That won't be fun, but they buy house insurance and I don't give them shit every year when it doesn't burn down. All in all, it would be great to quit worrying about all this and get back to the fat cat American lifestyle.

-- Dog Gone (layinglow@rollover.now), October 01, 1999.

I'd take a day off and go to the beach to celebrate! I'd also have my hurricane supplies in good order, have a goodly number of eggs each day, have extra papayas to give away, and have my debts paid down. In short, I'd be a whole lot better off than I was two years ago.

I'll continue to work on the business plan and action items for the new business. It'll work in good times as well as bad...

If Y2K is no problem and I get "downsized," I'll worry less, and eat better...

In short, I see being prepared as a win-win situation. No matter what happens, we are positioned to have basic needs taken care of.

-- Mad Monk (madmonk@hawaiian.net), October 01, 1999.

The polys would still be stupid. Those polys make me so mad. They probably will fix y2k just so we look like losers. 3 day speed bump this, minor inconvenience that. What a bunch of weenies.

-- groovy taxidermist (goo@fighters.rock), October 01, 1999.

Given the current condition of our world I don't think it is going to take computers to crash it, it's going there anyway. Whether the Pollys are right or wrong about computers they are still going to need to break their dependence on materialism. Y2K is just the wake up call that we needed to get ourselves into survival mode for a multitude of reasons. Some of us are just a bit more sensitive to the warning signs.

-- @ (@@@.@), October 01, 1999.

Not being in the IT industry, I really don't care one way or another how a Y2K "bump in the road" or "nonevent" might affect long-term software management practices. I personally still think that Y2K will have serious economic consequences, even in the U.S.; but if the Y2K "optimists" prove right, I shall celebrate and be very happy to have been proven wrong. (It will hardly have been the first time!) That, I think, is the appropriate response of any sane person--or even halfway sane person like yours truly. And I shall devote next year to writing humor (mostly bad humor, but what the heck).

-- Don Florence (dflorence@zianet.com), October 01, 1999.

From: Y2K, ` la Carte by Dancr near Monterey, California

Brian... I've been using yyyy-mm-dd for my own record keeping ever since I started working on computers, in about 1967. Nobody taught me to do it that way (of course), but it just made sense to me, because dates would ascii sort correctly. When I'm writing dates for others' consumption, ambiguous dates are translated to the three character month name, eg. 2000-Jan-01 As far as I know, I haven't converted anybody.

-- Dancr (addy.available@my.webpage), October 02, 1999.

What kind of kinky stuff ya got cookin over there in Monterey, Dancer? Looks like the forum maintainer thought it was a little too risque!

-- @ (@@@.@), October 02, 1999.


-- Dancr (addy.available@my.website), October 03, 1999.

Guess you haven't figured out yet that your link was deleted. Was just wondered what kind of dancing you've been doing.

-- @ (@@@.@), October 03, 1999.

Hey Dancr, is that you in that Mona Lisa picture? If so it doesn't look like you were even alive in 1967, let alone working on computers!

-- @ (@@@.@), October 03, 1999.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ