WSJ Editorial - disin' Yourdon : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

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Y2K: Apocalypse Not By Paul Kedrosky 12/08/1999 The Wall Street Journal Page A22 (Copyright (c) 1999, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.)

With the day of reckoning rapidly approaching, all but the hardiest Y2K alarmists have turned tail. Advocates of myriad disaster scenarios are sounding increasingly uneasy about their past pessimistic bleating. It's about time.

While there was a date-related problem in many computer programs, the panic outdistanced the likelihood of calamity so much that we reached absurdity in record time. And now the problem, such as it was, is largely fixed. It was, of course, predictable from the start. Mix the millennium, technology and an over-heated economy, and you have instant apocalypse. Just add media.

The first mention of the debacle-in-waiting, in a 1984 computer trade publication, could have been written today. The column was replete with now-familiar silliness, including a consultant selling his anti-Y2K amulet, blithe chain-logic predictions of future disaster (if this, then this, then that, then that!) and, of course, a handy telephone number at the end to contact a vendor of lifesaving Y2K-repair tools.

But after 15 years the topic has, if you'll pardon the expression, run out the clock. A disproportionate amount of the current babble is mere spin control; indeed, the Gartner Group now estimates that by late this year 80% of companies' Y2K costs will be related to public relations.

Granted, some of the Y2K disaster scenarios have been entertaining. My favorite is the theory that Y2K is a Clinton strategy. When mayhem breaks loose on Jan. 1, Mr. Clinton is supposed to declare martial law and make himself president-for-life.

With 3u weeks to go, Y2K carnage abounds. But most of the mess is from pundits doing screeching U-turns. Even staunch pessimists, like Deutsche Bank chief economist Edward Yardeni, are coming about. Mr. Yardeni had, until recently, the distinction of being the most otherwise-intelligent person making an "end is nigh" case for Y2K. He never actually said that the world was going to end, but it would have felt that way if his predictions came true. Since the middle of 1998, the economist has been doing the rounds saying that there was a 70% chance of a "severe" world-wide recession caused by Y2K. The downturn would last at least 12 months, and it would be as bad as the 1973-74 global recession.

But there Mr. Yardeni was last month in Kansas City, Mo., backtracking away in a speech to financial analysts. While he hadn't given up on a Y2K-induced recession, the calamity had shrunk. He said that things would be over in a speedy six months -- and the Dow Jones Industrial Average would reach 15000 by 2005. It's quite a turnaround. One might even feel sympathy for the man if he hadn't been so alarmist along the way, and if he weren't still naughtily persisting, asking, in effect: Can't I have just a small recession?

Two things are clear: Alarmism has become the real Y2K problem. And having economists opine about technology is like having professional golfers write political columns. No slight intended to golfers.

Prophets of doom like Mr. Yardeni, Ed Yourdon and Peter de Jaeger seem increasingly desperate to find Y2K problems. Mr. Yourdon recently penned a column warning that serious errors are being introduced into software by fixing the Y2K bug.

In other words, as Jan. 1 approaches, these pundits' predictions recede. As the philosopher Karl Popper might say, it is increasingly difficult to see how their predictions are falsifiable. If any computer problem after Jan. 1 is a Y2K problem, and if any recession in 2000 is a Y2K recession, then the exercise is pointless. Anyone can predict pretty much anything correctly by being hazy about the timing and details.

But at long last it's nearly over. The blessed date is just 24 days away, and the largely unblemished progress reports pour in. You can now get online odds on the probability that Y2K will shut down any international bank for 24 hours or more (about as likely as Steve Forbes becoming president). NBC recently aired a scary Y2K movie-of-the-week; its ratings, fittingly, were disastrous. About the most useful thing left to do is to turn the whole fiasco over to media watchdogs like CNN's "Reliable Sources." Let the flagellation begin. Over to you, Bernard and Howie.


Mr. Kedrosky is an assistant professor of commerce at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

Copyright ) 1999 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

-- theletterz (, December 08, 1999


I'm not sure who Mr./Dr./Prof Kedrosky is, but I do vaguely recall seeing another asinine article of his in the WSJ sometime last year. In any case, I'm curious to know what he means by the ominous statement that "Mr. Yourdon recently penned a column warning that serious errors are being introduced into software by fixing the Y2K bug."

Innocent readers of the WSJ (and their readers are all innocents babes, aren't they?) might infer from this that evil programmers are deliberately introducing bugs into the code that they are remediating. Indeed, a few programmers are doing exactly that: it's called hacking, stealing money, wreaking revenge, inserting trapdoors, etc, etc.

But the more common form of such bugs being introduced into remediated code is simply the "bad fix" phenomenon that has always been true with software maintenance. Estimates from Y2K metrics gurus like Howard Rubin and Capers Jones are that roughly 7% of the attempted corrections to Y2K errors are themselves erroneous ... now if the remediation efforts are tested thoroughly enough, over and over again (i.e., with a good solid form of regression testing), then these flawed efforts may be found. Or maybe not.

But I think that Pedrosky may have been referring to a Computerworld column that I wrote in October, entitled Data Corruption: The Silent Y2K Killer, in which I suggested that Y2K bugs might not manifest themselves right away in such obvious forms as a system crash -- but instead might lead to a slow, insidious collection of erroneous database updates. That may have been too advanced a concept for an assistant professor of commerce at the esteemed University of British Columbia to understand

Thank goodness we only have to listen to this kind of drivel for another 23 days. After that, we'll begin hearing a variety of amusing stories about how NONE of the problems and glitches have anything to do with Y2K. Arghhh... Ed

-- Ed Yourdon (, December 08, 1999.

"at long last it's nearly over" == at long last it's nearly here.

All this is saying is that because nothing catastrophic has happened yet, it won't happen. Yawn. It's just filling blank columns with meaningless words.

-- Servant (, December 08, 1999.

What an absolute moron. I hope he lives in a major city.

Even the pollies should be appalled at how he has lumped in Peter de Jager right alongside of Ed Yourdon, and paints both with the same broad brush. Now, THAT'S too funny!

-- King of Spain (madrid@aol.cum), December 08, 1999.

It's articles and attidudes like Kedrosky's that make me almost (almost) want to see some Y2K problems. If for no other reason than to see his fiscal ass being kicked all the way down Wallstreet.

-- PF (, December 08, 1999.

"You can now get online odds on the probability that Y2K will shut down any international bank for 24 hours or more..."

Mr. Kedrosky, meet Deutsche Bank.

I expect better from the Wall Street Journal. But then, where would it be without the Dow? Oh, well.

-- Thinman (, December 08, 1999.

You forgot to criticize the WSJ as a "liberal rag." Oh, I just remembered. Spain considers Y2Knewswire a more reliable source than the "gray lady."

-- Ken Decker (, December 08, 1999.

Faculty & Research

Management Information Systems Division Management Information Systems (MIS) is the study of the design, implementation, deployment, management and use of information technology in organizations. Research done in the Division covers a wide range of topics related to all aspects above, including: business strategy and information systems, information systems planning and management, adoption of information technology in organizations, human factors in information systems, knowledge acquisition, expert systems, systems analysis and design methods, object-oriented enterprise modelling, knowledge based systems to support database design, automated mediation in group support systems, distributed information systems, electronic commerce, the effect of new media and networking on people and organizations, and software copyright infringements.

Faculty Members & Research Papers Izak Benbasat Albert Dexter Robert Goldstein Paul Kedrosky John Tillquist Yair Wand Carson Woo Faculty Working Papers

---------------------------------------------------------------------- ---------- Izak Benbasat B.A. (Robert College, Istanbul), M.Sc., Ph.D. (Minnesota), CANFOR Professor of MIS

Adoption of new information technologies, evaluating alternative human-computer interfaces, measuring the effectiveness of decision support tools, investigating the role of explanations in expert systems, measuring IT competence in line managers and studying methods for conducting information systems research.

On the editorial boards of:

Information System Research: Editor-in-Chief Journal of Management Information Systems Information Systems Journal Accounting, Management and Information Technologies

Contact Info Office Number: Henry Angus 670 Telephone No: 604-822-8396 Email Address: Research papers "Factors that Influence the Social Dimension of Linkage Between Business and Information Technology Objectives," (with B. Reich), Management Information Systems Quarterly, 1999.

"Exploring the Impact of Cognitive Effort and Involvement on Decision Aid Usage," (with P. Todd), Information Systems Research, 1999.

"Empirical Research in Information Systems: The Practice of Relevance," (with R.W. Zmud), Management Information Systems Quarterly, 1999.

"Explanations from knowledge-based systems: a review of theoretical, foundations and empirical work," (with S. Gregor), Management Information Systems Quarterly, 1999.

"The Role of MultiMedia in Changing First Impression Bias," (with K. Lim and L. Ward), Information Systems Research, 2000.

---------------------------------------------------------------------- ----------

Albert Dexter B.A. (Calif., Santa Barbara), M.B.A. (Harvard), Ph.D. (Columbia), Professor Analysis, design and implementation of information systems, information technology and competitive advantage, electronic commerce, software copyright infringement, and the adoption and use of information systems in health care environments.

On the editorial boards of: INFOR

Contact Info Office Number: Henry Angus 567 Telephone No: 604-822-8378 Email Address: Research papers "Software Copyright Infringement: Proving Copying Between Different Languages," Chapter 4 of the 12th Annual Pacific Rim Computer Law Institute, 1995.

"Adoption, Transfers, and Incentives in a Franchise Network with Positive Externalities," (with Barrie R. Nault), Marketing Science, 1994.

"Freely-Determined versus Regulated Prices: Implications for the Measured Link Between Money and Inflation," (with Maurice Levi and Barrie R. Nault), Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, 1993.

"Experimental Evaluation of Graphical and Color-Enhanced Information Presentation," (with Izak Benbasat), Management Science, 1985.

---------------------------------------------------------------------- ----------

Robert Goldstein B.S. (M.I.T.), D.B.A. (Harvard), Associate Professor Increasing the efficiency of database systems while maintaining the integrity of stored data; increasing the effectiveness and usability of expert systems through the incorporation of learning and commonsense reasoning capabilities; developing automated tools for assisting in the facilitation of computer-supported group work; and examining the impact on people and organizations of new media and networking capabilities.

Contact Info Office Number: Henry Angus 468 Telephone No: 604-822-8389 Email Address: Research papers "Commonsense Reasoning in Database Design Expert Systems," (with Veda Storey), 10th International Conference on the Entity - Relationship Approach, San Francisco, October 1991. "A Methodology for Creating User Views in Database Design," (with Veda C. Storey), ACM Transactions on Database Systems, Vol. 13, No. 3, September 1988, 305-338.

You can let Mr. Kedrosky know exactly what you feel about his editorial by communicating with him at the following email address or by phone. I'm sure he'd like to hear some feedback!

Paul Kedrosky B. Eng., (Carleton), M.B.A. (Queen's), Ph.D., (Western Ontario), Assistant Professor Economics of Information Techonology, Internet Strategy

Contact Info Office Number: Henry Angus 458 Telephone No: 604-822-8894 Email Address:

-- Incognito (, December 08, 1999.


Paul Kedrosky said:

"Mr. Yourdon recently penned a column warning that serious errors are being introduced into software by fixing the Y2K bug."

Has someone finally perfected programming to the point where this is NO LONGER TRUE ???

It seems that having **JOURNALISTS write about programming** makes even less sense than having professional golfers write political columns.


...(hitting the)...

-- snooze button (, December 08, 1999.

I have been a loyal reader of the Wall Street Journal for over 27 years. For many of those years, each day I read their opinion page to learn what to think. I even remember the day, long ago, that they threw in the towel on the Vietnam War.

The editors of the Journal have contacts within the government. They know the truth. To see them print this pabulum is disappointing, dispiriting, sickening. Look at this quote from the article:

And having economists opine about technology is like having professional golfers write political columns.

Thats a good one. Out of fifty top economists, only one or two are predicting a Y2K recession. Of the fifty, Yardeni is the one who once cranked code for a living. So economists dont know anything about technology? Youre right, professor: they dont.

There was a better article in yesterdays Journal, on the arts page. It was a review of a new book on Pearl Harbor called Day of Deceit.

No, Mr. Bartley, we will not be following you off the cliff. Get used to it.

-- Alan Rushby (, December 08, 1999.

We haven't turned tail, we just got quieter. Our efforts are on our community, neighbor to neighbor, dealing with the practical preps that a GI can do in the next 550 hours. It's too late to persuade a DGI - they'll still be in shock when the rollover hits. But a GI has plenty of time for some preps and very little for others, and we can help point them toward hittable targets.

The train is coming down the tracks, whistle blowing. I'm not hollering "Look out for the train!" any longer, because if you can't hear the train, you won't hear me either.

-- bw (home@puget.sound), December 08, 1999.

It seems that having **JOURNALISTS write about programming** makes even less sense than having professional golfers write political columns.

One can say the same thing about historians who address the technical problem of y2k, programmers who address financial issues and people who surf the net with AOL who comment "can somebody please make a hotlink? I just KNOW y2k is going to be a ten!"

-- Applied Logic (applies to both@sides.Uknow), December 08, 1999.

Mr. Kedrosky, on the other hand, hasn't changed his tune one bit:

From Duh-2000: The monthly contest for the stupidest thing said about the Year 2000 problem -- Contest #2 - August, 1998

Paul Kedrosky, assistant professor of commerce at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver: "Some problems will cross the line from irritating to embarrassing; some may even cause damage. But the likelihood of catastrophe, of global recession--let alone a return to preindustrial society--is slim to none. People who say otherwise are selling something." ...And the sad part is that if people DO get off their butts and work hard to fix the problem, the nay-sayers will say "See, I told you it wasn't going to be a problem". Quoted in the Wall Street Journal, July 20, 1998 (the online article requires a paid registration to the WSJ site, but trust us, it's there). Submitted by Tom Crouch.

-- Mac (sneak@lurk.hid), December 08, 1999.

Do I detect bitterness from some short sellers?

-- (shortin@the.sheets), December 08, 1999.

>>>"And now the problem, such as it was, is largely fixed."<<<

What ever game him that idea? What a loser! I expect more intelligence than this from the WSJ.

-- Irving (, December 08, 1999.

Do I detect bitterness from some short sellers?

No, you detect anger from a man who loves his family, his neighbors and his country -- in that order.

The world has changed, Mr. Shortin. You've been too busy following orders to notice. Ask your boss if he's heard about it yet.

-- Alan Rushby (, December 08, 1999.

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

In a Wall Street Journal editorial, Paul Kedrosky states: ...Peter de Jaeger seem[s] increasingly desperate to find Y2K problems.

What planet is this guy living on?

If any computer problem after Jan. 1 is a Y2K problem, and if any recession in 2000 is a Y2K recession, then the exercise is pointless. In that case, anyone who is prepared for the possibility of a recession is still better off than someone who is not.

...the largely unblemished progress reports pour in. Progress reports? They're still making progress? What about the year for testing? What about IV&V? What about all the companies who are laying low and just trying to not be noticed?

-- Dancr (addy.available@my.webpage), December 08, 1999.

Has this guy ever read any of Yardeni's writing? Yardeni changed his prediction from 25% 6 month recession, 40% 6-12 month recession, 5% depression, to 30% 6 month recession, 35% 6-12 month recession, 5% depression. He isn't backpedaling very far. Yardeni has consistenlty said Dow 15,000 by 2005, even while predicting a Y2K related drop to 8,000.

-- nobody (, December 08, 1999.

I have a couple of friends that work at Dow Jones, and I have been there several times over the past 14 years (they're in South Brunswick, next to Princeton NJ). Talk about computers! It'll be interesting to see how they are doing next month...

Tick... Tock... <:00=

-- Sysman (, December 08, 1999.

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