Lessons learned from Y2k.

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One of the things discussed on this forum since it's conception is "How could so many be wrong in their estimates of Y2k 'damage'?"

Ed Yourdon was a player as an "expert" and testified before Congress. Others claimed to be "experts" as well, and ALSO testified before Congress. After Y2k came and went, some of the "experts" were saying "Why blame ME when Congress was just as afraid?" Well, WHO threw the fear into Congress? [There's a circle involved in the above, in case you didn't notice.]

The internet was used to spread the news that was passed on by the experts to Congress. This article indicates that the same mechanism is being used today for other purposes. It begs the question of "What did we learn from Y2k?"

Y2k - Did We Learn Anything?

-- Anita (notgiving@anymore.thingee), March 12, 2000



If I didn't know better, I'd swear that article was written by cpr.

Everything in that article is true. However, what it doesn't tell you is the use of the internet also helped reduce the FUD. Cherri, cpr, and I all sent information out over our list serves, and I guarantee you, if anyone was worried as recently as the February 28th rollover, (which I doubt) me - and my use of the internet - settled a lot of nerves.


What that post doesn't tell you, is my list serve goes out to over 400 people here in Arizona (the 7th largest city in the U.S.) and some of the members are among the most influential and powerful people in the world.

Nope, can't blame the internet. As with all things there is a ying and yang.



-- Laura (Ladylogic@...), March 12, 2000.

Dog gone it, I'll try it again:



-- Laura (Ladylogic@....), March 12, 2000.

Well you yinged my yang so good I want it again.

-- Manny (No@dip.com), March 12, 2000.


It is a pleasure to see someone use logic with 20/20 vision. So many use any excuse they can dreg up to explain why it was not "them" that was wrong, it was the other guy, who was supposed to be an expert that they got their information from.

I remember posting on DeJaggers list an e-mail saying "how can I be right and everyone else be wrong (or something like that). Little good it did, most people involved in software had little or no knowledge of hardware, so their fear of embedded was due to a lack of knowledge and technical understanding. I remember nievley posting over and over that there was no embedded chip Y2K problem and having so many who knew better do a job on me for it.

Well at least understood what I was talking about and they have to live with the fact that they knew damn good and well that they did not know what they were saying was fact because they did not have the ability to understand the facts.

When people now say that no one knew for sure what would happen they are talking about the "experts" who professed to "KNOW" so much before the rollover.

Now they are making excuses for lying about what they did and did not know.

It turned out that a lot of "experts" were nothing more than people who figured the odds were in their favor for being right because so many people were saying it would be one way. They fed on each others guesses, assumptions and BS. They were fakes, they did not tell the truth because they did not know or understand the facts. If they had an understanding of embeddeds, they would have known what I knew.

So these "experts" were opertunests who figured if everybody says it then it must be true. False experts. They did not and do not understand the technology to any degree that would allow them to empty the garbage in a tech area, much less be left alone to work on it.

Beware of so-called-experts, especially if they never worked in the area they are supposed to be expert in. And just because someone is an engineer in a field-especially hardware, it does not mean they know either. Usually they have taken the classes and gotten the label, but have little or no hands on working experience.

One thing that really got me irritated was when some one would say that so and so was an engineer-as if that meant they were expert or something. There are hundreds of different kinds of engineers- You don't think a hydraulic engineer knows software? People have to get cynical these days and demand to know just what ability an "expert" really has, besides the ability to talk.

-- Cherri (sams@brigadoon.com), March 12, 2000.

How does one sign up for your list-serve, Laura?

-- (want@tojoin.com), March 12, 2000.

Personally, I think only a very, very small number of people actually anticipated serious Y2K problems.

-- Ken Decker (kcdecker@worldnet.att.net), March 12, 2000.

want to join,

Yeah, right! I'm going to tell an anon on the internet how to join.

It ain't gonna happen.

I think it would be pointless even if you mailed me your real name and address because we physically disbanded January 19th, and I think the chair is going to shut it down soon anyway.

In case you haven't noticed, Y2k is over, and we've gone on with our lives.


-- Laura (Ladylogic@...), March 12, 2000.

Interesting ideas.

I think there's something to be said for Cherri's contention that the false experts tended to fall victim to a feedback loop, unregulated by the requisite personal knowledge of the details -- i.e., they talked one another into believing what wasn't there, and couldn't know better.

But these pessimistic projections weren't just created out of thin air, for the simple perverse joy of spreading FUD. Without any exception I can find, those pundits with direct knowledge had a vested financial or promotional interest in creating a false impression, and fanning it when it faltered.

And these "root sources" were NOT, as Cherri claims, false experts who did not understand the technology. When both ignorance and serious concern are near-universal, this just BEGS for what we've witnessed. What a wonderful opportunity to sell worried people with money something they don't need but don't know it and never will.

People like Yourdon and Mike Cherry were never false experts. What they knew were multiple truths: That y2k was easily manageable and being taken in stride, that YOU didn't know this and lacked the technical knowledge to recognize it, that creating (known) false but plausible scenarios provides good deniability, and that there was a LOT of money out there looking for security. Those like Yourdon are graduates of Golden Opportunity 101.

Most of the deniability was due to the fact that there really was a problem. Date mishandling was very common and pervasive in the IT world. The projection to embedded systems was problematic, but hey, there *might* be a device out there somewhere that would or did fail, and (fortunately for the scam artists) no expert in the world, even Cherri, could know for SURE that some thoughtless programmer somewhere hadn't screwed up something critical. And embedded systems vendors looking for easy (if unnecessary) sales didn't help inform anyone either.

Some noted "experts" like deJager were honest enough to recognize that the y2k problem, in general, was far less intractable or threatening than they had at first envisioned. And while deJager couldn't bring himself to come out and say "Oops, I exaggerated out of sheer ignorance" (nor could I, had I collected millions in speaking fees), at least he found the best alternative and wrote that we "broke the back" of a real problem by dint of hard work (Italy notwithstanding).

So for the opportunistic knowledgeable types like Yourdon (featured prominently and justifiably in the article Anita cites), such a solid, practical observation was a threat. So were the incoming returns, showing embedded problems NOT being found in testing, and lack of concern/expressions of confidence or "substantial" compliance from large businesses everywhere. What to do?

Yourdon had multiple goals -- to discredit reports of empirical results, to recruit buyers for his books, and to sustain FUD without undue loss of reputation. Since the results were real, he couldn't discredit them *directly*. Book buyers needed to be recruited from those without technical knowledge but concerned that there *might* be a serious problem, or from the generally paranoid and distrustful of "official" pronouncements.

He adopted a 3-part strategy: Testify vaguely about the lack of success of prior (but noncomparable) projects, continue to write articles expressing plausible concerns while carefully avoiding any mention of actual experience in fixing y2k problems, and set up an internet forum directed at (and moderated in favor of) the doomer type Bill Schenker has so accurately characterized. (In retrospect, the appearance on that forum of a few rational voices must have been infuriating. But that problem has now been solved, albeit at some cost).

Beyond this, Cherri and Anita are correct. The "spin-off" false experts such as Jim Lord, Lane Core, Rick Cowles and Paula Gordon were victims as much as they were guilty. They were carriers of the y2k disease, but not originators. They may have been sincere, or stupid, or opportunistic. But they helped keep the ball rolling.

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), March 12, 2000.

I think Flint has made the the best point about how some were overcome with FUD about the rollover. He said that the problem was thinking that if we didn't know everything about a problem, it meant we didn't know anything. This was a terrific PR problem for those of us actually doing the Y2K work and trying to communicate with the public. When we said that we were compliant and that our estimate was less than a 1% probability of any major electric or gas problems, some people only heard the less than 100% part. This seemed particularly true for some on the TB2000 board. In real life, though, there aren't any 100% answers and preparing using the 99% knowledge is just as important as looking at the 1% possibility of failure.

-- Jim Cooke (JJCooke@yahoo.com), March 12, 2000.

I have learned that the buzz on the Internet is not to be trusted any more than the mainstream media.

-- Lars (lars@indy.net), March 12, 2000.

"I have learned that the buzz on the Internet is not to be trusted any more than the mainstream media."

Right on, Lars!

Damn, that's been simmering in the back of my mind for weeks now. I think MOST people know that. Not only that, I think when it comes to chatrooms, nobody can tell an expert from an inmate, and I don't think most people in responsible positions are stupid enough to risk their careers by posting sensitive information in a chatroom. Stumbling into Yourdon's pit for information was one of the dumbest things I've ever done.


-- Laura (Ladylogic@...), March 12, 2000.

The question, of course, is why did you listen to the buzz on the internet at all. I lurked here, I read what you read. I guess that toward the end, I just believed the people that said there would not be a problem.

On the other hand, in my last trip to the store before rollover, I did buy an extra 12 pack of toilet paper. As a friend explained it to me -- if nothing happens, you'll use it; if its TEOTWAWKI, suburban housewives will be offering you their SUVs, their children and their bodies for a roll of "squeezably soft" TP.

So, why not. Then I left for Cozumel to wait out the rollover.

-- E. H. Porter (E.H. Porter@just wondering.about it), March 12, 2000.

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