IT Hubris : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

Unlike many during the Y2K debate, I readily admitted to a lack of IT expertise. On TB 2000, it seemed like every other poster claimed 30+ years of IT experience.

I started playing with computers when the first Apple II rolled into my high school around '78. If memory serves, this beauty had a whopping 64k of memory and both tape (cassette) and floppy drive. I've managed to squander money on every generation of PC... XT, 286, 386, 486, Pentium, PII, PIII. In my work life, I have been more a "user" than a system administrator or programmer.

I also have spent a good deal of time with IT pros. If you will forgive a generalization, in most IT shops I bumped into one or two titanic egos. These folks were usually quite intelligent... and rather intolerant of the lowly "users." They had opinions on software, hardware, firmware, Tupperware.... and therein was the problem.

Expertise in a single area does not translate into omniscience. A high level of intelligence does not assure one will be right, particularly about issues where one has limited expertise or information.

During the Y2K debate, we listened to some bright people with extensive IT backgrounds, people like Ed Yourdon and Steve Heller. They (and many other "experts") were wrong about Y2K.

One possible culprit is "IT hubris." Technical geniuses may be veritable demigods in their specialized niches. Outside of these areas, they may be quite mortal, though they may not realize it. No one expert could solve the riddle of Y2K. It took information and analysis from a diverse range of experts.

Think of it as finding pieces to a jigsaw puzzle. Individuals like Heller and Yourdon simply filled in the empty spaces with their own thoughts or the opinions of like-minded individuals. The folks who "got it right" used the puzzle pieces provided by others.

I think we should always think critically about the puzzle pieces given to us by "experts." It possible, however, for a patient and reasonable person to find the "right" pieces and put them together... even for those of us who do not have 30+ years of IT experience.

By the way, please feel free to disagree... you may have had a much different experience with IT "gurus."

-- Ken Decker (, May 10, 2000


This is already being discussed in the Andy vs Sysman threads. Do you have any original ideas?

-- (I@m.a.mocking.bird), May 10, 2000.

That and there were very few among the doomer "experts" who actually were involved in Y2K projects.

-- Buddy (, May 10, 2000.

The way of the fool seems right to him,

but a wise man listens to advice.

-- Proverbs 12:15 (read@the.word), May 10, 2000.

May 3, 1999

Scott McNealy, CEO, SUN MICROSYSTEMS: "I will probably be asleep as soon as all three boys go to sleep (about 9:30) and will wake up and change Y2K-compliant diapers."

Jim Clark, co-founder of NETSCAPE COMMUNICATIONS, SILICON GRAPHICS and HEALTHEON: "I consider [Y2K] a complete ruse promulgated by consulting companies to drum up business."

Larry Ellison, CEO, ORACLE: "Y2K is going to be a problem, but nowhere near the problem some people seem to think it will be. I will be ready, the company will be ready, and things will be OK."

Jim Barksdale, former CEO, NETSCAPE COMMUNICATIONS: "I'm not concerned about it. Actually, one of the biggest dangers we face over the next six months is the press hyping Y2K and turning it into a crisis situation for the public."

Robert Kotick, Chairman and CEO, ACTIVISION: "Worried? Not at all. I think it's entirely invented by a division of MICROSOFT."

Graham Spencer, co-founder, EXCITE: Is not planning on traveling at the beginning of the year out of fear of scheduling snafus and delayed flights. "I'm going to buy bottled water and canned food; I'll have extra batteries for flashlights and radios; and I'll probably withdraw some extra cash. I probably won't buy a backup generator; I'm definitely not buying a gun or moving into a bunker."

Ed Dilworth, CEO, ARNOLD INGALLS MORANVILLE: "My wife's gonna have a baby in six weeks. I don't care about anything but that. The actual event in January -- pfft."

Sunil Paul, CEO, BRIGHT LIGHT TECHNOLOGIES: "Personally, I'm planning to party like it's, well, you know. But I might carry a spare flashlight with me, perhaps one that doubles as a party favor. The hysteria that has people hiding in bunkers in mountains is overdone. It's not the end of civilization -- it's a computer bug."

High-Tech Execs Not Bugged By Year 2000 Fears Most Silicon Valley elite won't take major steps to prepare

-- Doc Paulie (, May 10, 2000.

Good point, Buddy, and one made on the Sysman-Andy thread.

-- Ken Decker (, May 10, 2000.

Don't forget this one...

What I foresee is a world of delays, shortages, inconveniences, screwups, limited power and banking problems, and a reduction in both the quality and availability of medical care and communications. I see widely scattered but locally severe (up to Bhopal-level) crises worldwide. I see all of this made randomly better and worse by government intervention. I foresee some deflation, and a significant stock market hit. I expect key ingredients in many processes to go missing for a fairly extended period, forcing appropriate workarounds. I expect large and financially vulnerable groups of people (the elderly, those living on entitlement programs) to find themselves in untenable positions, with limited adaptive success. I expect high unemployment for several years minimum. I expect no shortage of chains of events that would amaze Rube Goldberg, and most of them unfortunate.

I expect the worst of the *causes* of the problems to be cleaned up within a few months, and the worst of the *results* of the problems to be mostly handled within a year. But I also expect continued snafus of newsworthy proportions intermittently at least through the end of 2001, both because of long-latency bugs and because of the failure of emergency patches. I expect our current standard of living to recover in no less than 5 years, nor more than 10. I don't anticipate the collapse or overthrow of any Western governments, but I do expect heads of state to roll.

I'm not making any attempt to quantify any of this, except that I don't expect any devolutionary spiral nor any significant dieback. I don't anticipate any economic impact from riots except very locally. I expect those who prepare to be noticeably more comfortable than those who don't, especially during the winter. I think there will be many fires, some out of control, in areas where power fails. I expect the US government to keep the lid on panic and bank runs barring a triggering spate of celebrity failures that can't be spun away. I think the likelihood of accidental nuclear war is essentially zero. I expect people to help one another far more than they do now, though it won't last. I expect the media to stay in operation, and go bananas with human interest stories. I expect the legal messes to be neutralized by no-fault type legislation.

I think we'll argue for the rest of our lives over whether it could have been better or worse, and the consensus will be that it was bad. I expect most people in the US to muddle through, impatient and frustrated, but getting by. A minority will lose nearly everything. As ever in chaotic times, vast fortunes will be made and lost, and mostly lost.

I emphasize that these are NOT predictions -- I have no crystal ball. This is just a description of what would surprise me the least. I realize my description covers a wide range, and I intend that it should. The future's not mine to see. I know I've touched on only a few of all the issues raised here.

-- Flint (, January 21, 1999

-- Let he who has never erred cast the first barb (To err@is.human), May 10, 2000.


I work in IT, and have worked directly on Client-server and web related Y2K remediation prior to rollover. I would have to say that *most* folks in IT who I was in direct contact with knew exactly what was going to happen, and they new this pretty much by 6-7/99. You would occasionally run across people who were sure, very sure, that TEOTWAWKI was nigh, but they were the exception. They did get listened to, because they were usually loud about it, and their message was compelling - kinda like how UFO stories, the Loch Ness Monster, and Kennedy-murder conspiracy stories are compelling.

Why were such stories spun? Hubris doesn't exactly describe what was happening, in my opinion. I think a better description would be... snowblindedness. Every day, Y2K. Everyone from the CIO's on down were depending on these people, mostly COBOL programmers, to lead their companies out of the woods. It became a world they had to save, not a world based on reality - it became their own world.

Have you heard of Roleigh Martin? I worked with him. He's a good guy basically. Completely snowblind on this issue. He was a messiah in 1999, and we all were in dire need of salvation in his eyes. If you had your head on straight and had a good grasp of the issues, you saw it, but Roleigh and folks like him refused to look. In Roleigh's case, and in others, I'd have to say no real Hubris was realy involved, though.

-- Bemused (and_amazed@you.people), May 10, 2000.

Hey Ken - why does it puzzle you so badly that folks much more knowledgable than yourself are occasionally wrong about something?

-- Andy Decker (, May 10, 2000.

I should know better than to make a subtle point. The world is increasingly run by technocrats. When these button-pushers think they are smarter than "everybody" else, it can cause problems. I think the vast majority of IT pros got it right. Look at the trade press in 1999. None of the serious trade rags were sounding the alarm... but a few IT "gurus" got it wrong. Look what happens when a semi-credible guy like Yourdon go 'round the bend. The same principle can be applied to the LTCM fiasco. A couple of Nobel prize winners thought they were too smart to lose money. Wrong answer. The "moral hazard" becomes higher in a highly technical society when we must trust others to keep the wheels spinning. Imagine what would have happened if one of the Fed governor's had flaked out over Y2K?

-- Ken Decker (, May 10, 2000.

I see what you are talking about, I started with a TI-um something on to the ones you spoke about,Apple II rolled into my high school around '78. If memory serves, this beauty had a whopping 64k of memory and both tape (cassette) and floppy drive. I've owned (or still own) of PC... XT, 286, 386, 486, Pentium, PII, PIII.

The thing with me is Before all of these I started with old analog motorgenerator, syncro, server, relay logic driven analog mainframes on up to the latest (well up to 12 years ago) digital mainframes.

For me, once I understood what work was being done on mainframes, I was no longer worried about their outcome, there may be a lot of them but basically in a situation like Y2K the users share important information with other users even their competition. It is NOT common knowledge, but it is a matter of honor amongst big business with who hold to high standards which causes them the respect for their competition that runs on a fair playing field and would be the reason for sharing problems and fixes.

Fortunatly there were enough left even after the chaos caused by Corperate downsizers, those who would come in and destroy all employee/employer trust,just to squeeze every penny of profit to the detriment of the quality of the product, the standards of which their products are held to and the betrayal of the trust of their workforce where loyalty was rewarded with a kick in the teeth as they were shown the door just before they qualified for retirement.

I believe that Y2K did a lot of positive things by bringing to the attention of the of big business how their "new" corperate methology was not only flawed but detrimental to their future existance in the long run. No longer can they find personel who are willing to spend their entire carrier working for them, they are forced to constantly replace those they have spent resources training as the employees have seen the lack of employer loyalty in the past two decades and see no reason to be loyal themslves.

You will find that old companies who held out against the downsizing for emmediate profit and who were loyal to their employees even during difficult financial times are the strongest businesses out there.

Getting back to the origional point (I do tend to go off in different directions :o) )Y2K caused many businesses who had lost a lot of their standards in the past, turned around and relearned some of them in a time of mutual need. This is how fixes were refined and many did not have to re-invent solutions individually. Once the refinement of fixes became shared between entities, the overwhelming "problem" of mainframe fixes became manageable. When Businesses were finished with their fixes and testing, there were those that demanded IV+V. Which was absolutly stupid and unecessary, how can an consulting firm who has no background or experience come in and make determinations of what was found, fixed correctly and complete? The entire idea was ridiculis, and only came to be demaded by those consulting firms who were loosing out from the interaction between businesses that excluded the need for their services. When the work was getting done, businesses sharing fixes and in house people who had the knowledge and experience were doing the work, due to the word of how some consulting groups were more interested in bleeding as much money and time as possible out of their contract before hiring the people who were capable of actually doing the fixes. The word got around and those consulting firms who did it that way found it difficult to find work, especially when in house or small firms with actual knowledge of the equipment could do it faster and cheaper.

A lot of thos who were trained in IT at the desktop leval had little or no understanding of mainframe enviroments (besides servers) and really should not have been given the job of overseeing mainframe enviroments.

Just as neither PC-server based IT personel had no business being in charge of embedded systems and mainframe hardware.

That is how the embedded chip hype became so prominate, needing to stimulate more business when the demand for their consultant needs in the mainframe arena became slowed, the firms needed another "hook" to reel in fresh fish (business). It was a goody too, because they would not be shown up by in-house programmers and IT's, who were doing the job the consultants wanted, but here was an arena that virtually no one could dispute their alligations of failure statistics on. Exceptfor someone like me who has experience in the mainframe hardware and software, Desktop, and embedded systems and embedded chips.

As there were others more proficient at explaining the remediation results of mainframes and desktops, Others and I attempted to bring out into the open the truth about embedded chips then embedded systems.

The groups of us that became known as Debunkers had people who worked within each of the areas of concern so basically we had all of the bases covered. Information was shared freely, and where there were unknown areas we defered to data given by people with extensive experience within those fields.

I was always open to have it proven to me that I was wrong in my evaluation, but the proof had to be logical, technical proof that could be examined and and analysed with proven formulas or adaquite test equipment. I believe the only possibility of failure when the rollover came would have to be from an unknown, as all known possible areas of concern had been looked into and evaluated and none showed the possibility of causing a problem, or one that culd not be recognised and fixed upon failure.

I believe that Murphey's Law was followed to the Nth degree when it came to Y2K.

-- Cherri (sams@brigadoon.comk), May 10, 2000.

I think we all would do well to be wary of anyone considered a "guru" at anything, as this whole discussion points out. I've never been a guru-follower as I've never believed anyone is THAT smart.

-- Buddy (, May 11, 2000.

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