Are we solving a mystery? : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

For a long time, I have been puzzled by some statements from pollies, as to the large number of people "maintaining" application systems, and supposed continual problems with production systems even in the absence of Y2K.

These statements don't square with my experience at all.

What a gas if it turns out that a lot of these "maintenance" people are just part of the error correction cycle, which all systems have.

-- Peter Errington (, October 01, 2000


DEFINE: "pollies".


-- cpr (, October 01, 2000.

Have you ever maintained an application system? Some are stable, others are in a perpetual state of change. Are you a programmer?

-- Sysguy (-@old.programmers.just.fade.away), October 01, 2000.



Sorry Charles, that was too easy.

-- (, October 01, 2000.


I've observed your statements regarding the differences between maintenance and transaction error coverage, and I haven't seen in my career the distinctions that you prefer. Then again, I've up until this point been a contractor, and maintenance is our bread and butter.

Maintenance includes ANYTHING that happens to a system once it's installed, including further modifications. I've been hired to modify field lengths [when needed], include new changes in labor laws [when needed], and I've been hired to simply babysit systems that are currently in production waiting for flaws to occur, perhaps watching performance and making corrections to same.

I guess I miss your point.

-- Anita (, October 01, 2000.

To Anita:

You say, "I've observed your statements regarding the differences between maintenance and transaction error coverage, and I haven't seen....the distinctions that you prefer."

The people who handle the errors kicked out by a system are clerks, not programmers. This is not to belittle them, they may have to be skilled and specialized. There will always be need for these people, since no system would be complete without an error cycle.

Your list of what a maintenance programmer might do is one I totally agree with. And as Sysguy points out, some are stable and others are in a perpetual state of change. Yes, I have been a programmer, in both development and maintenance.

-- Peter Errington (, October 01, 2000.

OK, writing too fast once again, which I'm very prone to do. I should have said the routine errors kicked out by the system because the transactions have fallen afoul of the edit criteria.

-- Peter Errington (, October 01, 2000.

I apologize if this is a repeat of essentially what I said previously, but I got an error on submission.


Online transactions now have edit routines that return the screen to the user noting the error and DEMANDING that the error be fixed before accepted. There are no longer batch reports being provided because an online transaction was written sloppily. I haven't heard of this happening in 20 years now. When, exactly, did you leave the government?

-- Anita (, October 01, 2000.

Anita, there are some errors that a data input person can fix and some that require a more skilled person.

If the data input person mistakenly puts an alpha character in a numeric field, of course this can be fixed on the spot.

If the input document has someone in the expert/consultant category being paid more than 62% of the pay rate of a member of Congress, and this is illegal, how is the data input person going to know what to do?

The problems that can't be handled by the data input person may require research.

-- Peter Errington (, October 01, 2000.


I don't mean to SOUND dense here, but I STILL don't get your point. If there's a criteria dictated by law, the online transaction should kick the screen back to the user with a message stating that "This salary is higher than law allows." It matters not whether the person entering the data understands or even KNOWS about the law, but the question has been raised that the data is unacceptable to the system and will not be allowed.

This is where maintenance of systems comes into play. If the law changes to state a maximum of income for contractors, the maintenance programmer modifies the online transactions to accept only transactions with income within this limit. OTOH, I've never worked on a government system, so they may very well hire clerks to scratch their heads when folks enter bad data that wasn't checked in the online programs. If one listened to Cory, programmers in Washington sat around eating donuts all day. This was NOT representative of the real world as I saw it.

-- Anita (, October 01, 2000.

Anita, it sounds like what you would advocate would involve the data entry people playing "return to sender" with the timekeepers. Horrible idea, trust me.

But regardless, could never happen. My old Agency has been completely converted to on-line data input for over fifteen years. But payroll has more edits than there are fish in the sea, and if you put even a fraction of them in the data input stage, it would slow the system down to less than a crawl.

-- Peter Errington (, October 01, 2000.

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