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Census Tech Makeover Includes Innovation "Oasis"

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the fancy-name-for-break-room dept.

Government 62

CWmike writes "The US Census Bureau is in the midst of a tech makeover following criticism of its technology deployments leading up to the 2010 Census, ranging from problems with its payroll processing system to its handhelds. The problems resulted in soaring costs and caustic criticism from lawmakers. The makeover aims to consolidate operations as well as enable the bureau's IT staff to be more creative and inventive. One effort includes establishing a place for its IT staff to generate ideas and test technologies. The Center for Applied Technology, as it's been named, will serve 'as a focal point for bringing entrepreneurial-minded staff, emerging technologies, and pressing business problems facing the Census together,' said the agency, in response to written questions from Computerworld about the plans, following Grove's testimony. 'Once the physical space is redesigned, it will serve as an oasis that will inspire Census staff to think creatively at an enterprise level to solve some of the more pertinent issues facing the Bureau,' the agency said. The center 'employs a 'think tank' concept where Census staff can work directly with corporate leaders in technology, key members of other government agencies, and academia.'"

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They're Census workers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35812642)

How creative do you expect them to be??

Re:They're Census workers (4, Insightful)

Palmsie (1550787) | more than 3 years ago | (#35812868)

Apparently you have never worked with data. It's an incredibly creative process, especially when all answers are technically correct but only certain ones are more helpful, useful, or easily interpretable.

Re:They're Census workers (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35812980)

In other words. The data we selectively choose is only meaningful when we say it is.

Signed:

An American political party

Re:They're Census workers (1)

Palmsie (1550787) | more than 3 years ago | (#35813054)

Data is not selectively chosen, solutions are based on empirical evidence among many other factors. George Box, one of the great statisticians of modern science explained, "all models are wrong, some models are useful". However, if you have no idea about statistics or inferential theories that underly modern science you can continue spouting nonsense. Let the adults finish this conversation.

Re:They're Census workers (2, Informative)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 3 years ago | (#35813120)

However, if you have no idea about statistics or inferential theories that underly modern science ...

Unfortunately, this is a discussion about the census, and the census is not based upon statistics, it is a ENUMERATION of the population. I.e., a COUNT. That is what the Constitution mandates; that is what should happen.

Re:They're Census workers (1)

frosty_tsm (933163) | more than 3 years ago | (#35813868)

Apparently you have never worked with data. It's an incredibly creative process, especially when all answers are technically correct but only certain ones are more helpful, useful, or easily interpretable.

It's also about being able to work with a massively large data set in a reasonably efficient fashion. Technologies and code that work well for hundreds or thousands break down when you surpass 100 million. I speak from experience.

Hummmmm... (4, Insightful)

ExploHD (888637) | more than 3 years ago | (#35812672)

Just because you have a redesign of your interior does not mean that they'll be better enabled to "be more creative". I'd say quality assurance and constant retesting/redesign leading up to the next census will be much more beneficial.

Re:Hummmmm... (1, Offtopic)

Palmsie (1550787) | more than 3 years ago | (#35812888)

Not necessarily. Functional ascetics are critical when it comes to organizational behaviors. For example, if you work in a startup company that requires quick decision-making and on the fly meetings and discussions to bounce ideas around, if your organization is build hierarchically with lots of cubicles, no open spaces, isolated rooms or floors that limit access to people or resources... it makes the job of every single worker much more difficult across many tasks.

Ultimately, work environments should be congruent with their objectives. If you work in a more slow-paced environment (e.g. utilities, banks) then one type of environment might benefit the workers. On the other hand, if you work in a very face-paced environment you should build an organization that supports the types of needs that workers will have (e.g. room to work collaboratively, easy access to superiors, resources, etc).

On whose nickel? (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35812690)

The Census was one of the bigger cuts in the latest round of budgeting. And their job can be done on an iPhone.

And, anyway, techies don't think in think-tanks. They come up with their best stuff when they're ass-deep in alligators and wondering why the swamp was built in the middle of the I/O library.

Looks like an infestation of administratus runamokus.

Re:On whose nickel? (3, Insightful)

Entrope (68843) | more than 3 years ago | (#35812820)

Either that or it's a Boondogglus enormous. When I read "Census staff can work directly with corporate leaders in technology, key members of other government agencies, and academia", the first thing that came to mind is that the Census people in question will get to spend as much time as they want, respectively, (a) receiving Enterprise Ready Widget sales pitches, (b) schmooze with counterparts in other agencies, and (c) travel to universities in pretty places to do grant reviews.

Re:On whose nickel? (1, Offtopic)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 3 years ago | (#35812876)

And their job can be done on an iPhone.

This just in from Fox news "Government to buy iPhone 9's for every worker. 'Will Democrats stop at nothing to waste your tax dollars?' says [Nameless Republican shill]"

Re:On whose nickel? (0, Flamebait)

cobrausn (1915176) | more than 3 years ago | (#35813042)

Meanwhile, at another news agency reporting on the exact same story...

"This just in on [Any Other News Network] - Huge budget cuts on the Census Bureau, workers being replaced by iPhones. 'Will Republicans ever stop waging their war on the middle class?' says [Nameless Democrat shill]".

Seriously, we can do this all day. It's the American political process in action.

False equivalence (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35813166)

There's not a news agency on earth that whines about "Teh Republicans!!!11!!" anywhere remotely near as loudly, around the clock, day in and day out, as Fox whines about "Teh Democrats!!!11!!"

Re:False equivalence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35813608)

You're either not watching/reading the news objectively or you're a (D) fanboi. The Republicans are douchebags but so are the Democrats, and the D side gets a pass from everyone but Fox. The fact we can't have an objective discussion of the issues that face the United States is pretty much because of this. If Fox remained supremely biased toward the neocons but everyone else reported the truth, Fox would lose viewers by the million. The simple fact is, people have known since the days of Cronkite that the media in America had a dog in the fight, and therefore were not to be trusted. The immense popularity of Fox News is a reaction to the well-known and well-demonstrated left wing bias of American journalists.

Sure, you could claim reality has a left-wing bias, but reality (politically speaking) is just your perception and therefore it's just your perception that has bias. Reality only has a left-wing bias until someone's ass needs to be kicked. Then it's all the sudden very right wing. The fact is, reality has a reality-based bias and sometimes you need to be a hippy and sometimes you need to flatten cities.

Re:False equivalence (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35813660)

No, it's because the News is no longer independent at any level. Corporations own it all. Fox News is just their bulldog, making the rest of them seem less ridiculously solicitous of plutocratic ideals.

Re:False equivalence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35813954)

the well-known and well-demonstrated left wing bias of American journalists

Demonstrated by whom? Rush Limbaugh? Glenn Beck? Some other dishonest partisan wacko?

Re:False equivalence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35815296)

There's not a news agency on earth that whines about "Teh Republicans!!!11!!" anywhere remotely near as loudly, around the clock, day in and day out, as Fox whines about "Teh Democrats!!!11!!"

Have you ever watched MSNBC?

Re:On whose nickel? (1)

harrkev (623093) | more than 3 years ago | (#35812932)

The first thing to realize is that when the Census Bureau decided to go the route of a hand-held unit for field workers, the iPhone had not even been announced. The "smart" phones at that time were primitive. At that time (say, 2004), you could ASSUME that cell technology would march forward, but what platform do you develop software for? Who knows what the winner will be in six years? No iPhone yet, no Android yet. Blackberry was the biggest thing going at this time. Would they still be in business in 2010? Would they change operating systems, requiring a re-design of the software?

Would you be willing to bet the farm on a big complicated project, and just assume that the hardware and software will be there in six years?

Another thing to keep in mind is that if mass-purchased regular smart phones were used, how many do you think would quickly wind up on eBay.

Re:On whose nickel? (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#35813672)

Android is the best bet. It's open-source, and not beholden to the fortunes of a single corporation, the way Blackberry and the iPhone are.

Re:On whose nickel? (1)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#35813560)

I/O swamps are caused by techies spilling coffee. It drips down the keyboard cable, through the computer and into the I/O ports where it pools up.

One wonders (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35812738)

If this is even necessary? Mail a form, fill it out, send it back, enter it into a database. Obviously not everyone is going to fill it out, so you use some statistics to get close to the true answer. How hard is this? I think this is an example of government budget abuse. Yes I realize it's spelled out in the Constitution, but it doesn't say how the Census is to be collected.

Re:One wonders (2)

cptdondo (59460) | more than 3 years ago | (#35812844)

The only problem is that your method will miss those without an address, those who moved, those who got married and changed their name, and so on. I serously doubt anyone has even close to accurate data on where people live in this country. And the return rate on most forms is dismal; in the single digits. So if you want the census to be near-accurate you need to have people out there counting. Also, since political power is divied up on the basis of census data, you want a process that's verifieable. It's not as simple as shoving 200,000,000 forms out the door and then waiting for the returns - unless you want people cooking up info to get more political representation.

Re:One wonders (1)

RicktheBrick (588466) | more than 3 years ago | (#35814064)

I worked for the 2010 census. I consider it just a make work project. The vast majority of my time was spent trying to find someone to tell me a particular address did not have anyone living in it on April 1, 2010. They were not computerized enough to have a list of all addresses and their owners. I would think that the census could get a list of the owners and their phone numbers even if it is a cell or an out of state number. That information would have greatly helped in accomplishing my job. I would think that I should have received at least a laptop computer. I would think that people should be able to enter their data on a computer of their choice but if they could not than xzI should have been able to let them use the one I was given. They could collect all sorts of information about people without knowing any information about a particular person. This would ensure the privacy of everyone and thus maybe they would not hesitate to answer them. I live in Michigan and we have a lot of people who only live here in the summer time. In fact my hometown more than doubles in population in the summer months but since they do not count a person as .4 for one state and .6 for another the state of Michigan gets nothing for those people since most of them do not come back to Michigan until the summer. This includes the migrant workers who pick our fruit. And as for representatives the present system is not fair anyway. The state of Wyoming does not have enough people for even one congressman so they get one congressman for about a half a million people but Michigan gets one per about every three quarters of a million people. or['

Technology is the Census Bureau's Enemy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35812742)

With technology they'll realize how much government paperwork we file on an annual basis and realize that they can datamine more accurate numbers in near real-time instead of sending people door-to-door even ten years. Between tax returns and the nightmare you need to go through to buy a house I really don't see the point.

"Center for Applied Technology?" (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#35812796)

How come I think that the technology coming out of this place will never see the light of day:

The Center for Applied Technology, as it's been named, will serve 'as a focal point for bringing entrepreneurial-minded staff, emerging technologies, and pressing business problems facing the Census together'

Well, one manager folk told me and my manager in a call, when we asked about some features: "We are currently implementing plans to size the effort."

Re:"Center for Applied Technology?" (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 3 years ago | (#35812896)

How come I think that the technology coming out of this place will never see the light of day:

Because they are trying to design systems that will be used in ten years (nine) in a technological world that changes on a yearly basis and the lifecycle of an electronic product is six months or less.

In historical terms, they'll be producing a system that runs great on a Palm Pilot when the rest of the world is adopting iPads.

Re:"Center for Applied Technology?" (1)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 3 years ago | (#35812940)

The Center for Applied Technology, as it's been named, will serve 'as a focal point for bringing entrepreneurial-minded staff, emerging technologies, and pressing business problems facing the Census together'

Well, one manager folk told me and my manager in a call, when we asked about some features: "We are currently implementing plans to size the effort."

Hey. That's not even thinking out of the box, let alone thinking creatively at the enterprise level. Your organization should redesign the physical space; through the utilization of an oasis, it could better leverage its human capital.

Re:"Center for Applied Technology?" (1)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#35813582)

Translation: "We aren't quite sure how to put all the census data into Excel, and we're not allowed to use anything else - not that we'd know what the anything else was or how to use it."

new digs == improvement manager types can see (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35812818)

It probably won't actually make the staff more productive, but it is likely an item that some manager can check off and tell his superiors how they are working to improve quality. There's probably a budget item in PorkZilla for it too.

Having worked on the Census, this needs to be done (2)

Lyrata (1900038) | more than 3 years ago | (#35812862)

I worked on the 2010 Census as your typical door-to-door person. From the bottom up, it's unorganized. There's reams of paper for each task and work is somewhat uncoordinated. Despite what some may think, the people who worked it were generally capable and intelligent, but the lack of technology and stacks of paperwork were just begging for errors (which occured often). I wouldn't go so far as to say the collection process should be abolished in favor of statistical inference, but it could be done far more efficiently (and cheaply).

Re:Having worked on the Census, this needs to be d (1)

olsmeister (1488789) | more than 3 years ago | (#35812946)

So it's the government?

Soaring costs? (1)

eldepeche (854916) | more than 3 years ago | (#35812996)

"The problems resulted in soaring costs"

That's weird, I thought the census was $1.6 billion under budget.

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/federal-eye/2010/08/2010_census_was_16_billion_und.html [washingtonpost.com]

Re:Soaring costs? (3, Insightful)

PickyH3D (680158) | more than 3 years ago | (#35813134)

From the article:

Congress appropriated $14.7 billion over 12 years for this year’s headcount. Preparations for the 2010 count began in 1999 with early planning meetings, but more than half of the money was spent this year.

The 2010 Census was still the most expensive in American history, but census budgets have climbed every decade since 1950 as the American population and number of households increases. The Census Bureau managed to return $305 million from a $7 billion total budget in 2000.

I would say the soaring costs came from doubling the cost to do the exact same operation with 10 years worth of newer technology to assist them.

$6.7 billion versus $13.1 billion screams soaring costs.

Re:Soaring costs? (1)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 3 years ago | (#35813348)

Now factor in inflation and the increased number of people in the country. Doubling the cost 10 years later seems quite reasonable to me.

Re:Soaring costs? (1)

PickyH3D (680158) | more than 3 years ago | (#35813546)

Calculating US Inflation [usinflatio...ulator.com] from 2000 to 2010, one would be left with a 26.6% increase. Since I am feeling friendly, going from 1999 to 2011 brings it to 32.8%.

$6.7 billion * 1.328 = $8.9 billion

The population changed from 281,421,906 [wikipedia.org] to 308,745,538 [wikipedia.org] (a 9.7% increase).

$8.9 billion * 1.097 = $9.76 billion

We're still left with ~$4 billion (~30%) looming around to qualify as soaring costs.

Re:Soaring costs? (1)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#35813640)

I'm not sure why it should cost anything in the range of billions. You know (roughly) how many properties there are in the US. You have a census form delivered to each property, whether occupied or not, to be mailed back. There's 360 million people in the US, so in the worst possible case you've 360 million forms. You can't have any more than that and the chances are you'll have about a fifth since the average family size is about 5. That's 72 million forms. It should be possible to have the key information transcribed and the whole of each form scanned into a computer for very little. At a stretch, I can see the cost pushing $720 million if they absolutely had to hand-key everything.

Re:Soaring costs? (1)

dakameleon (1126377) | more than 3 years ago | (#35813740)

That's roughly how it's done in Australia, in OCR-readable format, and we do a census every 5 years. Someone comes to collect the form after "census night", but that's about it.

Re:Soaring costs? (1)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#35814328)

Australian censuses are the easiest to fill of any country I've lived in, the information is of very high quality, and the coverage seems to be exceptionally good. If any nation wanted to rework their system, I'd consider it to be one of the best examples of how to do it right - or, at least, as right as censuses ever get (they're never going to be perfect). The UK system comes a close second. The black hole at Cygnus X1 is second to last, followed by the US.

Re:Soaring costs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35813758)

Not everyone who lives in the country receives mail.

Not everyone who receives a survey is a citizen.

Not everyone who receives a survey returns it.

Glad to see you've thought so very deeply about this problem.

Re:Soaring costs? (1)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#35814310)

Who cares if they "receive mail"? I'm not talking about posting them the form. You have a map, you have a property marked there as being built, you push the census form under the door.

Who cares if they are a "citizen"? A census is about ensuring that resources go where they are needed. The resources a person needs doesn't change according to their citizenship status. A person doesn't suddenly stop needing air, food and water because they're not "legit". The absolute last thing you want is for people to exclude themselves because of such concerns. And that means you DON'T want to go by mailing addresses, identity cards or other such official crap.

Who gives a f* if not everyone returns the form? Not everyone fills them in in America as it is, and as any genealogist will tell you, coverage in a lot of States is practically non-existant. If you give people greater privacy and greater respect the coverage is likely to go UP not down. Australia uses a very similar system to the one I outlined - as does the UK. Both have far superior return rates than the US and far greater honesty in the responses. The times I have done genealogical work, I absolutely love it when I find someone moved to Australia - the sheer quality of information is amazing. I absolutely loath and despise it when someone moved to the US because it's a bloody black hole.

As far as I'm concerned, if the country can spend 1/100th what it is and get a better, more usable, more honest result then the actual number who mail the form back is of absolutely no consequence. All I'm seeing here is you complaining because I'm expecting you to get off your backside and mail the form rather than have someone waste their time (and your taxes) on your doorstep effectively mailing the form for you. If you want to pay the Government a dollar for every cent it actually NEEDS to spend, DON'T complain when your taxes are due.

Re:Soaring costs? (1)

Skater (41976) | more than 3 years ago | (#35814054)

Ever notice not everyone sends back their forms? Also, did you ever notice that there are lots of addresses that don't actually tell you where the house is ("RR 2 Box 3")? You clearly don't understand the complexities involved.

Re:Soaring costs? (1)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#35814258)

Oh, probably better than you do. People have failed to return census forms for almost two centuries. So? Why should that matter? In reality, the only ones who give a damn at the individual level are genealogists a century later. You'd need more than 50% to not return the form before it would make any practical difference at the statistical level. And if that many can't be bothered to post the form back, it's probably an area not worth knowing about.

Second, I said properties not houses. For a reason. You know perfectly well where a property is, it will exist on a map, you can go there, and you can shove the census form under the door. It makes bugger all difference if you don't know who lives there or indeed if anyone lives there at all. You have a box marked "Name" that is empty and is left to be filled in. Since all buildings of significance will be recorded by the local authorities (they tend to object to unauthorized construction work), there WILL be a street address on file. If the road has changed name, it may not be the current address. But there will be one.

Re:Soaring costs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35814952)

I feel sorry for the poor delivery guys if you do that in the USA. You seem to have some crazies who will shoot at anything that moves on their properties (and they are the ones who tend to have a bit of property between them and the closest public access...

Re:Soaring costs? (1)

ral315 (741081) | more than 3 years ago | (#35815610)

You'd need more than 50% to not return the form before it would make any practical difference at the statistical level.

Except that the census isn't designed solely for macro-level statistical information. One of the most important roles of a census is determining a city/county/state's population, which is used to allocate funding, and determine the number of representatives in the US House and state houses/senates, which does have a significant impact on the makeup of those bodies.

Return rates are not uniform across the board. Large cities are notoriously under-counted, because of the difficulty of counting the homeless population, renters, those who move during the course of the census, those who do not speak English (even though the Census prints in multiple languages, return rates are still lower among non-English speakers), and various other groups that tend to be much more prevalent in large cities than in smaller cities and more middle-class suburban neighborhoods. This map [census.gov] of Census forms returned county-by-county provides an interesting look at the issue. While the percentages can't be considered completely accurate due to issues like vacant apartments, etc, there's still significant variance. In New York state, for example, mail return rates per county range from 43% to 84%. That's a staggering variance, and when it comes to ensuring that residents have adequate funding and representation, having fairly accurate results is essential.

As an aside, statistical sampling for the census has been discussed in the past to avoid these issues. I'm not opposed to using a reasonable sampling technique, so long as it accounts for areas with statistically low return rates. However, Republicans oppose sampling because they feel it overcounts groups that tend to vote Democratic (and, Democrats tend to support sampling because they feel it's a more accurate count). In 1999, the Supreme Court ruled that sampling cannot be used to determine population for the purposes of apportioning US congressional seats, and while it could be used for drawing state/local lines and for allocating federal funds, it's such a political football that it probably won't happen in the foreseeable future.

Re:Soaring costs? (1)

Luyseyal (3154) | more than 3 years ago | (#35818914)

Thanks, I came to say something similar to your first paragraph which is arguably the most important reason as far as politicians care.

-l

Re:Soaring costs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35816498)

You have a census form delivered to each property, whether occupied or not, to be mailed back.

Sadly politicians and their corporate controllers greedily wanted more information and by asking additional questions that go way beyond the Constitutional mandate they encourage more people NOT to respond based on Privacy issues alone. This arbitrarily runs up the costs as now a person has to physically visit that residence/property which can only costs more money.

And if the person is not there, or will not come to the door, they are required to physically visit that person at least 3 times before seeking out a neighbor or other "qualified" person, who they hope will answer the questions on that person's behalf.

I bet multiple billions could have been saved if they would keep it to the basics needed for political reasons per the Constitution alone.

To those that say, Congress passed a law or laws that made it "lawful" to ask additional non-Constitutional intended Privacy invading questions, I answer to you, just because they can do something, does not mean it was intelligent nor effective to do so!

I actually would consider that a reason to replace a politician that is in office with someone who will manage our tax dollars more effectively. Of course I was against redistributing wealth via the bank bailouts started by the Republicans and continued by the Democrats as well.

Silly stupid greedy rabbits.

Re:Soaring costs? (1)

Rantastic (583764) | more than 3 years ago | (#35813912)

"The problems resulted in soaring costs"

That's weird, I thought the census was $1.6 billion under budget.

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/federal-eye/2010/08/2010_census_was_16_billion_und.html [washingtonpost.com]

I live in the DC area and I was offered the job of lead architect/consultant overseeing the building of the datacenter for the 2010 census. In fact, I was offered this job six times in various forms over the last 6-8 years. I turned it down because I already have a good job. Not to mention the long ass commute out to the boonies of MD everyday. From what I understand, they had a lot of trouble finding good talent for the job.

Also, the various offers told a tale:

  • Deploy Red Hat
  • Finish incomplete Red Hat deployment
  • Migrate from incomplete Red Hat deployment to SuSe
  • Finish incomplete SuSe deployment

Re:Soaring costs? (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#35815698)

Also, the various offers told a tale:

Yes. Sounds like you wisely avoided a major can of worms. And as we all know, the only way to re-can them is to use a larger can.

Cut out the PHB's they get in the way of ideas (0)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#35813076)

Cut out the PHB's they get in the way of generating ideas and makeing test technologies take along time and BAN golf course meetings as they just lead to sale men selling stuff to bosses who have no clue about IT.

An "Oasis" (1)

Strange Ranger (454494) | more than 3 years ago | (#35813114)

I wonder if they intend the Oasis metaphor to extend out to the desert around it.
 
Or, to mix metaphors, are they basically saying "Nothing will change around here, but we'll build you an enclosed sandbox to shut you up. SURE we'll listen to ideas."

Re:An "Oasis" (1)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#35813646)

I think they were more referring to the rock group that split up over their personality "problems".

Limit the scope instead (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35813122)

They need less innovation and more limitation of scope. The census should only consist of two basic pieces of information: address and the number of residents.

The census has one purpose (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35813152)

The census has one Constitutionally mandated pupose, right? To count population for apportionment in the House. Anything else is superfluous. I'm not a hardcore "government shouldn't do anything" type; but this is a clearcut case where we really don't need them doing anything more. They shouldn't be collecting race information at all. A non-racist government, by definition, should not mention race in the laws, or collect statistics on it.

Maybe they should pay their devs more (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35813180)

US Census came to my school when I was graduating 5 years ago and was recruiting. They were offering developers ~$45k a year to start. That is not going to attract good talent especially when you have to relocate to their MD offices. Cost of living is high too there.

Re:Maybe they should pay their devs more (1)

cptdondo (59460) | more than 3 years ago | (#35813246)

Didn't we just have a discussion about how overpaid government workers are?

http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2008748&cid=35289538 [slashdot.org]

Are you sure that wasn't $50K/yr with 25 hour workweeks?

Oasis? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35813278)

More like mirage!

How about we fix the Census PDAs (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35813314)

How about we just fix and then test the Census PDAs we already bought. We had to go back to paper and pencil for the Census because some Goverment contractors couldn't deliver a PDA that took surveys. If the government gets working on the problem RIGHT NOW, maybe we'll get workingPDAs in time for the next census. Oh, here's a tip order new batteries no earlier then a year in advance.

Having worked for the Census, PartII (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35813336)

I was a manager in a Census office. The technical desktop support was OK. But they built an in-house system to track all the data input and it never worked, ever.

We ended up, in many cases, putting data into Access DBs which would be downloaded by HO overnight. Complete and utter flustercluck.

I spend hours writing up a report, as did all the managers, detailing everything that went wrong. Funny thing is, the people that had worked the prior Census said it was the same issues. Guess that report wont do much good. :(

Good people though, hard workers and for the most part, did their jobs well.

Re:Having worked for the Census, PartII (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35814088)

I work at HQ. Unfortunately previous upper management (now retired) led us into that clusterfuck. No one was much happy about it, either - we worked our asses off and had several better systems in place for the tests than we did for the actual Census. Management decided it'd be better to toss everything before the last test and start over...then canceled much of the last test (to be fair, due to funding issues, but part of that is a lack of explaining how important it was to Congress). Then due to the contract issues, they threw THAT system out and started over yet again, resulting in the system you got to use. Believe me when I say we were at least as frustrated as you were, perhaps more so because we knew the history.

Re:Having worked for the Census, PartII (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35814624)

I'd be interested in hearing your LCO's experiences, and comparing notes, but I imagine they'd end up being almost exactly the same. Especially the stupid "PBOCS goes down at midnight EST" thing. I was a clerk on the late(4 to midnight) shift at the eastern Washington LCO during NRFU(And onwards through VDC and RES, but those weren't anywhere near as bad), and we were barely getting anything done before they shut it down for the night because it was so slow. On the plus side, our office was always clean...

And then there was the people fed up with getting tagged for every possible re-interview... And so many other problems.

But yeah, the people were great, after a few weeks and some of the worse ones were weeded out. My first manager, though... *shudder*

Re:Having worked for the Census, PartII (1)

Joshua Fan (1733100) | more than 3 years ago | (#35815042)

Everyone was very hard working, at least in the San Francisco office (we had the best pay in the area), most of us had been unemployed for a long time and were extremely grateful for the steady paycheck. But office morale rode the tide of PBOCS crashes. Not just the servers were bad, but the client software's semi-random glitches were also revealed when server communications were too slow or lost en route.

I for one wondered why the government failed to do proper server load testing far ahead of an operation this massive. And despite all the downtime they used for troubleshooting, they never managed to significantly improve performance even till the end of the Census.

Census called... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35820518)

On Account of Naked Chick

http://www.sluggy.com/comics/archives/daily/990922

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