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Algorithm Glitch Voids Outcome of US Green Card Lottery

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the let's-fudge-us-some-better-numbers dept.

Government 131

jayminer writes "Results for the United States Diversity Visa Lottery for 2012 were declared void due to a programming glitch in the random selection algorithm. At first, the results were published as promised on May, 1st. Then, on May, 6th, the results were withdrawn with the web site claiming to experience 'technical difficulties.' Today (May, 13th), it is declared that the results are invalid due to an algorithm glitch; the computer program has been fixed and the lottery will be re-run. The final results are expected to be published July 15th."

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Must have let too many smart people in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36123220)

After all, we want the lottery to be "fair" for everyone.

Re:Must have let too many smart people in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36125612)

You do realize that this runs in addition to immigration schemes for talented/brainy people, don't you?

Could be worse (2)

AEton (654737) | more than 3 years ago | (#36123234)

Picking 90% of the winners from the first two days of applicants is not great, yes.

Give them credit for owning up to their mistakes, at least. It could be worse -- it's widely believed that the 1969 draft lottery [wikipedia.org] was so un-random that people born in later months were dramatically more likely to be picked for an early draft!

Offshoring... (2)

Nexzus (673421) | more than 3 years ago | (#36123248)

Wonder if this was offshored to a country that was eligible to be part of this lottery. Could be ironic, paradoxical or just plain funny.

It's real? (4, Funny)

Carewolf (581105) | more than 3 years ago | (#36123262)

Wait, what! The visa lottery is real?? I thought it was just SPAM. This raises so many questions.

1. Why?
2. What is purpose of that? Larry Niven style luck evolution?
3. And why are you spamming people about it?
4. Really, why is the US sending out thousands of SPAM emails about it.
5. And last, but not least: WTF?

Re:It's real? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36123298)

3. And why are you spamming people about it?
4. Really, why is the US sending out thousands of SPAM emails about it.

The spam is probably just actual spammers exploiting it to make money...

Re:It's real? (5, Informative)

QuasiSteve (2042606) | more than 3 years ago | (#36123302)

Is this where we point you to wikipedia?

1. Wikipedia
2. Sorta. More like not wanting to be a total dick. The opposite - selectively accepting visas - is already in place. If you're rich, a great sportsman/woman, a world-class academic, etc. you can pretty much get in anyway. The flipside of that would be to turn everybody else away. Although that sounds rather appealing to some, most people understand the unfairness of such a system. Hence a lottery (or other solutions), which is reasonably fair.
3. they're not - that's usually scam companies trying to make it look like their services will make it more likely for you to BE A WINNER!!!!. There are legit green card lottery companies that make sure you've got all the forms filled out right and such, for a fee, but those tend not to spam.
4. See 3.
5. Not sure what you're questioning there... I guess the answer is "See 1-4"?

Re:It's real? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36123428)

Why not do away with the lottery and just make the test "Learn English, get a job, pledge your allegiance"?

Re:It's real? (1)

jackbird (721605) | more than 3 years ago | (#36123500)

Because the applicants:slots ratio is >1.

Re:It's real? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36123786)

Because the applicants:slots ratio is >1.

Are you sure that >1 are willing to learn English, though?

Re:It's real? (2)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 3 years ago | (#36125556)

Even if they did, they'd have to unlearn it again when they arrive in the US.

Re:It's real? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#36125830)

Hence a lottery (or other solutions), which is reasonably fair.

What's fair about taking anyone but those you want the most? We're not talking about a political asylum lottery. We'll still extradite a motherfucker.

Re:It's real? (1)

Carewolf (581105) | more than 3 years ago | (#36126346)

3. they're not - that's usually scam companies trying to make it look like their services will make it more likely for you to BE A WINNER!!!!. There are legit green card lottery companies that make sure you've got all the forms filled out right and such, for a fee, but those tend not to spam.
4. See 3.

So, why are the emails not charging any money and the only links on them direct links to official forms and the official guide to filling out the form on dot-gov addresses?

They do look like something a 3rd party scamer would send, but I haven't never figured out the what the scam would be, since the emails are send from dot-gov addresses and only links to dot-gov addresses. And yes the links are not fake, I've checked the source, it is non-suspect links to dot-gov addresses.

Re:It's real? (2)

NimbleSquirrel (587564) | more than 3 years ago | (#36123406)

Yes, there is a lottery.

But in order to enter, you have to apply and meet certain qualifying criteria.

Even if you win a lottery place, you don't automatically get a visa.

Instead you win an invitation to apply for a visa. Even then you can get turned down.
I'm fairly sure, but if you get turned down the lottery win just disappears: it doesn't mean that someone else then gets a chance.

Re:It's real? (1)

FRiC (416091) | more than 3 years ago | (#36123504)

I live in Asia, and before the diversity visa lottery was made into

Re:It's real? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36123602)

You can read wikipedia about it, but people who are spamming you are not US government. There are enterprises that take your money to enter your name into a web form and well, it seems that they are making some money!

But of course! (2)

r00t (33219) | more than 3 years ago | (#36123868)

Selecting the best would be elitist, and we can't have that.

Granting green cards to every English-speaking non-muslim would be seen as unconstitutional or something, even if it would be practical and go over rather well.

We simply can't pick and choose without being politically incorrect, and thus the lottery.

Re:It's real? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36124782)

I think Americans just like lotteries. In San Francisco, if you want to convert a building into condos you have to enter a lottery -- which you have almost no chance of winning for the first seven years. The twist is that if you want to convert a building from condos back to a single family home, that's almost impossible. They don't like creating new condos, they don't like getting rid of old condos... but they like the lottery.

Is it so hard... (1)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#36123272)

....to use /dev/urandom rather than the built-in rand() function?

Re:Is it so hard... (2)

HaeMaker (221642) | more than 3 years ago | (#36123456)

Probably not the problem... I imagine there are further requirements regarding percentages of people from certain countries, gender requirements, etc. I would guess it was the weighting that was at fault, not the randomness.

Re:Is it so hard... (1)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#36124508)

Ah, well, to weight correctly, you would create a pool for every possible combination and select randomly the correct number from each pool. At first I took it that they tried to do exactly that but it wouldn't take a month to generate a valid sample with such a method. Which means that they're randomly selecting from everyone and then seeing if the sample meets the criteria. I can think of no other way it can take so long.

Which means the problem exists between keyboard and IDE.

Re:Is it so hard... (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | more than 3 years ago | (#36123598)

actually, you should use /dev/random. when the entropy runs out (or gets too low), /dev/random will wait for it to go back up, /dev/urandom will REUSE it, seriously impacting the "randomness" of your results. urandom is fine for game data, graphics, etc but to NOT use it for anything important.

Re:Is it so hard... (1)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 3 years ago | (#36123664)

Actually, /dev/urandom uses cryptographically secure random number generator. If you've used a reliable /dev/random seed then /dev/urandom is secure for all practical purposes.

Re:Is it so hard... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36123822)

If you can predict the output of /dev/urandom, I suggest you contact the NSA and name your price. Hell, it would be impressive if you can even distinguish it from truly random data. Because that is something that professional cryptographers and top mathematicians have collectively spent years trying to do. With no success at all.

Protip: please, don't offer security advice on the internet when you clearly don't know the first fucking thing about cryptography.

Re:Is it so hard... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36123952)

I would expect the government to use something like this [idquantique.com] for something as important as this green card lottery. At around $2k, it seems worth it to avoid relying on system entropy to seed the random number generator. As impressive as pseudo-random generators are, seeding them introduces an attack vector that physical random number generators avoid.

Re:Is it so hard... (1)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#36124522)

Your first mistake is to combine "government" and "logic" in the same thought. Your second mistake is to confuse spending rationally versus the normal procurement method which is to spend the least.

Other than that, you're entirely correct.

Immoral in principle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36123284)

The idea of a lottery for immigration is immoral. They should instead set some standards -- for example, you have to be educated, no pending criminal past -- and approve EVERYONE that applies and meets such standards. No lottery bullshit.

Re:Immoral in principle (1)

Ultra64 (318705) | more than 3 years ago | (#36123430)

Um, a pending past?

Re:Immoral in principle (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#36123624)

Um, a pending past?

It means you have to leave the QED box unchecked on the lottery form.

Re:Immoral in principle (1)

Noughmad (1044096) | more than 3 years ago | (#36125678)

Um, a pending past?

It means you have to leave the QED box unchecked on the lottery form.

But if I prove I'm innocent, can I still check the QED box? Or does my last name have to be Feynman for that?

Re:Immoral in principle (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#36125754)

But if I prove I'm innocent, can I still check the QED box? Or does my last name have to be Feynman for that?

I'm so sorry, but Mr Feynman was a natural born citizen and did not have to submit to this type of lottery. I'm sure if he'd had to at least one of his book would have been devoted to this subject and its inherent complexities.

Re:Immoral in principle (1)

rhook (943951) | more than 3 years ago | (#36123878)

I believe that would be pending charges or an active investigation.

Re:Immoral in principle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36124824)

Yep, you need intelligent, noncriminal, college.degree holding, elite sportsmen to flip burgers at Denny's.

It's a fucking lottery, it's entirely possible that the very first 10000 applications are selected by pure, random chance.

Re:Immoral in principle (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#36125254)

The lottery doesn't get people a green card. It gives them the chance to apply for one, an application that may or may not be granted. It's basically just there as a publicity thing, to try to make the US look less judgemental than it really is.

Well technically... (1)

vga_init (589198) | more than 3 years ago | (#36123294)

Technically, the results were indeed random. If you get results based on a bug or glitch in your algorithm, those are obviously the results you weren't expecting. Unexpected results are, by definition, random. Who could have predicted the glitch? The results then were not "random" enough because they weren't the results you were expecting? Give me a break.

Re:Well technically... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36123340)

Any lottery is based on the equal chance of each ticket to be the winner. If this bug altered the odds and gave me twice the chance of winning compared to you, wouldn't you prefer we redo it properly?

Re:Well technically... (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 3 years ago | (#36123922)

not if I won and you lost.

Re:Well technically... (1)

Lundse (1036754) | more than 3 years ago | (#36123370)

Unexpected results are, by definition, random.

Except when the results are expected to be random :-)

All kidding aside, it is not the particular results that are themselves random or not (once picked, any result has a probability of 1), but rather the method of choosing them. Or to be more precise, as our anonymous friend pointed out, that they had an even chance to be picked before they were even results.

Re:Well technically... (4, Insightful)

joh (27088) | more than 3 years ago | (#36123508)

Unexpected results are not neccessarily random. You may just have missed some bug that generates very predictable results which were just unexpected because you didn't knew about that bug.

Still, true randomness is hard. While I don't think this applies here, randomness also includes random clusters. People accept these if the process that generates the randomness is very obvious random, but do the same with a computer or by sieving through large amounts of data and they see patterns and don't accept these as random anymore.

Example: There have been discussions about clusters of cases of certain kinds of cancer around nuclear reactors. Can't be random, you think. Well, if you look at many different kinds of cancer and check the distribution of those you'll find random clusters for one or more of them. One of those clusters may be found around a reactor. May still be random, but nobody will ever believe you. In fact, if you sieve the data fine enough and have enough reactors and NONE of these clusters coincide with a reactor, the conclusion would be that nuclear reactors PROTECT against cancer. But explain that to people.

Other example: Apple introduced random playlists on iPods years ago. Now people noticed that some songs got played more than once before all others were played. Can't be random! There's a bug! Well, no. Still, Apple had to modify their software to make the choice actually LESS random (by have no song being played twice) to make it appear "really" random to the users.

Randomness is hard and can be spooky.

Re:Well technically... (1)

nxtw (866177) | more than 3 years ago | (#36123734)

Other example: Apple introduced random playlists on iPods years ago. Now people noticed that some songs got played more than once before all others were played. Can't be random! There's a bug! Well, no. Still, Apple had to modify their software to make the choice actually LESS random (by have no song being played twice) to make it appear "really" random to the users.

I've never had an iPod with a random feature. However, it does have a shuffle feature, which implies that each song will be played once (assuming repeat is not enabled), and this is exactly what the feature does.

iTunes has a random Smart Playlist feature that can randomly select songs from a selected set of songs.

Re:Well technically... (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 3 years ago | (#36125740)

My first mp3 player (one of those chunky blue and silver Archos jobbies) had a similar feature, but it was predictable. The first time [after power up] you shuffled a playlist you always got the same order. If you shuffled again you got a different order to the first time, but it was always the same as any other second shuffle.

I assume the seed was hardcoded on bootup.

Re:Well technically... (1)

dachshund (300733) | more than 3 years ago | (#36125862)

Other example: Apple introduced random playlists on iPods years ago. Now people noticed that some songs got played more than once before all others were played. Can't be random! There's a bug! Well, no. Still, Apple had to modify their software to make the choice actually LESS random (by have no song being played twice) to make it appear "really" random to the users.

What you are describing is a (pseudo-)random permutation of a playlist. It's still random, just chosen from a different distribution.

And in the case you describe it's arguably a much better choice in terms of what users want. The users weren't being unreasonable, Apple just screwed up.

Re:Well technically... (2)

mortonda (5175) | more than 3 years ago | (#36123534)

Unexpected results are, by definition, random.

Perhaps you should actually look up the definition of random before declaring it?

1. Having no specific pattern, purpose, or objective: random movements.
2. Mathematics & Statistics: Of or relating to a type of circumstance or event that is described by a probability distribution.
3. Of or relating to an event in which all outcomes are equally likely, as in the testing of a blood sample for the presence of a substance.

The pertinent definition is the mathmatical one, which needs a probability distribution. It's very easy to observe a data set that does not have an appropriate distribution. Also, definition 3 speaks of have equal likelihood of the outcome, which the discovered bug proved was not. I couldn't tell from the article if they saw a pattern or simply discovered the bug, but it could have been invalidated by the first definition as well.

So *by definition*, it truly was not random.

Re:Well technically... (2)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 3 years ago | (#36123794)

You're using the mathematical definition. The common usage of the word is far less restrictive. To quote Merriam-Webster's definition: "without definite aim, direction, rule, or method". That certainly applies in cases where an unexpected bug affects the results.

For example, if I randomly say a string of ones and zeros, it almost certainly won't be random in a mathematical sense, but it will be in the common usage sense: it won't have a definite aim, direction, rule, or method. This is an analogous situation. When I'm speaking in binary, there's some "bug" with the human brain that makes us really bad at making mathematically random sequences. It's even "bugged" in a predictable manner -- my run lengths will be too short.

As a side point, this isn't the only time that mathematical and common usage definitions differ -- see the word "or".

s/mathematical/correct; s/common/ignorant/ (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 3 years ago | (#36125670)

You're using the mathematical definition. The common usage of the word is far less restrictive.

We're talking about computer algorithms here. It's pretty obvious which is the correct usage in that context.

Re:Well technically... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36124020)

The problem with the mathematical definition you've listed there is that you're using it to describe the results rather than the process for generating the results. The goal of the lottery should be to have a random selection process, not random results.

Any random number generator that is not capable of generating results that appear non-random during a limited period isn't truly random. To put it another way, think of the million monkeys randomly typing for a million years where one of them eventually types something from Shakespeare. That individual result of the process would be decidedly non-random, but that doesn't mean the process isn't entirely random.

None of this argues that the selection process was, in fact random. It just means that the definition you provided needs to be applied to the selection mechanism, not the results of that selection mechanism. You can't conclude from the results that there was a selection bias. But if the results suggest that and a review of the code uncovers a bug that confirms it, then you can make that determination.

Re:Well technically... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36123562)

Imagine the flaw makes someone always ineligible every year. It would only be "random" once.

Re:Well technically... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36123564)

"The results were not valid because they did not represent a fair, random selection of entrants, as required by U.S. law."
If the algorithm used could not possibly have picked certain entrants it might be random but it isn't "fair" -- which presumably means that each entrant has an equal probability of being selected.

Re:Well technically... (4, Insightful)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 3 years ago | (#36123672)

Technically, the results were indeed random.

No, technically your conflating two different things, the random glitch, and the non-random output caused by the glitch.

Re:Well technically... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36125210)

not to be pedantic but a point distribution is still a distribution. In other words deterministic algorithms are still "random" just not in an interesting way. so basically anything we can compute is random...

just sayin...

Re:Well technically... (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 3 years ago | (#36125626)

Unexpected results are, by definition, random.

That's so funny it's not even wrong.

If I toss a coin three times and get snake eyes and the eight of clubs that's random "by definition", is it?

Sucks for the first batch of people... (2)

nebaz (453974) | more than 3 years ago | (#36123300)

How would you feel if you got a notice saying you got a green card, but then two days later were told "sorry, just kidding."? The second batch of people might not want to celebrate just yet.

Re:Sucks for the first batch of people... (1)

akintayo (17599) | more than 3 years ago | (#36123548)

The US State department doesn't check their results before they publish?! Ok.

Re:Sucks for the first batch of people... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36125868)

It's you who have to do the checking...

Green Card Lottery (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#36123316)

YAY! My golden ticket to get off the plantation!

You're a free man now
No general, I's expensive!

win a visa, move here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36123402)

and and join the rest of the 9% unemployed.

That probably looks pretty good to the unemployed in, e.g. Zimbabwe.

Re:win a visa, move here (1)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 3 years ago | (#36123626)

Also, Goobacks.

They took our jobs!

Re:win a visa, move here (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 3 years ago | (#36123950)

Some immigrants have a better work ethic and will create their own jobs.

Common programming error (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36123410)

They had

if (bribe.amount = 0) application->delete();

This is why you always put the constant value on the left-hand side.

Re:Common programming error (1)

MavEtJu (241979) | more than 3 years ago | (#36123866)

Crank up the warning level of your compiler and make it warning free.

Re:Common programming error (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36123918)

What would a "bribe" object do other than contain the value of the amount? Should be application.bribe!

Re:Common programming error (1)

Noughmad (1044096) | more than 3 years ago | (#36125690)

Method of receiving, currency, date of transaction, etc.

Random selection? (0)

NimbleSquirrel (587564) | more than 3 years ago | (#36123444)

So, what they're saying is that the numbers didn't appear random enough to them. Maybe it selected a few too many undesirables for their liking. Sometimes random numbers can appear not to be random. That's the problem with randomness, you can never be sure.

Instead they are saying that:
"A new selection process will be conducted based on the original entries for the 2012 program."

I'm willing to bet that new selection process certainly won't be random.

Re:Random selection? (1)

sandytaru (1158959) | more than 3 years ago | (#36123474)

Or it could be like the first FFXI Mog Lottery, in which all "random" numbers selected for PS2 users followed the pattern "even odd even odd even" meaning it was impossible for anyone on PS2 to win anything, since the (truly random) winning numbers all broke that pattern somehow.

Glitch (4, Funny)

HaeMaker (221642) | more than 3 years ago | (#36123452)

Bob Slydell: So we just went ahead and fixed the glitch.
Bill Lumbergh: Great.
Dom Portwood: So, uh, Milton has been let go?
Bob Slydell: Well, just a second there, professor. We, uh, we fixed the *glitch*. So he won't be receiving a paycheck anymore, so it'll just work itself out naturally.
Bob Porter: We always like to avoid confrontation, whenever possible. Problem is solved from your end.

What I would ask of Congress (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36123454)

Why would you let these niggers in in the first place? Lou Dobbs made it abundantly clear that immigration was the biggest problem facing the country.

Government Accountability (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36123660)

My girlfriend was one of the initial winners. I don't have to tell you how furious/disappointed we both are.

  The incompetence demonstrated by the State Department is fucking mind boggling. They have 6 months to draw winners, sample the results -make sure everything is OK. They don't. Instead of drawing 100,000 applicants they draw 22,000 most of which were no randomly drawn, but were among the first to apply. They post the results and after a week shut down the website with no explanation. People email the Kentucky Consular Center to make sure everything is OK before they send in their documents (It can be very expensive for internationally tracked packages, especially from people all around the world-many of whom are not well off.) The KCC emails people telling them everything is fine and to continue sending in documents, even they know at this point that the whole lottery is a clusterfuck. Then they announce that the first drawing was not random and has been disqualified.

Why wouldn't the State Department at least try to request permission from congress to increase the number of VISAs awarded to 75,000 up from 50,000 or randomly draw another 78,000 names to that 78,000 would be random and the initial 22,000 would be less random.

It just seems so unfair to announce winners and then revoke that announcement two weeks later, all the while telling people everything is OK.

Saved the best for last: The State Dept has announced that they will not be taking disciplinary action against anyone involved in the "Incorrect results" being posted. I would like to know of any other job on the planet where you can fuck up 15 million visa applications, blame a computer for what clearly is a persons job to ensure the results are accurate before posting them, and not even receive disciplinary action.

David Donahue should resign in shame and Hillary Clinton should make a public apology at the very minimum

and if your girlfriend hadn't been selected... (2)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | more than 3 years ago | (#36123728)

Would you be screaming for heads to be cut off?

Your girlfriend was selected in an unfair lottery. It wouldn't be right to let all that stand.

How do you know the KCC was informed the results weren't accurate at the point they were telling people to send in their documents?

Re:and if your girlfriend hadn't been selected... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36123792)

I'm not screaming for heads to be cut off, i'm asking for a little bit of accountability. This is a very avoidable situation which was handled with incompetence and people should resign because of it.

Two wrongs don't make a right. Even if the initial drawing wasn't "fair or random" (and btw you could not a lot worse than favoring people who were first to apply), telling people they had won and then taking it back is just as unfair.

The website was taken down for almost a week. People saw this and were concerned, so they emailed the KCC which ensured applicants that everything was normal and to keep sending in their documents. These response emails were posted on immigration forums.

Re:and if your girlfriend hadn't been selected... (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 3 years ago | (#36124676)

Your girlfriend was selected in an unfair lottery.

But the process is a black box to the applicants. -So what's wrong with saying "oops, we'll take the wrongly posted ones and the whole set of rightly posted ones this year."

Re:and if your girlfriend hadn't been selected... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36125030)

I'm not really sure it was 'unfair'.

Not random, certainly.

But nobody knew in advance how the selection would be made, and as such, everyone had an equal opportunity for being in the group that was overly selected from.

From a technical standpoint, virtually no number generated by a computer is random anyway. It's just 'random enough'.

Re:and if your girlfriend hadn't been selected... (2)

supercrisp (936036) | more than 3 years ago | (#36125736)

I'm not sure what sort of paperwork it takes to apply for a greencard through the lottery system because my wife applied as, well, my wife. That stack of paperwork was about six inches high, and the fees eventually ammounted to just under three thousand dollars. That's not counting the fees for the attorney advising us, nor three trips to cities 400 and 150 miles away to be interviewed and fingerprinted twice. The initial outlay in effort and cash was rather big too, but I'm afraid I can't remember it, as I've done my best to block this giant pain in the butt from my memory. So, yep, if the initial application is anything like the initial application I filed, with it's big nonrefundable fees, then sure people who got selected to apply have every right to be mad for being yanked around emotionally AND having lots of time and money wasted.

Re:and if your girlfriend hadn't been selected... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36125856)

Is a different application from the standard greencard application. This is just the initial response for visa lottery, they don't have any fees other then mailing. Thou I understand the rage of the people selected initially, sometimes life just gives you lemons. You don't have any right to hold accountable State Department, because you are not american citizen yet and you have no rights in US as long you are not an american citizen. On the other hand an apology will be nice from State Department for the f-up.

Re:and if your girlfriend hadn't been selected... (2)

dachshund (300733) | more than 3 years ago | (#36125838)

Your girlfriend was selected in an unfair lottery. It wouldn't be right to let all that stand.

It's really not a zero-sum game, just a simulation of one. The US can afford to admit all of the 22,000 accidental winners and hold a second lottery for the full 100,000 quota.

This was a monumental fuckup that cost people significant amounts of time and money. Hopefully it was a one time fuckup. Given that the US already hands out a relatively low number of green cards, we can afford to eat an extra 22,000 this one time.

Your version of justice would probably have Solomon's men cutting the baby in half.

Re:and if your girlfriend hadn't been selected... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36125892)

This whole immigratino lottery thing is a scumbag business. Also they have tricks - they send you application forms several times (after you are drawn) and if your signature differs only slightly, you are rejected. Not to mention that everything else also has to be identical or you are rejected. I guess they are paid based on how many people they reject.

Re:Government Accountability (1)

thisisauniqueid (825395) | more than 3 years ago | (#36124860)

I'm just glad I didn't check the results until after the website became inaccessible. I'd rather not go through what you and your girlfriend went through. Will be checking back on July 15th for sure -- but now I have to wonder if their programmers are competent at all.

Re:Government Accountability (1)

rastoboy29 (807168) | more than 3 years ago | (#36124898)

Most people don't understand computers at all, the way we do (slashdotters).  Their feelings about it could be summarized essentially as "Zeus has frowned on us" and that's that.

Truly a special bummer, but that's life, isn't it?  And I hope your girlfriend gets lucky for real on the next draw.

Just marry her (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36124962)

. . . and dispense with the lottery. To pin one's hopes on a lottery is foolishness.

I can't believe... (1)

drchc15 (193260) | more than 3 years ago | (#36123708)

That nobody's made a Debian/OpenSSL joke yet...

Obligatory Knuth (4, Insightful)

colinrichardday (768814) | more than 3 years ago | (#36123888)

Random numbers should not be generated with a method chosen at random The Art of Computer Programming, Vol 2 (emphasis in original)

Nice troll from the government (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36123902)

"Hay you want to be a real American? You won! You can has citizenship!"

Then later..."LOL YHBT UMAD?"

Bad algorithm (1)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 3 years ago | (#36124122)

Yes, the algorithm for choosing green card recipients is flawed. It should be:

if (applicant.wanted_for_crime = false) then
    grant_green_card(applicant);
else
    human_review(applicant)
end

On a more serious note, does anyone know what the error was?

Re:Bad algorithm (1)

sycomonkey (666153) | more than 3 years ago | (#36124176)

I agree. I'm personally of the opinion that absolutely anyone who wants to immigrate should be able to, assuming they pass a security check and have a reasonably clean criminal record in their former country. We should be thrilled that people want to move here. Many first world countries are actually losing population and it is very hard on their economies.

Re:Bad algorithm (1)

larkost (79011) | more than 3 years ago | (#36124706)

What you are missing is the absolute flood of people that open immigration would result in. It would very quickly distort both the economy and social structure.

I am completely in favor of this lottery for many reasons. Chief among those reasons has to be that my wife came to the US under the program, but I am also in favor of it for purely ideological reasons: we are a nation of immigrants, many of whom fit any resonable definition of "your tired, your poor", and who made a productive life for themselves on these shores. While we can't take the huge tidal wave of people an open policy would bring, we still owe it to those who came before us and let (most of) our ancestors in to again "pay it forward".

Re:Bad algorithm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36125424)

What you are missing is the absolute flood of people that open immigration would result in. It would very quickly distort both the economy and social structure.

Would it? That may depend on your definition of "flood" and "distort".

A while back I was having lunch with some people from other countries and someone asked me why more Americans don't live in Hawaii - in particular, whether there were laws restricting people from moving to Hawaii from other states. Now, I suppose that there are a lot of people on Hawaii who consider themselves to be "native" who would like to have less of the people they consider to be not "native" living on Hawaii. But there doesn't seem to be a catastrophic flood of immigrants from the continental USA to Hawaii either.

Or, why don't more people from South Central Los Angeles (very poor) move up to Malibu or Beverly Hills (quite wealthy) in the north of Los Angeles? One can even get from South Central to Malibu in just a couple hours on public busses (at a cost of a few dollars).

What if the USA did something like the European Union - a "North American Union" with essentially unrestricted immigration between Canada, the USA, and Mexico. Would there be a "flood" of immigration? Depending on your definition of "flood", the European Union experience suggests not.

Word on the street is that Obama is planning to tackle immigration next. My impression is that immigration doesn't really matter, per se - that pretending that the fate of the USA depends on immigration policy only gives people the illusion of control (while distracting from other issues that really do impact quality of life in the USA). But maybe this time around Obama will do more than just give nice speeches and actually collect some hard data and base his policies on facts rather than ideology (not that this mess with the lottery selection gives me much hope on that).

Re:Bad algorithm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36125084)

Never mind allowing immigration, how about making EMIGRATION easier? If things in this country continue down the path they've been going, remaining here will likely mean either a trip to a "work/ reeducation camp" or goose-stepping down main street in support of our "Dear Leaders" in Wall Street.

Which reasonably civilized countries has the U.S. NOT pissed off yet? Will they take liberal refugees of a Neocon police state??

Re:Bad algorithm (1)

Ultracrepidarian (576183) | more than 3 years ago | (#36125476)

I wonder what he take of the Australians is on this?

Re:Bad algorithm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36124304)

It should be:

if (applicant.wanted_for_crime = false)

Remind me never to hire you as a programmer...

On a more serious note, does anyone know what the error was?

No, but it was probably just a rookie mistake. You know, like an assignment instead of compare.

Re:Bad algorithm (1)

Wingman 5 (551897) | more than 3 years ago | (#36124610)

No, but it was probably just a rookie mistake. You know, like an assignment instead of compare.

Or like not noticing something is VB where they use = as a comparator.

Re:Bad algorithm (1)

SorcererX (818515) | more than 3 years ago | (#36125444)

And to think I used to wonder why some people looked at VB experience as essentially worse than no experience at all...

Re:Bad algorithm (1)

cocoajunkie (2003028) | more than 3 years ago | (#36125288)

Side effect of your algorithm in C would be setting applicant.wanted_for_crime to false>7b>.

Comes as an outcome of not distinguishing between = and ==

Now all criminals had better apply :-)

Re:Bad algorithm (1)

Cochonou (576531) | more than 3 years ago | (#36125386)

It's not C. Notice the "then" operator.

New program or the same as last year? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36124170)

If they used the same program as previous years, are they going to "fix" those lotteries too?

If it isn't the same program, I wonder why they wrote a new one. What bugs did the old program have?

affirmative randomness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36124748)

can you imagine if a true "random" selection were done, and no women won? or if no blacks won?

yeah, this will not be random.

I Hate To be That Guy... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36125012)

But how about we just cancel the whole darn thing?

I'm going to assume that most of you here are Americans. And as such, you probably feel like America kicks butt and that we rock and everyone wants to come here (and you'd be correct). You've probably heard how it's REALLY HARD to come to America legally and probably have some view on illegal immigration. What you probably aren't aware of, because you've probably never tried, is just how difficult it is to immigrate to other countries.

These same countries that are condemning our immigration system offer an even more rigid, more unforgiving system. And these are really crappy countries. Countries that, objectively, are the equivalent of a tiny state in the US. 'Hey crappy EU country; you are the size of Iowa and have 1/2 GDP, who exactly are you trying to keep out?'

These countries don't have lotteries. They have standards (high standards). Upper middle class, educated, high paying job? If so, you've got a tiny shot....only if you happen to work in one of these 3 professions and only if you can line up a job while on the other side of an ocean. Anything less? No. Marry a citizen. That's it.

It's harder to immigrate into Mexico than it is the US. Stop and think about that for a second. Screw em. You don't want us? Well, we sure as heck don't want you. /Bitter //Really amazed at how difficult it is ///Will almost certainly be an 'illegal alien' in the next six months

How the system should be (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36125116)

We can't automate a system like this yet properly -- a naive random number generator is nowhere as good as the selection process could truly be.

First, for women: it is to be assumed that all women are here for prostitution and reproduction. Photos of every candidate will be submitted to a masturbation panel; these will be highly paid government jobs. That gentleman from a year or two ago who spent his entire day at his desk job masturbating to and downloading porn on government time is a model candidate. Of these women, the cream of the crop (top 5%) will be given their cards immediately; it is important for America to reward such fine stock with success as they deserve.

The next fifteen or twenty percent will have the option to come in for further screening. The best of the masturbators -- those with the most personality and people skills, as is the case in every hierarchical system -- will meet with them in luxury hotels for trial periods. It goes without saying that they will be penetrated vaginally and anally, and the agent's screening procedures are at the discretion of that particular agent. For example, he could run his own version of "The Apprentice" with the twenty or so at a time he would be charged with. A percent or two of this total pool would receive their cards.

For the men: there will be a more diverse group of these that are eligible to be taken. The majority of these will be STEMs. The ideal personality traits are an eager supplicancy and eternal gratitude to simply work in his field of interest.

A few entrepreneur types will be let in. They will have to be vetted by a board staffed by members of their industry peers. Essentially, priority here goes to implementations that can be loaded up and majority-held with existing funds through the hands of the board members and their associates.

A percent or two of the men and women is saved for miscellany. Most of these particular slots will go to direct bribery and the shemales.

Why do so many incompetent programmers exist ... (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 3 years ago | (#36126468)

And are somehow still able to get work?

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