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264 comments

Wow that is so funny (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22952914)

this is bigger than the abacus scam of '24.

Census? Just count me out. (1)

trolltalk.com (1108067) | more than 6 years ago | (#22952986)

Up here in Canuckistan (you know, Canada ..) the last 2 census (censii?) I've received the detailed long questionaire. Both times, I've refused to fill them in because there are questions that are either racist or illegal, or both.

Both times, they've said I must, it's the law, I could get fined, go to jail, yada yada yada.

I just say "Fine, let's tell it to a judge."

By my census, it's me 2 : gubbimint 0.

Re:Census? Just count me out. (1)

Azarael (896715) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953130)

Examples please..

Re:Census? Just count me out. (1)

BigJClark (1226554) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953286)


Same brother! (or sister)

I do the exact same thing! Its good to see I'm not alone. I refuse to slip into the ignorant, "yes-sir" person.

Re:Census? Just count me out. (2, Informative)

GregPK (991973) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953372)

I think they simply should have contracted with Mosaic Inc. Who already has the systems and people in place to handle the census.

Re:Census? Just count me out. (1)

stranger_to_himself (1132241) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953474)

Up here in Canuckistan (you know, Canada ..) the last 2 census (censii?) I've received the detailed long questionaire. Both times, I've refused to fill them in because there are questions that are either racist or illegal, or both.

That's just stupid. We need census information for service provision. If a significant proportion of people withhold their details, they have no right to complain when there aren't enough schools or hospital beds or even houses in the right places. How else are governments supposed to get demographic information?

If you don't want to include race information, just put 'Jedi' like everybody else.

Re:Census? Just count me out. (2, Interesting)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953666)

Welcome to the 21st century. There are some things that you might like to know about life here:

The local city or county authority knows who you are by your billing information, water usage, electric usage, and cars registered to your address. Additionally, what information is not known about you from your ISP can usually be garnered from the telephone people (they hear everything you know).

We use building permits to know how much activity is happening in new homes and home modifications and real estate records for sales of existing homes.

Put all that together with tax records, medical and insurance records and about the only thing we don't know about you is who at the last fucking piece of pizza (I wanted that for breakfast).

While total information awareness is only just now starting to take off, we already have a huge amount of data.

Back in 1893 (your time) it was necessary to collect information on residents because we just didn't have all this information before.

P.S. Governments are responsible for schools in the same way that they are responsible for ensuring enough public transportation. Insurance industries can tell us how many beds will be profitable and that has NOTHING to do with the number of people in the area.

Not sure where you are from, but around here I don't imagine that too many illegals actually participate in the census taking. For some reason TimeWarner is apparently convinced that there are enough of them to put on EXTRA Spanish language channels though. Wonder how they knew that without accurate census data?

Once again, welcome to 21st century America.

Surplus (5, Funny)

Jhon (241832) | more than 6 years ago | (#22952916)

Will they sell the hand-helds? Or give them away like Cheese in the 80's?

Re:Surplus (4, Funny)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 6 years ago | (#22952944)

Look for them on Woot during the next Woot-off.

Layne

Re:Surplus (4, Insightful)

d3ac0n (715594) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953010)

I don't think they ever bought them. The cost difference is related to the extra time and manpower that a paper census will take vs the costs for an electronic one.

Personally I think this is a good thing. Better to spend money to do things the tried and true way than to experiment with a "hi-tech" solution that may or may not have exploitable weaknesses in it. We've all seen how faulty the electronic voting machines have been, I think it's wise that the census folks don't want to go down that road.

Kudos to the Census people, and to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Neb) for supporting and encouraging their wise decision.

Re:Surplus (4, Informative)

Gat0r30y (957941) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953142)

I don't think they ever bought them.
Nah, didn't buy em, just dropped 1/2 a Billion into development it would appear.
From the Article -

In 2006, the Census Bureau awarded a $595 million contract to Harris Corp. to develop more than 525,000 handheld computers that enumerators would use to collect data from Americans who did not send in their census forms.

Re:Surplus (1)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953200)

Personally I think this is a good thing. Better to spend money to do things the tried and true way than to experiment with a "hi-tech" solution that may or may not have exploitable weaknesses in it.

I'm coming to take your computer back.

Yours truly,
Shade of Herman Hollerith.

Re:Surplus (5, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953250)

Generally when you are trying out new technology, you choose a few locales to be testbeds. That way you can determine whether or not the technology will work as advertised, and if it does, it gives you a chance to correct any bugs. To go out and buy three billion dollars worth the equipment and then decide that it doesn't work suggests to me that there are some severely incompetent people at the top of the chain.

I feel the same way about voting machines. Test them out in a few places, get to know the equipment, and if you still figure it's going to work, you have a place to go. But this mass exodus from one system to another is just lunacy.

Re:Surplus (1)

devildog820 (959606) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953788)

The article said that the cost will be $3bln now that the handhelds are being dropped.

Re:Surplus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22953312)

s/Neb/Ill/

Re:Surplus (1)

Reality Master 201 (578873) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953720)

s/House Speaker/former House Speaker/

Re:Surplus (1)

Arainach (906420) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953526)

Former House Speaker, you mean. Even though it might not seem like it at times, the House is in fact controlled by Democrats and thus Pelosi is the Speaker.

Re:Surplus (3, Informative)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953574)

I'm sure it comes as a surprise to former House Speaker Dennis Hastert that he's from Nebraska - since he's from Illinois.

Re:Surplus (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22953676)

Kudos to the Census people, and to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Neb) for supporting and encouraging their wise decision.

On the other hand, what an amazingly short-sighted, neo-luddite decision on both the Census bureau and Rep. Dennis Hastert ($$$$-usa). They will need to go down this road some time and history facvors the early adopters.

Re:Surplus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22953730)

Before applauding a former House Speaker with a terrible voting record [ontheissues.org] , maybe you should consider finding out why the recommendation to keep using paper was made. From the article, it had nothing to do with a fear of technology or concerns related to voting machines. It was simply because the project to use the handhelds "experienced significant schedule, performance and cost issues". In other words, it was a matter of logistics.

Re:Surplus (4, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953782)

Personally I think this is a good thing. Better to spend money to do things the tried and true way than to experiment with a "hi-tech" solution that may or may not have exploitable weaknesses in it.
I can't imagine WalMart, or any other successful business attempting to do inventory (yes, that's what a census amounts to) purely on paper because they can't get their act together, or have money to burn. This is just as frustrating as the IRS refusal to offer an official free tax filing website. $3 billion extra dollars! All for a census that's riddled with extra transcription errors and will obviously be entered into computers in the end anyways, to be of any use at all.

Re:Surplus (2, Interesting)

Otter (3800) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953022)

That was my first thought too (Do they run Linux?) but I don't think they exist yet. It sounds like the $3 billion is mostly projected cost savings from the handhelds that won't be attained, not that there's $3 billion in handhelds sitting in a warehouse next to the Ark of the Covenant.

(BTW, does everyone now have hideous Reply to This buttons on their comment display or do I need to refresh something?)

Re:Surplus (2, Insightful)

d3ac0n (715594) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953154)

(BTW, does everyone now have hideous Reply to This buttons on their comment display or do I need to refresh something?)


I've got them too. Big honking balloon-ish grey buttons. I don't mind buttons, but it would be nice if they used the same buttons as the "Post Comment" form "Preview" and "Submit" buttons. Those are much nicer.

Re:Surplus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22953216)

These buttons are like little focal points for me. They draw far too much attention away from the text. I thought that was the original purpose of the text links (to stay in the background until you need them).

Re:Surplus (1, Offtopic)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953298)

Yeah, they are hideous. The links didn't grab attention like these do, but they were available when someone wanted to post. Just too much contrast.

I know that /. is trying to heed the call of time and modernize itself, but this is a step in the wrong direction imo. But then again, I don't like the new javascript discussion system either. I've been using Nested mode for years and that seems the best way to look at comments and keep track who is replying to what.

Re:Surplus (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953476)

What I found funny was my brain was actually translating the grey buttons into slashdot green. Now that I look closer, they are indeed grey. And now all I see is the grey; no more slashdot green.

Gee, thanks alot.

Re:Surplus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22953514)

It's not just you.
It went live @ midnight.

People first started talking about it in Microsoft Told to Pay Tax on Licence Fee
http://yro.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=509334&cid=22948086 [slashdot.org]

Newsflash... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22952932)

This just in: government to waste $x million in tax-payer money for first time in recorded history!

Bzzzt, wrong! (0, Flamebait)

spun (1352) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953170)

Sorry, the reality of the situation is that due to private industry malfeasance, the government will have to do things the same old way, and won't be saving the money they hoped to. So take your loonitarian anti-government attitude and shove it, because once again, it is a corporation that is to blame.

Re:Bzzzt, wrong! (3, Informative)

d3ac0n (715594) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953284)

Actually, it is highly likely that it is a bit of both. From the article:

At a March 5 hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Gutierrez said, "significant miscommunication concerning technical requirements between the Census Bureau and Harris" were a main reason for the failings.


I think it was a situation of the "Left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing". Not an uncommon problem in both corporate AND governmental circles. Having previously worked for a company that dealt with government contracts, I can say without a doubt that it is pretty much par for the course when doing that type of work.

I'm just glad to see that the Independant panel had the good smarts to decide to just scrap it and go back to the old way. I can't imagine how much money would have been wasted trying to implement things as they were. Good-on them.

Re:Bzzzt, wrong! (4, Insightful)

azadrozny (576352) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953300)

He points to a dress rehearsal held in May 2007 as when "development and scoping problems emerged." The bureau then identified "more than 400 new or clarified technical requirements," he said, which were delivered to Harris on Jan. 16.

It appears that the government shares some of the blame. 400 new/modified requirements tells me they didn't have good idea of what they needed the system to do. A system is only as good as the specification provided.

Re:Bzzzt, wrong! (1)

ricegf (1059658) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953358)

Had you RTFA, you would have seen this:

He points to a dress rehearsal held in May 2007 as when "development and scoping problems emerged." The bureau then identified "more than 400 new or clarified technical requirements," he said, which were delivered to Harris on Jan. 16.

Not sure how you get from "the government missed or mis-stated 400 requirements" to "it is a corporation that is to blame", but calling people names doesn't lend credence to your view. It's much more likely that both contractor and Customer have plenty of room for shared blame. (Haven't these guys ever heard of "release early, release often"? From 2006 to May 2007 with no dry runs, just blind faith? What is this, the 1960's?)

Re:Bzzzt, wrong! (2, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953542)

Nice try, but where does it say the government screwed up? "400 new or clarified technical requirements" does not mean "the government missed or mis-stated 400 requirements." It could mean, for instance, the government added one new requirement and clarified 399 requirements the contractor had gotten wrong.

But more than likely the gist of what you and the other folks who responded said is correct: both parties probably made mistakes. I'm just tired of this cynical, "The government always screws up and wastes our money but corporations can do no wrong" attitude I see among online libertarian types. It seems like an attitude designed and marketed by some PR firm trying to sell the idea of doing away with government and privatizing everything.

That, and nuance always gets in the way of a good rant.

Promise and risk of electronic census. (4, Insightful)

gnutoo (1154137) | more than 6 years ago | (#22952980)

I've done a census and think GPS enabled devices would greatly increase accuracy but it will also greatly increase costs. A sad fact is that people don't really go all the places they are supposed to go and honest enumerators don't last long in places that stick to quotas. GPS and time tracking devices will prove that the enumerator actually visted each and every place they should have. A mashup with something like Google maps will show if areas have been neglected. An honest census will take significantly more manpower than the one we have now.

There are, of course, the same kinds of risks we have seen with electronic voting. The only solution is to be as transparent as possible. Non free software is a no-no.

Re:Promise and risk of electronic census. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22953168)

A sad fact is that people don't really go all the places they are supposed to go and honest enumerators don't last long in places that stick to quotas.

Accusing US gov't workers of incompetence.

There are, of course, the same kinds of risks we have seen with electronic voting.

Thinly veiled Diebold reference.

Non free software is a no-no.

Criticism of IP and closed source software in the same breath.

You hit the karma trifecta!

Re:Promise and risk of electronic census. (1)

smilindog2000 (907665) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953174)

How about doing a Google Android app? Cheap GPS enabled phones should soon be available, and there's still time to enter the developer challenge [blogspot.com]

Re:Promise and risk of electronic census. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22953238)

Why is non free a no-no? Isn't the real no-no having unverifable, non-redundant storage of raw data? You have a great point otherwise. Just don't make this an OSS soapbox.

twitter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22953310)

Please don't shill [slashdot.org] your own posts to game the moderation system.

Re:Promise and risk of electronic census. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22953446)

You seem to be under the illusion that the Census Bureau has a 100% accurate map on which to do that sort of tracking. That isn't the case and not all jurisdictions are participating in the LUCA process to improve the data accuracy. I happen to be sitting in a major NC city working on it for a client so this isn't idle speculation. And please don't begin to that because something displays on the screen the data behind it is up to snuff.

OT: Anyone have a link to the old /. CSS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22952984)

I like to scroll through long pages of comments, not to aggravate carpal tunnel syndrome by clicking on a widget for every thread/article in a 300-comment thread. The the lines/colors/boxes in the new CSS make it impossible to easily skim/scan these pages, especially in classic mode (no_d2=1) and flat (mode=flat).

I remember seeing this ugliness on idle.slashdot.org when it first came up (and never went there again :), but I stupidly ignored the implication of the ugliness. It looks like today's gonna be Greasemonkey time. Does anyone have a link to, or a cached copy of, the old no_d2=1 (classic mode) style sheet?

Re:OT: Anyone have a link to the old /. CSS? (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953072)

I absolutely agree. I chose to keep the old comment system because i like it. It's functional, it's simple, I liked the design, and it was easy for me to read. I would like to know who thought it was a good idea to take those people who chose not to use the new discussion system and upgrade them anyway.

Re:OT: Anyone have a link to the old /. CSS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22953230)

I would like to know who thought it was a good idea to take those people who chose not to use the new discussion system and upgrade them anyway.

Especially since they said that classic mode would remain available just a few weeks ago. (I just wish I could find the /. article in which Taco said so.)

It looks like "Promise and risk of electronic census. (Score:3, Insightful)" is the only post in the thread with the thick box around it. Is it because it's been modded up at least once, and no other posts have been modded up? What do these boxes even denote, anyway? (In classic mode without Javascript, the q/w/e/a/s/d keybindings aren't in effect anyways...)

Re:OT: Anyone have a link to the old /. CSS? (2, Insightful)

default luser (529332) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953382)

Yeah, you know that the new discussion system is totally broken on IE6. Of course, I knew this six months ago when I elected not to test it, and since then they have fixed nothing.

What's with the duplo-block-sized titles, do we suddenly have armies of babies and old people reading the site?

And to stay on-topic: my stepfather was working for the census while they considered this transition, and it was the most painful decision they had to make in all his years working there. Digitizing something as flexible as paper meant that you actually HURT efficiency of data collection. Think about it: with paper, you can easily correct mistakes, skip questions (or go in a different order). Most important: with the computer, you're SOL if you drop the computer or the battery dies, or the software crashes.

And while digital data collection reduces costs at the back-end (the data is already digitized), the fact is that collecting the data is the most expensive part of the census process, and any increase in costs there erased the gains at the back-end.

That's only $100 a head (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953000)

Still, it's probably less than the cost of fixing it and almost certainly less risky. I mean, we are on a deadline folks.

Hopefully by 2020 they'll have 2013 technology well-tested.

Can I borrow your calculator? $10/head (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953102)

Damn, 3B / 300M is NOT 100 no matter how much I wish it was.

Someone lend me their calculator please.

It's all borrowed anyway... (5, Interesting)

bstarrfield (761726) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953006)

Just another example of the mind boggling inefficiency and ineffectiveness of the current American administration. $3 billion dollars would cover roughly a week of expenses in Iraq - so the sum must be inconsequential.

Or - $3 billion dollars could pay for the college tuition of thousands of students, could dramatically raise NSF funding, or could help rebuild our roads. Don't these people even shame anymore?

One of the fun points about this is that the current Administration was elected (partially) on their supposed business expertise. Which appears to be actually true as many major businesses flub their own large scale IT projects.

Well - given that we're running a fantastic deficit, we'll just throw the extra costs of the the census project into our staggering debt.

Re:It's all borrowed anyway... (1)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953356)

One of the fun points about this is that the current Administration was elected (partially) on their supposed business expertise. Which appears to be actually true as many major businesses flub their own large scale IT projects.

First, TFA says $2.2 billion to $3 billion. Second, TFA says only some of those costs are associated with the handhelds vs. paper issue; the rest is due to increases in other costs (mainly gas and postage). Third, the original contract was for $595 million for devlopment. It is unclear how much of that was spent. They seem to have cancelled the project because they didn't believe the vendor would deliver. The extra funds are primarilly required to hire more people, pay for their workspace, and print the paper.

Re:It's all borrowed anyway... (1)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953380)

Just another example of the mind boggling inefficiency and ineffectiveness of the current American administration

As much as don't appreciate this current administration, I wouldn't put all the blame on them. I blame this on government an bureaucracy. Why this turned out to be so complicated in implement, beyond the changing requirement is hard to tell, then again if the range of changing requirements we that big, then this is certainly evidence of bad planning.

In Canada our census forms are available both online and in paper form. With a portable version you would simply need a handheld that could support a suitable resolution for web input and wireless technology to upload the results. Sounds someone made things more complicated than they needed to be.

Re:It's all borrowed anyway... (1)

Adambomb (118938) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953584)

Its pretty easy to put the blame on them when the Clinton administration presided over the most consistent period of economic growth than the entire 35 years prior.

Of course a good chunk of that was lost to the bubble collapse, and a good chunk of the gain was actually spurred by events in the Bush-Sr era, but thats still why its pretty easy heh.

Re:It's all borrowed anyway... (1)

schwit1 (797399) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953430)

"Just another example of the mind boggling inefficiency and ineffectiveness of the current American administration."

Congress is as much involved in this program as Bush. The problem is that the federal government is too big, too incompetent, too focused on self-interest, and too focused on the next election cycle.

We need a revolution that gives all power back to the states and then they decide what to give a federal entity.

The founding fathers had it right in the beginning.

Re:It's all borrowed anyway... (0, Troll)

Serge_Tomiko (1178965) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953528)

Umm, are you talking about the Articles of Confederation?

That didn't go over so well, as I recall. There is reason the constitution was ratified.

Anyway, good luck calling for a new constitutional convention!

Re:It's all borrowed anyway... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22953624)

Don't forget about oil!

Re:It's all borrowed anyway... (1)

KGIII (973947) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953664)

The sad reality is that this waste is much less than some other, greater, failings. A quick search showed quite a few though this might be one of the larger ones to hit the news recently. Let's not take into account the losses from the current administration's policy of spending money in areas with no chance of recovering their investment. *sighs* I am probably preaching to the choir anyhow but I figured I'd share my thoughts. I love the ideas of a handheld being used for projects such as this but I fail to see the benefit of the census at all - or at least in the current form. We already keep death and birth records, we already collect tax information and welfare information, we already have driving information... Seems to me we could just compile this information and have results that are as good (if not better) than manual counting...

Re:It's all borrowed anyway... (1)

d3ac0n (715594) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953770)

*rolleyes*

Just take your BDS and shove it. If you even bothered to RTFA, (or even think outside your BDS box for a SECOND) you would see that the Census is being run by The Census Bureau. NOT THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION! The waste was due to:

"significant miscommunication concerning technical requirements between the Census Bureau and Harris"


Why between them? Because:

In 2006, the Census Bureau awarded a $595 million contract to Harris Corp. to develop more than 525,000 handheld computers that enumerators would use to collect data from Americans who did not send in their census forms.


The Census Bureau is a governmental agency OUTSIDE the influence of this, or any other, administration. The only influence any administration would have is in appointing the Director of the Census (U.S. Code, Title 13, Chapter 1 Subchapter 2, subsection 21).
http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=browse_usc&docid=Cite:+13USC21 [gpo.gov]

Now, both the current and previous Census Bureau Directors were appointed by George W. Bush, and approved UNANIMOUSLY by The Senate. (Previous being Louis Kincannon, and current being Steve H. Murdock) So, in that sense, they are connected to the Administration, and like all Government agencies, they are answerable to the President.

However, this does NOT mean that GBW had ANY direct impact on this project. In fact, this was a contract negotiated solely between the Census Bureau and Harris Corp. Congress only stepped in when delays and cost overruns had become out of control, and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez (also a Bush appointee) brought the matter before the House Appropriations Committee. They assigned an independent panel (Headed up by REPUBLICAN Dennis Hastert) to look into the matter. The Independent panel decided that it would be better to just go back to doing things the old way rather than CONTINUE TO WASTE TAXPAYER'S MONEY messing around with the hand-helds.

So really, this was just the system working the way it should, and excising waste. The supposed "3 billion lost" is nothing more than a phantom figure that takes the supposed savings by using an electronic method, and counting them as a loss against using the old method. Nowhere is it calculated how much money it would cost to deal with the delays and problems with a faulty and buggy system that had never been deployed on such a wide scale before. I'd imagine that it would cost MUCH more.

Oh, and about that "3 billion"? Check the quote at the end:

Gutierrez plans to tell the subcommittee that the bureau could transfer funds "from existing departmental resources that will fully cover the resources required for the 2010 census.


So in the end, this will cost the taxpayer exactly 0 extra dollars. So much for the Eeevil Bush Administration stealing taxpayer money.

$10/person ?!? (4, Interesting)

vijayiyer (728590) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953012)

It costs $10 _per person_ to count us? That's unbelievable. Perhaps if they just count people (as the Constitution requires) rather than gather race and demographic information, they could cut their costs.

Re:$10/person ?!? (3, Insightful)

trooper9 (1205868) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953164)

It costs $10 _per person_ to count us? That's unbelievable. Perhaps if they just count people (as the Constitution requires) rather than gather race and demographic information, they could cut their costs.
If they did that, there wouldn't be enough information to allow groups to claim "victim" status for whatever social variable they perceive that sets them apart. Remember, the census does more than count, it helps us cordon-off certain groups on our Level Playing Field.

Re:$10/person ?!? (1)

Digi-John (692918) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953360)

trooper9, that was a highly insensitive comment. Please report immediately to your nearest Sensitivity Reeducation Camp for a programming adjustment.

Re:$10/person ?!? (3, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953226)

I bet if they just gave everyone $5 as an incentive to self report, you could get more accurate results at half the cost.

Re:$10/person ?!? (1)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953292)

Yes, I like the sound of that system. Of course, I wouldn't self-report for $5 just as I won't use a supermarket loyalty card for 5000 "points", but you'd get 99% i'm sure.

Re:$10/person ?!? (1)

Ahnteis (746045) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953570)

I'd self-report for $5. In fact, I'd self-report multiple times!

Re:$10/person ?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22953642)

The current administration is already giving everyone $600. What's another $5 to self report for census information? Too bad someone couldn't figure out how to combine the yearly information that we already report to the IRS into something the census bureau could use. That would be far too streamlined, wouldn't it?

Re:$10/person ?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22953370)

Let us assume counting single people at 4 people in per hour. That is 15 minutes to find a house, introduce oneself (verifying you are a census worker,) conduct the interview (verify their identity, their income, race, yadda-yadda,) bid a fond farewell (thank you doing you civic duty) and check off the list (one down, 31 to go.) Through in some random minutes in their for traffic, red lights and getting lost. I think 4 per hour is pretty good estimate, so $40 per hour. To bad the census taker does not get all that per hour. Maybe $20/hour? Factor in gas, mileage, weekly meetings, filing back at the home base and materials and I think $10 a head is not that bad.

Re:$10/person ?!? (2, Insightful)

Tridus (79566) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953626)

But why is most of that necessary?

If you simply mailed every household a short form with the questions that they could return with free postage, you'd get most of the same people counted, at far less cost.

Actually having people go door to door to do this seems pretty archaic.

Dont fill it out. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22953590)

I did not in 2000.
Absolutely no consequences.
I will not in 2010, unless the form has only the question required by the constitution.
Or, maybe I'll fill it out wrong, for joke!
This is probably last time we can not fill it out, In 2020 the citizen-protection-drones will simply scan the chip (implanted by the ministry of privacy) that broadcasts all personal and biometric data constantly. This way, all able-bodied citizens can be processed for compulsory military service in the Iraq war. We have always been at war with Iraq.
Also,
Chocolate rations will be increased!

Re:$10/person ?!? (1)

EricWright (16803) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953604)

I think you missed the point. The $3B ($10/person) was just for the handheld computers. The actual cost is likely far greater (paying the census takers, printing forms, etc.)

Re:$10/person ?!? (4, Informative)

Unordained (262962) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953630)

No. The cost is increasing by $3 billion (with a b). From the article:

Gutierrez said reverting to a paper-based census, in addition to other costs not associated with the handhelds, is expected to increase the cost of the 2010 census to between $2.2 billion and $3 billion through fiscal year 2013. That would bring the total cost of the 2010 census to between $13.7 billion and $14.5 billion. He said the bureau would need an increase of $160 million to $230 million for fiscal 2008 to cover costs associated with returning to paper, with an additional $600 million to $700 million for fiscal 2009. Gutierrez added that the majority of the cost increases would occur in 2010

So it actually costs somewhere around $37/person to count and classify each of us, or around 7 hours of minimum-wage labor. It's far worse than you think.

Also, the handhelds were for field operatives collecting data from people who didn't send in their forms -- the cost estimate above includes the distribution and processing of paper forms that you fill out yourself, which you could reasonably expect to be cheaper than going door-to-door collecting data, thus increasing the per-person cost of personal data collection.

Rescue the project, get $1 billion? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22953026)

No, seriously. How hard can it possibly be to write this application? We're talking basic data collection and processing at scale, not rocket science.

what was wrong with laptops? (1)

superid (46543) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953036)

There's got to be more to this story. FTA the original contract was $595M for 525K handhelds that were supposed to replace "costly" paper forms and maps?

Does each enumerator REALLY use $1k in paper? I call mega-shennanigans.

Hell they could have just bought every enumerator a macbook!

Re:what was wrong with laptops? (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953150)

There's got to be more to this story. FTA the original contract was $595M for 525K handhelds that were supposed to replace "costly" paper forms and maps?

Does each enumerator REALLY use $1k in paper? I call mega-shennanigans.
It's not just the physical cost of paper. Once you add in the cost of shuffling those papers around, doing the data entry, verifying the data entry, etc etc etc... it gets expensive real quick.

There's a lot of bureaucracy in the Federal Government.

OMG! That's 3 days of Iraq war spending! (3, Insightful)

Reality Master 201 (578873) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953038)

Stop the waste now!

Re:OMG! That's 3 days of Iraq war spending! (2, Insightful)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953546)

We're not at war with Iraq.

So, I wonder who we're at war with.

Re:OMG! That's 3 days of Iraq war spending! (1)

Reality Master 201 (578873) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953776)

The terrists, don'cha know - Al Qaida or Iran or generic "militants," depending on who you ask. Funny how it never seems to be people who are pissed about the fact that the US is still occupying their country.

Just ask the CIA or NSA (2, Insightful)

robipilot (925650) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953058)

Can't they just ask the CIA or NSA for the census information? I mean, they're already tracking the snot out of us anyway. Hell, they may know how many kids I have better than I do.

Re:Just ask the CIA or NSA (1)

ricegf (1059658) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953458)

The information the CIA and NSA collects on us is classified, you doofus. They have to collect it all again so they'll have an unclassified copy.

Duh.

Re:Just ask the CIA or NSA (1)

techpawn (969834) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953622)

Hell, they may know how many kids I have better than I do.
Yes we do. The roast smells great and don't forget to pick up Billy after school.

Where can I find tech specs? (1)

n1_111 (597775) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953076)

I know that handheld is a custom HTC device.
Looking to find out what is the rest of the infrastructure composed of.

Just say no to government snoops and spies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22953080)

I politely refuse to answer anything except the count of residents of the household.

This will insure an in-person visit for follow up. Be polite but resolute in your refusal to answer. You can be fined $100. You can be fined $500 for giving false answers.

The US government thinks it can go anywhere and ask anything and snoop and spy on us. I just say "no."

What a mess-- INSANE (1)

avandesande (143899) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953090)

That is over 1 million per computer! And they use the term 'develop', does that even include the cost of the compter. Heck, I'll do it for 50,000$ per computer. Insane!

In 2006, the Census Bureau awarded a $595 million contract to Harris Corp. to develop more than 525,000 handheld computers that enumerators would use to collect data from Americans who did not send in their census forms. The handhelds would replace the millions of costly paper forms and maps that enumerators must carry when going door to door to visit Americans who did not mail in their census forms. Since awarding the contract, the project has experienced constant setbacks, including changing system requirements that led to increased costs and missed deadlines. Reports by the Government Accountability Office, the department's inspector general and Mitre Corp. all issued warnings that the handhelds were at risk of not being ready by 2010 and may not work as planned.

Re:What a mess-- INSANE (0, Flamebait)

bencoder (1197139) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953152)

That is over 1 million per computer!

In 2006, the Census Bureau awarded a $595 million contract to Harris Corp. to develop more than 525,000 handheld computers

What?

595,000,000 / 525,000 = ~1000

about $1000 per computer is a bit more reasonable wouldnt you say?

Re:What a mess-- INSANE (1)

bencoder (1197139) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953820)

waah... flamebait?

Re:What a mess-- INSANE (1)

ConfusedVorlon (657247) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953188)

I may be missing something, but where I come from, 595 million != 525,000 * 1million

I calculate $1000/computer. Still a lot.

Re:What a mess-- INSANE (2, Informative)

Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953304)

That is over 1 million per computer! And they use the term 'develop', does that even include the cost of the compter. Heck, I'll do it for 50,000$ per computer. Insane!

Actually $595,000,000/525,000 = $1,133.33 per computer. While I, too, would be happy to do the job for $50,000.00 per computer, perhaps a quick refresher on approximations using exponential notation would be time well spent for you. :-)

595*10^6 / 525*10^3 =ish 1.x*10^3

Woot! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22953118)

I understand the government will utilize Woot.com to recover some of the costs

What is the #%&kin' problem?!! (1, Troll)

krygny (473134) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953136)

I read TFA. But it's still a mystery to me why things like this are so difficult. Same shit with voting machines. Why can't anyone develop a computerized voting system that exceeds every attribute of all other voting systems (inexpensive, simple, open, secure, reliable, maintainable, anonymous, auditable, etc.)?

Re:What is the #%&kin' problem?!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22953254)

No task can be accomplished by he who does not wish to.

Just sayin'

The engineering mentality is to solve problems. The political mentality is to create problems to justify long-term programmes posing as solutions. Guess which mentality controls voting and the census?

Re:What is the #%&kin' problem?!! (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953352)


Why can't anyone develop a computerized voting system that exceeds every attribute of all other voting systems (inexpensive, simple, open, secure, reliable, maintainable, anonymous, auditable, etc.)?

Because very few people (and no it's not just government) have learned how to write a contract for software development, and the Big Software development companies know this. They get paid no matter if the project fails or not.

The other big failing is getting all the requirements up front and not changing them.

Re:What is the #%&kin' problem?!! (1)

Essron (231281) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953420)

rolling out a custom handheld system to a nationwide field operation on behalf of a federal bureaucracy? i would say thats a near impossible project before you even get involved in palace intrigue, government contracting issues, legacy systems/analytics requirements, and unions.

canning this plan will probably save money, not burn it. the savings estimate is probably a lie from the vendor's "forecast" when quoting their risk-free, cost-plus pricing bid. remember how much trouble the FBI has been having upgrading their system?

The hubris of the lone programmer that believes they have a full understanding of an enormous progress is one of the many obstacles which cause projects of this scale to fail.

Re:What is the #%&kin' problem?!! (1)

ricegf (1059658) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953484)

Exactly. Everything that I've never tried has been easy, too.

Re:What is the #%&kin' problem?!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22953700)

Because people in charge of the projects typically dont know what they are doing and then have their heads shoved way up their arses.

More than likely 3-6 high level managers kept adding or changing "features" and requirements so much it turned into a mess that failed.

how many fricking projects that worked failed because some idiot executive said, "that's great now make it integrate with our current phone system." which is a old outdated POS that cant be integrated to. the retarted executives desire is not possible so he kills the project.

So it goes. This is how you waste millions and billions on nothing. TO eliminate waste, eliminate management.

Why aren't the vendors ever responsible? (1)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953166)

The part I never understand about stories like this is why it never seems to be possible for the government to sue and recover costs from the contractors who failed.

Are government procuring agents not sophisticated enough to write a binding contract? Or are these contracts really sweetheart deals, in which it's a tacit understanding that Harris gets $595 million as a gift, and in return are not actually expected to deliver anything more than paper proof that they kept themselves really busy?

Why isn't Harris on the hook for the $3 billion in extra costs?

Re:Why aren't the vendors ever responsible? (1)

twmcneil (942300) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953342)

Dude, Read TFA!

The bureau then identified "more than 400 new or clarified technical requirements,"

Now that's some serious feature creep.

Re:Why aren't the vendors ever responsible? (2, Insightful)

Mr.Dippy (613292) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953442)

You just described Accenture's business model

Re:Why aren't the vendors ever responsible? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22953472)

2 words...

Campaign contributions

Re:Why aren't the vendors ever responsible? (1)

ricegf (1059658) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953532)

Great! I'd like for you to develop an application for me. I'll sign a contract to pay you $595,000 for it. But you have to agree that, if I add 400 requirements a year into development, you have to keep the original schedule or else you pay me $3,000,000.

Ready to sign? Hello?

Big Software and it's failings. (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953208)

This sounds like a fairly standard story for Large Software Projects that failed from the article.

There's this belief that software can be developed with a "I want one of those doohickeys that makes my job easier. Give me the Final Product in 2 years" attitude. Then someone goes about trying to figure out what the doohickey is. Sometimes they do it right, other times they don't. Most of the time the people designing the system don't really know what they want.

That's fine, people don't know what they want and they don't always know what works. If you have this situation though, you're just not going to get the Final Product at some future point in time, like you're building a bridge or something. You have to start out small, solve SOME of the problems, and find out what works. It sounds like nobody really did that.

Re:Big Software and it's failings. (1)

inflamed (1156277) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953460)

If the contractor can't figure out what is needed, they shouldn't bid on the project. What is so wrong with this system? Oh yeah, no penalty for cost-overruns.

about $8.50 (1)

dj245 (732906) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953214)

Thats about $8.50 per person if we guess 350 million people (I haven't been keeping up)

Good sense (1)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953576)

It takes a lot of guts and a lot of just plain good sense to look at a failing IT project and say, "This isn't salvageable; dump it instead of throwing good money after bad." Good for them!

Device requirements? (1)

Ioldanach (88584) | more than 6 years ago | (#22953814)

I'm somewhat curious just what the device is intended to do. It strikes me that their needs should be something that could be handled by a java application written for any java-enabled cellphone handset, severing the requirements from the handset itself and allowing separate bids by cellphone manufacturers and network providers for the cellphone and communications portions of the program.

In general, any tri or quad band cellphone with any (even very slow) data access and a real, simulated (touchscreen), or bluetooth keyboard or keyboard like device [handykey.com] should be able to be used to fill out the form on the spot and then transmit the form back to a central server. Then, at the end of the day, the census taker reviews the forms they submitted and verifies their accuracy and the forms go into the system. (This step is to prevent fraud by someone attempting to hack the cellphone side of things.)

The whole system is modular, and after specifying the the data interchange format between phone and server, could be bid out separately and cheaply. There's really no need to design a durable device capable of harsh use with data input capabilities, that function is already available in commodity devices [cnet.com] !

The system could even track times and gps locations of the data as it was entered, for cross-referencing to verify map locations.

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