Tag: Software Users

Software Bugs and Arizona Prisons

One of the software modules within ACIS, designed to calculate release dates for inmates, is presently unable to account for an amendment to state law that was passed in 2019.

Senate Bill 1310, authored by former Sen. Eddie Farnsworth, amended the Arizona Revised Statutes so that certain inmates convicted of nonviolent offenses could earn additional release credits upon the completion of programming in state prisons. Gov. Ducey signed the bill in June of 2019.

But department sources say the ACIS software is not still able to identify inmates who qualify for SB 1310 programming, nor can it calculate their new release dates upon completion of the programming.

“We knew from day one this wasn’t going to work” a department source said. “When they approved that bill, we looked at it and said ‘Oh, s—.’”

The sources said the ACIS software also makes it difficult for employees to correct errors once they have been identified.

“In one instance there was a disciplinary action erroneously entered on an inmate’s record,” a source said. “But there’s no way to back it out. So that guy was punished and he wasn’t able to make a phone call for 30 days. Those are the kinds of things that eat at you every day.”

Whistleblowers: Software Bug Keeping Hundreds Of Inmates In Arizona Prisons Beyond Release Dates
Jimmy Jenkins, https://kjzz.org/

Decision Making Software

She doesn’t remember exactly when she realized that some eligibility decisions were being made by algorithms. But when that transition first started happening, it was rarely obvious. Once, she was representing an elderly, disabled client who had inexplicably been cut off from her Medicaid-funded home health-care assistance. “We couldn’t find out why,” Gilman remembers. “She was getting sicker, and normally if you get sicker, you get more hours, not less.”

Not until they were standing in the courtroom in the middle of a hearing did the witness representing the state reveal that the government had just adopted a new algorithm. The witness, a nurse, couldn’t explain anything about it. “Of course not—they bought it off the shelf,” Gilman says. “She’s a nurse, not a computer scientist. She couldn’t answer what factors go into it. How is it weighted? What are the outcomes that you’re looking for? So there I am with my student attorney, who’s in my clinic with me, and it’s like, ‘Oh, am I going to cross-examine an algorithm?’”

The coming war on the hidden algorithms that trap people in poverty
A growing group of lawyers are uncovering, navigating, and fighting the automated systems that deny the poor housing, jobs, and basic services.
Karen Hao
MIT Technology Review

Netscape Navigator and Fax Machines – Filing for Unemployment in NY

As he and many others discovered, the state’s archaic systems were woefully unprepared for the deluge of claims. In Mr. Islam’s case, he said it took him four days to reach someone who could explain what he had to do to complete the application process.

State officials admitted as recently as last summer that there were problems with the technology used for such applications, describing New York’s unemployment-insurance systems as relics from the heyday of mainframe computers.

Would-be applicants’ frustration grew as their computer screens froze repeatedly and their calls went unanswered for days. Some attempts to apply for benefits yielded a pop-up message that suggested using Netscape, a browser that effectively no longer exists.

He Needs Jobless Benefits. He Was Told to Find a Fax Machine.
Thousands of newly unemployed New Yorkers desperate to stay afloat are being frustrated by the state’s 1970s-era technology.
Patrick McGeehan
NY Times

Lessons for creating good open source software, Eric Raymond

  1. Every good work of software starts by scratching a developer’s personal itch.
  2. Good programmers know what to write. Great ones know what to rewrite (and reuse).
  3. Plan to throw one [version] away; you will, anyhow. (Copied from Frederick Brooks’ The Mythical Man-Month)
  4. If you have the right attitude, interesting problems will find you.
  5. When you lose interest in a program, your last duty to it is to hand it off to a competent successor.
  6. Treating your users as co-developers is your least-hassle route to rapid code improvement and effective debugging.
  7. Release early. Release often. And listen to your customers.
  8. Given a large enough beta-tester and co-developer base, almost every problem will be characterized quickly and the fix obvious to someone.
  9. Smart data structures and dumb code works a lot better than the other way around.
  10. If you treat your beta-testers as if they’re your most valuable resource, they will respond by becoming your most valuable resource.
  11. The next best thing to having good ideas is recognizing good ideas from your users. Sometimes the latter is better.
  12. Often, the most striking and innovative solutions come from realizing that your concept of the problem was wrong.
  13. Perfection (in design) is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but rather when there is nothing more to take away. (Attributed to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)
  14. Any tool should be useful in the expected way, but a truly great tool lends itself to uses you never expected.
  15. When writing gateway software of any kind, take pains to disturb the data stream as little as possible—and never throw away information unless the recipient forces you to!
  16. When your language is nowhere near Turing-complete, syntactic sugar can be your friend.
  17. A security system is only as secure as its secret. Beware of pseudo-secrets.
  18. To solve an interesting problem, start by finding a problem that is interesting to you.
  19. Provided the development coordinator has a communications medium at least as good as the Internet, and knows how to lead without coercion, many heads are inevitably better than one.
  20. When the next generation inevitably stumbles for the second time around on the first contention, doff cap and take heed;

* Eric Raymond, via wikipedia

Health care workers and computers, Atul Gawande on.

Why Doctors Hate Their Computers

More than ninety per cent of American hospitals have been computerized during the past decade, and more than half of Americans have their health information in the Epic system. Seventy thousand employees of Partners HealthCare—spread across twelve hospitals and hundreds of clinics in New England—were going to have to adopt the new software. I was in the first wave of implementation, along with eighteen thousand other doctors, nurses, pharmacists, lab techs, administrators, and the like.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/11/12/why-doctors-hate-their-computersc