Can we trust the Census Bureau’s software?

Can we trust the Census Bureau’s software?


Can we trust the Census Bureau’s software?Can we trust the Census Bureau’s software?Can we trust the Census Bureau’s software?

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Dear John: In 2010, lacking work as a senior software engineer, I worked as a quality clerk for the Census Bureau.

The main software package for running the census that year, called “PBOCS” internally, was so buggy that in the Denver office we were only allowed to run five PBOCS stations at one time.

The software had so many problems that Census came up with workarounds in which we used bar-code scanners to get questionnaires into Excel spreadsheets.

The system was not competently written or engineered for performance.

I mention all this because you are covering the work on the 2020 Census. So I suggest you keep an eye on whether the 2020 software is built by the same group of clowns that built the software for the last census. M.B.

Dear M.B.: The decennial census is crucial to the country. It determines the number of House members for each state. Also, the amount of money each state gets from the feds.

And, since you’ve been reading my column from your home in Utah, you know that I have been on the case for years.

Congress is now extremely worried that the census will not only be over budget, but also inaccurate. So it is devising shortcuts using modern technology that the Census Bureau hopes will solve some of the problems.

But, as most people know, things seldom work properly when they are used for the first time. Remember the old warning: Never buy a car in its first model year.

Thanks for the information. It’s people like you who are making the bureaucrats at Census a little more honest and responsible.

Dear John: I have recently read that parents are to blame for children being exploited on social media.

My 12-year-old daughter was on the app Houseparty, where she would keep in touch with all of her friends this summer.

She got bumped off the app and did not know how to get back on. She soon got a text saying she could be “helped” back on.

It was from a pedophile, who wanted her to do different naked poses and to call her in order to get her back on the app.

She does not have Facebook or Twitter, and we have phone blocks as well as TeenSafe, and have had a lot of warnings and discussions. We are very proactive on her social media.

Pedophiles can reach any child anytime, no matter if the parent is a “good” or “bad” parent. It is heartbreaking when people blame the parents for pedophile behavior, when parents do the best they can. The police are currently investigating. H.L.

Dear H.L.: That’s a truly scary story. So even if you are like a hawk with your kids, don’t think bad things can’t happen.

If you are a lax parent, you can be certain they will fall prey.

Please let me know what happens with the investigation.