Thu, 21 Sep 2006
I read Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff a zillion years ago. One passage hit me then, and it's stuck with me. The time is somewhere in the beginning of the Mercury program:
Asking Gus [Grissom] to "just say a few words" was like handing him a knife and asking him to open a main vein. But hundreds of workers are gathered in the main auditorium of the Convair plant to see Gus and the other six, and they're beaming at them, and the Convair brass say a few words and then the astronauts are supposed to say a few words, and all at once Gus realizes it's his turn to say something, and he is petrified. He opens his mouth and out come the words: "Well... do good work!" It's an ironic remark, implying "... because it's my ass that'll be sitting on your freaking rocket." But the workers start cheering like mad. They started cheering as if they had just heard the most moving and inspiring message of their lives: Do good work! After all, it's little Gus's ass on top of our rocket! They stood there for an eternity and cheered their brains out while Gus gazed blankly on them from the Pope's balcony. Not only that, the workers—the workers, not the management but the workers!—had a flag company make up a huge banner, and they strung it up high in the main work bay, and it said: DO GOOD WORK.
That came to mind when I read this abstract:
This paper presents a fully independent security study of a Diebold AccuVote-TS voting machine, including its hardware and software. We obtained the machine from a private party. Analysis of the machine, in light of real election procedures, shows that it is vulnerable to extremely serious attacks. For example, an attacker who gets physical access to a machine or its removable memory card for as little as one minute could install malicious code; malicious code on a machine could steal votes undetectably, modifying all records, logs, and counters to be consistent with the fraudulent vote count it creates. An attacker could also create malicious code that spreads automatically and silently from machine to machine during normal election activities—a voting-machine virus. We have constructed working demonstrations of these attacks in our lab. Mitigating these threats will require changes to the voting machine's hardware and software and the adoption of more rigorous election procedures.
Since this is by no means the first report, I feel safe in saying Diebold is not DOING GOOD WORK.
I wish people who could matter—that especially means you, Fourth Estate—cared. We're all on top of the freaking rocket. (Not just the US, since the size of our military and economy puts much or all of the world on the rocket too.)
I'm sure there are people at Diebold who feel embarrassed or even humiliated by what their company is selling. If any one of them wants throw caution and good sense to the winds and hang up a DO GOOD WORK banner, I'll buy it for you. Seriously.
I've been invited to the Software Practice Advancement Conference. The idea appeals: expense-paid trip to London, opportunity to rouse the rabble along some lines I'll be previewing here as I have time, and a conference that's said to be good (I've never been). On the other hand, I hate overseas flights because I can't sleep on planes, and Dawn almost certainly can't come with.
Here's what would tip me over the edge. There are lots of people I could learn from in London. If there are teams there who do something really well (making small stories, writing FIT tests, release planning, etc. - anything), I would like to come work with you for several days. Not just visit and watch, but act as much like a team member as I can. Let me know.
P.S. The idea of visiting practice is part of what I want to rouse the rabble to, something that lives in the same space as the MFA for Software, something that's part of my formal discussion of Jim Waldo's OOPSLA essay On System Design, which will be titled something like Surviving in a World of Ever-Looming Malignity: Or, Monasticism for the Married.
UPDATE: Yes, I'm not expecting to be paid for the visits.