Advertising Y2K compliance?

Subject: Advertising Y2K compliance?
From: "Geoff Hart (by way of \"Eric J. Ray\" <ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com>)" <ght -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Wed, 16 Sep 1998 10:49:41 -0600

Nancy Burns wondered how to <<advise customers... about the Y2K
compliance of our software program.>> and proposed <<Web site
posting, Letter sent directly to current customers, Include letter in
future shipments, Add topic to online Help, Include letter with
pre-sales information, Add info to Getting Started manual>>

All of these sounds like good thoughts; I'd add the suggestion that
all your technical staff (researchers giving papers at conferences,
help desk staff, etc.) take every opportunity to promote compliance.
However, the solution realy depends on the problem you're trying to
solve, which you haven't defined: are you simply boasting that your
product is truly compliant, or are you trying to help users cope with
the noncompliance of current or former versions? If the latter, then
warning people becomes even more important because it may be the only
thing that saves you from lawsuits as of January 2000. That being the
case, don't just warn them: provide extensive advice on how they can
solve their own problems, and a really strong warning that failure to
do so will lead to a disaster that isn't your fault.

Don't forget, even if the product is Y2K-compliant, the manner in
which people are using probably _isn't_, and you'll have to identify
specific uses that are risky. (Incidentally, that's the worst trap by
far in solving the Y2K problem: retail software can be fixed, but
not how people use it.) For example, database and spreadsheet
software routinely include automatic date functions that can be made
Y2K-compliant simply by fixing the underlying algorithms. But what
about the home-grown database or spreadsheet written before the
autodate functions became part of the software and that has
been loyally imported, without modification, into every new release
of the software for the past 10 years? What about stuff written in
the Y2K-compliant version of the software but without knowledge of
these functions? (Interesting side issue: Are you legally liable
as a techwhirler if you're aware of the problem and don't document
it in full? Hmm....) Any data field that uses YY to store the year is
a time bomb waiting to happen, and you can't rely on the underlying
software to solve the problem for you. Scary thought...

Interesting factoid (reported in _The Computer Paper_, so I can't
provide details on the actual study... so take this with the
appropriate shaker of salt): Apparently, IBM recently surveyed
companies for Y2K compliance and 70% or so claimed to be compliant.
However, IBM went one step further and actually did some testing...
and not one company passed their tests. I assume this is because of
the problem I pointed out, and that suggests you'd better examine
your claims very carefully indeed... and take appropriate measures.
--Geoff Hart @8^{)}
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

When an idea is wanting, a word can always be found to take its place.--Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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