Put some IT pros in jail

Put some IT pros in jail

Summary: Is IT a "profession?"Certifications and professional organizations are window dressing.

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TOPICS: Microsoft, CXO, IBM, Storage, PCs
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Is IT a "profession?" Certifications and professional organizations are window dressing. IT won't be a profession until IT people start going to jail. People who shred paper can go to jail. Why not negligent people whose info system design and operation have the same effect?

How is a profession defined? Wikipedia quotes the The New Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thought for this definition:

. . . the development of formal qualifications based upon education and examinations, the emergence of regulatory bodies with powers to admit and discipline members, and some degree of monopoly rights.

By that definition IT is only an "occupation" like, heh, blogging.

Meet the enforcers Lawyers can be disbarred for malpractice. A doctor's license can be revoked. Structural engineer's licenses can be revoked and they can be sued for malpractice.

Software engineers are an obvious exception: if they could be sued they'd all be paupers. Software engineering clearly isn't a profession. Someday, maybe.

Welcome to the graybar hotel Jailing professionals means that their failures are bad for society as a whole. Doctors dispensing Oxy-Contin like candy are bad. Lawyers paying people to bring suits are bad.

Where to start? How about the White House email scandal.

The short story: the White House had a working Lotus Notes archive system, but during the run up to the Iraq war, someone decided to replace it with Microsoft Exchange - and no archive at all. At least 5 million emails are missing.

By law, the records of the Executive Office of the President are government property and must be preserved. We, the taxpayers, fund them, and they owe us.

Your tax dollars at work? Theresa Payton, the current CIO of the EOP, may be a candidate for jail, even though she's only been CIO for 2 years. Here's a quote from her testimony about the new White House email archive system:

Then there is a second team who does a QA of the work they are doing to make sure that the messages that went into the Microsoft Journal that here then automatically moved through a software program that we have into Microsoft Personal Storage Tables, or PSTs, a second group takes a look at that work and also, if they note any technology glitches, notes that in the log.

Gee, this Microsoft Journal product must be pretty important, using it for this critical national purpose. So I searched Microsoft.com for this important product I'd never heard of. #1 hit: something for the tablet PC. Oh.

Microsoft, on the record, doesn't recommend using .pst files as archives:

The .pst files are not meant to be a long-term, continuous-use method of storing messages in an enterprise environment.

Why? you ask:

. . . the use a .pst file over a network connection may result in a corrupted .pst file if the connection degrades or fails.

From the White House perspective that's a feature, not a bug. Accountability is for the little people.

The Storage Bits take Sending IT geeks to jail sounds harsh. But if you want to be a "professional" it needs to be done.

Persistent information makes civilization possible. Managing information systems is an important job that should be accorded "professional" status and responsibility.

Statutory preservation requirements need IT professionals who are empowered - and have the personal incentive - to stand up to execs who try to cover up wrong-doing or incompetence.

It's simply pay to play. With professional stature comes professional responsibility.

Comments welcome, of course. Do you still want to be a professional?



Topics: Microsoft, CXO, IBM, Storage, PCs

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  • Agreed to the fullest

    When I described the WH email issue with a friend, I said flatly "I would have walked in and fired every person I laid eyes upon." There is NO excuse for that level of incompetence, none whatsoever!

    Too bad there aren't licenses we can revoke over this.
    Sabz5150
    • Put some Blogers in Jail!!!

      for false claims of having a clue.

      Ref the white house emails.
      Except it was done deliberately to hid the illegal emails.
      dragon@...
  • Practicing X without a license

    It's certainly illegal to practice medicine without a license, and the "practice of medicine" is defined by statute. It is also illegal to "practice law" (as defined) without a license.

    Your example of civil engineering is, however, not the same. It is not illegal to practice civil engineering without a license, it is only required for certain legal documents to be endorsed by a "Certified Professional Engineer." Filing those documents endorsed by someone unqualified is punishable; signing off as though qualified is simply fraud.

    Other professions? Nursing (similar laws to medicine), teaching, priesthood, and journalism. There is a teaching certification required by public schools, but there is no crime of "education without a license." Arizona (where we both live) charter schools do not require State certification.

    Does your priest/pastor/rabbi/whatever have a license? Do you have a journalism license? Do either of you need one?

    Other licensed occupations that are not traditionally recognized as "professions" include morticians, barbers, and cosmetologists. Actually the list is much longer but this post is long enough as is.

    Bottom line: the correlation between "profession" and "license required" is not very good.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
    • What is a "Professional"?

      Is a 'Professional' only a person licensed by law to follow a given 'Profession' (e.g. Doctor, Lawyer) or is it any person who earns his/her livelyhood by getting paid to do something? Outside of the money, is there any major difference between a professional paid to follow a vocation and the amateur who persues the same as their avocation?

      The vast majority of people I have known over the years have usually tried to excel at whatever they did for enjoyment and to be as good as those paid to do it. In fact, many amateurs, at times, seem to give more than the 'professional' to whom it is just another day at the ballpark, or ...

      My own experience is over 16 years as an unpaid Volunteer Firefighter who also has had the pleasure of knowing and working with paid Professional (e.g City) Firefighters. The vast majority of volunteers try to conduct themselves in a 'professional' manner and it would be hard for a casual observer to tell the difference. And yes, I've also seen some 'Chineese Fire Drills' also but those were due mostly to simple inexperience.

      So is it merely a license or a certain job that makes a Professional or is it a mindset of how to perform your duties or tasks. I, for one, am not about to tell a police officer or firefighter or soldier that they are not "Professional" merely because they don't have a government issued license and/or a string of letters after their name. Nor am I going to say that a volunteer firefighter has not acted in a 'professional' manner when they performed as well as a paid firefighter.

      Please do not think I'm attemting to disparge 'professional' firefighters, etc because I am not. I hold all military and 'first reponders' in the highest of regard and esteem. May God protect them all!!!

      By the way, have you hugged a firefighter (or police officer or soldier) today and said 'Thanks!'?
      BobH2
  • with accountability comes credibility

    As a student stuying toward a computer engineering degree with a veiw towards specializing in software engineering at the honours or masters level this article strikes a chord. If software engineers are acountable for the software they write in both a legal and a professional sense then people who employ them and use there products will be more confident these services and products. It is a bit like the reason you have confidence in your doctor. If he is negligent he is in major trouble.

    The IEEE already allows IT profesionals membership perhaps this could be change to a certification process through universities around the world.

    Alternatively the Washington Accord could be useful in this as it already covers most forms of engineering including Computer Engineering and Software Engineering degrees from Universities acreditted in their own countries. If this were the case then people with a PE (profesional engineer) after their name would be both credible and accountable (and as a side effect highly sought after). This will also mean that we also see great increase in the average level of education and skill level of these people as they are now trained as engineers not merely technicians as is usually the case also applying engineering techniques to the whole of the IT realm rather than just the development side can't be a bad thing.
    Knofster
    • Accreditation

      I agree, the if you want IT to be a profession, there needs to be an accreditation. I helped found a chapter of the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery, an alternative body to the IEEE that is specifically aimed at IT people) about 20 yrs ago, and this was the topic of the first seminar that we hosted, bringing in a guest speaker from Seattle (sorry, I don't remember his name) The two biggest items that were keeping IT from being a profession were the lack of an accrediting body, and accountability.
      DigitalFrog
  • RE: Put some IT pros in jail

    If they are held accountable that would null and void the hold harmless clause of the Windows EULA and Linux GPL. It would also scare developers into putting a freeze on a product when they know it has a couple of "bugs". So I would see it as a method of forcing an improvement on software.

    But thinking about my first sentence... I don't think the GPL could really be held to the same standard in many cases... correct me if I am wrong. ]:)
    Linux User 147560
    • To the contrary

      "So I would see it as a method of forcing an improvement on software."

      It would force an absolute standstill on software production since once it leaves the programmers hands, and the joe sixpacks of the world have their hands on it, Gaea only knows what (mis)uses it will be subjected to.

      Either that or see the costs of programs skyrocket to pay for all the extra QC and endless rewrites.
      Confused by religion
      • ....

        Aren't prices for many software title over inflated? Especially for what you get and the headaches that come along with them? ]:)
        Linux User 147560
      • Back to point

        If IT and developers were held more responcible for what they right we .. the end user.. would start with a better product and thier liabitty would end as soon as the "amiture" edits the product. I would gladly ppay more for a product I KNOW is gonna do its job than one that has to be post scriped and patched AFTER I have...
        Your friendly "Joe Sixpack"
        narey@...
    • Why is email...

      retention held up as an IT failing that someone
      should go to jail for? Should all phone
      conversations, or even ALL conversations --
      period -- be recorded and kept forever by
      anyone, including government officials? Where
      should the line be drawn? Email is NOT a form
      of written communication, but a digital
      conversation between computers, rather than
      phones. Why should not keeping the ephemeral
      bits representing a computer conversation send
      the keepers of such a computer to jail, any
      more than the keeper of a phone system would
      go to jail if they fail to record and keep phone
      conversations?

      Equating not keeping tabs on ephemeral bits to
      shredding paper is stupid.
      arminw
      • Records Retention

        I don't know where you work, but here, emails are considered records, and fall under record retention policies. Destroying certain types of records is criminal. As IT maintains those records, destroying the system that retains those records should be treated the same as destroying the records.
        s_southern
        • records

          the point of this article, as far as i can tell, was to call to account the highest office in the land and the use of taxpayer money. if for some "reason" the presidency can't hire people who know what they do, then the president should be fired too--er, sorry, i forgot about iraq, where the president does seem to get off the hook.

          maybe we're there now. thumb your nose from the white house. na, na, na, na, na, naaaa...
          jiagebusen
  • Right next to teeth drilling Dentists

    With no explanation they mutilate and distort your jaw.By the time you're 50 your teeth start falling apart.
    BALTHOR
  • Give it 50 years (and other rebuttals)

    Rebuttal the first: When Software Engineering is as old of a profession as Mechanical Engineering or Civil Engineering, then this will be feasible.

    Rebuttal the second: Who's at fault for the bug? The company that wrote the code? The company that wrote the compiler that compiled the code? The entity that wrote the shared library embedded in the code (which was compiled with a different compiler)? The company which made the cpu with a floating point division error?

    Rebuttal the third: You can do this kind of stuff for devices that are on spec. Code for pacemakers or insulin pumps only works on that pacemaker or insulin pumps. Users don't mess with the hardware. There aren't competing brands of cpus which the users can interchange. There aren't driver updates (in general) for these devices. A Civil Engineer with their PE only certifies one building at a time... the building doesn't move from a San Francisco location to a New York location with a completely different foundation requirement.

    --Jason
    zapman449
  • Authors, too?

    How many time has a story been put out, for the sake of speed or just in error, that in the end was found to be wrong, or outright fake?

    Why not throw the author into jail when that happens? They definatelly deserve it.
    AllKnowingAllSeeing
  • RE: Put some IT pros in jail

    There's alot of people who deserve hard time and will never serve it. Sorry not really cynical just true.
    pixelblot
  • being a professional doesn't mean going to jail

    Sure, you can be sued, or you can be fired. Going to jail has nothing to do with being a pro or not being one.

    Let's say we want to arrest the 'criminals' that deleted the emails, based on our belief that they had the intent to do so. Do we arrest the project manager? The Exchange installer? the guy who pressed "Enter"? The network guy who didn't back up the files? The CIO? The customer that authorized it?

    Nonsensical article. If you want to prosecute for the White House emails, do so with intent to defraud or destruction of government property on proof, not some vague sense of conspiracy.

    Doctors and lawyers can go to jail because they have extraordinary power over the lives of individuals, from physical harm to wrongful incarceration or willful misrepresentation. Structural engineers can kill people with bad design.

    Software engineers can make poor security decisions or mismanage code, or they can lose data. If you believe that to be in the same category as doctors and lawyers, you haven't really thought it through.

    If you make it criminal, no one will ever press the "Enter" key to start the conversion, or installation, or upgrade. And all risk will be contractually be transferred to the customer, regardless.
    coffeeshark
  • Nah. It's just cheaper to offshore jobs to countries that have no such laws

    :p
    HypnoToad
    • "Ring ring....ring ring...click..."

      "Hello, my name is being Bruce, how am I helping you with your Email Archival Problems this day?"
      ReadWryt (error)