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Black Day for Polish Computer Science


First of all: I know I'm making a content mistake, referring to a specific event, but it's important. It's about two events from the end of November 2014.

Secondly: I don't intend to defend or accuse anyone; this is more of a small manifesto.

End of Disclaimer

Black Day for Polish Computer Science

I proudly call yesterday a beautiful day.

So, what happened?

Driving to work, I heard, instead of the usual bunch of heavy topics in the morning news, two events related to IT. When I heard the previews, I knew something big was happening.

As it turned out, the public opinion was presented with two facts:

  1. The IT system for local government elections isn't working; it's being restarted, some things work, some don't.
  2. The IT system for Polish Railways (PKP) related to Pendolino trains isn't working; you can't buy tickets, ticket machines don't work. The spokesperson or someone like that said they would test it once they introduce the pricing policy, and then you'd be able to buy tickets.

Oh, horror!

I, a master of computer science, had to go to great lengths to understand what the news had just told me. And what about the non-tech-savvy folks? They didn't understand a thing; they heard only one thing: "IT failed."

I'm really sorry about that.

Because it's not IT that failed. IT is a science. IT never fails :) It's people who failed. Unfortunately, that's the truth. Many aspects and bad decisions. Probably poorly defined performance tests and specifications led to the simultaneous collapse of these two systems. It was spectacular and correlated perfectly with the narrative that the public was served.

Will this shake people's faith in IT?

Of course not!

The bad news for humanity and the good news for IT folks (he he) is that we are already committed to digitalization, in the broadest sense of the word.

In my opinion, the slow news season and the ease of serving simple diagnoses and simple information led the media to cleverly pick up on the crashes of these systems and served them to the public as a beautiful piece of news.

However, both future elections and future ticket sales are destined for some kind of "IT" system. There's no turning back—well, there is, but it would be a move in a very wrong direction.

So, what can we do?

The only thing we should take care of is the high quality of the systems used in public administration and public companies. So the world doesn't laugh at us, and we don't have to be ashamed of the mess that happened in recent days. Can we do that? Yes, write to your representatives (MPs, councilors, etc.), vote for good parties, if you can, actively participate so that the quality of life, and therefore the systems that support life, is as good as possible.

And finally, a humorous/serious extra:

| Quoting from

"The IT system is working, although not very efficiently, and it doesn't always count what interests us."

I interpret this as:

"The software developed by the company that won the contract has significant performance problems (it doesn't work well under load) because not everything could be tested. Additionally, not all functions, like counting or vote collection, work well because not everything could be tested before the elections."

Maybe someone will draw some lessons from this.


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