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The Government's $200,000 Useless Android Application (gun.io)
504 points by Mizza 1318 days ago | 158 comments



The problem with the government trying to do something is that anyone who's really really qualified will find the paperwork, compliance, and bidding procedures way too complicated for the sums of money involved.

The Android app cost 106k btw. So looking at this guys hourly rate, it would take approximately 6 months of 40 hour weeks for him to cost that much to do the app.

So if he:

Learned out to submit the forms that got him into the bidding

Made changes to his company required to make it seem a valid bid target

Filed the correct forms to put in his bid

Factored in correctly the amount of oversight and travel that would be required to get even a simple app done according to the whims of the people hired to get it made

Used server technologies compliant with government desires, including ones he may never really willingly touch with a 10 foot pole

Then MAYBE, just MAYBE, he'd be able to go as low as say, 60k or so. And that's for a small indie dev. Now look at a bigger company doing this app (as the government likes support, unlike a single freelancer can necessarily provide), and you easily hit the 106k range.

Does it not work well? Sounds like it works like crap. But complicated crap still can be expensive to make.

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If someone is interested in how the government procurement process is gamed, "The Stoner Arms Dealers: How Two American Kids Became Big-Time Weapons Traders" in Rolling Stone is a good read - http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-stoner-arms-de...

It sounded to me like the whole business was getting the contract written correctly. Once the contract was procured, fulfillment it was more of an after thought.

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That is not accurate in my experience. Their contracts were even mentioned to be in the piece to be for foreigners, so no one cared, etc.

Sponsers care a hell of a lot that things do the right things when it's important.

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I hadn't seen that article before. It was a great read. Thanks for sharing.

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Maybe they should have created a competition for finished apps instead. If the app is as simple as it sounds (not sure what it actually does), maybe some high school kids would have entered a better version and raked in 5000$ as the first price.

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What test would they use to check whether an app is simple or not? At a certain point, you put out a bid for a complicated monstrocity, and the only entrant is some RentACoder who claims he can re-write Windows in Python in two weeks for $50.

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Since the competition would be for finished apps, it wouldn't matter.

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Sure it would. If OSHA wants a new operating system, putting out an open call for a deliverable would be retarded. Absolutely nobody would be able to deliver such a thing on spec, and those that would be willing would be obvious scam artists.

At best, it would cost someone a few weeks of time evaluating these bullshit submissions and realizing that they're a waste of time. At worst, they would be accepted, another $100k would be paid out, and we'd be worse off than when we began.

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We were talking about some temperature app, not a new operating system. I did not suggest such a competition would be a good idea for every kind of project.

It's true that there would be overhead for running the competition and judging the entries, too.

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> We were talking about some temperature app, not a new operating system. I did not suggest such a competition would be a good idea for every kind of project.

Right, I was trying to raise the point that it's not always obvious where the line between "trivial app" and "major project" should be drawn.

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This is an app to prevent heat death. That's completely inappropriate to have a contest for.

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I didn't read too closely - isn't it basically an app that reminds you to drink water on a regular basis? Why not have a contest for that?

In fact why not have contests about stuff that saves lives?

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The app itself was outsourced. Someone else did the development, a company that caters to the government put in the work to do the bidding. Money just happened to fall between the crack.

BTW I looked at the code, and there's nothing that an average iOS (and probably Android) developer couldn't do in 4-6 hours.

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And finding out exactly what they want done, and documenting it could have taken weeks.

Also, where is the code?

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That is true, but in an ideal world, it shouldn't.

You can get it from MuckRock or from OSHA's own site. http://www.muckrock.com/foi/view/united-states-of-america/so...

They provided it 20 days ago, so no idea why the author mentioned that it wasn't available.

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You seem to be arguing this as if this is reality. What you are stating is the justification. Its the theater. The story. The reality is that there are two ways to get people to give you money.

1. Make something people want.

2. Bribe people in government to give you enough money to cover cost of said bribe, plus handsome profit, plus possibly actually making something, and then have the government force those people to pay through taxes.

I dare say that what you describe may even have been the original idea, but the facts of (2) are unarguable. Sometimes (for really big ticket items) the government official has to wait until they leave government to get the paycheck, but claim it they do.

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I am stating what government contracting is like. I don't quite get the psudolibertarian point of your post, but I know personally that as I worked for a Georgia state agency doing federal contracting, nothing even CLOSE to a bribe was used anywhere. We couldn't even buy them lunch.

If you jump through a series of hoops and bid low enough, you WILL get government contracts. They're just expensive hoops.

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In the government agency where I work, $200k would actually be considered very reasonable for a steaming pile of shit. We've paid many times that amount and sometimes the shit wasn't even lukewarm, let alone steaming. Believe it or not, we often spend $150 to $200k or more just to make the decision about whether or not we're going to invest in a particular pile of shit.

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A lot of government agencies, as well as groups within large companies, want to keep their budgets (or increase them), so there isn't an incentive to be cost effective -- as you mentioned.

But, as another person commented, the overhead around government projects (documentation, reports, meetings, etc) will bloat things beyond a simple time/materials development contract.

The FBO has a site listing the contacts, but there are actually some pretty interesting projects that pop up to be bid upon. Only downside for someone new to the process (or a small shop) is that the big boys (SAIC, etc) have this part pretty streamlined as well as sometimes having in's with the agency requesting the proposal.

Edit: The site -- https://www.fbo.gov/

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Yeah the same happens within any large organization - universities are one example I am familiar with. If you get a large grant from NIH or NSF or whoever, you don't have any incentive to minimize expenses because you don't benefit in any way from spending less than your budget.

So typically people will order the most expensive things that can fit within the budget or even buy stuff they don't need just to spend all the money.

This does strike me as often wasteful but I don't see an easy fix.

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A fringe benefit is that some of them will support students they don't absolutely need to support when the opportunity arise.

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add an incentive to minimize expenses?

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The worst part about it is that they often don't realize it.

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This is double-plus not good.

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Watch your newspeak, citizen.

You meant doubleplusungood, right?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newspeak

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Doubleplussorry!

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I'm curious if this really surprises anyone here that the entire process for the government purchasing three mobile applications (Android, iOS, and BB) was ~200k. This seems pretty ordinary/normal to me.

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Yes. Doing business with the Government means you have to spend endless hours in meetings and produce endless piles of paperwork. In small projects such as this one, overhead is probably around 90% of total cost.

Incidentally, that's why auctioning small pieces of a larger project independently is probably not a good idea. Costs could in fact skyrocket: each part would have its own contract, negotiation process, meetings, forms, etc.

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Precisely, I wouldn't try to get involved in a government contract for less then $100k, even if the final result was to produce a single document, because you're going to spend so much of your budget just navigating the waters.

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In the governments defense, I think big corporations routinely overpay for web development and marketing expenses.

Aanecdotally, a girl I know who works for a pharmaceutical company said they spent $60,000 on a three page web site.

Then I sit in Starbucks and listen to some freelancer get reamed for charging $1,000 to build and manage some guy's website. One would think that the price discrepancies for the same product among different buyers would not be so extreme in a capitalist marketplace.

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Neither the government nor large corporations qualify as the kind of free and ideal market you're referring to.

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How does the term "capitalist marketplace" infer "free and ideal market?"

The purchase and sale of cocaine occurs in a market where virtually all sellers are capitalists. It is neither free nor ideal.

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> In the governments defense, I think big corporations routinely overpay for web development and marketing expenses.

In the big corporations defense, they don't use tax dollars.

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Yep - they use excess revenues from us, their customers, and don't even translate that into excess profits for us, their owners.

Instead they use excess costs to reward us, their executives and us, their contractors.

The difference between big business and big government are sometimes difficult for me to see.

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Actually, me and a team of two other developers recently applied for a government contract for the NIST that would have had us fixing a bug in OpenSceneGraph that was causing it to perform worse when more graphics cards were added.

Due to what they were asking for and the amount of time we thought it would take to accomplish it and provide the documentation they were asking for, we bid in at $60,000. We did not get the bid. I believe it was given to a university in Florida (damn grad students!) for a bid of $42,000.

In regards to the Android app in question, I think they just didn't have enough bidders. It's also possible they bogged them down in paperwork and status reports / updates (tends to happen with government contracts) which drove up the cost. I am a bit bothered that the bidding system does not favor companies based in the US that are not owned by foreign companies.

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>and provide the documentation they were asking for,

People who've never worked on government contracts cannot conceive of the reporting and documentation projects.

I've been on several (govt) projects where we spent as much time writing as doing.

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But what's the quality expectation on the reporting and documentation? Is it likely that your audience (the gov't managers) have lower standards?

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They not only expected very high quality with lots of thoroughness, they also wanted very specific formatting and types of sections, etc.

Because they're the government, they often overspecify to not get taken advantage of.

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Great... how can I be one to help the government with such requirements?

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Great... how can be one to help the government with such requirements?

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I have worked for one of these "green energy"/"smart grid" companies. My conclusion about that company (after about six months of working there) was that its core competency wasn't writing software. The software was a shoddy pile of half-working crap written in a proprietary programming language made by another company that didn't exist any more. No, their core competency was 1) navigating government bureaucracy and 2) filling out government forms. These two competencies ensured that there was never a need to actually produce good software because few competitors would have the time and contacts to even bid on the contract, much less secure it and write good software.

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Fine. "6 hours maximum", says the author, for an app translated into English and Spanish that interfaces with a remote database and performs some user-initiated calculations, and also has a bunch of static pages. Before starting you must consult with at least a dozen people who know very little about Android and succinctly describe the capabilities of the smartphone and what sorts of applications are even possible. Finally you must provide documentation.

Ready? Go! Keep track of your hours...

I installed the app. It works fine. Responsive, fast, no problems. I have two minor quibbles with the design, but they are minor. Does what it says on the box. Not an exciting piece of software, but... Has even one person commenting on this thread installed it except me? No? Didn't think so. "It's a piece of crap" says a highly self-interested blogger, and Hacker News jumps on that like starving dogs on Alpo.

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I was actually just going to mention this. With all of the in-bundle resource differences required for two iPhone resolutions, different .xibs for iPad, etc, we're talking about much more than 6 hours worth of work here.

The source code (for iOS, at least) is also pretty clean and decently commented for what it is.

$96k is still outrageous, but for work-for-hire it's off by a factor of 2-5 rather than a factor of 10.

Nevertheless, it's crap. The quality of the constructed software is irrelevant because the feature set is a no-op. It's a graphical front end for a NOAA web service that returns temperature and humidity. If the public isn't living and breathing the content of that NOAA web service, maybe it's because there's no graphical tool to access it, but maybe it's because they have 50,000 other ways to determine temperature and humidity at their current location. Like, say, existing in a conscious state at their current location.

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>but maybe it's because they have 50,000 other ways to determine temperature and humidity at their current location. Like, say, existing in a conscious state at their current location.

Most of us can say "it's cold" or "it's humid" -- but we rely on more mature data services so we can know exactly how cold or how humid it might be...

You've essentially just argued that NOAA stat tracking is pointless because "you can stick your head out of a window".

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>You've essentially just argued that NOAA stat tracking is pointless because "you can stick your head out of a window".

I've argued that the translation and re-display of these particular NOAA stats on a smartphone, for the viewer's location, is pointless because I can stick my head out of a window.

When operating an aircraft, I love NOAA stat tracking. I think NOAA and the National Weather Service are probably two of the best deals the American public can ever expect to get for their money.

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> but for work-for-hire it's off by a factor of 2-5 rather than a factor of 10.

I know with my work, when we're doing construction contracts with the municipal governments we charge at least double and we're the most expensive in the area to begin with (we have guys who've been employed for 20+ years, rather than guys who've been employed for the last 9 months). So I'd say it's probably on-target for a government contract.

> Like, say, existing in a conscious state at their current location.

Or perhaps the free app that comes as standard on an iPhone is why people aren't using the NOAA web service.

Although I know I prefer the Weather Office info here in Canada as it's more accurate and local than The Weather Network, which is paid for. It just doesn't have as many gimmicks, but then they don't whore you for adverts by being inaccurate enough to keep you checking back.

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I'll add here too - there's a _lot_ of other work besides the actual coding that goes into getting a piece of software sold to a customer like a government department or big corporation. Even if the "6 hour" estimate for development time is within half an order of magnitude of being correct, there's a great deal of work needed to be done both before and after that to make the sale work.

How do you know what code to write in those 6 hours? How did you even know there was an opportunity? What are the requirements? Is there a spec? How is the customer assured you are capable of delivering what they need? Does the customer even know what they need? Is what they _think_ they need even possible? How will you prove you've delivered what they asked for? Is there a need to user acceptance testing, and if so who's going to write the tests and who's going to do the testing? Are there any safety/copyright/legal implications about what the software displays? Who's ultimately responsible for those? Who need indemnifying or insurance to cover that? Is there any backend service required in addition to the mobile app? Who's building/maintaining/paying for that? Who's responsible for "fixing" the app if a 3rd party backend the app relies on changes or goes away? Does the customer require copyright ownership of the app source code? Are there 3rd party licenced libraries you're going to use that you don't have enough rights over to be able to give/sell the copyright to the customer? Who's going to spend the time figuring out and explaining to the customer exactly which bits of the source code they do and don't own? Are there any patent issues relating to the problem being solved? Are you _sure?_ Who's "on the hook" for patent infringement if something comes to light later? Who's doing the UI/UX/graphic design? How many iterations through the customers approval process will need to be done? What are the customers turnaround times on those approvals and who at the customer has the authority to ultimately sign off on things? What documentation is required? Who's writing that? What training is required? Who's doing that? What ongoing support is required? Who's doing that?

I think sometime developers fail to understand just how much _business_ stuff needs to happen before and after they write their code. It wouldn't surprise me at all to find that in the _best_ case, a project like this with "6 hours of development" also required 4 or 5 times as many hours to get the deal done. I could also very easily see the team stalled for a week or two waiting on approval/signoff, and if your 6 hours of development turns into two weeks where you (or a colleague) couldn't do other work 'cause you're chasing answers, decisions, or approval from the client - a factor of 10 between the "actual coding time" cost and the project cost starts to seem positively reasonable.

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You seem to be arguing that a lot of work went into selling this piece of shit to the government, and so therefore, we the people, should pay for the cost of that selling too? I know that is how it works: I bribe a government official to buy my turd, and then they spend tax payer money to cover the cost of the turd, plus the cost of the bribe. But you seem to be saying that that is ok. o_O

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Well, I guess the "How did you even know there was an opportunity?" bit could be considered "selling", but all of the rest of that is stuff that needs decision making and agreement on both sides before the bill gets paid. And somebody other than the developer is going to have to do and/or manage it all. Who's paying for that time?

Or do you honestly think 6 hours worth of coding @ $100/hr is all a job like that requires?

Have you ever worked with a government department?

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Source is pretty clean? I don't even have to open the files to see that the class names aren't even capitalized. That's like Java style 101.

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> and Hacker News jumps on that like starving dogs on Alpo.

I couldn't help but note that the title contains Useless Android Application, although the article indicates that the total cost of $200,000 was spent on Android, iPhone and BB (not completed) versions.

I won't go as far as calling it linkbait, but if I ever wrote an article about an app I didn't like and it was available on Android, I now know a way to get more traffic if I were to submit to HN.

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Yeah, that was a pretty cheap shot. The whole thing comes off as a manufactured controversy; It's worth something to OSHA just to know whether they are reaching the general public via this method or whether they're better off sticking with the existing approach of requiring employers to display posters.

I'm having a hard time feeling outraged over the extra 0.06 cents this is going to cost me and every other American. It's all 'fail early, fail often' here on HN until the government does so, then failure and experimentation are considered intolerable inefficiencies.

This particular project seems like a bit of a miss, but even simple statistics can be enormously useful for some people: http://explore.data.gov/catalog/apps/

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>It's all 'fail early, fail often' here on HN until the government does so, then failure and experimentation are considered intolerable inefficiencies.

I don't _want_ my government to fail early and fail often. I don't _want_ them to experiment. I want stability, I want them to be on this side of the bleeding edge, I want them to be a generation behind.

When a startup takes this approach, the risk v reward is shared between the few people who sat down and decided that risk is worth taking. When the government does it, that risk is shared amongst the entire country, many of whom never wanted and could never benefit from the reward. Are government smartphone apps a useful idea? Why sure they are. I'd be willing to put my tax money towards the development of technologies that can improve my life. But I'd like them to be worth the money. Not sometimes, but _every_ time, or at least damn close to every time.

What I'd really rather see is the government investing in an open API for their tools and information and letting the private developers wrap around them, presenting the information in a way that is useful to a wider variety of people. The developers stand to make money from the $0.99 sale of the app, and the government gets to have the information available to the people who need to see it.

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Vehemently disagree. What you're proposing will put all government data behind paywalls - even if some of them will be relatively short ones.

Right now my transit authority runs a halfway-decent website along with a freely accessible API. The website is functional, but not perfect. There is a thriving market for people who can present the same data in much more usable ways, for profit. This seems ideal.

What you're suggesting is that the government never engage itself in building frontends - and stick strictly to building data backends instead, and leaving all the gooey UI to private industry. In other words, people will no longer have free access to census data, bus schedules, budgets, or anything. Well, unless you're a geek who knows how to figure out the documentation to the API, craft some API calls, and parse the results into some human-readable form.

I can't think of a worse techno-dictatorial dystopia. The only people who gain freedom are the geeks, everyone else loses free access to their own government's data unless they cough up the cash.

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That's not exactly how I had pictured it, but I can see how my wording could be interpreted the way you saw it. I'm not proposing the APIs be the ONLY way to get the information. Government websites can be useful when done right. What I'm suggesting is that instead of getting into the smartphone app business at this point in the market, have the website be accessible to anyone (maybe with a mobile hook around the site) plus APIs for all the sources the site can give you. That way there's a free and established method of getting the information where you want it, while there can also be a closer-to-bleeding-edge version available in a more convenient format if you so choose.

I didn't really mean "that the government never engage itself in building frontends", I meant that the government, at this point, refrain from building smartphone apps. Until the app market is as standardized and established as the web, it will always be a waste of money to build apps for one platform, and a money sink to include them all.

Sorry for the miscommuication.

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The problem is that there is no reasonable way to draw the line. If the government should remain in the business of providing frontends to their data, where do you draw the line as to where they should and shouldn't go?

It's not as if publishing a smartphone app is exactly "bleeding edge" these days. Third party smartphone apps have existed for almost four years now.

My point is - I fail to see how this is an issue with the government trying to pursue "too much innovation". This could have just as easily happened with an overpriced website contract, but I doubt we'd be sitting around arguing whether or not governments should publish data on a website!

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A valid point. My idea was that if you publish a website, it works on pretty much every browser. Developing a website is not something new. Making a mobile app only works on one platform, and is in a period of heavy transition. You say "4 years" like that's a long time compared to the web.

It's not the job of the government to innovate, it's the job of the government to function. I don't install Ubuntu 12.04 Alpha on my production servers, I install 10.10 LTS.

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It seems this guy doesn't account for "bureaucratic overhead" that is involved in dealing with any large client: You already mentioned the need for lots and lots of meetings and doing the translations, there is also writing up a proposal and some reports, drawing up contracts and sub-contracts, doing usability testing and ensuring compliance with applicable federal regulations.

And there is probably a lot of other stuff involved that I don't know about. And lets not forget some overhead to pay for the office and some profit.

It probably ends up being a few hundred man hours once you account for everything.

So yeah - it could most likely be cheaper or better, but the pitchfork attitude is probably going too far.

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Looks to me like there's room for someone to come in and make a buck off "AIs" that can handle the regulations, reports and meetings efficiently.

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Do you really want to be managed by an AI?

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Artificial intelligence would be better than no intelligence. At least you know it'd be following a logical set of rules.

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I was thinking more of AI-as-a-Service for software companies that wish to contract with Governments. Traditionally, this could be known as a "lawyer". Does Palantir consider this too silly, for instance.

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Good perspective, at first I was outraged, but then knowing the way government works, this could have easily been $10 million.

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Did you look at the source code? At all? it took two minutes to find a bug in the application just messing around with it. The application is supposed to display warnings if your temperature or relative humidity is outside of acceptable ranges. However if you use the get current or get max buttons, it skips these warnings and calculates the Heat Index anyways, displaying a value it shouldn't be providing with no warning.

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Don't forget you need to be Section 508 compliant,abide by a long listing of other requirements and make sure you fill out all the documentation saying you did those things.

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Heh, I feel bad for any products you spearhead. Your definition of good quality is poor.

I am a professional Android developer. Something like this wouldn't take more than a day. It's a piece of cake.

What I suspect happened here is that the project was outsourced. These silly people tried to save money by hiring a foreigner to talk to another foreigner developer and get the app developed. To work on and a deliver a product these foreigners know nothing about.

A little while ago I had a little financial situation and was forced to take some cheap freelance projects. I was quickly picked up by a foreign recruiter and I took a couple of jobs really cheap. At the rate the Indian developers would charge.

I had to work on an app that was commissioned by CAT. The app was a paving calculator that was to be used by their employees.

This was seriously some of the worse source code I have ever seen.

I took my own personal time to rewrite the project. I also redid all the calculations and found various mistakes everywhere. I asked them to send me all the docs and had to redo everything from the ground up because these people were plain incompetent.

For about a couple weeks work I charged $300 dollars. I didn't care about the money, I just didn't want any of our road workers using a shitty and potentially dangerous application.

Correct results are absolutely critical in any non-trivial application. Acceptance of incorrect results just shows how low the quality grade is.

FYI, I'm looking at the source, and it's pretty basic. Nothing a high school student couldn't write.

It looks like the company that made this was: http://pixelbitcreative.com/ also: http://erg.com/

Lol, they don't even have a real site yet they specialize in Web Development. What a joke.

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Get off your high horse. Being American doesn't automatically make your code better. As a "foreigner", I recently had to deal indirectly with American developers (to integrate our product with theirs at the request of the client). They charge 100K USD for something that only needs 2 man days, didn't code to the specifications (set by themselves), and took forever to fix any problem on their end.

Bad developers exist everywhere.

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Erm, what I mean is that foreigner as in not from the country the project is originating from.

To you, the American were foreigners which further enforces my point that working with foreigners in an issue.

I'm not saying that because I'm American my code is better. I'm saying that because I'm local and I care more I produce better quality.

BTW, in my story some of the most incompetent people were indeed American. The other developer did the best he could, and the recruiter too. The process was broken from the beginning. They wrote really bad documentation, and incorrect formulas. The source was bad, but it took much longer to get all the formulas properly documented and figured out.

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Sorry, I missed the point about "caring more as a local". I concur with that.

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I think your rant against foreign developers is completely out of place here.

There's no evidence to suggest that this application was off-shored, unless you've found something to the contrary. Quite clearly, the two companies you cite are located in Massachusetts and Virginia and both companies are staffed by developers in the US.

http://www.erg.com/careers/index.asp http://mkeefe.com/

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My original point is that the process of bidding and having people who don't care about a project spear head it.

I suspected it was offshored because I smelled the rot, but looks like I was wrong. It was just the victim of the broken process.

That's what my rant is really about, not necessarily against foreigners. It's just that the process produces broken/poor software.

I'm not saying that it's true for every company, but it was true for CAT.

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Oh my god, a good samaritan! I call that a slave... working in the US 'for about a couple weeks' and charge 300$. It makes out to... 3$ per hour? The art of underselling.

You should have contacted CAT directly and upsell them exposing their blatant mistake.

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Agreed - but it wasn't 2 hours for android app coding, it was 100k for : conceptualization, requirements analysis, content development, clearance, translation, programming and software design (including coordination ....) testing, accessability requirements, documentation and (FINALLY) implementation.

Even if you were to divvy that up evenly, it would make the implementation 10% of the cost.. about 10k.. which is pretty cheap on a "work for hire" basis of a software house for a software developer.

Now I look at this, it's actually quite cheap !!

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I work as a gov't contractor. I just installed it on my iPhone, it works fine. Good job.

Also... the contracting process is similar to what he describes anyway, in fact it is better. For example [SBIR](http://www.sbir.gov/) (I hope hn uses markdown) are small business requests for R&D on everything from software to engineering. A small amount of $$ is given up front, and then more if the project becomes field testable, more if it becomes usable.

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that is why HN is so entertaining to read as I did not realize there were this many clueless idiots :)

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> I did not realize there were this many clueless idiots

You didn't? Why do you think we need to make the switch to IPV6?

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On HN, you don't RTFA, you RTFC.

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The code was actually released November 2nd: http://www.muckrock.com/foi/view/united-states-of-america/so...

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Good find! I need go find the dailywtf submission form. I've only glanced at the code but my favorite part so far is using integers 0/1 as booleans and putting "myValid1 == 1" everywhere they want to check if it is true. Didn't they list in the billing that they internationalized this? it's full of hardcoded english strings and nothing is done with the resource files.

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In the European Union, governments are legally required to open public works and supplying contracts to competition through an open tendering process. I'm surprised that this doesn't happen in the US.

There's a fair bit of criticism levelled against the EU tendering processes, though. Many feel that the process emphasizes price at the expense of quality, resulting in a "race to the bottom" as another poster mentioned.

Public contracts currently open in the EU can be found on a website: http://ted.europa.eu

Looking quickly through the site, the contracts seem to have a huge range -- everything from large architectural projects to supplying a small Swedish town with photocopier paper...

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We do theoretically have such a thing in the US, for instance: http://www.findrfp.com/service/search.aspx?s=iphone&t=FE...

You can also go here and see contracts already awarded (search for "iphone" for instance): http://www.usaspending.gov/

The US allows "no bid" or "sole source" contracts, which have several problems, not the least of which is rampant cronyism. Note that even the President failed to stop this gravy train: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/promises/obameter/pr...

Also, you'd be surprised on how many hours get billed visiting the stakeholders for "face time" and to ensure follow-on work.

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I was surprised by this and decided to check it out, and it looks like they're not really.

the implementation of EU government law by national governments is far from uniform and sometimes weak – in 2002, for instance, only 16% of governmental calls to tender were published – government procurement has been called "the weakest link in the common market".[2]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Government_procurement_in_the_E...

Also check the minimum amounts this applies to, this probably wouldn't have been necessary to put through the process anyway.

-----


Indeed, the minimum amounts (known in EU jargon as de minimis tresholds) are higher than I had assumed.

As the Wikipedia article states, these de minimis tresholds "provide an incentive for authorities to divide contracts into separate lots", which is thought to be the reason for the small amount of public contracts that go through the tendering process.

I think individual member governments are free to set stricter limits, though. At least in Finland, some public contracts as small as 15,000 € are required to be openly tendered. (Last year there was a well-published scandal when a high-level Helsinki city administrator ordered some 70k€ worth of office furniture without official tendering.)

-----


Yeah, it’s all not very uniform. But individual countries can have very tough rules.

-----


I am not the least surprised.

My girlfriend works for the Health Department in my home state. They paid two consultants $100,000 to convert paper documents to digital form. The contract lasted one week.

The consultants literally put documents into a scanner and converted them to PDF. At the end of the week they took their money and left, leaving the bulk of the documents unscanned.

An intern could've done this work for $10 an hour. And he/she would've actually finished the job.

-----


These guys are clearly elite:

<code> - (float)getHeatIndex:(float)temp:(float)humidity {

    NSLog(@"[getHeatIndex] temp: %f, humidity: %f", temp, humidity);
    
    float hIndex = 
    -42.379 + 2.04901523 * temp 
    + 10.14333127 * humidity 
    - 0.22475541 * temp * humidity 
    - 6.83783 * pow(10, -3) * temp * temp 
    - 5.481717 * pow(10, -2) * humidity * humidity 
    + 1.22874 * pow(10, -3) * temp * temp * humidity 
    + 8.5282 * pow(10, -4) * temp * humidity * humidity 
    - 1.99 * pow(10, -6) * temp * temp * humidity * humidity;
    
    //hIndex = round(hIndex);
    NSLog(@"-Heat Index: %f", hIndex);
    return hIndex;
} </code>

-----


I've dealt with some Government agencies before in a few different capacities, and they actually WANT To spend their money. The actual cost doesn't really matter, as they are trying to get as close to their budgets as possible, as to not have them decreased the next year.

This is especially true in the last 30 or 60 days - to the point where you invoice and are paid before the job is done just because it "has" to be in the billing period.

-----


Is this really much different than outsourced projects for huge corporations? Seems like large organizations get charged a premium for the same amount of work.

Government can hire technical people who can do the work in house, or who are qualified to evaluate the work. But because of the pressure to keep government small, qualified tech people go to the private sector and overcharge the government. Seems like one can't win here.

-----


No, its not.

Its also worth pointing out that sometimes, just sometimes, it works out the other way. I was the lead on a team that took $150k in funding and produced an open-source implementation of some CDC specifications (https://github.com/talho/openphin), and became the first software in the country to be certified with it. We developed it in about 12 weeks, and the first milestone certifications were actually complete-able (meaning we had the features, though the paperwork took longer) within 2 weeks. We were up against companies used in other states like Northrup and SAIC that literally spent millions on the implementations (and don't even get me started on how much those same companies spent coming up with the standards in the first place, which is a whole 'nother problem) and beat them handily at their own game.

We did use private contractors as additional assets starting out and while they were more expensive than hiring additional developers, they had two great attributes: temporary, and good at what they did. Its worth it to pay for competence, every single time. And when its a one-time expense for a project, its much, much easier to deal with than something that incurs year-over-year expenditures.

-----


The $200k price tag is unsurprising if you factor in the cost of non-coding work like requirements gathering, travels, expenses, benefits, etc. This seems like a simple app but when you have a design by committee, approvals, etc it can be quite manpower intensive.

The OSHA document is not rendering for me so I can't tell if there's a cost breakdown.

-----


The sad thing is the amount of non-coding work that exists.

But that's government. Still want to move more things under their purview?

-----


I highly doubt there was design by committee. More like:

1) Dev gets contract, builds app 2) Person who was arbitrarily moved to dept. of mobile-app development reviews app, figures it's good because it works on a phone, forwards the results to his/her boss. 3) Repeat step 2 at a higher level 4) Done.

There is a more stringent audit trail, perhaps. But I doubt there's a committee of people who sat aorund a whiteboard and designed this puppy. I hope there wasn't, at least.

-----


I think the author is also forgetting that any programming work done for the government/state is always contractually bound by a multi-year code guarantee. This means that if any bugs are uncovered within that time period, the vendor must at no cost to the government fix them. That leads to drawn out negotiations over if something is a bug or enhancement. These code guarantees typically range between 2 - 5 years during which you can't charge a dime for anything related to fixing actual bugs.

-----


Outstanding piece of marketing on Gun.io's part with a clear "here's how my biz solves this" at the end.

#1 on Hacker News is a feat, but this thing has legs on every political and general fluff channel - HuffPo, FoxNews, Conservative Radio, CNN, wire services, etc.

I learned from our own blogging efforts when you have a winner, take it to the bank.

EG - Hit every PR angle you can think of to get redistribution while you've got the momentum.

Any PR gurus out there that would comment on the top handful of ways to fan the flames on PR for a story like this?

I'd love to understand the process when you've got this ripe of content.

-----


Go upstream and send it to Drudge. This has sensationalist anti-gov headline written all over it.

-----


Right, was thinking that the writer could file a petition on change.org, great way to build the buzz (aside from the main purpose)

-----


The irony would be that whatever legislated change the government would make to publicly "fix" this problem would in reality just add another step with another form to the process.

-----


This is definitely hacker-bait. Cue up all the folks complaining about wasteful government, then cue up the hotshot programmer folks who will tell us they can code this in 2 hours while drunk, then cue up the FOIA folks, then the folks who feel any critique at all of government is indicative of right-wing extremism, and so on.

I remember when the IRS spent 4 Billion on a new computer system and had nothing to show for it. The joke I used for a week was "Hell, they could have paid me $2 Billion and still not had anything to show for it -- and saved half their money."

The problem those of us with lots of internal government experience is that most "normal" folks have literally no idea how much waste there is. Yes, it's like a big university. Yes, it's like BigCorp. But no, it's so far beyond those concepts that if that's the only frame of reference you have, you've missed it.

I love my country and love paying taxes for it to do useful things. But there simply is no system in place for shutting things down. It just keeps growing. In the private sector the measurement is "does it do something that folks will pay us for?" because if it doesn't, folks eventually stop paying, and the company goes away (although it might take decades). In the public sector the metric is "does it make a politician look bad?"

There's a reason Congress delegates all these powers to all these agencies. It's the same reason we have so many "Tsars". Nobody is directly accountable. It's all set up so that if there is a problem, some poor schmuck gets hauled before an investigative committee to get the riot act read to them. That way the guys who are supposed to be really responsible -- the Congressmen -- get to play the part of the person looking to fix things. Politics. It's a beautiful thing.

So at the end of the day I'm not really sure this is newsworthy. I could tell similar stories involving tens of millions of dollars, and I bet we could come up with a list of hundreds of these things. Anybody remember the FBI case file system? This is just way small peanuts. Perhaps the "Android app" part of it is enough to be newsworthy, but in my mind that's a benefit: today there are a lot of people pleading to move away from COBOL systems in some government agency -- and losing. I feel really sorry for those guys.

-----


Also, this $200k app is probably an example of good government spending. Arguably, it's UK style Fabian socialism, in which government spending is making it impossible for better private solutions to flourish. Libertarian fanboys will whinge no matter what the government does, unless it does nothing.

200k is a small amount (for any big org), and it's actually going to something public facing, unlike 90% of government work which is simply faceless men putting obtuse reports in each other's pigeon holes. Do we really want to attack one of the few times the government actually tries to make their work relevant to the public?

You could equally argue that the 1% is wasting billions on stupid sock puppet ads for online pet shops, photo sharing apps, and AOL. Or on stock options for chefs and masseuses. Or on million dollar teams that do nothing more than re-invent wheels, badly.

It's arguable that the government should be doing this at all. But I certainly believe that if government should be doing anything, they should be making their work available to the general public. I don't think they got screwed - 200k for an app is not a giant rip-off. They might have been able to do it cheaper, but it's not totally out of line with the sort of crap industry does.

-----


And then cue up the "realist" who says "this is just how it is".

This IS newsworthy. This shit should be the only news until it fucking stops. As you say: "But there simply is no system in place for shutting things down. It just keeps growing." until it collapses. These things don't end well. I say lets fix it.

Brought to you by the "doom sayer". Next!

-----


I've been on a govt project for the last four years and can't begin to tell you how much money is wasted on IT projects during the entire year. Hearing in the News that the administration is trying to save money by cutting on office supplies makes me laugh! The "Supercommittee" could have at least put a dent in the savings by literally just reviewing the IT projects that the Govt contracts out and the process they follow to manage those contracts.

In the agency I work in, there are 9 IT systems that go to production twice in a year. For the entire year the total development time provided (when environments are open for programmers to develop) is about 2 months. Yet the govt is paying the developers and complete IT teams for the entire year.

It really is ridiculous. Big boys like BAH, SAIC, CSC, CACI etc. etc. are milking the system and taking advantage of incompetent and gullible govt employees.

-----


The title should be edited. It's 200,000 for all versions Android, iPhone and Blackberry. The Android one was 100,000.

-----


Whoever runs ERG is getting very rich by making crap that doesn't even work. It's like a negative programmer. Except we're all paying for it.

And this is the 'obvious' case, in which it's easy to tell it's crap. What about those times when I'm relying on the experts at these agencies to find solutions to difficult problems without a clear indicator of success? I'm not anti-government by any stretch, but man. The legalese sounded so good: "critical, real-time hot weather information"...

Sure, I know that's BS, but what about when I'm not qualified to judge it (i.e. military decisions in Afghanistan based on intel that I'm not privy to).

-----


There's probably a good startup to be had in managing the government procurement bidding process for small developers, and thus lowering the barrier to bidding, and reducing the likelihood that contracts will go to folks like this.

-----


Please get this off the front page:

1) $200K is for Android +iOS + BB apps

2) Source code is available

3) App works as advertised and does not Crash (installed)

4) Selling to big Gov. is expensive (not 10X but surely 2-3X)

5) The poster wildly underestimates the total project cost and puts in some arbitrary coding estimate

Linkbaity title + Misleading facts + Moral outrage at big Gov != HNews Frontpage

-----


I would like to point out that SAIC more or less stole VisTA source code from the VA under FOIA and then sold the same code to the Department of Defense for billions. We still can't get the source code they've modified. Why is it that if a government employee writes the software, it's FOIA'ble, but if the government pays someone else for it, it's not? The government is just stuck with some crappy binaries?

-----


SAIC also screwed up the FBI's Virtual Case File, NSA's Trailblazer, New York's CityTime (with a extra helping of fraud thrown in). It would be interesting to hear of any software project they did do which was not a multi hundred million dollar software engineering disaster.

-----


It's also worth noting that Congress is threatening to cut the budget for the project that tracks overspending on IT projects - the IT Dashboard. While the IT Dashboard tool was properly open sourced and the codebase is doing well out in the wild, the continued use of it for the Federal Government isn't totally free, but the very small budget required to keep something like this running can prevent spending hundreds of millions of dollars on excessive IT projects.

For more info on budget cuts that could effect projects like the IT Dashboard, see: http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2011/11/16/crunch-time-in...

For information on the open source IT Dashboard project, see: http://civiccommons.org/2011/05/it-dashboard-six-weeks-in/

-----


I've looked at the source code for the application (which is available), the claim that this can be done in 6 hours is absolutely right.

Another thing. It seems like the company outsourced the development as well to these guys pixelbitcreative. The entire application contains ~1400 lines of code. I wonder how the money got eaten as we went up the chart.

-----


In my experience (over a decade consulting to government in Canada), not charging enough can sometime put you at a competitive disadvantage. The purchasing decisions are often made by someone who doesn't understand the technology and their prime concern is risk. They don't want to be "the guy who chose the vendor who screwed up". In government, as often as not, you may not get promoted for doing something great so much as by not doing anything bad.

A lot of cost can be added through management of non-technical aspects. The wording may have to go through rounds of approval, goals and features may shift, etc. The cost of writing endless detailed RFP's and the long sales cycles increase the cost.

That said, there are also a lot of "consultants" who really are just crap. It made me embarrassed to be in the same business and that is part of the reason I don't work for government clients anymore.

-----


We hope the traditional procurement story will be improved with the help of Civic Commons, an organization which is very much aimed at leveling the playing field for government software. We want to make it easier for more developers and smart spry development shops to work on software projects for government. We want to give open source the same exposure as proprietary software and generally facilitate software co-creation and reuse across government to make sure things don't get paid for more times than they need to. You can learn more about us at http://civiccommons.org

The Civic Commons marketplace is currently still in closed beta, but it will be opening up very soon. Please sign-up: http://marketplace.civiccommon...

-----


Amidst all of the government-bashing comments, I note that no one has remarked on a few things:

  * we don't have any actual evidence to support the author's claim that this sort of bloat is routine  (remember, plural of anecdote isn't data)

  * we don't know what kind of wasted money gets tossed around in major corporations (assumptions about how corporations must be lean do not constitute actual evidence)

  * we don't even have a way to find out what sort of bloat and waste takes place in corporate america - the government at least lets us find out
so it maybe doesn't make a lot of sense, in an observable-evidence sort of way, to make with the government-bashing..

-----


Thank you for the info on MuckRock! Never knew about the site. hopefully one day my country will pass the freedom of information act and we the citizenry can request this kind of information.

-----


Check out this RFI from IRS for JAVA Open Source. It makes no sense why they would want a team to consolidate all the open source libraries they want rather than just going out and getting those libraries.

https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id...

-----


I strongly recommend Yes, Minister. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yes_Minister

-----


I agree with his point regarding source code. Often I have interacted with web applications supplied by parts of the UK Civil service and they have obvious bugs that I often feel should be fairly easy fixes.

I often feel that I would happily fix them for free as a public service in a fairly short time period, but no doubt it takes months and lots of $ before they are addressed.

-----


Years ago my employer was given a much larger grant from NASA to throw a few web pages on a Windows tablet computer and use Dragon Naturally Speaking to navigate between them. We received this grant because of political connections.

-----


The problems with opening up big government contracts to multiple bidders is there is then a race to the bottom. However, outsourcing it one component at a time is definitely an interesting idea. Deliverables!

-----


Isn't a race to the bottom on price the desired outcome?

The presence of a race to the bottom on functionality is independent of whether or not the contract is open. If they don't have anyone competent who is vetting the proposals or evaluating the progress and deliverables, then they will wind up with shit no matter how they arrange the contracting. But if it's open to normal software shops, then at least they probably won't wind up with $200,000 shit.

-----


>Isn't a race to the bottom on price the desired outcome

Cheap yet sufficient is the desired outcome in government work.

I'm guessing 'sufficient' was defined too broadly or too specifically, and therefore was not correctly tested for on delivery.

-----


Yeah, but if each component is outsourced, there's the potential that the entire system becomes a huge, disorganized, unmaintainable mess with no consistency in coding standards or even technologies. When something breaks, who debugs the system? Who do you call to fix it?

Then again, just look at this app. How could it get any worse? lol

-----


Probably the whole process of bidding for any of these reduces the pool of potential contractors to a couple of these giant government contractors who have bidding down.

I know there are bidding procedures for everything to fight corruption but for little projects like this they should come up with a procedure to use odesk or similar services.

-----


That is an easy problem to get around - make the bidding for 30 day coding with an option to have in extended for another 30 days until the government is no longer happy with the progress.

Then do it Scrum style.

-----


Apart from bureaucratic tangles, process overheads and bidding issues, is it possible the artists' fees for illustrations and health related research and verification played a role in the bloat up?

-----


I can't help but get warm fuzzy job security feelings when I see something like this, someone actually paid money for that. Well specifically I paid money for that, warm fuzzies taken care of.

-----


There's a Thumbs.db file in the iOS Sources... scared

-----


So it's been more than 6 hours since this was posted. There must be a few clones of the Android version by now. Links, anyone?

-----


Six hours later: yeah, didn't think so.

-----


It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock

The meat it feeds on; that cuckold lives in bliss

-----


Great FOIA work. Putting all the re-blogging "journalists" to shame.

-----


I guess none of us should be surprised by this...But the real question is how do I get a government contract? What a joke...

-----


Brilliant article. Couple of key takeaways:

1. "The shocking part about this isn't even that it happened, but rather that it is incredibly routine. This is just one FOIA request to one tiny department for one tiny, single use application that will perhaps be used by, at most, five hundred people.. and it cost as much as a house. You can imagine what the waste must be like in other government run sectors..."

2. "The other issue is the source code. In my opinion, since we taxpayers paid for the development of this piece of shit, we should at least be able to modify and redistrubute the code. Apparently though, the Government doesn't have to supply any information which it considers to be a "trade secret," and OSHA has determined that this crappy source code is somehow a privileged secret. "

I wonder if the denial of showing source code was because they really DO think it is a trade secret. Or they are too embarrassed to show it?

-----


> The shocking part about this isn't even that it happened, but rather that it is incredibly routine. This is just one FOIA request to one tiny department for one tiny, single use application

You realize that these two sentences oppose each other, right?

-----


You have to click-through to read the entire paragraph (sorry, wanted to abide by fair use). The sentiment is that if this kind of low-standards wasteful spending happened in one small department, then imagine what happens at the Dept of Defense.

-----


"broken proprietary software which the public isn't even allowed to fix."

This is recurring theme that traces back at least as early as the 1990's.

What's different now is that there is historical evidence that open source projects can produce higher quality software than proprietary ones.

-----


Really? It's clear that open source projects can produce excellent quality software. It's also clear that proprietary software can be excellent quality. Both can also produce garbage.

If you have evidence that open source can produce generally better quality software, or is consistently better for the same kinds of problem, I would like to see it presented.

-----


Thanks for the reply.

Did you notice my choice to use the words "can produce" (as in "sometimes") not the word "produce" (as in "always")? I would never make the later statement: open projects always produce higher quality software than proprietary ones. That's not my belief.

As such, you are asking me in your last sentence if I have evidence to support a statement I would never make. Of course, the answer is no, because I would not bother to look for it.

But I would be interested to know why you would like to see such evidence if it exists? I could take a guess as to the reason(s) but I do not want to make assumptions.

-----


I did notice.

I don't think you're claiming that open source software is always better.

I do think you're claiming that overall open source software is systematically better in some way than proprietary software, obviously not in every instance and subject to noise and variance. Feel free to correct me if you not making any such claim.

I'm asking for evidence because you stated catgorically that evidence exists but I have personally never come across it.

What is the evidence you referred to in your original comment?

-----


I'm not making any such claim. But I'm curious why you want to see me as making that claim. Why would you be interested in evidence that open source projects produce generally/consistently better software than proprietary projects for the same sort of problems?

As for evidence that open source projects can (sometimes) produce "high quality" software, TCP/IP is the first example that comes to mind.

Once upon a time, there was a government software project, a government contractor and a grad student...

Assuming the usual kernels, we're all using that code, or derivatives of it, right now.

-----


It should be obvious why I think you're making such a claim - you said: "What's different now is that there is historical evidence that open source projects can produce higher quality software than proprietary ones."

By using the word 'higher' you clearly indicate that you think that there is a quality advantage to open source software.

If you don't think there's an advantage to open source development, then I don't see what meaning you were trying to convey in your original comment.

It seems bizarre that you don't know why I'd be interested in evidence that open source projects have systematically better quality. It would be a major result with implications in project planning, system architecture, organizational philosophy etc. To date, I have never seen such evidence - only reasoned opinion which is valuable but inconclusive.

If you had evidence, I'm sure you'd have produced it by now.

It's obvious (as I stated in my first reply) that open source can sometimes produce high quality software. Another great example would be webkit.

I thought you knew of some evidence that might show why governments should choose open source, other than opinion and dogma.

I'm disappointed that it doesn't exist because it would be powerfully persuasive in furthering the cause of open source.

-----


You have made assumptions about what I meant with my original comment. Your assumptions are incorrect. Why not just ask me: "What do you mean by that?"

Here's what I meant. I believe there were naysayers in the 1980's and early 1990's (and maybe they are still around today) who argued open source would never work. I believe history has proved them wrong.

As you pointed out, open source, like proprietary, can produce good results or bad results. It can produce "high quality"[1] results. It can even produce "higher quality" results.

I believe the reasons why open source is as good a choice as proprietary are very simple and quite obvious: If the user of the software can read the code, then 1. it is easier to evaluate the author's skill and programming sensibilities and 2. it is easier to fix errors and make improvements (without having to pester a proprietary software vendor).

You were also hoping that I would make an argument that the results obtained are somehow related to whether a project is open or closed. As I said, I won't make that argument. And as such I won't look for evidence to support it. That's because I do not believe it.

You have set yourself up for disappointment. I played no part in it.

If you want to know what I believe in terms of how "high quality" or "higher quality" software is achieved, just ask me and I will tell you[2].

But please do not make assumptions about what I think.

All the best.

1. Quality is a subjective determination.

2. I should warn you it is nothing revolutionary. I will only state the obvious.

-----


So you don't think open source can produce higher quality software, and you don't have any evidence for anything.

Fair enough.

[edit - changed "produces" to "can produce"] - doesn't change my point.

-----


No. I explained what I meant and you still don't seem to get it. Read what I said about the naysayers again.

You asked for the historical evidence I mentioned and I gave you the example of the TCP/IP stack we're all using.

I shouldn't have to say it but "open source" does not produce software, developers produce software. They might be working on a closed project or they might be working on an open one. The open/closed status of the project does not determine the quality of the software. The developers do.

You appear to be making the same mistake as the naysayers did when they said open source would never work. They believed the closed/open status of a project was somehow tied to quality. They were wrong. (Developers working on) open source projects can produce high quality software just as well as (developers working on) proprietary ones can. You cited the example of KDE's webkit to indicate you agreed.

If this is still somehow confusing to you, then I'm afraid I cannot help you.

-----


Earlier you said: "What's different now is that there is historical evidence that open source projects can produce higher quality software than proprietary ones."

Now you say: "The open/closed status of the project does not determine the quality of the software. The developers do."

So mentioning open source was irrelevant then?

-----


One more try to get through to you then I'm giving up.

Here goes.

What are the arguments _against_ open source?

What if someone says, "Open source means poor quality"?

You can look back on the last 15 years, choose some examples of open source software and rebut that with evidence.

I would make this rebuttal.

You apparently would as well.

Now, what are the arguments _for_ open source?

You could say "Open source produces high quality software." Note: Not "can produce" but "produces". As in always.

You could say that.

I wouldn't.

I wouldn't make that argument.

I would argue open source make sense because the source can be reviewed and corrected if necessary, without being dependent on a proprietary vendor.

Hope this is clear.

-----


Govt = epic fail.

-----


And people wonder why the US has a deficit problem.

-----


What's really sad is the money went to a foreign company (aeat.co.uk)

It didn't even stay in the American economy which should be a minimum requirement these days if a US solution is available.

-----


This kind of nauseus bloat is a big factor why I'm trying to stay away from iOS and Android development. So many projects out there could be much more quickly, cheaply and freedomly (my word) done as a simple web app or even as pure static HTML website in some cases. So much foolishness, hype and hipstering going on.

-----


You are staying away from iOS and Android because the government overpays for low quality software?

-----


I agree with this, although I'd go even further. If this app's sole purpose is to retrieve a couple of numbers (surface temperature and relative humidity) why do we need graphics? What purpose is achieved?

Given the extremely basic task at hand, as an end user my main concern is that it's fast (even over slow connections), reliable and simple. If it breaks I can fix it.

My preference would be to retrieve the numbers into a non-graphical console via a few keypunches. All I want is a couple of numbers and I'm done.

This could be done with a TCP client like netcat and a shell script that uses basic UNIX utilities. And I could teach an 11 year old how to do it.

If a "smart" phone OS does not allow something so simple by default, then to me it's not very useful. It's been dumbed down. "Smart" is the wrong word.

-----


How does this further the proper mission of the government, which is to protect individual rights?

I can't fathom a way that this could have anything to do with the government doing the one essential job it actually has to do! It's not just that it's a badly made app. I think the entire fact that the government making apps like this is absurd.

Given what the government actually is (the only agency with the legitimate, legal monopoly on the use of force), it is no wonder that it fails so miserably at doing stuff like this.

-----


This is an app specifically designed to help protect your life (one of those rights) from unsafe employment. I get the dig you're making but this seems a weak target for it...

-----


The government's duty to protect your life does not extend beyond protecting it from the use of force by other people.

If you choose to work in a place, that's your choice. Even if you fail to make sure it's safe before you work there, or decide to work there despite the risk.

Anyway, even if OSHA were legitime, this app is not effective at achieving anything, even if executed well.

-----


Your definition of "government's duty" is not universally agreed upon, and it's intellectually dishonest to predicate an argument on the presumption that it is.

-----


I didn't present any argument. I just made a statement, without presenting (here) any supporting evidence.

Yes, I realize most people won't agree with the statement.

My hope is that by providing it as food for thought, some people may thinking about it and decide that they agree, or may at least be more open to the idea when it comes up in some other context.

Isn't it intellectually dishonest for you to call someone intellectually dishonest, when you don't know all the relevant causal factors? (Answer: no, it's just a mistake.)

-----


> The government's duty to protect your life does not extend beyond protecting it from the use of force by other people.

You are mistaken: http://www.amazon.com/Darwin-Economy-Liberty-Competition-Har...

Chapter 1: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s9509.pdf

-----


Because you've tested it?

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