really exciting. And there are housing starts. I built a house once, and I always wonder when I hear about the housing starts if they’re going to finish any of them. [laughter] The punch list is always pretty long.

Seriously, I know you’re supporting a lot of public policy decisions in all branches of government, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Bureau of the Census, and others have a very distinguished history. And in fact they can be credited with a lot of the early progress in computing and data processing. But the question is really: what about the future? And when I think about the future of the business you’re in, it seems to me that the public interest groups, the news groups, the special interest groups are really encroaching on your turf. I think they’re moving in on you. And I was thinking about how can you win in this business, and I think the way to win is to be first with the right information. The other guys don’t have to have the right information; they just have to be first. But you have to be first with the right information. And you have to have trust associated with your data.

So I look at the problem as how do you move fast—how do you move really fast, so that the decision-makers will turn to you for information instead of turning to the person who’s handiest? And how are you first with the right information, that’s statistically correct, secure, and trusted?

So I don’t think of your job so much as the design of surveys and all the problems associated with survey design, as we were just talking about. I look at it more from the point of view of the business you’re in: who your competitors or threats might be and what you have to do to win. And the role that software might play in that.

I spent some time looking at your software situation—not a lot of time, less than a day.14 And my conclusion is that there’s nothing unique there or overly complex; I just don’t see any hard software problems. Now, I’m beginning to think based on the earlier discussion that there’s some merging of software issues with survey issues. And so maybe what I’m looking at is just the software problem, and really it’s the problem of the survey designs being munged together with some of the software problems. So, to the extent that that’s the case, just keep in mind as I’m talking that I’m thinking mostly of the software problem, and you might want to put the survey design problem on a separate plane. And it might be very similar; it might be an analogous problem. But it would be important to keep the two separated.

But, even though I don’t see anything unique or overly complex, it’s complex enough—it’s not an easy, casual problem. So you have to take

14  

This is a reference to Poore’s participation in a planning session for the workshop, which was held on December 11, 2001.



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