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Peter Quinn Explains his Resignation 125

Posted by Zonk
from the sad-state dept.
JSBiff writes "Peter Quinn, former CIO of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, has given an interview to Pamela Jones over at Groklaw, regarding the people, companies, and events surrounding his resignation. He spins an interesting tale of Microsoft, money, and the politics of technology." From the article: "Now the folks that have say here do not know me from a hole in the wall and the funds were for projects that were totally unrelated to ITD. I clearly had set the priorities for the Bond but this funding is for projects like a new Taxpayers System, new Registry of Motor Vehicles system, etc., all projects desperately needed by the citizens of the Commonwealth. Eric Kriss and I always had a goal of making IT 'a'political and now it was rapidily becoming a political football of the highest magnitude. I took this job in the hopes of making meaningful and institutionalized IT reform. All the previous efforts were about to be for naught as political payback." We discussed Quinn's resignation last month.
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Peter Quinn Explains his Resignation

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  • For or Against? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by XMilkProject (935232) on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @04:07PM (#14550970) Homepage
    Remind me, are we for or against this guy!? :)

    I'll give him alot of credit for his perceived honesty in the interview. He seems to have come clean on why he was unable to be successful in his goals, and on the surface he seems to have noble intentions.
    • Re:For or Against? (Score:1, Informative)

      by floorgoblin (869743)
      I believe he was an advocate for the adoption of the Open Document format by the Massachusettes state gov't, so that's a plus for him at least.
    • Re:For or Against? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by kilodelta (843627) on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @06:00PM (#14552054) Homepage
      I'm definitely for the guy. He states it plainly that MS uses its legislative influence to try to derail any plans that would decrease the overall revenue stream of MS.

      Maybe the Globe should be investigating those representatives, senators and general officers that tried to kill ODF. But they won't. Money talks and bullshit walks.
      • "He states it plainly that MS uses its legislative influence to try to derail any plans that would decrease the overall revenue stream of MS."

        Unfortunately, with the corruption level of politicians in general (and I am not referring to US politicians in particular here, because they are no worse than most, and a lot better than some), it would be newsworthy if an entity with Microsoft's vast wealth _wasn't_ buying legislative influence. As things stand however, this is definitely a case of "move on, nothing
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Despite the globe articles making it seem like he resigned for bring a crook, this story is a very very interesting one about the power of money / lobbey in politics.

    You had comittees and senators and groups who had never paid attention for a second to this space going absolutely crazy about it. One of the hearings it was quinn and his lawyer and like 8 people opposed to him.

    Also, politics is irrational. They proposed doing things they had lectured people not to do before.

    I suspect it drives out good folks
    • I don't think it can be. Anything that people stake their careers on becomes political to some degree. After all, when people realize that technology decisions cause their earnings potential increase/decrease they start to care all of a sudden. They start to become activists. Next thing you know, tech debate looks a lot like policical debate.

    • I've known a number of very smart bureaucrats. They may not be politicians, but they have a good understanding of organizational politics and use it to their advantage. They keep their organizations running in a reasonably efficient and effective manner, despite the insanity of the system. Unfortunately, even they are not immune to the effects of stupid decisions and rules made at the highest levels of government. What's worse are the kleptocracies often seen in state and local government, whose primary fun
  • Not for nothing in German is City Hall called the Rathaus (yes, I know, I know, it's a feeble joke.). But all too often the rats are on the outside trying to get in.
  • by Peter Simpson (112887) on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @04:28PM (#14551166)
    I applaud Quinn for trying to straighten out the IT mess that is state government. There may come a time where professional competence trumps political maneuvering here, but apparently, that time is still far in the future.

    It seems to this user that the pace of Microsoft releases is increasing (to once a year), and support time for the older formats is decreasing. While I understand that it might be fun to embed Java objects and streaming voice and video in Word documents, it really has no relevence to me, and I doubt to many (most?) users. Certainly not at the state government level, where tables, charts and images are about all you need, and these were handled perfectly well in Word'97 (as they are in OpenOffice). Now, given a choice between paying annually for a new revision of MS Office, and paying a competent Unix/Linux IT guy to administer a bunch of Linux desktops, I'd vote for the latter. I'm thinking I'd get more for my tax dollar.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      What do you mean by "pace of releases increasing"? Do you mean Office, which has been on about a 2 year release cycle for ages? Or do you mean Windows, which was last released in 2001 (XP) and is set to come out again in late 2006. 5 years is too fast for you?

      Regarding support, Microsoft now offers 10 years of free patches for the products. Go look at microsoft.com/lifecycle

      Their old products are certainly ending their support phases, but Windows XP is I think scheduled until 2011 for free patches. Tha
    • by cweber (34166) <weberNO@SPAMscripps.edu> on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @04:56PM (#14551443)
      Quoting original poster: "Now, given a choice between paying annually for a new revision of MS Office, and paying a competent Unix/Linux IT guy to administer a bunch of Linux desktops, I'd vote for the latter. I'm thinking I'd get more for my tax dollar."

      Cost of software is an issue, and certainly an important one.

      More important, however, is accessibility and usability of government records. If important data and memos about an issue of today are locked up in a proprietary format which almost certainly won't be completely readable by the then current version of Office software in 2020 and beyond, then this is a real loss for all concerned! Moreover, citizens shouldn't have to own and use a particular piece of commercial software to be able to read documents which their own government produces. That's just plain wrong if there are simple and straightforward alternatives.
  • Shocked (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kohath (38547) on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @04:30PM (#14551184)
    I'm shocked that politics is involved in government decisions. Shocked!

    ---

    The key is to have the government do as little as possible. Then you can make your decisions, and I can make mine. When you decide for yourself, it's a personal question, not a political one. When the government decides, it's always going to be political.

    This is the same issue as "decency" filters on (government) library computers. Politics decided that one too.

    The only way everyone gets what they want is by taking it out of government hands.
    • //The only way everyone gets what they want is by taking it out of government hands.//

      kind of like ... anarchy?

      Swell. Good luck with that, junior.

    • Re:Shocked (Score:2, Insightful)

      by gad_zuki! (70830)
      >>The only way everyone gets what they want is by taking it out of government hands.

      What does that mean? Are you saying constituents don't want these filters? Family groups and both political parties wanted them. When you look outside your circle of geek friends you'll see regular people who really don't care and actually approve of crap like this. Essentially, you're just blaming this mysterious free-floating government thing while ignoring the constituents - family groups, christians, etc who deman
      • What does that mean? Are you saying constituents don't want these filters?

        Obviously, they did want them. That's not the point.

        There ought to be no government libraries. If people want libraries, they can build them and provide for them on a voluntary basis and choose the rules based on their whims.

        The only reason for government involvement is to take money (and choices) away from people against their will.

        A lot of pro-big-government people don't seem to like politics deciding government actions. They nee
        • There ought to be no government libraries. If people want libraries, they can build them and provide for them on a voluntary basis and choose the rules based on their whims.

          Sounds to me like someone maybe doesn't understand the role that libraries are intended to play in a democracy as a storehouse for information that people need to fully participate in said democracy. As long as we're going to have some form of government, I'm all for libraries.

          Now if you had simply said "There ought to be no governm

          • As long as we're going to have some form of government, I'm all for libraries.

            And you're also for political decision-making, because it's part of the package.

            And that might mean Microsoft-only file formats in government documents, or "decency" filters on library computers, or any number of other things. Often, political decisions are going to go against your wishes.

            But you're choosing to accept that outcome.
        • Re:Shocked (Score:3, Insightful)

          by arkanes (521690)
          There ought to be no government libraries. If people want libraries, they can build them and provide for them on a voluntary basis and choose the rules based on their whims.

          Libertarian political rhetoric is retarded. You know what happens when a bunch of people work together to provide common resources and to regulate themselves as a community? You get what is called a "government".

          • You know what happens when a bunch of people work together to provide common resources and to regulate themselves as a community? You get what is called a "government".

            You only get government (as it's currently known) when the provision of those "common resources" is against the will of some of the people in the community. Otherwise, it's an association, or a charity, or a club, or a company, or some other non-government organization. Force is the difference. Governments force certain people to do things
            • If you don't like the rules of your community, you can choose to not participate. This is called "leaving" and is exercising the free will libertarians like to talk about so much. I can't help but notice that they've done a really piss poor job of ever living up to any of these principles, which makes me think that, taken as a whole, they're a bunch of whiny people who like to have things like streets and infrastructure and education and just wish that all that would stay while the nasty government goes awa
              • You're right, a man can ultimately leave his home and go into exile to escape a local government.

                It's just wrong to routinely force this choice on folks to finance your luxuries.

                Much of government works almost exactly like the Sopranos -- you pay, or else. The folks who pay protection money to the mafia could close up shop and move away too. So hooray for the Capo's justice, I guess.

                --

                This is off topic though. The ultimate point was that government decisions are political decisions. Whatever side you're
            • You only get government (as it's currently known) when the provision of those "common resources" is against the will of some of the people in the community. Otherwise, it's an association, or a charity, or a club, or a company, or some other non-government organization. Force is the difference.

              Do you know why clubs can't use force ? Because the government uses force against them if they try. In the absence of (current) government, what is to stop those associations from assuming its role ? Nothing whats

        • Re:Shocked (Score:4, Insightful)

          by gad_zuki! (70830) on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @08:30PM (#14553240)
          >>There ought to be no government libraries

          Hell, while we're throwing out the baby with the bathwater, unplug your fat DOD funded internet while youre at it.

          I love my local library system, both here in the city and when I lived in the suburbs. Being a kid with no money but having access to all the best sci-fi in the world, other fiction, and non-fiction was one of the best things to ever happen to me. Back before computers were affordable it was the place where I could go to get word processing done and even play a game! Right now people without internet access depend on them for the basic information you're spoiled to have. Oh no, the horrors of "big government" (the US government is tidy compared to some of europe and scandanavia its your military thats huge) led to people getting books for free! How will big publishing survive?!?

          Go back to watching southpark in your mom's basement. Thanks.
          • Being a kid with no money but having access to all the best sci-fi in the world, other fiction, and non-fiction was one of the best things to ever happen to me.

            It's not the 80s any more. Times change, you might want to consider changing with them. Libraries are anachronistic, and the process is accelerating.

            Also, some poor old lady probably lost her house because she couldn't afford the property taxes to pay for your adolescent warm fuzzy. Nevermind that though.
            • "some poor old lady probably lost her house because she couldn't afford the property taxes to pay for your adolescent warm fuzzy"

              That poor old lady would have lost her home irrespective of whether libraries were being funded or not. Tax levels are usually based on what whoever is levying them thinks they can get away with charging -- public services are used as a justification for making people pay taxes rather than being the reason for it. This is why tax cuts never seem to be accompanied by wage cuts or c
          • Dude, it is entirely possible to lean libertarian without being a mindless party follower. I'm for smaller and less govt., but how about one step at a time? How about fewer Govt. handouts, less jail time and more fines, or a million better things to do first. Maybe cutting the NSA and CIA budgets, since they fucked up on 9/11 anyway (too much info, too little cooperation, and Clinton passing up Osama on a silver platter)? Cars kill eight times more Americans a year than 9/11, the anthrax attacks, and the w
    • Ha. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Medievalist (16032)
      The key is to have the government do as little as possible.
      And if you can figure out exactly what as little as possible translates to in the real world, you will be hailed as the greatest statesman-philosopher that ever lived.
      • by Kohath (38547)
        And if you can figure out exactly what as little as possible translates to in the real world, you will be hailed as the greatest statesman-philosopher that ever lived.

        Let's start with less than they do now, and see how it goes.
        • I'm surprised no one has called you a communist yet. I can't seem to bring up my views here (seems that they're similar to yours) without some idiot letting his Russian-phobia lose on me. (Note: I != Communist)
        • Hear Hear!

          Currently the Federal government spends 20% of our GDP. I'm not sure how much the states, collectively, spend, but I'm sure its substantial.

          Lets try less than that. How's about we aim for 15%? Then we can look around, and decide if we can go lower than that.
          • Think for a second who the money they spend goes to... it doesn't just vanish into a vaccum.
            • So you're saying 100% of dollar value is returned to taxpayers? As long as that number is below 100%, there's room to cut spending.
              • All of that money cycles back through the global economy, so yes, eventually it's all returned. It may take an incredibly circuitous route, however, so there's no guarantee on time.
                • All of that money cycles back through the global economy, so yes, eventually it's all returned.

                  But returned to *whom* is the relevent question. Do I believe that my tax money was well spent on no-bid contracts for Haliburton in Iraq? Hell no.

                  Now that I'm witnessing the worst excessess of a *Republican* Administration (which followed a Dem Admin that actually did cut spending) after listening to them talk endlessly about fiscal responsibility, I'm beginning to become a big fan of the classical conservative

                  • It's not a matter of belief - the global economy is a closed system. It's essentially an axiom.

                    I'm not telling you that the money you've personally invested will come back to *you* specifically, just that the government isn't some financial blackhole where money goes to die. It all comes back out, and it all continues to get spent on other things. That's how the economy works.
      • "And if you can figure out exactly what as little as possible translates to in the real world, you will be hailed as the greatest statesman-philosopher that ever lived."

        In the real world this transaltes to "Give me mine, take away his".
        • less government would mean "don't take mine and don't take his, leave us alone" for _most_ things.
          • In the world of polyanna maybe. I don't see any conservative or libertarian anywhere sending back a penny of the money govt gives them.
    • Re:Shocked (Score:2, Interesting)

      by elpapacito (119485)
      The key is helping you find your brain. The dude was looking after an OPEN standard that would have given you MORE choice..as opposed to a M$ Library or M$ Swimming Pool or M$ Anything that you can damn be sure will be closed source, close standard.

      Only a government as a weight big enough to impose OPEN standard without actually forcing anybody to lose money..but hey, your corrupt representative keep getting lobby money to fuck up anything that benefits the masses.

      They key is corrupt politicians, not govern
      • The dude was looking after an OPEN standard

        Apparently you don't understand. Open standards are good for some constituencies and bad for others. Politics decides who wins because it's the government.

        If you want non-political decision-making, you need to remove the choice from the government. Period.
        • YOU don't get it. With only privates and no government, who's supposed to impose an open standard for public records and do so with public records of voting , transparent rulemaking ? You'll NEVER get an open standard if any company can avoid that, it's not as much profiteable as a closed one and it costs more to implement.

          Indeed there's a failure in corrupt politicians, not in presence of a government.
          • ...who's supposed to impose an open standard for public records...

            I don't know. Who? I know you're relying onthe government for that. How's that going? What was this story about? I didn't RTFA, but the summary doesn't suggest relying of the government is working.
    • The only way everyone gets what they want is by taking it out of government hands.

      Perhaps you might explain how the decision of what file formats the government uses can be taken away from government hands, and in whose hands should it be put to ?

      And while you are at it, you might also explain how this helps both Microsoft and everyone else to get what they want, since they want mutually exclusive and polarly opposed things ("Microsoft proprietary file formats" and "non-proprietary open file formats",

  • I have no doubt in the world that Microsoft has an OD filter for MSWord which they could release through Office Update at any instant they wish. They just need a good enough reason to do so.
    • Re:Microsoft (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Synic (14430)
      $$$ - that's about the only reason good enough for them
    • It is said that M$ has an OD in the works -- I'm sure it will only read in documents in an inconvenient fashion and if they come out with an output filter it will be riddled with bugs.
  • by Edmund Blackadder (559735) on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @04:40PM (#14551270)
    It seems that Quinn was the person that wanted to introduce open document formats in Mass. What happened is that certain senators started cutting the MASS IT budget to the point where the MASS government could not spend anything on IT unless they got the ok of a special commission of senators.

    Quinn felt sure that he was the reason the senators were cutting the IT budget. He felt that the whole state was being punished because of him. He believes that the state urgently needs new computer systems to take care of their records (these systems being completely unrelated to the open document controversy) and they will not get them because the senate is cutting the budget.

    Since he did not want to see the state and his colleagues in IT getting screwed because of him, he decided to quit.
    • Which Senators? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by namespan (225296)
      Quinn felt sure that he was the reason the senators were cutting the IT budget. He felt that the whole state was being punished because of him. He believes that the state urgently needs new computer systems to take care of their records (these systems being completely unrelated to the open document controversy) and they will not get them because the senate is cutting the budget.

      Does anyone know which Senators? I'd say they're prime candidates for replacement next election cycle, if not actually being taken
      • Re:Which Senators? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Kadin2048 (468275) <slashdot.kadin@x[ ].net ['oxy' in gap]> on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @01:51AM (#14554950) Homepage Journal
        You might find this Globe article interesting:
        http://www.boston.com/business/articles/2005/10/29 /senators_question_file_storage_shift/ [boston.com]

        I can't tell you for sure who the Senators were that cut funding to Quinn's unrelated IT projects, but I've got a good suspect.

        The two people who are mentioned as being probably against the ODF move are one Senator Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, chairman of the Senate Post Audit and Oversight Committee, and Secretary of State William F. Galvin.

        For those who don't want to read the linked article, it's nominally about some manufactured controversy over whether ODF would work with accessibility addons (Braille terminals, screenreaders, etc.) as well as MS Word does. Personally I find this ironic, because I know one blind person who says that the GUI was the worst thing that ever happened to sightless-accessibility in computing; interacting with a command prompt using a Braille terminal ain't no thing, but using a screenreader can be a real pain by comparison.

        In my mind the article is pretty well biased against ODF: it opens by saying "Massachusetts lawmakers are questioning an effort by the Romney administration that could jettison Microsoft's popular Office software from thousands of state computers. ... The Romney administration wants documents stored in a particular format that would allow the records to be read by a variety of software packages -- except Microsoft Office." Smells like FUD in the presentation to me.
        • For those who don't want to read the linked article, it's nominally about some manufactured controversy over whether ODF would work with accessibility addons (Braille terminals, screenreaders, etc.) as well as MS Word does.

          Re: "manufactured" - does anybody have the link debunking this FUD? Or even supporting it should it prove not to be FUD? Real facts would be helpful.
          • It's not really my area but I thought I'd offer a few suggestions:

            https://wiki.ubuntu.com/Accessibility/Team [ubuntu.com] The Ubuntu accessibility team. "The Ubuntu Accessibility Team aims to raise the level of accessibilty support within Ubuntu and its derivatives." IMO, seems rather preliminary. There's no obvious links to screenreaders or replacements for any of the other programs that sight-impaired Windows users may have come to regard as 'standard.'

            Obviously using Linux from the CLI through a Braille terminal isn
  • by konstant (63560) on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @04:51PM (#14551395)
    I have the greatest sympathy for IT/CS people who dislike "politics" and try to avoid it in their jobs. This guy, though, had a job in the GOVERNMENT. How can he feign outrage that politics became involved?
    • Surely you mean then that government run emergency service should be run by politics... Boy don't ever hit 911 if your logic should apply !!!
      • That whooshing sound is the GP's point zipping over your head.
        • In simple terms bubbub...you do expect politics not to be involved in many governmental jobs...otherwise you're dead as a duck !
          • That's what he was saying: Politics should not be involved in government. Take some reading comprehension classes, and then work on your own writing because it's almost beyond comprehension.

            For starters, "you do expect politics not to be involved in many governmental jobs" should be "You do not expect politics to be involved..." or even better, "You expect politics to be absent from..."

            Also, your first post, "Surely you mean then that government run emergency service should be run by politics..." doesn't e
          • My mistake, I thought you were replying to this [slashdot.org] post.

            Even so, your comparison is flawed. A 911 operator is not a high level government official. As far as the service overall, if you think politics plays no role in quality of service over general areas, you've been severely misinformed. There are have been regular complaints about the service in lower class areas, probably since the introduction of 911.
    • by WhiteWolf666 (145211) <sherwinNO@SPAMamiran.us> on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @06:12PM (#14552186) Homepage Journal
      How can he feign outrage that politics became involved?

      You don't understand Government.

      The greatest aspect, and greatest failure of our form of Democratic government is that ostensibly, government employees should be apolitical. Elected officials are political; appointed officials and government employees/workers are NOT political.

      Some people even actually try to hold to this; the opposite of this, politics among the beauracrats is the purest definition of "corruption".
    • I have the greatest sympathy for IT/CS people who dislike "politics" and try to avoid it in their jobs. This guy, though, had a job in the GOVERNMENT. How can he feign outrage that politics became involved?

      It used to be that the civil service took pride in carrying out their jobs for the sake of public service and not as part of a political machine. It's a shame that that idea seems to be out of the ordinary these days.

    • This is a trend that comes and goes with time. Everyone is too old to remember the days of NYC and Tammany Hall, where almost every aspect of city government was political, right down to was going to get the job of being a garbage man.

      In fact, most municipalities have inherited political structure from the officials down to the paper pushers at all levels of government. Only when free-flowing exchanges of money happen (as in the case of Philadelphia) does the Federal government get involved and start pros
    • Maybe I'm just stupid, but I just went back & re-read the interview. Quinn seemed cool, calm and collected. Not outraged or vengeful. Since there's no "outrage" that I could see, there was none to be feigned. I have seen a lot of feigned outrage in AC posts on this topic from MS shills, however. Basically, they seem to be saying that there is only choice, if MS is the only choice. Bye, I think I'm gonna go feign interest in MS-VISTA and Office 12. Please don't get outraged.
  • by digitaldc (879047) on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @04:55PM (#14551422)
    At least now you have the experience to work with the government, IT vendors & administrators.
    You will know the ups and downs of using Office and OpenOffice and have a good idea where to turn for assistance.

    Your skills will be in high demand wherever you end up, and you will probably be a lot better off mentally and financially.
    Best of luck to you.
  • MASS IT priorities (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kevin.fowler (915964) on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @04:57PM (#14551451) Homepage
    Years ago there was a confrontation with my school district and the state involving contracts for Mac computers. We had always had Macs in the library, computer lab, and classrooms. When it came time to buy new computers, consultants advised our school to get PC's, as most students coud not bring projects home from the Mac lab to their PC. The state reps got rather angry, stating the amount of money they recieve from Apple, and the great discounts they get. The PC switch went ahead anyway... with a few bucks going to a separate Mac computer lab.

    End result? The PC's the district could afford were outdated before they even arrived, unable to efficiently run even OEM programs provided with them. The Mac lab had few computers and a separate network, and were the only boxes that could run the grade tracking software (provided and required by the state), so the teachers were frequently on them. So hearing that good old MA (48th ranked state in School technology integration at the time of that incedent) is backwards on IT again. Hopefully within a decade or so my town records won't just be in paper form anymore.
  • IT has had a problem for its entire lifetime of thinking that computing and networks are above politics, that access by the people would somehow improve democracy.

    It's had the opposite effect. Computers and networks are tools of calculation and communication, and such things have always been as usable by the forces of politics. It was sheer naievety to believe that they would not be adopted by politicians.

    And since such things cost money, no matter how low the learning curve goes, they will be skewed by c
    • Get off your ass and vote. And vote for the good person, not the one who promises you the shiniest toys.

      Voting is useless. The Democrats and Republicans are on the same team. They only pretend to be bitter opponents. The electoral system in this country is just plain fucked. For example, in NC, not only will they no longer put Libertarians (or anybody else) on the ticket, but I can't even be registered as a Libertarian (or anything else). Voting is just to make people *think* that they have a choic
  • and not polititions who have no idea about IT.

    The same is true of just about any government decisions, governments should let the experts in the field make decisions about which is better.

    For example, when the USAF was buying the new fighter jets (the one where boeing and someone else were competing), the government did the smart thing and let the USAF decide which fighter was the better one (in terms of performance, purchase price, running cost etc etc).
    The same should apply here. Let the IT guys decide wh

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