e-Talk Radio: Pressman, Roger, 14 November 2000


the epicenter of poor ergonomics. The infamous butterfly ballot was about as bad an ergonomic design as I have ever seen. It was designed by politicians, who were clueless, quite frankly. It was not done with malevolence, I honestly believe that. I think the best intentions were at hand. People tried to do a good job. But they simply screwed up, if you'll excuse the word. And it's created a firestorm down here. Had somebody with a little bit of training looked at that ballot, it would have taken them all of three seconds to recognize that it had the potential to be problematic. But apparently no one did, or if they did, they kept their mouths shut. And as a result, at least in part, we have the mess that we're looking at right now.

Carol: And in a lot of automated systems, you have this user acceptance testing. You have people test drive it. And I don't believe that necessarily happened in Palm Beach County.

Roger: Well, what happened in Palm Beach County, and the media has made much of this…What happened in Palm Beach County is, as is required by Florida law, the ballot was published in the newspaper, but comically, the most important part of the ballot was not published, and that is the holes and their placement. Because that's what created enormous confusion for many people. The problem was simply that no one had ever…The equivalency here for the those software types in the listening audience would be buttons that we use in any interactive interface. It would be very difficult to assess the efficacy of buttons if the placement wasn't shown.

Carol: And we've got to go into break, and we'll be back with more of Roger Pressman.

Welcome to Quality Plus e-Talk! If you're just joining us, you may be familiar with Quality Plus Technologies. We teach people how to develop better software that works and meets customer expectations. My guest this week is internationally recognized consultant and author in software engineering Roger Pressman, who happens to also reside in Palm Beach County, which has received a lot of attention this week. And last week. For anyone that's interested, the guest phone-in number is…a toll-free number…866-277-5369. And we've been talking about the voting systems, and a software issue, ergonomic issue, and Roger's been explaining to us some of the things that are going on in Palm Beach County. Can you tell me a little bit…I think people are probably wondering, Roger, whether demographics played a huge part, whether it's the elderly that…You know, the media has been having a heyday with. Is that really the problem?

Roger: Well, I don't believe it is. I think unlike the media depiction of Palm Beach County as a county that is in its entirety just one retirement community after another, the listening audience should recognize that the retirement community within our county is large, unquestionably, larger than average, but it still only represents about 20% of the population. The remaining 80% of the population is just like any of us, and that is working folks, young people, students, whatever. And given that, people should not have the impression that everybody who walked in a voting booth was a senior citizen. And frankly, in defense of seniors, many of them are completely capable, most of them, all of them, pretty much, are completely capable of voting. I think the problem had much more to do, as I mentioned in the last segment, with a very poor ergonomic design of the ballot. And very poor vote counting systems.

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