Enormous house valuation leaves owner unimpressed

Even governments have to live within their means. But the nice thing about taxation, where you figure out how much tax (or rates) someone owes you, is that revenues are pretty predicatable. You say it, they owe it. Nice. I wish I had that kind of lock on my ‘customers’.

Unless you stuff up.

If you stuff up, suddenly the USD$8m you were counting on isn’t coming in, and you have to start sacking public servants. Read the link, that’s what this rant is about. I’m not going to recount it at length. Let’s just say there was a single character typo and leave it at that.

The nifty thing about this stuff up is that it was via a records enquiry system, by an external operator, who accidentally activated a retired program that shouldn’t have been able to affect property prices anyway (what with being retired and all). Valuation on the property went from USD$150K to… tray lots: USD$400m. Any reasonable system would have said “wow, that’s a fairly heafty increase in valuation, you’re going to have to enter several ‘no, seriously, I’m not kidding‘ codes before I actually believe you.”

Daniel, where’s our “risks” category?

I put it to you that few system developers would have considered this could ever happen, acidentally or otherwise, and that when offered the opportunity to spec a system like this it’d be rare that anyone would suggest a check like “if the rate of increase was more than twice that of any other property in the system, or the increase more than ten times the value of any other property in the system, get it checked by a human other than the one entering the data”. But there was no checking, and with today’s inconnected computer systems, the new valuation cascaded into other systems. Such as the county’s budgeting system, thus the surprise sackings to lower costs.

Please, someone tell me I’m wrong. Tell me that this failure has got to be a one-off, that I’m a cowboy, and the industry I work for is fine.

2 thoughts on “Enormous house valuation leaves owner unimpressed

  1. glen

    I frequently find that data validation is one of the worst planned and specified parts of a computer system. Most specs consider validation as an afterthought and it’s usually just the maximum field length! So I expect this issue could occur in most systems without much in the way of intelligent data checking.

  2. daniel

    Josh, didn’t I give you privileges to edit the categories? If not, where should it go?

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