Social justice and vaccination crusaders meet IEEE floating point arithmetic (Facebook)

For several years I’ve been a member of “Airplanes for Sale” on Facebook. The software at Facebook apparently thinks that an airplane is a car and therefore tries to display the mileage. The result is “NaN“, a value in the IEEE floating point arithmetic standard used for the result of dividing by zero and similar outrages against Mathematical Justice. Here’s an example: “1999 Cessna 172 R · Driven NaN miles”

With all of humanity’s money (except for the cash that Google and Apple have harvested) and a healthy fraction of the world’s best programmers, you might think that Facebook would have noticed that it was displaying this internal value from IEEE floating point to end-users. The company’s software is smart enough to flag anyone who has questioned the idea that a COVID-19 vaccine is in the best interest of a 20-year-old. The company had the energy to kick Donald Trump off the platform (to keep us safe from another insurrection, was the justification). But they don’t have anything left over to catch this error that occurs literally millions of times per day (87,000 members in this group times lots of ads that show NaN).

33 thoughts on “Social justice and vaccination crusaders meet IEEE floating point arithmetic (Facebook)

  1. Facebook doesn’t care, most American’s don’t care? 87k people following aircraft for sale? There are 7M people following Pokemon. Further, there are 1 general aviation aircraft per 1650 American’s and presumably a tiny fraction of those planes are for sale at any time. It’s a .06%er’s problem. Facebook revenue is more than half the combined economic activity generated from all US general aviation. And, that’s saying something when you take into account the exorbitant costs of aviation.

    • SenorP: It is a question of pride as a programmer! The most important pride, of course, is 2SLGBTQQIA+ pride. And then we have the pride of being BIPOC. And then perhaps there would be the pride of identifying as a “woman” (however that term might be defined). But eventually we would come to pride of craftspersonship at one’s job. And that’s when it would make sense to add an IF statement so that users weren’t exposed to this arithmetic error.

    • The alphabeth-soup prideful exhaust the resrrves of their pride long before they get to craftsmanship and professional ethics and integrity.

      In any case persons defining themseles primarily by the way they fuck are pretty much declaring that they are barely more than walikng appendages to their genitalia.

    • Philg – I get it, but profits and revenue seem to be supplanting pride of work and craftsmanship in this uber capitalist society. Some product manager at Facebook doesn’t care that a programmer could fix that up in a few hours. The MBA’s have everything so “efficient” now that there is no allowance for quality and pride of work. We’ve become a culture of get it out the door and fix it later or eat the consequences. Even with things like the Boeing 737-Max! Maybe pride still has a place in hobbies, but most American’s can’t, or choose not to, afford anything where craftsmanship was the prime directive. Software in general is no different, it’s pretty bleak out there. The barriers to entry are enormous, the big players just buy up any threatening upstarts, keep their cash cow products on life support while the suits invent new ways to squeeze existing customers harder for the same products. Other examples are: furniture, clothes, vehicles, food, and entertainment. We’re a sequel society. Why take a risk on doing something new when you can just repackage a successful product? Food in America is especially awful compared to other countries. The bread, pastries, and other baked goods are just on another level abroad compared to here, as just one specific example. Is it possible that our entire country and society are being shaped by capitalist, “free-market” economics such that, on a macro level, the US is just an IBM or Kodak in slow, inevitable decline? We invented the transistor and microchip, but we can’t even build them here, at least not state of the art ones.

    • Seniorpablo, that’s not in few hours but under a minute and continuous integration which is common practice right now can deploy the fix next day or next week or next month the latest. Facebook has those issues for years.

  2. As you probably noticed before fleeing the industry, the best programmers don’t work for FAANG. The best coding challenge solvers with the fanciest degrees & resume inflating skills work for FAANG. They’d be lucky to have a text entry box which didn’t always crash & their photo uploader wasn’t really a photo deleter. The best programmers work for nano startups & are always getting laid off.

  3. Woke == incompetent.

    The woke incompetence follows from the fact that one needs to be terminally stupid to become woke.

  4. Maybe Facebook’s programmers don’t even realize what it means and think they’re promoting Woke and Progressive aircraft by referencing Nan Aron?

    Or they’re trying to appeal to Al Sharpton to buy a plane?

    In any case, I’m glad to see Facebook’s apps are coded and tested so well. How could that pass a final meeting before going live? I don’t understand it.

    I do note, however, that the Cessna is sporting what looks like a some kind of windshield sun shield, which I love on my Ford Escape Hybrid. I bought a Heatshield (made in USA) and it worked great all through the summer. Perfect fit.

    That one in the Cessna seems real loose though, like it was borrowed from a passenger car because nobody makes them for light aircraft? Not enough volume? It’s surprising given how long some planes sit outside in hot weather…the Heatshield makes a real difference, bringing the dashboard touch temperatures from 125 degrees down into the 90s with a commensurate drop in cabin temperature, so the A/C doesn’t have to work as hard.

    • @Nick: You’re welcome. I like ’em, they work well. 15 seconds on/off with a little practice, made in USA, yadda yadda. Not as expensive as some, nowhere near as cheap as others. Mine lasted all summer with at least one on/off cycle a day and has not come apart. My dashboard and leather seats are much happier.

      Also, on my vehicle (2010 Ford Escape Hybrid) I count it as a preventative maintenance item. In my car, the High Voltage Battery is mounted in the floor of the rear cargo compartment. The battery thermal management is controlled by two “squirrel cage” fans that draw air from the passenger compartment and push it through the battery pack and out the bottom of the car. The temperature is strictly dependent on the operation of the main A/C in the vehicle. If the pack gets over 100 degrees F, the computer disables EV mode and temperatures over 132 degrees F cause the NiMH battery cells to deteriorate.

      From 2005-2009, Ford had a separate A/C evaporator that was mounted in the side panel of the rear cargo compartment with some complicated ductwork and plumbing to actively cool the battery. Well, as a result of the 2008 financial crisis and the subsequent near-collapse of the American automobile industry, Ford was looking to cut costs, so for 2010-2012 they deleted those components! As a result, the main A/C is the only thing keeping the HV battery cool!

      Which is a shame, because the Escape Hybrid from those years was a better-than-average vehicle from an engineering point of view. The battery thermal management went from being “best of breed” to “barely acceptable” and it was, of course, never mentioned in the sales brochures.

      Barack Obama got rid of his 2008 after the lease expired and didn’t get another one, as far as I know!

      So any time I can cut the cabin temperature in direct sun by 20 degrees or more, I’ll take it.

    • @Nick: P.S. Mine fits so well I don’t have to turn the sunvisors around to hold it in place. It follows the contours of the windshield frame and holds itself in there, which is nice, because I really didn’t want to be turning my sunvisors around more than 180 degrees all the time and wear out the hinges. YMMV.

  5. This is not an error. NaN means not-a-number. The number of miles driven is undefined, and thus appropriately represented by NaN.

  6. Why would anyone think that non-mission critical non-ACID (only I us required) non real-time application that runs on huge number of dedicated servers would be staffed with best programmers?

    • I was taught that allowing arcane symbols and error messages that the average user cannot understand appear in a user interface was sloppy programming and bad practice. I could never let myself do it simply as a matter of pride? If the UI programming is that uglified, what about the rest of it that nobody can see?

    • Alex, I guess nobody wants to be a looser working on nitty-gritty tedious details when “thought leaders” garner all attention, large salaries and huge bonuses.

  7. Jesus christ, man. What happened to you? You used to be a smart guy when I was at MIT, and now I don’t even want to read half your posts because they’re full of mean-spirited rage at people who maybe you disagree with but don’t deserve your rage. Where’s this coming from and why are you SO DAMN ANGRY? Life’s been pretty good to you — probably better than you deserved — what exactly do you have to be angry about? Don’t publish this comment, but please please please think about it before you decide to keep hurling shit like you’ve been doing. You’re better than this, sir.

    • Pac-Man: I haven’t been a regular reader over the years, but philg’s style hasn’t really changed if you look at some old posts at random. Perhaps you or the climate of discourse have changed?

      I find it surprising that this comes in response to FAANG criticism. FAANG companies are ruthless in the treatment of opponents, censor posts on their infrastructure, have their puppet employees in “open” source projects censor mailing lists, have employees intrigue against dissenters.

      We are talking about a company with a CEO who called their users “dumb fucks”:

      What should people who disagree with the fake woke policies and censorship of FAANG do?
      Sit back, “be better than this” and go on about how awesome FAANG and their genius developers are? Or point out that perhaps the emperor does not wear any clothes?

    • Who the hell are you to decide what Phil deserves? Go look in the mirror and you’ll see what Phil has to be angry about. Self-satisfied hectoring shits like you if you’re still confused after looking in the mirror.

    • I think this has become a standard way of claiming victory in arguments. Assert that one’s opponent is “angry”. But what evidence can one glean from an Internet post that the author actually is angry? Not everyone will see the absurdity of the situation (enterprise with infinite money making junior high school coding mistake). But an author whose opinion on absurdity is not universally shared is not necessarily angry.

    • Also there is sense of self-aggrandation in the coment, It is said that Philip, CS PhD, social media pioneer and entrepreneur “was a smart guy” It implies that comment’s author is a real egg-head. And with huge sense of moral superiority who is anointed to judge level of success others deserve.

    • I’ve heard this before!

      [Guy holding baseball bat]: “Jesus Christ, man. What happened to you?” [chokes up on bat]
      [Another guy emerges with a set of brass knuckles.] “Yeah, you used to be a SMART GUY!”
      [BANG with the brass knuckles]
      “You know what your problem is?” [BANG with the baseball bat in the solar plexus]
      “All these people don’t deserve your rage!” [WHAM with the brass knuckles in the face]
      “This is better than you deserved!” [SLAM with the butt end of baseball bat to chin]
      “You should think about it before you decide to keep [SLAM with the brass knuckles in the groin] hurling shit like you’ve been doing!”
      [SLAM with the baseball bat.]
      “You’re better than this!”

    • Pac-man, I used to think philg’s posts were tongue-in-cheek but I have to re-think it when he sells out in Cambridge, moves to Florida, and applies for a Portuguese passport (not that there is anything wrong with any of these). I live in Florida, visit Massachusetts, and have a London daughter in the Portuguese-passport queue because of Brexit, so none of it is, say, unimaginable, but certainly unexpected in a man of philg’s circumstances.

      Every time I think “that’s the last straw, I’m outta here” philg or a commenter posts something that keeps me coming, like that one sweet drive in golf.

    • Donald: Massachusetts is great for adults who love marijuana and alcohol, since stores for those products were deemed “essential” by the COVIDcrats and, therefore, never closed. What was more important for us, however, was assurance that our children would be able to go to school, play after-school sports, and play with other kids. Florida provides that assurance and that by itself should be sufficient reason for a family with school-age children to move. Also, don’t forget that the states that imposed the most COVID-tagged restrictions are the easiest states from which to move. The more locked-down the state, the less likely one would have to show up in person for anything going on in that state, e.g., work. Just last night I talked to a senior Facebook engineer. He recently purchased a house in Hawaii and will be working from there for the next few months. He probably couldn’t have done that if he’d been working for a tech company in Florida or Texas because people are back at work in those states.

    • Gentle Persuasion,
      Those street enforces that you describe are several levels above internet tough guys a-la pac- supremacist. I had been friendly with some internet tough guy – in real life they were afraid of falling dry leafs and would exit through back door to avoid logical conversation.

    • Donald: The problems that philg addresses are very real. Many people in the software industry have ignored them in the past decade, now we report to diversity hires who barely program but establish tyrannical regimes.

      If people who are financially independent don’t speak up, no one will. One would be fired from Google for a fraction of what is written here. If people don’t move from California to Texas or Florida in large numbers, nothing will change.

      We need new technology hubs, new broadcasters, new universities, a new ACLU, etc.

  8. Accusations of anger are always used by the mainstream to discredit free thinkers. Some of the mainstream (especially the younger ones) genuinely do not understand the difference between emphasis, stringency, clarity, hubris, satire, passion, etc., and anger. Others do understand the difference and just pretend that they genuinely care and that they are trying to help the “angry” person.

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