Subject: Re: a bit OT- Fully Open Standards for Citizen-Government
From: "Forrest J. Cavalier III" <mibsoft@mibsoftware.com>
Date: Fri, 15 Apr 2005 12:21:53 -0400

Chip Mefford wrote:

Chip, do you ever sit in traffic and think about how much better
the highways would work if computers were driving instead of
clueless humans?  In heavy traffic, I tend to optimize my
driving style in a way that would reduce congestion, if
everyone else would adopt the same style.

But I'm weird. Most people are not interested at all in optimizing
things that work "well enough."  Instead, they will live with being
annoyed, and eventually won't even be annoyed.

 > But I would hope, that I would be able to help in the social
 > contract with my government to lower their work by submitting
 > data that they can digest more easily WITHOUT having to use any
 > proprietary software, unless that is my choice.

This might happen sometime, but there is a reasonable explanation
why it hasn't.  The number of people who will take advantage of it
is a very very small fraction of the population.   Just geeks
mostly.

The effort for the government to design the procedure
to accept things a different way is non-trivial.  The need to
train IRS examiners to deal with the different formats is not
trivial either.

As it is, the IRS uses automatic document processing and IIRC
some OCR handwriting recognition.  It works well-enough.

I use an OpenOffice spreadsheet that I created, but I understand
that these DIY tax prep programs are good at pointing out stuff
you missed (not as good as a trained human preparer though), and
they help organize everything so that you have a better chance
filling in each form correctly.  They do have value worth paying for.