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If something like Nomad made it to Silicon Valley, it would never run out of imperfections to remove from the universe.

There was never any doubt in my mind that the health care exchanges would have major issues once they hit the real world. Maybe some developers can weigh in below on why that might be, but I'll take a wild shot at two big factors here: cost and complexity.

Complex websites connecting and extracting information securely from multiple databases across vast networks are expensive. For-profit companies have gotten in a very bad habit since the Great Recession of deluding themselves into believing they are so freaking brilliant that they and they alone can pay for the equivalent of a jalopy and then turn around and run it like a turbo-vette. They can't.

The second point is these networks are complex. In some cases it's simply not possible to test them short of going live and there's no upper limit to how much can be spent on test-simulations of questionable value. To use a physical analogy, a specific subway car or tunnel can certainly be tested. But the only practical way to learn how an entire subway network in a large city that is in turn plugged into a larger and more diverse transportation grid made of pedestrians on sidewalks, roads and highways, cabs, buses, airports, ferries, ports, and several million personal vehicles, all powered by giant fossil fuel distribution networks and regional electric power grids will behave at rush hour is to open it up for business and see what happens.

Obviously the usual suspects predictably obsessed on healthcare.gov, but when they started opining that Obama should personally land Air Force in Silicon Valley and load up some tech gurus to tweak it into proper performance I had to laugh. Do these clowns really not pay attention to how complex networked software and websites produced by these same tech pioneers often behave when first activated? Join me below and we'll review a few of those.

A large video game maker worked on a new version of a classic game, for the better part of 10 years. Enormous amounts of money and resources were poured into it. When the game finally rolled out, it was rocky to say the least:

The Diablo III Battle.net servers went live at this time and people who downloaded the game could begin playing. Initially the launches were hindered by heavy server load with many users getting various errors, including the error 37 which reads; "The servers are busy at this time. Please try again later". These issues made the game unplayable for those affected, while some others experienced in-game bugs. Despite assurances from Blizzard that the problems leading to the connection errors during Diablo III's launch had been resolved, Eurogamer reported on May 31, 2012 that these errors were still ongoing, and had reappeared after patch 1.0.2 was released for the game. Many fans complained ...
D3 went on to become the bestselling game in 2013, but it was still being patched for various tech issues weeks after release. Of course we don't have to look at video games or even websites, mere operating systems worked on by the best developers on earth have had their moments of flameout:
Vista was designed to replace Windows XP and, of course, make scads of money for Microsoft -- and it did. But the operating system was clunky and full of bugs and was greeted almost immediately with negative buzz. Vista was released on January 30, 2007, but by April, Microsoft essentially waved the white flag, allowing Dell to keep offering XP on new computers. Meanwhile, not coincidentally, Microsoft sped up the development of its next, much more well-received, offering: Windows 7.
We haven't even scratched the surface yet, how about the granddaddy internet software/network of them all?
How do we loathe AOL? Let us count the ways. Since America Online emerged from the belly of a BBS called Quantum "PC-Link" in 1989, users have suffered through awful software, inaccessible dial-up numbers, rapacious marketing, in-your-face advertising, questionable billing practices, inexcusably poor customer service, and enough spam to last a lifetime. And all the while, AOL remained more expensive than its major competitors. This lethal combination earned the world's biggest ISP the top spot on our list of bottom feeders.
I picked those three examples above because they involve fairly successful, well-known companies, but they're just the tip of the iceberg. Most PCs these days have so many add ons and plugins and sub-programs that have to work and have to be regularly updated, that even as someone who works with that stuff in tech support every day, I can't keep up with it. That's just the end user software side, add on devices, cards, modems, routers, networks, and the whole shebang, and it's amazing this thing called the internet works at all.

In point of fact, it doesn't work that well. We all know this, pages constantly hang up, malware constantly tries to install itself, cable networks constantly reboot themselves or simply stop working for arbitrary periods of time. OS and software constantly conflict, patches constantly fail to install correctly, and customer service by and large for all this shit is usually somewhere between horrid and non existent. It's maddening, if any other devices or networks failed as often as the internet does, and were as critical to our day-to-day lives and jobs, we would never put up with it.

One caveat because fair is fair: Google's main search engine almost always works well for me. But for the rest, it boils down to money, companies don't want to spend resources on testing or customer service, they want to shove the product out the door asap, especially when they can con users into being free beta testers or fixing their own damn computers. And even if they tried, networks are so complex, so chaotic, that there would be system wide breakdowns of one kind or another anyway. The idea that the same guys who created this internet monstrosity would be the ones to fix it from the get go, so perfectly that it would work flawlessly right out of the gate is another instance of the usual laughable anti-reality mindset the GOP has become famous for.

We all know this, or should, we all know the internet has rapidly become a nearly unusable cesspool for some purposes thanks to scammers and corporate greed, we all knew Republicans would pretend not to understand any of that when it came to healthcare.gov. But given the last 50 years of IT history, there's no legit reason for progressives in the media or elsewhere to lend them a helping hand or act shocked that complex website had startup glitches.

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Comment Preferences

  •  800-318-2596 be ancient technology but (35+ / 0-)

    wirked fine for me today.
    bird heard da wird and waz happie.

    Addington's perpwalk? TRAILHEAD of accountability for Bush-2 Crimes. @Hugh: There is no Article II power which says the Executive can violate the Constitution.

    by greenbird on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 07:08:06 PM PST

  •  ...or we can use our superior ... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Grey Panther, Aunt Pat

    logic to cause Nomad/Republicans to self destruct.


    You stand in the way of all you should be. Let your fears make you invisible. - 16382

    by glb3 on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 07:09:12 PM PST

  •  still using XP (7+ / 0-)

    will be upgrading when I get a new computer, but still way more reliable than Vista.

    Windows 7 is great (on other business systems). But everyone has been complaining about Windows 8.  Microsoft, like other big companies, still screw up.

    This software project was a big undertaking.  More than the 6 months or so were needed.

    Biggest error was actually thinking it would be ready.

    "The only person sure of himself is the man who wishes to leave things as they are, and he dreams of an impossibility" -George M. Wrong.

    by statsone on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 07:11:33 PM PST

    •  Win 8 plays HD better than XP. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LordMike, geekydee

      It is also multi-task's better & is a bit more stable.
      With a few mods, like Classic Shell, the Metro crap can begone and one can get pretty close to the feel of XP.

      Nuclear Reactor = Dirty Bomb

      by olo on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 07:16:15 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Win 8 is difficult if, like me, (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        rl en france, gammarock

        you don't own a smartphone (and don't want to waste a day or two trying to figure out what all those pictures mean) and are a word person, as in:

        I have put together a bunch of DIY furniture projects, from IKEA and elsewhere.

        It takes me about an hour to actually put all the pieces together.

        It takes me about twice that to figure out what all the pictures mean on the instruction sheet. If they just TOLD me in English, with illustrations, it would be simple.

        But NO. I have to figure out which screw goes where based on someone's inadequate line drawings.

        That's how Win 8 is for me.

        Irony takes a worse beating from Republicans than Wile E. Coyote does from Acme. --Tara the Antisocial Social Worker

        by Youffraita on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 12:35:37 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The only way I will give up XP (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          gammarock

          is if Microsoft stops supporting it.  And then it will take a while.  A friend of mine bought a new computer with a new version of Windows installed on it, and it changes what I see on the screen and how it works so much that I would literally have to learn a whole new OS (which it is).  I'm usually not averse to change, but I don't like having to spend hours learning something new when what I have works extremely well and has for years.

          "In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican." - H. L. Mencken

          by SueDe on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 10:47:53 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  XP Desktop, I Scoured Sources for Win 7 Laptop (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sturunner

      this summer.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 07:18:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The hardest part is that the (4+ / 0-)

    Insurance companies have to figure out how to rip you off while delivering the crappiest healthcare coverage possible...
    Poor little ripoff artists...

  •  Best Buy last year (8+ / 0-)

    Talk about an enormous systems failure. Unlike the Obama Administration, they ran and hid for a while. I give the administration credit for trying to get ahead of the healthcare.gov debacle.

    For those who don't remember, Best Buy had to announce just two weeks before Christmas that a large portion of their online sales would not arrive before the holiday. This sent its stock plunging and put the company in a lot of trouble.

    Over the past several months, however, they seem to have recovered and their stock price is going back up.

    It's technology, folks, not a panacea.

  •  My BIL is a computer programmer. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Youffraita, Fury

    There's a reason companies have a whole fleet of these people on staff, code is greek to most of us.

    •  Do you remember when (5+ / 0-)

      this site went to dKos.4?

      LOLOLOL

      Just before it opened for business -- and it was still very much beta at that point b/c not all the bugs had been, or could have been, worked out until it went live -- the Cranky Users group was formed. For about a year, Cranky Users diaries helped everyone adjust (and let those who knew more lend a hand to those who were perplexed about one issue or another).

      And that is Just. This. Site. With a few hundred thousand members, but probably a smaller core of dedicated kossacks.

      The GOPers who complain probably have ZERO clue what it takes to roll out a site b/c they never had to do anything difficult in their lives. Certainly they know nothing about science...or computer science.

      Irony takes a worse beating from Republicans than Wile E. Coyote does from Acme. --Tara the Antisocial Social Worker

      by Youffraita on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 12:44:49 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Belinda of Cranky Users (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        rl en france

        was a jewel.

        Thanks again.

        United Citizens beat Citizens United

        by ThirtyFiveUp on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 07:59:22 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  The GOPers who complain (0+ / 0-)

        have seen those ads on TV touting website templates that you can set up for your company over the weekend, and that's as much as they know.  I heard one idiot GOP rep on TV one night after the contractor hearing say, "Well, it can't be that hard.  They didn't even TEST it."  Like he had one iota of a clue what he was talking about.

        "In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican." - H. L. Mencken

        by SueDe on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 10:52:25 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  50 exchanges (11+ / 0-)

    If the web site mostly redirected you to the web site based on the state you resided. Each state might have its own problems, but it wouldn't cause a Congressional hearing.

    This is a simple fight to obstruct and deny Obama any accomplishment. I think they will fix healthcare.gov site. Communicating with multiple database from different insurers is a big challenge.

    If it does resolve as an issue this month, the GOP/Tea party will  find themselves running in midair, over the cliff, having whiffed on grabbing the roadrunner once again.  

    The past, present, and future are equally compelling; none of the three are easily understood.

    by Grey Panther on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 07:24:27 PM PST

    •  Not chained to the anvil? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Grey Panther, rl en france

      Didn't Wile E. Coyote do that at least once?

      Anyway: agreed.

      This is a simple fight to obstruct and deny Obama any accomplishment. I think they will fix healthcare.gov site. Communicating with multiple database from different insurers is a big challenge.

      If it does resolve as an issue this month, the GOP/Tea party will  find themselves running in midair, over the cliff, having whiffed on grabbing the roadrunner once again.

      Irony takes a worse beating from Republicans than Wile E. Coyote does from Acme. --Tara the Antisocial Social Worker

      by Youffraita on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 12:48:12 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  People will be running into these problems (0+ / 0-)

      or slightly different ones this time next year and possibly the year after that.  Oh, things will get measurably better as time goes by, and hopefully noticeably better soon, but all these problems can't possibly be worked out so that those determined to bitch and moan can't find anything to whine about.

      "In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican." - H. L. Mencken

      by SueDe on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 10:56:34 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Captain Kirk VS GOP (5+ / 0-)

    PLEASE donate to a global children's PEACE project: Chalk 4 Peace

    by RumsfeldResign on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 07:24:56 PM PST

  •  OTOH, as Kasparov tweeted, (10+ / 0-)

    it's a tactical error to bring attention to your enemy's flaws when they can be fixed.

    This will blow over.

    Code Monkey like freedom / Code Monkey like peace and justice too
    Code Monkey very nerdy man / With big warm fuzzy bleeding heart
    Code Monkey like you!

    Formerly known as Jyrinx.

    by Code Monkey on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 07:25:50 PM PST

  •  It's also a matter of priorities (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NYmom, Sue B, Fury, Subterranean

    If the same expenses, talent, attention to detail, and brutal efficiency that get applied to weaponized technology had been applied to this health-care technology, I'm sure the healthcare.gov rollout would've been much different.

    The issues that are all but ignored eventually come home to roost.

  •  I would guess other reasons (6+ / 0-)

    why healthcare.gov is having problems. My guesses the main problems were time, antiquated technology, and scale.

    At Daily Kos, we're lucky that we don't often have to develop against deadlines. The best answer for when a software project will be done is "when it's finished." This may be impossible for some projects, but with software, it really does take time, no matter how many developers are on the project or how much money you throw at it. Having to develop against a deadline is often a recipe for disaster in itself.

    Second, I'm sure that the various services that healthcare.gov needs to connect with are not using the latest and greatest technology. Trying to use the DMV website here in California was so horrible that I think I'm going to give up and actually go to the DMV, as terrible as that experience is. Healthcare.gov has to coordinate these services, and I'm sure the methods for accessing them is torturous. There are also concerns about the security of the information, especially since healthcare.gov could be a magnet for hackers. The folks who built the website, as far as I know, were not Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, but companies that typically get government contracts for software. So don't blame Silicon Valley, at least not yet!

    Finally, in Silicon Valley, we know how to scale websites. Even when they go through phenomenal growth, we're able to scale things up quickly. But the kinds of contractors who build government websites aren't used to the kind of scale we usually work at, and they had the added problem of having to scale up for a huge amount of traffic from day one. We usually have a chance to build up to that, even if the growth is exponential at times. At Daily Kos, we had about as many uniques during the 2012 election as healthcare.gov had on its first day, but we were able to manage the traffic because we'd been preparing for months.

    So, the problem isn't with software development, the problem is with the way this software was developed. The government just isn't used to building websites at scale with the latest technologies. Sure, the software is complex, but the software that runs Daily Kos is pretty darn complex too. If things had been handed off to Silicon Valley companies, there would certainly have still been problems, but we might have done a bit better.

    •  Yes, the big switch was a problem (0+ / 0-)

      Why didn't they do a phased implementation?
      Pretty risky if you ask me.
      Database tuning is difficult but test programs can drive high volumes in testing.  

      But as others have said, it's fixable.

      Even Democrats can be asses. Look at Rahm Emanuel.

      by Helpless on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 08:34:18 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The specs probably required (4+ / 0-)

        that the rolled it out everywhere at once. That's another problem: when your client wants something unrealistic, as a developer, you should push back. But it's hard to push back when you are in a bidding process for the work. I would guess that kind of process leads you to promise things you shouldn't.

        But yes, it's fixable, and the website isn't the ACA, as others have pointed out. I think there are lessons to be learned here, though, and I hope they are. Technology combined with government holds the promise of helping to facilitate many positive changes in our society, and I think we need to make sure that we do those things as well as we can in the future.

  •  You Don't Have to Go Live w Entire Nation. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Notreadytobenice, patbahn, LordMike

    The drivers' license bureau knows that much. They could've limited it to quarters of the population 2 weeks at a time; the load issues would've been 75% less.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 07:34:54 PM PST

    •  Like the lady said... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LordMike, 417els

      no one was actually in charge.  Of course, when the program manager of the Mass. plan declined the invitation to support ACA and the Rethuglicans refused additional funds to create a real program mgr structure, the result was a foregone conclusion.

      See Bill Moyers vid on "apologies" demanded by Rethugs for the ACA rollout.  the Mission Accomplished flag is in the last frames, just to drive his point home.

      http://billmoyers.com/...

      “Ten people who speak make more noise than ten thousand who are silent.”

      by frenchy339 on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 08:09:55 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Par for the course (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Notreadytobenice, ferg

    Big benefits systems always have big problems.  They take years to develop and may never work.  In my seven years in insurance home offices, we were always working on big systems that in my time were not implemented.

    In insurance home offices it is understood that the marketing people start selling the policies before the administrators have developed the software to process the premiums.

    Competent professional firms do not bid on developing these large systems because of the reputational risk.

  •  My experience with Verizon fits into the (5+ / 0-)

    examples of for-profit company launch failures. 3 years ago, we got a good deal on FIOS by having land-lines, TV & internet together. We were supposed to get even more discount by combining our wireless account with the rest.
    Verizon couldn't do it. The people at the Verizon store (the official store with Verizon employees) couldn't do it. The people on the phone couldn't do it. The people on the website couldn't do it. They suggested waiting until the kinks were out.
    Well I started planning getting rid of TV service from Verizon recently, which would leave me with only 2 services in my "bundle" and a lesser discount. So I asked again about combining my wireless service. And I was told (by a Verizon store employee and again by a customer service person on the phone) that they had given up on that program. This big rich company was never able to figure out how to merge there wireless billing with their other billing.

    While Democrats work to get more people to vote, Republicans work to ensure those votes won't count.

    by Tamar on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 07:39:05 PM PST

  •  I've wanted to weigh in on this for a month (27+ / 0-)

    ...but have held my fire.

    In my IT career, I've been involved in many major IT upgrades and roll outs.  This includes both internal step changes (SAP, three implementations) and countless website launches.

    There is no such thing as seamless in the IT world.  Even in internal corporate IT, something as seemingly simple as upgrading password security protocols is fraught with problems.  Force a user to include a special character in their password - and watch what happens, not only in establishing that password, but the implications through all applications that the user accesses on a daily basis, even if your company has a single sign on application that is suppose to synch across all enterprise applications.  It's a joke.

    To expect that a major app such as healthcare.gov to roll without any issues, or failure to interface with the many, many agencies that have to be tied in for it to work, is absolutely ludicrous on day one (or day 30).

    I am a veteran.  It took literally years for the Veterans Administration to get ebenefits.va.gov to function in a way that met the many variations of needs that veterans required, for both healthcare access and submitting disability claims, as well tracking the access of those claims.  Even today, someone as tech savvy as myself can be flummoxed trying to navigate the site, order prescriptions, or track the course of a claim.

    The entire healthcare.gov debacle is, in my mind as developer and a user, a tempest in a teapot.  It will be fixed.  It will provide the information that was intended.  And it will ultimately be a success, despite the GOP harpies who want to see it fail.

    ACA is here.  It will benefit tens of millions of Americans.

    And that's precisely what the GOP is scared to death of - that the boogeyman they're bitching about right now will, at the end of the day, be so successful that they'll look like doddering technology fools.

    Which they are.

    UID: 14791 Join Date: 7/7/2004 Status: Lifetime member Mojo: nearly infinite Any questions?

    by Richard Cranium on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 07:44:37 PM PST

  •  Once worked for an insurance company (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Aunt Pat, LordMike

    that rolled out a new claims system without keeping the old one around just in case (the programmers guaranteed the new system would work?!)  Of course it was a disaster - it was a big factor in why the company went bankrupt a couple years later and it killed two people (one staff IT quy who had a heart attack from the stress, and a woman who took melatonin to sleep and got a tainted batch that poisoned her.)

  •  If Google "worked"... (0+ / 0-)

    If Google "worked well", how would you know?

    I think a lot of folks would beg to differ that in fact Google is no exception to the rule that "most of this crap doesn't work at all...."

  •  No shit, and its not only software, All kinds of (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RadGal70, Notreadytobenice

    complex systems go to hell in a hurry. I've see things, terrible things, happen to just moderately complex stuff; and even simple stuff (I was in manufacturing, mostly) goes to hell in a handbasket if people don't pay attention.

    Those who quote Santayana are condemned to repeat him. Me

    by Mark B on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 07:50:29 PM PST

    •  Even if people pay attention (0+ / 0-)

      but don't understand instructions or just don't pay attention to what they're doing, even if the app works well, they will end up in the weeds and blame the program.  For the general public to use any app, any system, it has to be built for five-year-olds.  Sometimes the best technology is the oldest technology - the one most people understand - a telephone.  Or even a face-to-face meeting with a real person.  That's why the refusal of Republicans to adequately fund these avenues to signing up for the ACA is particularly odious.

      "In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican." - H. L. Mencken

      by SueDe on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 11:14:16 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Testing and manual/help writing (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ferg, Notreadytobenice

    These two things always are put off to the last minute and always get slighted, was my experience in a former life in Silicon Valley.

    This is a very complicated system with many calls to outside legacy systems. Unfortunately the beta is happening now. But it almost could hardly have been elsewise, give the necessity of keeping it all away from spying Republican nitpickers during development

    The Washington Post has a really good but kind of sad major article about the development program and the people at the top of the project on the government side.

    It is fixable. The ACA will make a big difference for the better for a lot of people.

    •  manual/help writing? This layman's experience... (0+ / 0-)

      has been all tech manuals are written by those who have taken advanced bad-writing courses.

      •  No, not all of them (5+ / 0-)

        Many manuals, and sometimes also the user help systems, are written by software engineers themselves, who are given this task because it is assumed they are the ones with the technical knowledge, so who else could do it? And many companies don't see a value in hiring professional tech writers who can translate into non-technical terms for non-engineers and make the documentation useful from a user prospective.

        And it's true I have to admit that many technical writers are bad writers or are lazy and produce crappy work. Because they can, everyone accepts that documentation sucks and no one reads it anyway so why bother?

        But there are also some excellent tech writers out there, people who work hard to produce well-written, clear documentation, help with testing and improve functional design, interface design, even sometimes writing error messages that have meaning. Usually though, the manual is getting slapped together in the last days before ship date, and we are busy mostly writing release notes documenting what we know is broken and any workarounds we might have to suggest, with promises to fix it asap, with an update or patch that will be coming soon. This is business as usual.

        Ideally software should be so good, with a logical interface, streamlined functional design and seamless performance so reliable that the user never needs to read a manual. This never has been and never will be reality though. Apple has gotten closer to that with some of it's recent products. A few other companies are getting there too. But I think broken software and glitchy rollouts are essentially unavoidable, from what I have seen in my 20+ years in the field. The bad documentation is just one symptom of the basic problems inherent in the process: complex technical work + changing requirements + deadlines = bad software, bad documentation, and constant updates.  

        •  Thanks for the deep background on the... (0+ / 0-)

          wonderful world of technical writing. Perhaps t'is true that "nobody reads it anyway."

          When in a pinch I'll resort to user's guides which (IMO) are given low priority by management.

          My good news is calling upon help-desk type resources gets questions readily answered. Maybe that's why a lot of technical writers take "bad writing" classes? Requires a lot more techs to work the phone lines than to write one user's guide.

          Nowadays, help videos have been a great resource and they are available 24/7.

          Entertaining too when IT departments are tasked with the production.

      •  That's a pretty sweeping damnation, (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Notreadytobenice, VA gentlewoman

        Notreadytobenice.  I spent 15 years as a documentation specialist, as an independent contractor, and I was able to convince the companies that hired me to do so specifically because I was not a programmer, could not write code and had no desire to learn to do so.  I wrote manuals, quick reference guides, admin manuals and educational materials for users and administrators in simple English with step-by-step instructions that were easy to understand.  Help desks loved me.

        I had to meet with programmers and have them walk me through programs step-by-step while I made intentional mistakes and learned to back out of those mistakes or get around them.  Many times both of us became frustrated with the process, but better us than users.  Often I had to stop them and remind them to talk to me like a child because I didn't understand their language.  But it was worth our time and effort because it reduced the time and effort and stress the end users had to deal with.

        "In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican." - H. L. Mencken

        by SueDe on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 11:25:52 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  So when should we expect it to work? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Notreadytobenice

    We don't have a lot of time.

    It was poorly tested. If tested at all.

    What is so unnerving about the candidacy of Sarah Palin is the degree to which she represents—and her supporters celebrate—the joyful marriage of confidence and ignorance. SAM HARRIS

    by Cpqemp on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 08:01:29 PM PST

  •  The Tech is only part of it (9+ / 0-)

    I build web infrastructure for a living.  My dictum is you can have it fast, good, or cheap.  Pick two.  I've never had management make the choice.  The implicit choice is fast and cheap but they assume they get good as well.  Actually not.  Project managers always have incentive to not report serious technical problems because it reflects on the own skills.  What usually happens is that testing gets shorted and the scope of the project is stunted to meet the deadline.  If you're lucky follow on changes will make it usable.

    There's a whole constellation of special issues working with government contracting and systems.  The diffused accountability of the various contractors is another organizational weakness.  Because of the visibility they'll eventually get it working reasonably.  I would have been surprised if the site had worked well given its short funding and the complexity of the policy and underlying business rules of the ACA.

    Ironically, the success of the OFA website with it's tight control, technical expertise, and accountable management probably made the failure of the government ACA site more glaring.  Everyone thought Obama was some sort of web hosting wizard.  There's nothing really magical about a website.  It's only as good as the organization, resources, and management behind it.  

    And the Republicans did everything they could to hamstring the effort by refusing to build the state level exchanges, which have worked much better and being obstructionists at every step.  It would have been nice if the Obama Administration had been a bit more aggressive in the bureaucratic trenches.  But it's important to note that the website really is just for the minority of folks in the individual market.  Unfortunately it's the part with the highest visibility.  

    •  Absolutely true: (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elfling
      And the Republicans did everything they could to hamstring the effort by refusing to build the state level exchanges, which have worked much better and being obstructionists at every step.
      I live in one of those states. The governor here, Corbett, even refused to expand Medicaid, even with federal funding to do so.

      Corbett's ass is probably grass next year: his polling numbers are abysmal (as well they should be) but meanwhile he and his teahadist policies have hurt hundreds of thousands of PA residents...if not millions.

      Irony takes a worse beating from Republicans than Wile E. Coyote does from Acme. --Tara the Antisocial Social Worker

      by Youffraita on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 01:04:09 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is not complex system programming. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Notreadytobenice, jmnyc

    That's a pure myth. Let me give some background, we run an entire virtual world with user generated content being uploaded (the last stats I had were 11.9Mb per second for uploads onto our servers). We run close to 30 servers to handle assets (things you see in the world), the actual simulations (the actual world you log into), the individuals' inventory (the stuff each user has in their private inventory).

    That being said, we use the same technology that Twitter and Facebook use for data and data retrieval, Cassandra NoSQL, it's pretty painless, keeps high availability(which the government site obviously needs) and is fast.

    For this type of website, storage of emails, names, ssn's (which requires PCI compliance), addresses and then a breakout of what is available to them based on that information? That's light. Period. We're not talking a site that is feeding news or tweets or updates from your friends every second.

    The reasoning for this massive incompetence, from a perspective of someone who understands the workload, is beyond comprehension.

    There is also a thing called unit testing in software, and our devs employ that often. It basically means getting a few people to use, then examine the metrics, multiply it by intended load and calculate if the systems can handle it. This was obviously not done, although that was not the major reason for it's failure on rollout. THAT I would have expected, the garbage code is not what I would have expected.

    It is every person's obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what they takes out of it. - Albert Einstein (edited for modern times to include everyone by me!)

    by LeftieIndie on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 08:28:04 PM PST

    •  Put you are interacting with legacy systems... (7+ / 0-)

      ...some of which are running code from the 1960's with hardware architectures to boot.  Interfacing with that kind of stuff is extremely difficult.  IBM never intended for JCL to interact with HTML.

      GODSPEED TO THE WISCONSIN FOURTEEN!

      by LordMike on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 08:38:45 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Exactly (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        EastcoastChick, malharden, Kane in CA

        Very tired of hearing how easy this is when it is actually very complicated.

      •  Why would you even think (0+ / 0-)

        that you could run websites off 60's hardware? You can't, they can't even begin to comprehend js (which is a mainstay of the website, it's what makes it function so well). We're not talking the necessity of mainframes here, we're talking very simple webservers with a farm behind it that holds the data. This is not expensive (well, unless you are the government who has no need to really bid out work at the real cost companies pay out) stuff, it's relatively economical to be blunt. Our government is not as behind the times as one might think... proof positive with the NSA and it's abilities. I will also point out that the Social Security sites, which actually hold a whole lot more data than healthcare.gov function quite well, and in fact with really minor issues, rolled out quite well.

        It is every person's obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what they takes out of it. - Albert Einstein (edited for modern times to include everyone by me!)

        by LeftieIndie on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 09:55:46 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  I disagree (8+ / 0-)

      healthcare.gov is incredibly complex programming and system interface.  I will be the first to concede that the rollout on 10/1 was flawed, and continues to have flaws.  But I don't think that was necessarily the fault of the programming team.

      If you've ever been involved in a large scale technology implementation, you are well aware of the importance of engaging all stakeholders in mapping interfaces and the need for flawless interface with systems beyond your control.

      The integration rarely, rarely (if ever) happens on the day of 'go live'.  

      That's what the healthcare.gov team is dealing with right now.

      You can bring in all the experts in the world to solve the problems, but if any one of the constellation of dependent system operators chooses (overtly or by sheer laziness) to be less than cooperative, the entire enterprise fails.

      In the "lessons learned" analysis of healthcare.gov issues, I believe that more than a few bad actors will be identified who had a vested interest in seeing the project fail.

      UID: 14791 Join Date: 7/7/2004 Status: Lifetime member Mojo: nearly infinite Any questions?

      by Richard Cranium on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 08:49:44 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ain't going to happen. Nobody goes to jail... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Subterranean

        Nobody gets fired. Past precedents.

        Very informative comment, Mr. Cranium.

      •  No it's not, in this case, the website is (0+ / 0-)

        actually taking your information, storing it, then giving you the best options for you to buy. Let's think here what it really does:

        1. Gets your name, address, email address, ssn, and income.
        2. Calculates whether or not you qualify for subsidy, which is done via javascript and anyone can see that by looking at the libraries the page is calling.
        3. Once it's figured out if you qualify or not, it then loads in the options of insurance you have and the subsidies which are already stored in the system, based on your zip code.

        That is the core front end, and where it failed at massively. People like myself, it failed on the email address storage, it failed on recalling who I was, failed on passwords. These are stupid mistakes, and was not due to overload on the systems.

        All the "beauty" of the interface is really done by javascript, we use it extensively in our website which makes life so much easier for the user, and for us to be blunt. And there's quite a few libraries they are using. And if anyone tries to tell me that they "wrote" their own JS libraries, I will call BS, because most of that is public domain that just needs refining.

        In other words, the contractor who did this, failed. Epic. Which should not be of any surprise given who the contractor was.

        It is every person's obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what they takes out of it. - Albert Einstein (edited for modern times to include everyone by me!)

        by LeftieIndie on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 10:01:19 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  You had the luxury (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      malharden, Subterranean, elfling

      of designing a fairly complicated system from the ground up. Your databases were populated directly by users signing up, not from pre-existing databases. 90% of IT isn't like that; you're constrained by the existing systems that you have to build on.

      Creating a better mousetrap isn't all that hard when you get to change the specs for the mouse.

      Personally, as a physician, I would be very concerned at a child becoming febrile after having ingested bleach or had it shot up his rectum—Orac (Respectful Insolence)

      by ebohlman on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 11:54:24 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I bet you don't have many gamers running (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      malharden

      XP and trying to connect with IE6. Of course this type of user also has two or three root kits installed to make it more interesting...

      •  It's a lot worse than that (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Andrew F Cockburn, malharden

        it's not connecting with IE6. It's more like connecting with DOS, except even worse. The questions for SS/Name verification? They come from the IRS. That's the only agency in the federal government that would have the info necessary to formulate those questions. The IRS system is ancient legacy. COBOL. And there are what? Like 7 still living COBOL programmers?

        •  I helped set up a web site for our university (0+ / 0-)

          several years ago. We didn't have any trouble with the students connecting, but the professors were terrible. Yes , we had some running DOS who didn't understand why we didn't support Mosaic. After all, if it was good enough to access their bank accounts and porn sites, why couldn't we support it?

  •  What HHS needs is the ultimate computer... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Notreadytobenice

    The M5 multitronic unit.  Is Dr. Daystrom available?

    GODSPEED TO THE WISCONSIN FOURTEEN!

    by LordMike on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 09:01:11 PM PST

  •  my weed-whacker stopped working yesterday (0+ / 0-)

    it cost about $100 two years ago. I cut my lawn and garden, my step-daughter's yard, her neighbors' yards, basically ran the piss out of it for two years. Some of them paid me for it, some was just a gift.

    I bought a better one today for $139. I'm not complaining.

    This Rover crossed over.. Willie Nelson, written by Dorothy Fields

    by Karl Rover on Sun Nov 03, 2013 at 09:22:42 PM PST

  •  Theoretically (0+ / 0-)

    Expecting an arbitrarily complex computer system -- healthcare.gov seems to fit the bill -- to run without error the first time is essentially equivalent to expecting an answer to the Halting Problem which is known to be intractable; one can't know it wont work until it doesn't.

  •  Not all of Google's projects are very successful (0+ / 0-)
  •  I Am On the Front lines of the ACA Problems (4+ / 0-)

    In my role working for a regional Health system that is offering insurance products on the Fed Exchange,  I have also spent 20 yrs in healthcare and I have a fair amount of experience working to connect new technology with old legacy systems.  

    This is a very hard task made more complicated by the 50-100 legacy systems healthcare.gov must connect with between the Feds and the 34 states participating on it.  Any techie who tells you this was an easy job has no understanding of the number of interfaces or the age of the technology being used.  These systems are so old many are programmed in Cobalt or similar languages.  Think Y2K.  I have also built new technology which is either standalone or connects with similar new technology and that is a much simpler task.

    The Obama Admin made a big mistake waiting until after the election to begin this programming until after the election.  I understand why they did it but they tried to cram an 18 month job into 10 months which is largely why we are where we are.

    My biggest worry about the fixes to the website is I am concerned they don't have the right people on it.  Based on my experience, I would expect Microsoft, Oracle or SAP to be deeply involved since these companies built most of the translation software used to get older technology to communicate with web and mobile.  The fact I haven't heard about any of these 3 being involved has me worried.

  •  Requirements were too high... (3+ / 0-)

    As far as IT projects go this has got to be one of the roughest I would say.

    Every citizen is your customer.
    Every insurance provider with a plan is your product base.
    Every insurance plan is formatted differently and constantly being revised.
    Customer pricing varies according to state, income, and household size among things.
    Income verification needs to be verified with the IRS database.

    Then add in all those likely idiotic additional requirements that the GOP threw in covering citizenship and you get one truly monstrous undertaking.

    The fact is that they bit off more than they could chew. Even mortgage companies figured out a long time ago that they couldn't actually verify everything at the time you signed up with them. It would take days or weeks of processing for the numbers you supplied to be validated or corrected. And that is even with you having all the information available at the time. Most Americans don't have all the documentation at their fingertips that these people required. We are all just working ourselves to the bone everyday trying to make a living and don't have time to file everything away neatly.

    It sounds like the upcoming changes they are going to make will decouple many of the issues we have been seeing.

    For instance,
    - Allowing people to browse or view all plans with estimates on cost without having to register first.
    - Taking income verification and other database validation offline so as to speed up initial online processing.

    The bottom line is you can't do everything, for everyone, in real-time, online. Even these days it's too high a hurdle to jump.

    (Now add in all the GOP FUBARS that were likely added into the website requirements and you will get a good picture of why this happened.)

    "I think it's the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately." -- George Carlin, Satirical Comic,(1937-2008)

    by Wynter on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 02:18:25 AM PST

    •  Good Points (0+ / 0-)

      One thing - Insurance plan data submission is standard and changes can only be submitted once a year so that is not such a big issue.

    •  obviously some fundamentals were ignored (0+ / 0-)

      like building a system based on common APIs across the board.
      A customer is a customer regardless of what phase your in..
      income is income , a lot of static data meets a dynamic table.
      what do you want to pay for .

      I would have payed for big picture design , specs and APIs.
      regardless of where the APIs running on national; or state servers the data collection is the same.

      Hardware (servers) and security software also play critical roles in a web site implementation.

      Here's a fundamental .

                  KISS (KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID)

      Keep It Real Folks
       

  •  You answered your own question. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    malharden

    "Do these clowns really not pay attention to how complex networked software and websites produced by these same tech pioneers often behave when first activated?"

    They really don't; then they act all offended when you point out to them that the evidence was in front of them all the time.

    I want to live in a civil society. Political compass: -7.88, -5.08

    by dragonwerx on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 02:50:02 AM PST

  •  psst (0+ / 0-)

    in the Star Trek verse NOMAD probably WAS built in the Silicon Valley.

    Dawkins is to atheism as Rand is to personal responsibility- mperiousRex.

    by terrypinder on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 04:34:58 AM PST

  •  It will get fixed, although there was a lot of (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mdetrano, malharden

    hubris in the admin and a poor messaging strategy to handle the issues that everybody knew was coming.

  •  Lack of Transparency bites OBAMA again (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Subterranean

    THis time it bites him , and he's right to be upset.

    I wouldn't equate this software to interactive games Diablo or World of WarCraft. This software by nature is more of a questionnaire  or testing (exam) software.

    Roll-out testing was clearly left to the "other" guys. When no one had the ball , it failed.

    RED State traffic  (where ACA will have it's biggest impact to improve peoples health) was directed to the national web site, when the PARTY-OF-NO rejected their responsibility adding pressure to the national site. This should have been planned for (the PARTY-OF-NO was communicating CLEARLY)

    I coded for a bank during Y2k (planning for this event 2 years , coding for the event 1 year) and the EURO conversion (planning and coding 1 year). Lots of testing , TONS of reporting (transparency).

    The Site is going to be fixed and folks will finally have access to affordable plans to inprove the quality of our health.
    I'm all for that.

    But. OBAMA gets a taste of what his base has been getting since his election.
    A LACK OF TRANSPARENCY

    Keep It Real Folks

     

  •  Including Silicon Valley Rep. Anna Eshoo (D) (0+ / 0-)
    there's no legit reason for progressives in the media or elsewhere to lend them a helping hand or act shocked that complex website had startup glitches.
      One would think that the congresscritter from SV would have a better understanding of the history of dot coms and IT software.  But she's been jumping on the bandwagon of (selective memory) criticism of the ACA website, claiming sites like Amazon don't have problems with massive traffic.  How soon she's forgotten the early days of such websites.  What an idiot.  Worse, she's my idiot Rep.

    My Karma just ran over your Dogma

    by FoundingFatherDAR on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 10:44:51 AM PST

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