HealthCare.gov In Three Images

So first my screen was all like…

And then it was all like…

BONUS typo in the error message!

And then I was all like…

Here’s something you should know: I.T. is not frigging rocket science. It’s no cakewalk to create a system for a nationwide program based on a law so complex no one who voted for it ever read it, but it’s something that can be done.

I saw Kathleen Sebelius comparing the site to Kayak.com, leaving out the key difference: Kayak works.

The problem is that the companies who have the skills to do the work and the companies who have the skills to navigate government bidding and contracting hurdles are not the same companies. The job goes to whatever political crony managed to manipulate the system more efficiently.

I imagine Mad PowerPoint Skillz, rather than programming expertise, had a lot to do with who landed the HealthCare.gov contract.

I assume the project was pieced out to various contractors, with poor communication and integration among the various players, all of it wrapped around a thick, neugoty center of government malfeasance and incompetence.

I read today that the site cost $634 million. Blizzard Software probably could have made three or four different World of Warcraft games, each integrating millions of users in a live, graphically rich, and dynamic online environment, for about about the same amount of money.  And that $634 million was well in excess of the $94 million it was supposed to cost.

There is no reason–none, zero, zip, zilch–that this system should not work. Improper load-testing is just not an excuse. All major website rollouts have load issues, and some have rocky rollouts. I’ve never seen any rollout, however, done this poorly.

It doesn’t help that, according to this story, the system appears to be performing harakiri every time someone logs in:

 One possible cause of the problems is that hitting “apply” on HealthCare.gov causes 92 separate files, plug-ins and other mammoth swarms of data to stream between the user’s computer and the servers powering the government website, said Matthew Hancock, an independent expert in website design. He was able to track the files being requested through a feature in the Firefox browser.

Of the 92 he found, 56 were JavaScript files, including plug-ins that make it easier for code to work on multiple browsers (such as Microsoft Corp’s Internet Explorer and Google Inc’s Chrome) and let users upload files to HealthCare.gov.

It is not clear why the upload function was included.

“They set up the website in such a way that too many requests to the server arrived at the same time,” Hancock said.

He said because so much traffic was going back and forth between the users’ computers and the server hosting the government website, it was as if the system was attacking itself.

Yes, you read that correctly: the site is performing DDOS (distributed denial of service) attacks on itself.

It’s almost like a performance art piece, emulating in code what this administration is doing to the country in reality: swamping us with endless amounts of meaningless actions that plague and fatigue us until we keel over dead.

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About Thomas L. McDonald

Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.


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