walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Define "failure"

I got a degree in Computer Science. It was an undergrad degree, not an advanced degree, but it was from a Pretty Good School (University of Washington). I had decent grades. I worked in the field for a few years and then retired, so my actual, personal experience is a little limited, but I read. A lot. I've been reading about how various large software projects went since the mid 1980s, when I was reading my sister's CompSci textbooks (she got the same undergrad degree I did, altho 7 years earlier, and then she got a Master's at MIT, overlapping there with my now-husband, while he was an undergrad. As near as we can tell, they never met). So I have a Pretty Good Idea about what Failure in a big software project looks like. I've participated in some.

The rollout of the exchanges for the Affordable Care Act is _NOT_ a failure. It happened on time. People have been able to get the software to eventually produce what it is supposed to produce (let them create an account, research, and even sign up for a policy -- not clear on whether payment is working yet or not). Calling this a "Failure" is Being a Jackass.

All right. I'm done with being an Old Fogey for now. Kids these days. Don't know what a Failure really looks like.

Here's Ezra Klein being an absolute idiot on the subject. He's too young to have any clue, plus no real experience in the industry:


He quotes this guy:


Me, I'm impressed anything is getting through. I know perfectly well what happens when transactions are large and unwieldy and difficult to encapsulate (which is definitely the case here). I could get into ridiculous detail about stuff I've seen go wrong -- just as a customer -- with Disney's ticketing and reservations systems (both at the parks and at lodging). If they cannot fix these problems, there is trouble. But having this kind of trouble at the start?


ETA: Wow. I thought the above coverage was bad. This is _pathetic_.


"One highly unusual decision, reached early in the project, proved critical: the Medicare and Medicaid agency assumed the role of project quarterback, responsible for making sure each separately designed database and piece of software worked with the others, instead of assigning that task to a lead contractor."

For the win! I am not being sarcastic. _This is why it actually rolled out_, like, ever, rather than dying a horrible death years overdue and a billion dollars over budget. You _cannot_ outsource co-ordination. And everyone who tries to do so discovers why that doesn't work the hard way. So writing an NYT piece about why this was the source of some relatively unimportant problems is ... well, I guess that's just what we have to expect from people who have avoided technology as much as humanly possible for as long as humanly possible.

I'm increasingly suspicious that the carriers who are predominantly interacting with the federal system are carriers who themselves have created minimal customer-facing technology. They have no experience with it, so their first experience strikes them as horrifyingly bad. Once you've been a few rounds on this stuff, you sort of get used to it, and expect the Badness.

There's some sort of tech virgin joke here. I'm going to not actually make it, because whatever you come up with will be funnier than anything I'm coming up with.
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