HEALTHCARE.GOV – TECH GLITCHES DISCUSSION
A huge shapeless mass is rising up from the primeval swamps, water dripping off its flanks, steam rising with its labored breathing, stumbling and flailing to find firm footing in the muck. It raises its head and blinks, clearing its vision, coughing and shuddering to life. Concerned, swarms of techbots are hovering over its hulk, inserting needle probes that elicit wild twitches, that sends them back to a safe distance, before coming in close again to inject code fixes, that cause various unforeseen tentacles to coil and write.
The hope and the vision is that it will gain in strength and coordination of its disparate parts, and rise completely out of the water, and stride confidently forward into a shining future.
This is what we find with the new healthcare.gov marketplace exchange. It is huge, it has to exchange information with thousands of disparate systems, it has to safeguard confidential information, it has to deliver.
Initial reports are of a glitch-ridden system. People are eager to sign up, but are stymied by slow system response and crashes. High ranking officials are hauled before impatient members of congress to testify. Swarms of tech people are deployed in a tech surge.
How could something that was to be the signature achievement of President Obama and his hip, tech-savvy team, start off in such an unpromising fashion? Is this not the same government that can send drones to remote regions to take out leading terrorists (how clean and surgical the strikes are is certainly open to debate)? Or that can listen in on the cell phone conversations of the most powerful leaders in the world? That can read a newspaper over your shoulder from a platform in low earth orbit?
We will talk about this huge system and what are the organizational and tech problems attendant on its birth. What can we learn from this problem? And we had better learn, because such systems are going to be unavoidable. Nothing small can deal with the solutions needed for 300 million people. I am sure that many of you who have dealt with project teams and complex systems will have thoughts and insights to contribute.
Madison PC Users Group will meet at 7 PM on Wednesday, November 13, 2013, at the Community Room of the Village Co-Housing Community, 1104 Mound Street, Madison, WI 53715, at the corner with Mills Street. This is in the Vilas neighborhood, a few blocks from Meriter Hospital. The Community Room is set back behind a large courtyard. Parking is available on the neighborhood streets, and also in the Meriter Hospital parking ramp. The New Users and Digital Photography sessions meet, very informally, at 6 PM; come and get your questions answered. More information at www.mpcug.com. Our general meetings are free and open to the public. All are welcome!