I apologise for turning this into the HealthCare.Gov train-wreck site, but it's such a material-rich environment that I can't help myself.
Today the US government Health and Human Services department issued a statement on what they are doing to fix HealthCare.Gov:
To ensure that we make swift progress, and that the consumer experience continues to improve, our team has called in additional help to solve some of the more complex technical issues we are encountering.Interesting. I wonder in particular who from inside government is going to lend their expertise to this disaster-in-motion of software mis-engineering?
Our team is bringing in some of the best and brightest from both inside and outside government to scrub in with the team and help improve HealthCare.gov.
We are also defining new test processes to prevent new issues from cropping up as we improve the overall service and deploying fixes to the site during off-peak hours on a regular basis.I really hope that this is a PR writer mis-understanding what she was told. You can't generally prevent new issues from cropping up from your code changes, because you don't know what those issues might be. You can however make a good stab at preventing old issues by setting up regression tests, running cases based on past errors to verify that the errors do not re-occur. Perhaps that's not forward-looking enough for HHS, but the sad fact is that crystal balls have very limited utility in software engineering. You're far better to improve your existing monitoring and logging so that at least you can identify and characterise errors that are occurring now.
I liked Republican Senator John McCain's suggestion for how to fix things:
"Send Air Force One out to Silicon Valley, load it up with some smart people, bring them back to Washington, and fix this problem. It's ridiculous. And everybody knows that."The irony is that this is more or less what the Obama campaign did for the 2012 election campaign and it worked spectacularly well. If they'd done something similar for HealthCare.Gov, recruiting interested and motivated tech people from Silicon Valley (notoriously Democrat-heavy) to design and oversee the healthcare exchange, then quite possibly it would not have gone horrendously wrong. The problem now is that they are stuck with their existing design and implementation, and any redesign would necessarily trash most of their existing code and tests and require months of work to produce anything.
I'm reminded of the tourist in Ireland who asks a local how to get to Kilkenny, and the local responds "Ah well, if I wanted to get to get to Kilkenny, I wouldn't start from here."