Must See TV: Congressional Hearings on healthcare.gov issues

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Following upon my earlier post about the problems with healthcare.gov, Twitter follower ‏@lukeoreilly sent me a link to a great article: Notes and Translations for the New York Times coverage of healthcare.gov software.  It’s totally worth a read, though my favorite part was this:

“Nevertheless, disarray has distinguished the project. In the last 10 months alone, [...] officials modified hardware and software requirements for the exchange seven times. It went live on Oct. 1 before the government and contractors had fully tested the complete system. Delays by the government in issuing specifications for the system reduced the time available for testing.”

Now this really makes me want to cry, because this is going to be the crux of the matter when the Congressional Committees grill the contractors. It is not going to be pretty. There is going to be a lot of drill-down on matters that the contractors have a hard time explaining, and the committee members are going to have a hard time understanding. It is going to be extremely tedious television, I assure you.

As someone who has spent a lot of time squirming in a chair trying to explain why some software project was off schedule, I cannot wait to watch those hearings.  Full on Train Wreck TV™.

Look: some of the very best minds I know have completely given up on attempting to create accurate schedules for software development.  It’s not like building a house where we have several thousands of years of experience with construction practices and timelines.  The discipline is just too new, and the technology is changing too rapidly.

Think about it: our government has standardized building codes for how to construct a house….that’s how well we understand home construction, to the point where we can codify it!  Nobody has that for software development.  Ask 3 engineers how to build any given software, and you’ll get 5 opinions.

Coming soon on Train Wreck TV™: Congressional Hearings on Healtcare.gov!!  I can’t wait!

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October 22nd, 2013 at 11:29 am

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How predictable were the problems with Healthcare.gov?

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If you read this blog, I have never kept my political inclinations a secret.  Since the early-mid 2000′s I’ve increasingly become more of a liberal…to the point where I’m practically a socialist these days.  (Dear NSA analyist reading this: I’m not really a socialist, and even if I were, that’s not a crime.)  So, it’s no surprise that I’m a big supporter of Obamacare.

But, when I read this about the problems surrounding healthcare.gov, I had to laugh:

One specialist said that as many as five million lines of software code may need to be rewritten before the Web site runs properly.

Show me a web site with five million lines of code and I’ll show you a recipe for disaster.

Look, in the long run, it’s all going to work out.  Even well-designed software has problems, and fixing those problems is fairly mechanical: identify the issues, make a list, prioritize the list and work through the issues.  It might take a little time, and the teams working on it might be a little stressed right now, but any software development professional can tell you this is fairly routine.

Frankly, to me, it was no surprise that healthcare.gov was a mess at launch.  And, I bet that 4 out of 5 people who have been building web sites professionally would agree.  I mean, I could see this debacle coming from a mile a way…just do the math:

Multiple outsourced contractors
+ government spec’d project
+ waterfall-style development process
+ an eagerly anticipated launch
+ to an enormous audience 
= Guaranteed Fiasco

Seriously, for those of us who run iterative, Agile-style development processes with private betas and plenty of user testing…50% of the time we make mistakes.  For people to expect anything less than what’s currently happening with healthcare.gov…well, that was just completely unrealistic.

So, you know what, chillax…give it time.  In a few months, the software will have the bugs worked out.  The web site will be easy to use.  People will find great insurance at a great price.  And, in just a few years, we’ll have people saying “Keep your government hands off my Obamacare!

 

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October 22nd, 2013 at 9:36 am

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Aaaaaaaand, we’re back!

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Aaaaaaaand, we’re back!

The last time I posted here was the last day of school, and prior to that I had decided that I was going to take the summer off from writing. There was just a lot going on in my life, and I needed a break.

Amongst other stresses, I was struggling with parenting.  As my kids have gotten older (they’re 8 and 11, now) they’ve become more independent and assertive, naturally, and let’s just say that I was not endowed by my creator with an endless fountain of patience.  About 97% of parenting is modeling, and frequently I don’t model very well. I’m trying hard to be more patient and let them make their own decisions and mistakes.

Nevertheless, my older son is extremely enthusiastic about technology, and this summer he set a goal of building and shipping an iOS app to the App Store before he went back to school.  He worked very hard, and it was an amazing experience. I gave him a few pointers here and there when he got stuck, but honest to goodness, 99% of the work he did on his own and met his goal!

As an extremely proud father, I present to you Kinoki. It’s a math puzzle game which he wrote entirely himself in Objective-C.  (Not only would he appreciate your shares, he’d be thrilled to tears if you downloaded the app, left a 5-star review on the app store, and sent him some feedback through the app.)

Then, as the summer wore on, I was deeply reminded of my own mortality.  I had a close friend pass away after a year long fight with cancer.  I am lucky to have two grandparents still alive, both in their 90′s, but less and less able to care for themselves, so I spent a lot of time caring for them.  And, finally, I turned 40 and visited my doctor for a check-up because it had been years; he gave me a very stern talking to: eat right and exercise or you’re going to die young.

“How you take care of yourself for next 10 years of your life will determine whether or not you’re dancing at your kids weddings”, he said.

So, yeah, mortality was on my mind this summer.

And, then, when I wanted to get back to writing I had genuine writers block.  I told myself that I’d start writing again when school started.  But, I didn’t know what I wanted to write about, I didn’t know what to say.  The topics I’d written about previously…mostly work stuff…didn’t seem all that relevant given where my head was at this summer.

Plus, there were some new things going on that were taking my time.  In addition to my day job at Rover.com, I was working on a side project in the local Seattle music, arts and entertainment scene which I’ve only started to pull the covers back on in the last week.  (Shameless plug: we’re hiring!  Check out http://spazindustries.com.)

And, I’ve started to take on some new responsibilities at Rover by taking a more formal role leading our demand generation and marketing activities—which is both exciting and scary, and something I’m sure to be writing about more soon.

So, that’s what’s up and where I’ve been.  I’m glad to be back and hope to be more consistent here again.

Keep in touch!

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October 21st, 2013 at 9:25 am

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INME: School’s Out

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Children feel many intense emotions, but there are two feelings that nearly all of us share and can remember as adults: the eager, nervous excitement of the first day of school and the jubilant emancipation of the last.

Today, was the last day of school for my kids, and I drive my kids to school every day, then head in to my office.  The drive takes about 15-20 minutes, and in order to avoid fights between them about what we’re going to listen to on the ride I have previously declared myself The Absolute Dictator of the Radio.  I introduced them to Alice Cooper today.

As I watched this video I noted just how bad Alice Cooper is: not only does he pop a balloon, the chaotic and climatic ending is punctuated with bubbles!

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June 14th, 2013 at 9:19 am

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INME: Minus the Bear

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I’ve liked Minus the Bear for awhile now…just something catchy about their sound.  I was pleased to find out they’ll be playing a music festival north of Seattle this summer.

 

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June 7th, 2013 at 8:42 am

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INME Friday: Frank Zappa does Stairway to Heaven

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You may not like Zappa, and you may think Stairway to Heaven has jumped the shark, but trust me, this is worth a listen.

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May 31st, 2013 at 10:55 am

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Phone Interview Tips

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A friend of mine sent a message to an handful of friends today:

I got my first phone interview lined up and I’ve never done this before. I would love some pro-tips on making it successful.

I’m not sure if these are actually pro-tips, but here’s what I offered:

1. Have a piece of paper and pen in front of you.

2. Take a moment to think before answering.

3. Don’t be afraid to respond to their question with a probing, clarifying quesiton…so that you can answer it more in line with what they want.

4.  Be yourself, you’re awesome as you are!

What would you have suggested?

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May 28th, 2013 at 5:26 pm

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INME Friday: Sasquatch

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May 24th, 2013 at 9:29 am

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What is Water?

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May 23rd, 2013 at 7:36 am

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How to Write a Story in Elementary School

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I really enjoyed reading Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, and a central part of that book is Miller learning about the structure of a story.  In the book, Miller attends Robert McKee’s “Story” seminar in LA where he learns the essential structure of a story: a story is about a character who wants something and must overcome obstacles to get it.

I reminded of all that today when I saw this in my son’s 2nd grade classroom:

story

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May 22nd, 2013 at 9:31 am

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