My previous post was about the misunderstanding of the “freedom of speech” clause in the First Amendment. That is, having the right to say something doesn’t shield you from the consequences of that speech. Which leads me to the title of this post, which is the famous first line in the Miranda warning that is a staple on every police show. It comes from the Fifth Amendment. Over the past few years of watching the blowback over various statements that have been made, as well as the counter-attacks attempting to mitigate the consequences under the “free speech” banner, I think that the “right to remain silent” is a much under appreciated (and necessary) right that some should be exercising. Yesterday was a sterling example, as the Justine Sacco fiasco took over Twitter.
Category Archives: Technology
One of the things I’ve been seeing in the news media, particularly stoked by various conservatives, is that the problems with the Healthcare.gov website means that the Affordable Care Act is bad. Obviously, one is the same as the other, or at least they’d like you to think so. One is a website, the other is a law. But since it’s tough – you know, to report real facts – to grasp, particularly when your level of understanding of technology amounts to “press button, get a cookie!”, they’d rather just keep going with that. In an effort to be helpful, I thought I’d give them some more examples they can use for their “total failure” conflation.
In previous posts about the Healthcare.gov website, I’ve been talking about how glitches are to be expected, because there’s a great deal of complexity “under the hood.” Most people never get to see what goes into a program, or even a web page. It’s not an issue of the age of the technology, it’s that it’s hard to make things appear “simple and easy.” Do it right, and everyone thinks it was easy, but to make it that way usually involves dealing with a lot of glitches. There’s often more “code” than “content” in many places.
In looking around the conservative commentary, as well as various other comments highlighted by various news media, I’ve been seeing a constant refrain of “it was built with 10-year-old technology!” with the strong connotations that it was “obsolete” and of course private business would never be caught out like that! One of the amusing (to me) comments was this one:
“I have never seen a website — in the last five years — require you to delete the cache in an effort to resolve errors,” said Dan Schuyler, a director at Leavitt Partners, a health care group by former Health and Human Services secretary Mike Leavitt. “This is a very early Web 1.0 type of fix.”
He apparently doesn’t browse the web much. I do, and you know what? It’s amazing how many sites ask you to do that when something … doesn’t work. Amazon, Microsoft, Adobe, and a number of others have all suggested that as a “fix” for a problem I’ve had on their websites, within the past three months. So pardon me if I take that statement with a grain of salt. I also take a great deal of issue with the idea that private business is “more up-to-date” than the public sector.
In my previous post, I talked about the fact that no software package has ever been released “glitch free.” The bigger the project, the more likely there are to be glitches. One of the factors that was pointed out to me (and has been in the news) is the complexity of the system. Healthcare.gov has to coordinate information from numerous systems, as both in sending it and receiving it. In fact, most of the problems seem be related to the “data hub”, which is the main interface handling this. It’s job is (approximately) to take data from the web site, query other systems to verify things, then send it on to the various exchanges or state agencies to get an answer from them about pricing, and then back to the customer. Sounds simple? It isn’t. Leaving aside the reports of … ineptitude … on the part of the contractor responsible, it’s an epicenter for glitches to happen.