One of my frustrations over the past few years has been with what is called “the mainstream media.” That’s the broadcast and cable news networks, along with various internet outlets and various newspaper pundits. What causes my frustration has been the shift from “news” to “opinion” and lack of filtering. The “old fashioned” style of “who, what, where, when, and why” has been thrown out the window along with fact-checking. There have been numerous examples of this over the past few months.
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.
What always manages to astonish me about various “politically aware” people is their failure to recognize that there’s an election every year in many parts of this country. They seem to believe that only the presidential election years matter, or if they’re stretching a bit, the even year House races. Yet it’s the “off year” elections that have more impact on people’s daily lives which are ignored. This year, many states are having their local elections. We’re going to be selecting mayors, and town and county officials, along with (in some states) judges. Various propositions will be on ballots, which will impact your local and state taxes as well as its direction. All the things which you tend to take for granted: Street lights on; road plowed; water and sewer systems work; police and fire departments are there; and what the schools are like will all be determined by who gets elected.
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.