All Project Failures Are Management Failures

When you even contemplate bringing an old legacy system into a large-scale web project, you should do load testing on that system as part of the feasibility process before you ever write a line of production code, because if those old servers can’t handle the load, your whole project is dead in the water if you are forced to rely on them. There are no easy fixes for the fact that a 30 year old mainframe can not handle thousands of simultaneous queries. And upgrading all the back-end systems is a bigger job than the web site itself. Some of those systems are still there because attempts to upgrade them failed in the past. Too much legacy software, too many other co-reliant systems, etc. So if they aren’t going to handle the job, you need a completely different design for your public portal.

A lot of focus has been on the front-end code, because that’s the code that we can inspect, and it’s the code that lots of amateur web programmers are familiar with, so everyone’s got an opinion. And sure, it’s horribly written in many places. But in systems like this the problems that keep you up at night are almost always in the back-end integration.

The root problem was horrific management. The end result is a system built incorrectly and shipped without doing the kind of testing that sound engineering practices call for. These aren’t ‘mistakes’, they are the result of gross negligence, ignorance, and the violation of engineering best practices at just about every step of the way.

The title is adapted from Peter Drucker, “All business failures are management failures.” The quoted piece is from a comment that I can’t link to directly, so go to Arnold Kling on the problems with the health insurance exchanges and look for Dan Hanson on October 25, 2013 at 2:13pm.

Gay Men As “Control Group” For Feminist Dogma

From an intellectual perspective gay men allow the rest of us a “control group” of male sexuality, containing within a wide range of masculine expressions, one which refutes or repudiates a lot of the feminist sexual ideology.  After all, you can’t say “society makes straight men do this” without checking to see if society (which has mostly ignored gay men, culturally speaking, except as two-dimensional stock characters to be trotted out for laughs) also makes gay men do it, too.

Case in point: the oft-touted feminist maxim that “men only go after hot young girls because our rape-culture tells them that’s the ideal they should be shooting for.”  Feminism has always taken issue with the masculine preference for youth – and I think we all know why – but blamed it squarely on “the Patriarchy’s” efforts to take power away from older women.  If it wasn’t for our screwed-up youth-worshiping culture, the feminist myth goes, men would get just as hard over saggy tits and cottage cheese thighs as they do perky tits and a tight ass.

But if “the Patriarchy” is the one dictating what men should and shouldn’t be attracted to, culturally speaking, then one must also assume that a group like Gay Men, who “the Patriarchy” has traditionally had an antipathy toward, would therefore not be subject to the same “artificial rules” that straight men are.

But it turns out gay dudes like young stuff, too.  A lot.

While the post might not be safe for work, depending on where you work, it is still very much worth reading in its entirety. Via The Red Pill Room: The Lambda Factor.

Healthcare.gov: 47 Different Contractors Built The Site?

I don’t hold it against the contractors that they had prior government experience. I don’t hold it against them that they lobby or contribute to campaigns.

To me, the scandal is that there are 47 different organizations involved in building the site. I cannot imagine that any sane project executive would want it that way. I am just guessing, but it seems more likely to me that this many contractors were imposed on the project executive because there was a requirement to “spread the work out” to keep all these companies in the politicians’ pockets.

In any case, if you are trying to fix something that was assembled by 47 different organizations….good luck with that.

Remember this story any time you think government actors (at any level!) are somehow immune to bad management practices and skewed incentives. They are no smarter, and in aggregate often dumber, than non-government actors. Via Pinpoint the Scandal | askblog.

Untangling Obamacare’s Web Glitches

What the heck could be going on? My friend stated the obvious: “It’s clear that they’re getting more traffic than they can handle. The question is why they can’t handle the traffic they’re getting.” Load problems could explain servers hanging in California and New York … but the drop-downs? The standard explanation for this is “high load,” but high server loads don’t cause your security dropboxes to empty out.

“The drop-down thing is mystifying,” he told me. If federal exchanges decided to populate the security question fields by calling up a list of possible questions from another server — one that didn’t have a lot of capacity — then that might be causing the sign-up process to stall at that step. For an application that expects a lot of traffic, this is a very bad idea.

“Just cache them on the front ends, for heaven’s sake, so you only need to ask once,” he said. “A database call to get questions shouldn’t be in the critical serving path. If you’re hitting the database just to load the security questions, then just serving individual pages is going to be expensive.”

The various glitches, he pointed out, “could very easily be because deadline pressure caused them to take some shortcuts that impacted their ability to scale.”

Such as?

“The aforementioned let’s-hit-the-database-for-security-questions thing.”

Why would they use such a seemingly obvious poor design?

“It can be easier to make a call to another server to get something when you need it than to implement a cache that you prepopulate either from static files or from the database on startup. Making a call to another server is also something you’d naturally think to do if you hadn’t had to focus on scalability before. The security question page is probably not the thing you’re most concerned about, so you give it to the new hire to do as their starter project. They don’t know what they’re doing, so they implement it the straightforward way … and since you’re under unbelievable deadline pressure to get something working now nobody reviews it in detail.”

Obviously, we don’t know if this theory is correct — but it does fit the particulars.

Government programmers are subject to the same development pressures as the rest of us. Via Untangling Obamacare’s Web Glitches – Bloomberg.