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First POST: Sabotage

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, October 8 2013

Sabotage

  • Todd Park, the White House CTO, is in today's New York Times repeating his explanation about why HealthCare.gov crashed last week on launch day: the feature enabling people create user accounts at the start of the sign-up process: "At lower volumes, it would work fine. At higher volumes, it has problems." Chiming in, in defense of the project, Aneesh Chopra, Park's predecessor: “This is par for the course for large-scale I.T. projects. We wish we could launch bug free, but in reality that’s not that easy to do. The reality is that if you have a product that people want, people will tolerate glitches because they expect them.”

  • HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius in USA Today: "On the first day alone, HealthCare.gov had nearly eight times more concurrent users than Medicare's site (one of the federal government's most highly trafficked) during open enrollment peak levels." With engineers working nonstop to add capacity and upgrade software, she says ,"Wait times on HealthCare.gov are now 50% shorter."

  • Bloomberg.com columnist Megan McCardle says the health exchanges' problems aren't due to Republican sabotage, "it's a potentially good IT project undone by system design and deadlines chosen for political reasons, rather than feasibility."

In other news around the web:

  • Security expert Bruce Schneier has ten steps you can take to make your computer as secure as possible from surveillance. Start with an "air gap." (Hint: The only real solution is a change in government policy.)

  • Culture catches up to politics: Sunday's episode of The Good Wife, TV's most tech literate show, had several interrelated plot lines all exploring the NSA's newly revealed surveillance powers.

  • The New Yorker explains "How Lavabit Melted Down."

  • Ezra Klein's Wonkblog is trying to be Upworthy.

  • Over on Cathy O'Neill's Mathbabe blog, Nicholas Diakopoulos has a guest post called "Rage against the algorithms." If code is law, then the hidden internal assumptions of algorithms that regulate all kinds of online activities are secret law. Diakopolous, a Tow Fellow at Columbia University's School of Journalism, writes, "Given the challenges to employing transparency as a check on algorithmic power, a new and complementary alternative is emerging. I call it algorithmic accountability reporting."

  • A coalition of transparency organizations in the United Kingdom have written an open letter to PM David Cameron, pressing him to open up data about lobbying, corporate ownership, and recipients of government contracts.

  • Political scientists Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler have released a study that shows that state legislators are less likely to make false statementswhen made aware of fact-checking sites like Politifact.

  • Here are 25 women who could serve on Twitter's board.

  • "Big Data, Social Media and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict"--Yours truly will be moderating a panel on that topic with Tal Harris of One Voice Israel, Samer Makhlouf of One Voice Palestine, and Gilad Lotan of Social Flow. This Weds night at 6pm at Purpose HQ. Details and RSVP here.

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