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First POST: Glitches

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, October 2 2013


  • With millions of people flocking to the new online health exchanges yesterday, many of the sites collapsed under the load. The New York Times frontpages with a complete rundown. The big unanswered question: Will the flood of interest turn into a success as people discover the benefits of the system (and share that news with others), or will individual complaints about difficulties signing up congeal into an aggregate sense of failure?

  • The White House had some smart talking points ready in response. President Obama compared the problems to Apple's recent launch of iOS7: "Consider that just a couple of weeks ago, Apple rolled out a new mobile operating system, and within days, they found a glitch, so they fixed it. I don't remember anybody suggesting Apple should stop selling iPhones or iPads or threatening to shut down the company if they didn't," he said. So did HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, reports Slate's Matthew Ygelsias: "Everyone knows that a brand-new software release is usually followed by one or more rapid-fire bug fixes once it's out in the field. But people don't run around talking about how the sky is falling. Instead, she said, "everyone just assumes 'well there's a problem, they'll fix it.' "

  • For a different take, you can read Gregory Ferenstein's churlish report on TechCrunch, which panders to Silicon Valley's libertarian wing by making fun of the first day problems of the new health exchange sites. Ferenstein's commenters really take him to task. Says one: "Wait.  What?  You're saying even the biggest online services periodically go dark for reasons that smarty-pants commentators are totally convinced should have been anticipated? Facebook never went down, nor Twitter or Google, or..what?  They've all had outages?  Huh. Who'd'a thunk it."

  • Not mentioned in any of the reporting we've seen so far: Unlike a commercial product launch, the health care exchanges are handling personally identifiable information, and are required under the Federal Information Security Management Act to be far more secure as well.

  • Lots of celebrities are expressing their support for Obamacare by tweeting. This could be a mixed blessing, as the last time so many celebs had their twinions tweet about something we got #KONY2012.

  • Ars Technica has a long list of government websites and their current status during the government shutdown.

  • Mike McGeary of Engine explains what techies need to know about the implications of the government shutdown.

  • One in five people who visited yesterday (85K) clicked through to one of the links at the bottom to Quartz, Zach Seward tweets. Micro-site marketing lives! More details here.

In other news around the web:

  • Jack Dorsey, the co-founder of Twitter, engaged @HassanRouhani, the unverified but apparent Twitter account of Iran's president, in a bit of online back-and-forth about Twitter access in Iran that we can only describe as extraordinary. Some enterprising Iranian should now try to Tweet a question at @barackobama--if only Iran allowed that.

  • "There's thousands and thousands of unbelievable revealing and fascinating documents," Glenn Greenwald tells Ken Auletta of the New Yorker. "It's going to take a long time for everything to be reported that should be reported."

  • When Gmail users see ads alongside their messages that relate to keywords in their emails, is that wiretapping? A federal judge in San Francisco has ruled that a lawsuit making that argument against Google can go forward.