Yes, the site is awful, but…

Anything anyone has written or said on the subject since yesterday evening is simply piling on. Most general news sources are not telling us anything they haven’t already told us. Joe Scarborough leading with the story every morning simply repeats what he said the day before. He and others compare the site to a run-of-the-mill retail site, which is a big mistake. Disregarding the expected continual flood of anti-Obama and anti-Obamacare propaganda at Fox News, there has otherwise been thoughtful commentary, notably from Ezra Klein and Sarah Kliff at the Washington Post on Wonkblog, and explanatory articles on the New York Times and The Washington Post. The aims of the site are incredibly complex, probably made more so by policy/process decisions taken by members of the administration. No matter how many people are thrown at the site, it will take a month (in real-time, not a month of person-hours X N programmers) or more to resolve the major problems, and another couple of months to fine tune after that.

The President’s speech yesterday was, as any person who has been responsible for major system failures can tell you, too little, too late. Three weeks too late, as far as those using the site are concerned, and at least eighteen months too late in terms of setting up the development contracts and ensuring people who were overseeing them knew how to succeed in that endeavor. At this point, the press should dial back the outrage, because it won’t fix the site any sooner.  Maybe somebody could borrow Keith Olbermann’s words when he closed Countdown each evening. For many of the program’s years, he closed each broadcast by saying how many days it had been since George Bush started the war in Iraq. Then after the BP Oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in April, 2010, he ended by counting up how many days that oil had been spilling in the Gulf. Instead of pundits bloviating about the disaster, let’s just have another website that counts up the days from October 1 until a new site, one that works properly, debuts. And make no mistake about it: to fix this thing right, they need to conceptualize it as a new site, even if they can use the bulk of the existing code. I am not a programmer, and I am unqualified to say whether they should use it. But it will need to act like an entirely new site to build the confidence that both the Affordable Care Act and the American people deserve.

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