Monthly Archives: November 2013

Link

The Texas Board of Education has refused to approve a biology book by one of the nation’s largest publishers, pending an expert review of supposed “errors” on evolution.

Just when we thought this whole thing had petered out…

Link

If you’re surprised by this, you haven’t been paying attention. BlackBerry, as a company, has absolutely nothing to offer anyone at this point. They don’t have any substantial short term upsides, long term upsides, or even any meaningful assets aside from a marginal patent library, and the industry is already becoming weary of patent battles.

Link

Michael Daconta has an excellent breakdown of the management of the Healthcare.gov project. As he points out, the project failed despite using agile practices and that some parts – specifically the backend – were ill-suited to agile methodologies. I quibble a little bit in his taking exception to the use of “user stories” to define the functionality of backend systems (which don’t have “users”), as a “user story” doesn’t necessarily have to do with a human. Another automated backend system is, itself, a “user.” But I haven’t seen the user stories, and wouldn’t know if they were appropriate.

However, this stuck out to me like a sore thumb:

key interfaces (like verify income and verify citizenship) were designed as synchronous instead of asynchronous interfaces

“Synchronous” processes are generally handled first-in-first-out, and calling systems cannot continue in other tasks until they are handled. Think of a fast-food restaurant where you place your order and then have to wait at the counter for your meal, idly twiddling your thumb with a dozen other folks. You can’t really do anything else until your meal emerges from the kitchen, and if you disappear to the loo, you run the risk of someone absconding with your meal or, worse, the employees just chucking it if you aren’t standing there to receive it.

An asynchronous process is what you get a nice restaurant with a waiter. You have no idea what steps go on behind the scenes, you don’t really care, and you can go about chatting with your family or playing Words With Friends or running to the restroom or whatever, and the waiter will bring you your meal when it’s ready, or come find you if there’s a problem.

That the backend of healthcare.gov is synchronous is flat out crazy talk.