The Tech Surge

I make my living writing software these days, and I can’t imagine any way to wreck software faster than to have a whole bunch of people working on the same piece of code at the same time.

No doubt the community disorganizer understands this,  based on his vast experience at product development and business.

About stevengoddard

Just having fun
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34 Responses to The Tech Surge

  1. I have been “in the business” for over 45 years and agree. Integrating the work of a large team into a coherent working whole takes an an almost god like skill and an extraordinary effort almost bordering on making a miracles. I know it can be done because I have done it – once maybe twice. Just don’t bet the company on being able to do it. The success rate of such projects is a abysmal.

    About the only thing that could make things worse than a large development team is to have a bunch of politicians writing the specification. They have no conception of clarity, correctness, completeness, coherence, cohesion, coupling, or timeliness. They think the rules they write create reality and thus don’t worry about such piffles as mutually exclusive goals, contradictions, ambiguities, and fuzzy definitions of critical terms. Then there is the dreaded and endless “just this one more thing….” that comes up at the last minute. Ultimately, no one knows what “it works” means and each has a different understanding of it. Thus the software cannot be designed, developed, and tested to meet a defined objective. Disaster is about the best that can happen.

  2. Colorado Wellington says:

    That’s old school thinking. Every ObamaCare programmer has a personal NSA handler and all software development communications are supervised from a White House war room. In compliance with the President’s directive, errors are discovered in real time and immediately fixed.

  3. Jimbo says:

    I don’t understand all of this hoo ha about programming and software and code… All the Messiah needs to do is wave his hand, issue a command and POOF! It’s done to perfection!

  4. Federico says:

    Bet you they only hired ivy league PHDs and east Asia PhDs. Also, if they chose SAP they are so totally screwed. Just look at all the cost overruns of a Sap project

  5. Shazaam says:

    (My Rather Biased Opinion) The smaller the development team, the lower the communications overhead, and tighter the integration of the end result. Small teams get great results.

    My personal opinion is that any development team larger than 6-10 programmers requires a near-deity of a manager to keep a laser-like focus on the result. It can be done and has been done very well with large development teams. That said, such results are the exception rather than the rule. And such results are a near impossibility in government.

    Obamacare, operating under the general government management principle that to get fast results, one must throw more bodies at the project, was doomed from the start. The folks who got the mega-bucks for the project were the only winners.

    Just like the bankster bailouts where the idiots who created the problems in 2008 collected mega-bonuses, I’ll bet the Obamacare software development managers cashed out with some nice bonuses for delivering to spec on the date due. Too bad the government specification was (most likely) crap with no performance or accuracy criteria to be met…. (just speculating here)

    Developing quality software is like making a baby. You cannot rush the process or accelerate it at the last minute. Too many managers take the approach of “One baby in a month? No problem, I’ll get nine women working on it tomorrow.” (We all know how that one will turn-out)

    Software encapsulates human knowledge into a repeatable process. To perform that task one must first completely understand the breadth and scope of the desired result. I seriously doubt anyone understands the ACA well enough to deliver such a program. After all, the politicians had to pass it to find out what was in it…..

    And to finish with some corn-pone engineer’s logic: My first boss was fond of telling our clients that their options were: they could have the project done cheaply, they could have the project done quickly, or they could have the project done well. However, they could only pick two of the three.

    • chris y says:


      I have heard a similar life lesson from the hardware development world. The delivered product can be world-class, it can be done quickly or it can be done at low cost. Normally the customer can only pick two.

      The Obamacare database team managed to get paid $634 Million for none.
      Neat trick.

  6. Ben says:

    Preach it brother Steven.

    Small knowledgeable teams reduce cost and deliver on time.

  7. KevinK says:

    Yes indeed, the old: “Fast, Cheap, Good” triplet, pick any two out of the three. Occurs all the time.

    There is a whole engineering discipline devoted to this; “Systems Engineering”. I did that for a while. I wrote “Interface Control Documents”, ICD’s. These are entirely boring (mind numbing actually) documents that describe every bolt hole (location, thread size, surface finish, assembly torque levels, etc. etc.), or every electrical signal (name, connector pin number, signal type, impedance, redundancy, voltage level, etc. etc.). Very dull work, but it is what it takes to make any complex system work (eventually) after all the necessary testing.

    That’s how we got the the Moon, Yes, we did actually go there. Now we probably could not even make it to the local OBAMACARE office, with a “navigator” and a seeing eye dog (nothing against those canines, they are quite a bit more useful than most politicians).

    Cheers, Kevin.

  8. daveburton says:

    I wrote and sell a Version Control System, for managing development teams on large software projects, even projects with many different variants of the software developed and maintained concurrently. It is doable, but I can tell you with authority that it’s not a trivial problem.

    Interestingly enough, the 2008 Obama campaign successfully deployed a massively concurrent database application, with their Project Houdini program. It had problems, but it basically worked.

    Houdini was simpler than the ObamaCare system, but the hard problems associated with heavily loaded servers and massively concurrent databases were mostly the same. The surprising success of Houdini might have given Obama a misplaced sense of confidence w/r/t ObamaCare.

    Four years later, the Romney campaign tried to duplicate Houdini with their Orca program, and they failed catastrophically. Five years after Houdini’s deployment, the Republicans still have nothing comparable.

  9. Lynn Clark says:

    As yet another person who spent 30+ years writing code, it boggles the mind that anyone could spend over $600 million on a damn web site and come up with something that doesn’t work at all. Sure, there’s got to be some hardware to go along with it, but still. I’d really like to know where $600 million of taxpayer money went.

  10. Stephen Richards says:

    Version control will be a nightmare unless they all use the same server with the controls built into the compilation engine.

    • squid2112 says:

      Not with proper SCM and SDLC … I have done it for the private sector as well as DOD for some very large teams, large software products and very large projects.

  11. WJohn says:

    Another old engineering truism.
    There is never enough time to get it right, but there is always time to do it again.

  12. MikeTheDenier says:

    We have a new addition to the Goddard lexicon – Obambycare =Jokeware

  13. squid2112 says:

    I predict that they will spend yet another billion$ and get nowhere. The American people will believe their crap when they ask for more money, and they will get it. The problem is, less than 1/10th of 1% of the population has any clue, what-so-ever, of how software is designed, built and operated. I have been a software engineer for almost 30 years now with exposure in just about every corner and industry (currently working with embedded energy devices). I have built hundreds of web applications (some that you have probably been on). There is no way this Obamacare web application will ever work properly, but the population has no clue how this stuff works and this administration will be able to spin this thing for quite a while before the masses finally have had enough. I hope I am wrong, but it is easy to fool the ignorant.

  14. Gamecock says:

    After spending $600,000,000 on a million dollar website, the only valid response to its failure is to spend another $600,000,000.

  15. Another thing that was ignored: large complicated things that work are always built out of small simple things that work. Even then it is not easy to do because you have to select the correct small simple things that work and put them together in the right way.

  16. R. de Haan says:

    Obamacare is just another tool of the war Obama is waging on the American people.
    Total control is the objective:

  17. Kate Forney says:

    I certainly think they’re dreaming (hallucinating?) if they think bringing in a guru or two will be the magic elixir that fixes a software disaster. It doesn’t work that way.

    • Gamecock says:

      That’s not the guru’s job. His job is to give cover to Obama. Indeed, his guru announced, “We’ll have it fixed by the end of November.”

      Translation: “Shutup, media.”

      Talking about “glitches” is now off limits to the legacy press.

  18. Hugh K says:

    But…but…it’s not the design or this Administration’s fauilt, Just a few minor glitches coupled with too many anxious people desperate to get the health care they deserve overwhelming the servers. And/or possibly another obscure video attacking the religion of peace. /
    Regardless; America’s dem-infatuated media is eager to move on, quite content with any lame excuse the politburo trots out coupled with the self-implied good intentions of this incompetent Administration. To wit; “What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again…”
    They should change the name of groundhog day to obama day. New day, same ol’….

  19. Smokey says:

    Predictable Obama response:

    Pin The FAIL On The Honky…

  20. Kepler says:

    Obama’s commandeering of the software development process and the resulting train wreck is the latest example proof that whenever liberal governments take master control of something it ends up a total failure. They’ve had master control of ‘climate science’ for years now which has totally destroyed it as a reputable science.

    • First, the progressives destroy education. Next, they destroy science. Then they follow that with the destruction of the financial markets. Finally, they destroy the auto and medical industry by taking them over. After that, it is a simple rounding up of the malcontents and shipping them to the gulags in air tight cargo train cars. Those who are left will look to the government for their daily rations and will do as they are told – or else.

      This almost worked for Germany and Russia during the last century. Since our fearless leader and his gang has such good intentions, the pogrom [not a spelling error] can’t fail. What happens the day after tomorrow is not a concern to the progressives. It is the future they wish to destroy.

      We the People are going to have to learn how to say NO! in such a way the progressives cannot evade it.

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