Software glitches happen every day to plenty of companies and systems, but every so often the mainstream media covers one that’s a real shocker. Lately, what’s everyone been talking about? You guessed it: Obamacare. We can’t really imagine that any of you are unfamiliar with this scandal, unless you recently relocated to Antarctica, but just in case, we’ll give you a brief rundown. Included in the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” was a health care marketplace where the uninsured could shop online for the different insurance packages that were available to them based on various criteria, like their location, family size, and income.
The reason the marketplace was such an important part of the legislation is because anyone who can afford healthcare but doesn’t have it by 2014 risks paying a fine. That’s why the marketplace system is getting so much attention – as the main method for people avoiding this fee, it had to be constructed quickly (in time for the new year) in a way that would enable it to handle huge levels of traffic in the last few months of 2013 and beyond. The idea was for hundreds of thousands of users to log onto the website at any one time without lag or crashes.
What actually happened? The ACA launched at the beginning of October and so did the marketplace, but the intended website was very different from what visitors actually experienced, which was riddled with bottlenecks and confusing error messages. Of course, this has spread cries of conspiracy (“The government doesn’t want us to see how expensive the plans actually are!”), but the pure fact of the matter is that the website was created under extreme programmer duress and released after far less testing than a system of this size should undergo. For example, integration testing was only provided by a different department within the government, not an external organization; it’s important that developers aren’t testing their own systems, because of the biases and insider understanding they’ll certainly have. It’s far better for testing to be performed by experienced private groups or contractors, because they’ll look at the system with fresh eyes and are more likely to find bugs, to say nothing of their testing-specific expertise. Read more information about test automation.