All those lines of code and an executive who likes to govern from the Oval Office

500 million lines of code and a president who’s favorite thing to do is “decree” a change.

Good luck with that. This is a big clip, but read the whole thing because he also shares some stories that show he understands how Obama could have “not known” about the whole fiasco October 1.

Going back to the development of IBM’s System/360 operation system, as described in Fred Brooks’ classic book, The Mythical Man-Month, the average programmer on the project wrote six lines of code per day. Of course, every programmer writes a lot more than that on SOME days, but on other days he writes zero lines of code, since he’s doing testing or debugging or rewriting or documenting. So for System/360, it all averaged out to six lines per day per programmer.

So let’s say that the Obamacare programmers were much better than that, and wrote 100 lines of code per day average. Let’s say that there were 1000 programmers. And let’s say that, over the three year period, there were about 660 business days. Then, with those generous assumptions, you get 100*1000*660 = 66,000,000 lines of code. It’s simply impossible to reach 500,000,000.

And yet, the 500 million figure is apparently true. I’ve heard it dozens of times in the last month, and no one is denying it. Healthcare.gov apparently really does have 500 million lines of code. How is that possible?
I get a picture in my mind of 1,000 people sitting a computers typing code, without worrying about whether or not it works. Given the size of the catastrophe, some variation of that must have happened.
More important than that, a code base that size is unsupportable. Health services is a rapidly changing field, and every time there’s some kind of process or rule change, it will take an army of programmers to make all the necessary changes in the code base. And that assumes that all the bugs have been fixed, which is far from true. Healthcare.gov will not be fully functional at any time in the foreseeable future, if ever.

Add to that today’s sympathetic NYTimes story on the debacle where no one in the White House noticed there was a “real” problem until mid October. Apparently they were far too busy not talking with Republicans about postponing the law a year which, in the end, wcould have saved Obama’s keister. [I’m not saying it would have, as I suspect, they would not have used that extra year wisely lest any word leak out that the website was not ready for public consumption earlier.]

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