Having absolutely no knowledge about what it takes to fix a huge piece of software like healthcare.gov (the online database for the Affordable Care Act – or Obamacare), I’ve been able to make my way through the mudslide of confusing reports and critiques regarding the website’s disastrous operation. Much to my own surprise, I’ve come to a dual (provisional) conclusion: either in a few weeks time, the website will be working like the Obama administration is claiming (hoping, praying) it will, and everyone will move on and forget this disaster ever happened. Or, it won’t, and Obamacare will be totally screwed.
Suffice it to say, there’s very little middle ground here. That being said, I’m still taking all of the disaster-reports coming from numerous insiders and journalists with a grain of salt. The fact is, very few people know exactly what’s wrong with the system, and being on the outside of that circle (like all of us are), I tend to air on the side that we shouldn’t purport to know more than we do, or speculate to that fact.
What must be noted, however, is that none of this should have come as a surprise to the Obama Administration. Staffers at HHS were warning about the system’s inadequacies long before the October 1 rollout. As reported by Lena Sun and Scott Wilson:
Days before the launch of President Obama’s online health insurance marketplace, government officials and contractors tested a key part of the Web site to see whether it could handle tens of thousands of consumers at the same time. It crashed after a simulation in which just a few hundred people tried to log on simultaneously.
The good news – relatively speaking – is that the Obama administration is well aware that the online portal of healthcare.gov is a complete disaster. Whether or not they’ll be able to fix it before this thing capsizes is the question.
Photo: Mike Licht
On Google Glass (cc photo by Loic Le Meur)
I’m not quite sure whether to be terrified or excited by Farhad Manjoo’s recent interaction with what I immediately associate with the beginning of the human race resembling the lard population from Wall-E:
To turn on Glass, you tap the frame of your specs, or you nod your head up. When you do so, you see a big, digital clock just off to the side of your central field of vision, and a prompt to say “OK Glass” when you’re ready to ask it something. Even this main screen is useful: I don’t wear a wristwatch—I’ve never found them comfortable—and, when I’m not at my PC, I usually check the time on my phone. Glass offers me a quicker, less socially awkward way to access a clock.
I know what you’re thinking: A normal person would just wear a wristwatch. Yes, but even if you do wear a watch, there’s a good chance you look at your phone for dozens of other tiny bits of information during the day—texts, email, directions, photos, and especially Google searches.
Starner calls these “microinteractions”—moments when you consult your phone or computer for ephemeral, important information that you need immediately. Glass is built for these moments. Once you say “OK glass,” you’re presented with a menu of possible commands, including performing a Google search, asking for directions, and taking a picture. You can also access Google Now—the company’s predictive personal assistant—by swiping your finger along the frame. This shows you contextual information that you’d usually find on your phone—the weather, sports scores, directions to your hotel.
It’s bad enough that I have a total disdain for anyone who looks at their phone during dinner or a film, I don’t want to imagine a future where the entire human race – or those that can afford it – are walking around with computers on their faces. I’m in my twenties and I shudder at the idea.
I don’t want one. But I’m pretty sure I said the same thing about the iPad, which I’m using to write this.