Like many folks in the DC web development community, I’ve been reading with interest the horror stories about the launch of  Just yesterday new revelations came out that showed just how complicated the site truly is and just how deep the problems are. 

As a web developer, my reaction to the situation is a bit different than most people’s.  I mostly feel pity for the people who built the site and who are stuck fixing the problem.  Now I don’t feel sorry for the management at companies like CGI Federal, who are likely getting rich off the site’s $174,000,000 price tag.  But I do feel sorry for the web developers that are in the trenches right now working to fix the site’s problem.  From experience, I can tell you they are in hell.

Based on what I’ve read, I’m also extremely pessimistic that the “tech surge” ordered by the Administration will get all the bugs with the site fixed by the end of November, as the Administration has promised.  

The truth is that throwing more resources at isn’t likely to solve the problem, at least not in the short term.  The new developers and project managers brought in to help will need time to familiarize themselves with’s source code.  Developers and project managers already sourced to the project will have to spend time training new folks instead of fixing the problems themselves.   The new resources brought on may actually slow things down initially due to the complexity of integrating them into the work flow. 

Perhaps the bigger problem with the one month timeline is that it assumes that as it exists in its current form can actually be fixed.  Given its rumored 5,000,000 lines of source code, could be a spaghetti code scenario that requires a complete rewrite. 

You don’t fix a site that has 5,000,000 lines of code by bringing in more people to write more code.  Human resources can’t be scaled the way servers can be.

The whole situation reminds me of this quote from computer scientist Fred Brooks about throwing resources at a project.


For the developers working on the project, I really hope is stabilized by the end of November.  But based on my experience, I think we’ll be hearing about bugs on for many months beyond November.  The people making that November promise are the same ones who gave the go ahead to launch a disastrously buggy site by October 1. 

About the Author
Todd Zeigler
Todd Zeigler serves as the Brick Factory’s chief strategist and oversees the operations of the firm. In his sixteen year career in digital, he has planned and implemented campaigns for clients including the Pickens Plan, International Youth Foundation, Panthera, Edison Electric Institute, and the American Chemistry Council. Todd develops ambitious online advocacy programs, manages crises, implements online marketing strategies, and develops custom applications and software. He is bad at golf though.