Take this report as pure personal experience from one guy. I couldn’t be more wrong in the details or the outlines and to generalize from my experience is the height of scientific folly, but it’s still great persuasion.
We know that the ObamaCare website is in trouble and not because the peasants are marching in torchlight parade on the White House or torturing HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on The Daily Show, of all places. We know it because President Obama says so.
There’s no sugarcoating it,” he said. “The website has been too slow, people are getting stuck during the application process. And I think it’s fair to say that nobody is more frustrated by that than I am.” He later added, “Nobody is madder than me about the fact that the website is not working as well as it should, which means it’s gonna get fixed.”
He had to say this because of the Direct Experience Persuasion Play®™© he ran in front of the grand website opening. Try it. You’ll like it. Now, this. When the Other Guy tries what you suggested and They don’t like it, you’ve got to change the persuasion play . . . to the I’m Mad As Hell And I’m Not Going To Take It Anymore Persuasion Play®™©.
After five years as President, Mr. Obama still hasn’t learned that his emotional state has nothing to do with Executive Branch operation or effectiveness. He’s now talking about bringing the best and the brightest on board to fix the technical problems with the ObamaCare website as if more experts will change things for the better. Mr. Obama apparently still fails to grasp the nuanced, inter-connected complexity of Executive agencies that will also elude the best of the best and the brightest of the brightest. The complexity approaches chaos and everyone who’s worked in the Fed knows exactly what I mean.
Worse than complexity as chaos is IT. The Fed simply does not do Information Technology beyond Wiki type sites with static factual entries. The Fed is not noted and probably never will be noted for doing any interactive IT with any level of competence. It ain’t what government is meant to do. The Fed is great at one-way communication: Somebody speaks and everyone else listens; then Somebody else speaks and everyone listens; and on and on until almost all Somebody’s have spoken. Anything remotely approaching transactional and simultaneous communication is anathema to the Fed.
Imagine just for fun that the Fed ran its websites like Facebook with all those gobbly-gook legal disclaimers, transparent privacy violations run as apologies, and massive personal databasing. Sure, the website would run great, but we’d have revolution on the Right and Left marching on Washington DC.
When ObamaCare passed I missed the importance of the website operation and it’s only been recently that I’ve got up to speed with the shocking realization that Obama thinks he can create Amazon.com at HHS. I would have thought his embarrassing failure to keep his own personal Blackberry device in operation would have taught him about the limits of Fed IT, but clearly he learned nothing from that simple, but telling, personal example. They let him keep the device, but with so many limitations on it that it was no longer the device he once loved. Apparently Obama ate the Blackberry and learned nothing.
And, my own experience with Fed IT is more diagnostic. I came on board in 1998 and was immediately plunged into Agency IT policy and procedure because I could actually write HTML code and keep it running on professional websites for academic departments and professional associations. I was nearly a CDC IT genius and got assigned to a Task Force Advisory Committee to study the problem.
We hired some best and brightest outside guys to evaluate the CDC website and from the first minute of their public report I was laughing so hard I had to leave the room to keep from getting fired. The prior group of best and brightest IT consultants had designed the CDC website with a flat file structure which meant there was only one directory called something like /cdc and all files from all Centers, Institutes, and Offices fell into that one directory.
That meant there were tens of thousands of files like data88.dat and summary93.txt or organizationalchart.jpg or regulationchanges73.txt all dumped into one common directory. With dozens of teams, sections, branches, and divisions among all the Centers, Institutes, and Offices you can guess how many files called data88.dat existed and all were in the same directory at /cdc. Thus, any link on a webpage that called for /cdc/data88.dat could access any one of a dozen different files and the one that actually popped up could vary depending upon the computer making the request, admin settings that hour, or the activity of solar flares on the sun. And these were just static files, like Wiki entries providing basic factual information about telephone numbers, tobacco usage statistics, or organizational work tables. Nothing remotely interactive occurred.
The Fed is Corporate with the capital C. It is bureaucracy, organization, a place for everything and everything its place, hierarchy, sequence, charts, tables, regulations and on and on with the accumulations of an orderly democracy. Everyone, Democrats and Republican, can agree on file cabinets. Web 2.0 is simply contrary in spirit and operation to the philosophy, history, and Constitution of the Fed.
Yet, Mr. Obama is soldiering on believing that his best and brightest can change 250 years of law, regulation, enforcement, and habit. Hear the echoes of the close to The Great Gatsby.
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
The past, of course, is Hope and Change, circa 2008. The end of aspiration is not achievement but that original aspiration because what you aspired to cannot be achieved. Desire without fulfillment only leaves desire.
The Dissonance for Team Obama must be stupendous. The consequence here is an obvious failure at the end of a path freely chosen. While Republicans present many barriers, they did not hinder the website. In terms of the Dissonance path, Team Obama picked freely chosen actions that produced negative consequences and no easy External Attributions to explain it. The failure is all theirs. So instead of turning the cold heart of persuasion to the Local and doing a hard count of the change, Team Obama is getting mad and believing that more anger, more passion, more aspiration will fix the website.
We might see a ceremonial seppuku from Secretary Sebelius as the ultimate authority for operational failures. That would only mean more Dissonance Reduction and not a cold hearted persuasion analysis. Sacrifice looks like responsibility when it is only distraction: You still can’t use the website.
You see my persuasion argument depends upon an analysis of the Local that has nothing to do with liberals versus conservatives or finding the best and the brightest, but just looking at the Falling Apples. This is all starts with the unbridgeable difference between Fed 1789 and Web 2.0.