Peter G (sinetimore) wrote,
Peter G

It's A Killer (Whale) Of An App

* riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing! *  Okay, class.  Eyes up front.  Today's lesson:  Software Engineering 101.

We are going to discuss a fun little program called Project ORCA.  It was created by the Republicans to help get out for the vote for Romney's campaign.  Now, before I go any further, I want to emphasize Project ORCA was nothing Big Brotherish or anything like that.  It was something that happens every election, just computerized instead of done with pen and paper.  This concerns a little political something called "strike lists".  These have been going on ever since telephones revolutionized human contact.

Since people have trouble with abstract ideas, let me illustrate using a fictional analogy starring the Meadowcratic Party (hee hee).  The idea is this:  you operate out of the Meadowcrat headquarters, and get yourself a list of registered voters for a particular district.  You give this list to an operative who goes to the polling place.  Each time a person comes in to vote, they have to identify themselves to the election judges.  You then tick, or "strike," that name off your list.  Periodically, usually once an hour, another operative from Meadowcrat HQ comes and either copies your list or gives you another with previously struck names removed (word processing has made this viable).  The operative returns to HQ and gives you the list.  You then have people working the phones at HQ call the people not marked off and encourage them to get to the polls to vote for Bill and Opus.

Everybody still with me so far?  That's good!

So, what was Project ORCA?  Project ORCA was the R's attempting to computerize the process.  It looked good, you should pardon the expression, on paper.  The lists and information would transmit over the Internet onto people's smartphones.  Not only would they have an easier time locating names and marking them off, but HQ could check at any time instantly instead of waiting for someone to travel to the polling place and travel back and processing the list.

So, what went wrong?  Several things....

1)  The whole program was not adequately beta'ed.  For example, stress testing for when the network was live on Election Day and petabytes of data were shuttling hither and yon.  No allowances for DDoS attacks, either.

2)  People were told their "packets" explaining the program would be arriving.  It was unknown if they would be hard copies or what (they were .pdf's sent by email the Monday before the election), meaning some people didn't bother to check their email and were waiting for the post office.

3)  Not everyone got those manuals.  They couldn't have put up a web site where you could download it?

4)  The manual was 60 pages long.  Keep in mind, most people using this would not be the most tech savvy in the world, and they were supposed to wade through a 60 page manual received, if at all, at 4PM, roughly 14 hours before polling places opened (while still taking care of sleep, jobs, whatever)?

5)  Project ORCA was a web application, but the R's told their troops it was an "app".  So instead of going to the web site as they should have, people were checking Apple's App Store and Google Play for the Project ORCA app.

(Side issue:  the R's didn't take care of their troops' poll watcher credentials properly.  Poll watchers had to go to the "Victory Center" (a.k.a. campaign HQ) to get them.  That cost more time right there.)

6)  Some people were getting lists and passwords for other areas that didn't work with their identities.

7)  The web address didn't automatically redirect users from http:// to https://.  This means people had to enter the SSL site manually.  Those who went to the proper regular address just got a blank screen, making them think the network was down (which can be fixed with a single script that takes thirty seconds if you're a bad typist.  GG).

8)  People calling looking for answers got voicemail and anything other than a person.  No one called back.  Rumor has it the network itself crashed at 4PM.

Meanwhile, the D's with their door to door campaigns and pen and paper strike lists were getting out the vote.

So, if you are looking to mobilize voters, do yourself a favor -- go old school.

Class dismissed.
Tags: computers, did not do the research, don't try this at home, duh, important life lessons, politics, portents of doom, school of life is in session, stupidity, technology is a beautiful thing, things that make you go hmm, wrong on every level, wtf
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