Reddit sleuths woes

October 9, 2013 in Medical Technology

What exactly is plaguing the federal insurance marketplace website,, even as most state exchanges are functioning well, remains unknown. But Web developers and software engineers across the country have a few ideas. In the best tradition of the Internet, they’ve been crowdsourcing their various diagnoses on Reddit, the popular social media site.

On Tuesday, October 1, a user who goes by the name “tweedpatch” started a conversation with this photo on a nonfunctioning

A user who goes by the name “beefzilla” replied saying, “externalized strings be buggin yo,” referring to tools used for bundling parts of websites or making them compatible with multiple platforms.

A user called “PCLOAD_LETTER” chimed in:

“It has other problems as well. I created an account at around 12:30 last night got the confirm email, verified, tried to login, -invalid password. tried again, Same thing. Ok fine I’ll reset password -account name verifies and it sends the reset email, click the link, get message about how that account name doesn’t exist. Whatever. I’ve waited years for this. Another week or two wont hurt. They’ll get the bugs worked out eventually.”

[See also: Exchange deadline creeps closer]

And with anonymity being a key feature of the internet, a number of self-described insiders who say they’re working on exchange IT were drawn to the conversation. A user called “tpatch” wrote: “As someone who was burning the candle at both ends last week to finish a health insurance website, I can sympathize.”

Which elicited this critique from a user called “thejman78”: “Ya, that would explain the fact that the JS and CSS aren’t combined and minified, that they’re not loading from a CDN, etc. That’s always the last thing you do.”

Another complaint lead to speculation that some design flaws were part of the reason more server space was needed.

“Spektr44” wrote: “View source. They’re loading 11 CSS files and 62 (wat?) JavaScript files on each page, uncompressed and without expires headers. They have blocks of HTML inexplicably wrapped in script tags.”

Said another commenter in reply: “That sort of unnecessary overhead is going to kill their servers in HTTP requests that could have been minified and packed into two files (1 CSS and 1 JS).”

Others on Reddit have been defending many of the approaches taken by HHS and the federal contractors managing the site.

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