Where before, the log-on change was presented as doomed, quixotic hubris, it's now presented in Wired as the only sensible option. In the previous iteration of HealthCare.gov, username requirements—which made users sign on with special characters and capitals; and go through multiple pages to establish—were too high, dissuading users from putting forth the effort to actually get on the website.
Now it's simpler: “We just did the most basic simple thing that anybody would do,” a team member said to Wired. “Make one page, and use the e-mail as the user name.” It is, the magazine informs us, “common sense”—something apparently in short supply, they say, from the beginning.
It won't surprise anyone that Wired, a tech magazine, has a perspective that's situated in Silicon Valley and that the coders responsible for this burst of common sense are—you guessed it—from Silicon Valley.
There is, however, something with the Silicon Valley optimism that leads it to a certain lack of empathy. The article says that it hopes the new HealthCare.gov will serve as a starting point into changing how the government does its IT: first, use Silicon Valley hackers; and second, let them use Silicon Valley methods.
There's a line in the piece that exemplifies this mentality: “Some engineers felt their bosses were being overly cautious about instituting dramatic changes during this first open enrollment because of the high political stakes … 'People are more scared of things here,' says Ben Komalo, a(n) … engineer who recently returned to his job at Khan Academy. 'The costs of failure are perceived as being much higher than where we're from.'”
But of course the stakes are higher. If I order a book from Amazon.com, and there's an error, that's an annoyance—I'd prefer to have my book, but I can generally live without it. If I try to order insurance, and I don't get it, that's a problem—one that I can't, generally, live without.
This is a conflict I suspect will become more problematic as Silicon Valley continues to march into healthcare: the very reason we need innovation is the same reason why stakes are high – because it's so important to us, and because the risks are so high.
Follow Darius Tahir on Twitter: @dariustahir