Video: CNN employee’s own mistake crashed Obamacare Web page

In a rather embarrassing revelation for CNN, their own “expert” crashed the Obamacare Web site yesterday by doing something that every child in America knows you simply do not do on the Internet: Refreshing the Web page while your transaction is processing.

Yet, an examination of the video, first noticed by AMERICAblog reader Jea this morning, reveals that that is exactly what CNN did – their expert refreshed the Affordable Care Act federal exchange site while their application was “processing.”

And what happened as a result?  The page crashed.  As it does on every single Web site in the world when you’re dumb enough to refresh the page while a transaction is in progress.

And now Republicans are crowing about how this CNN video “proves” that Obamacare is a disaster – because CNN managed to produce an error message with a rookie “my first Internet” mistake.

Here’s the transcript from the CNN segment, video is below:

cnn-obamacare-web-site-crashCNN reporter: Then came the roadblock. Tell me about what happened, because we’re getting another error message here, and it’s supposed to be running smoothly – we’re just not seeing that.

CNN’s Matt: Yeah, so, you know, we’ve been trying to get into this site since October 1, on and off again. I have to say, it did work a lot more smoothly this morning. I got through, I picked my state, I put in all my information, and I got through the whole process in about 8 minutes. And then it said my status was ‘in progress,’ so I went to refresh it and I got the error message.

You got the error message.  No sh-t, Sherlock.

If you refresh a Web site while any submission is “processing” you will get an error message.  Always, always, always. Have you never purchased anything online before?

And if you refresh a page that has already finished processing, you will also usually get an error message, as the page is attempting to resubmit the same information you already just submitted.

In this case, the page would be resubmitting an application that was already just submitted.  So it would have no other choice but to give you an error message as you can’t submit the same application twice in a row.

I’m surprised that Matt at CNN didn’t know that, or bother mentioning it on the air.  Rather, CNN gave the impression that the Obamacare Web site messed up, and in fact, the site appears to have worked fine – it was CNN’s own employee, on the air, who messed up.

Considering that this CNN video is now being used all the Internet by conservatives as “proof” that the Obamacare Web site has not yet been fixed, CNN owes its viewers an on-the-air correction.  Especially since the video actually shows that the process went “smoothly,” the exactly opposite of what Republicans are now claiming.


(I’m told that in order to actually see my Facebook posts in your feed, you need to “follow” me – so say the experts.)


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • SkippyFlipjack

    I’m pretty sure (see post above) that the refresh-hile-submitting issue isn’t actually what happened on CNN, but let’s put that aside, and let me ask you a different question in response to your questions above. Say you’re designing a website that accepts payments for $50,000 pieces of machinery and you get charged 5% for each payment, regardless of whether it’s in error and gets rolled back later. (Your payment processor is awful but they’re your sister-in-law’s cousin’s company so you stick with them.) So you can put all the “Don’t click submit more than once!” messages you want, but you absolutely, positively can’t just rely on users to listen (or avoid mistakes), so you absolutely, positively cannot submit the same request twice to the payment gateway.

    Could you do it? How would you do it?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jane-Snape/100001971991197 Jane Snape

    Consumer reports has sharply revised its initial opinion of the site, and now says that it’s “terrific”: http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/consumer-reports-backs-health-care-site
    But don’t count on this to get mentioned by the evening TV newscasts.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jane-Snape/100001971991197 Jane Snape

    Consumer Reports disagrees: They now say that the site is “terrific”: http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/consumer-reports-backs-health-care-site

  • BillFromDover

    He probably thinks it’s a new way to prevent the good lady from getting the pregs… or a new dog food?

  • BillFromDover

    So… why does hitting the the refresh button fuck things up and not fuck things up?

    Amazon bills and I assume that when signing up for a plan on Obabacare it also bills.

    And yes, I understand the difference between a synchronous and an asynchronous transaction. and to my knowledge, hitting he refresh button on either still fucks things up, billing be damned.

    Why is this?

  • Indigo

    Exactly.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    “It did work a lot more smoothly this morning, I got through, I picked my state, I put in all my information, and I got through the whole process in about eight minutes. And then it said my status was “in progress”. So I went to refresh it, and I got the error message.”

    I think this was the screen he was refreshing, rather than a form in the middle of submission.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    It’s the same with PhD’s. pumping up a gravitas where competence lacks. I am thinking of Dr. Rice, or Dr. Bachman.

  • markpkessinger

    I think you’ll find that those messages are almost exclusively found in instances of credit card processing, where you transmit information to a web server, which in turn transmits information to a credit card company for authorization. So, in that case, hitting refresh causes the web server ton resubmit the credit card authorization.

    Non-purchase transactions, by contrast, are those where a user submits information which is then used by the web server itself to filter results delivered back to the user. Even if the web server is, in turn, communicating on the back end with another server, since there is no danger of erroneous second billing, resubmitting the information shouldn’t be a problem.

  • Lawerence Collins

    Best I can hope for is remission. thank you very much for taking the time :)

  • Sabyen91

    Thank you. I am sick of hearing ACA was a Heritage idea. Eliminating pre-existing conditions and the 80/20 funding mandate certainly were not.

  • http://paccana.com/ Paccana

    classic oops!

  • SkippyFlipjack

    Clearly.

  • mikemixer

    I see what you did there, subtle

  • mikemixer

    Gotta love quippy posts that add nothing but scorn and ridicule to a conversation.

  • mikemixer

    “Oh! yeah!, my dog can’t get enough of that stuff.”

  • mikemixer

    Right now he’s thinking “algo-what????”

  • SkippyFlipjack

    Sorry?

  • Joseph

    Nice job of saying wrong twice. Go for the gold! One more post and you may be a winner.

  • Joseph

    People with functioning brain in their possession don’t have to told what is snark. But this is America and we are Exceptional.

  • Joseph

    Well CNN has taken quite a dice of late. Looks like they are in a race to try to catch Fox in its race to the bottom. It is curious that the “reporter” did not ask him why he refreshed the page. this whole thing was a setup and the derp doing the demo knew what would happen, what always happens, when you try to refresh a page in that situation. I guess for folks like the reporter the web site should tell her her information was processing and she should sit on her hands until it was finished.

  • DetroitSam

    Cannot access any emails? This has to do with the ACA how?

  • Moderator3

    I took it as snark. Everyone should try to write “/snark” at the end of their snarky comments.

  • Ninong

    Wishing you a speedy recovery!

  • Solen

    I’m going out on a limb here and speculating that Harry is being snarky. After all, it’s so hard to effectively project snark through mere words.

  • HeartlandLiberal

    I develop ASP.NET web apps with C# and SQL Server. This is NOT trivial. This is why when you pay online by credit card you see the warnings on the page NOT TO REFRESH or DON’T HIT SUBMIT AGAIN, because you might get charged twice, or screw up the payment you are trying to submit.

    In a nutshell, you have to understand the nature of how the web works. I will try to put it in non-technical terms.

    Every time a page and all its components are delivered to you, you are then NOT CONNECTED with the server you got the page from. The web is a STATELESS ENVIRONMENT.

    Every time you hit a web page, the server has to deal with your request as though it had NEVER HEARD OF YOU BEFORE THAT MOMENT.

    If you were there a moment ago on a different page, logged in / authenticated, the server has to identify you all over again. This is done with a myriad of ways, from cookies to authentication sessions. The worst and least secure are applications that carry info in the URL passed in the address line to the server. You don’t see those much anymore, because they are trivial to analyze and imitate and hack into systems.

    The safest systems carry session information internal to the server that can be linked up with a user that has previously authenticated through some means, either by authenticating to a domain the server is in, or other methods if no domain authentication session is available.

    And this can take many technical implementations. It ain’t easy, but it definitely is rocket science.

    And it is definitely stupid if the CNN guy actually refreshed during a SUBMIT action without letting for the process to complete and return a message to him in a new web page.

  • Rationalist1

    It’s the classic “ID ten T” error. Write is out with ten replaced by numbers and you’ll see it.

  • JIMinSealBeach

    I think it was just a case of, “the narrative is ‘ it doesn’t work’. Give us a visual that fits the narrative.” Don’t look for real reporting on TV. It isn’t there.

  • BillFromDover

    A mistake is when ya write the answer in a crossword puzzle in 34 down instead of 43 down.

    Knowing how to create an error message by intentionally causing one a web site on national TeeVee ain’t.

    Seriously, dude, are ya trying to one-up Fox?

  • Chef Kowalski

    The same complaints are coming from people trying to use the Domino’s website to order pizza, according to restaurant industry news websites. After making their order, the customer has to enter payment, and when they hit to process the order the screen freezes or goes blank in some cases. But if the customer exits the site and returns quickly, the order is still in memory and they just have to go through the payment process again. Domino’s is trying to phase out telephone orders and go web order only.

  • ronbo

    Its a PICNIC problem… problem in chair not in computer.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    OK, you think it’s not ad hominem to focus on “purported authority” that I’m not claiming (or, not in any way people should believe) instead of stating how you think we should expect healthcare.gov to work. We’ll just have to disagree on that too.

  • allgood2386

    It’s tom Brady you moron (see the big pats symbol). good try though. Graduated with a comp sci degree. Try again though when you actually have a point to make aside from missing obvious jokes way over your head.

    but yeah my pointing out of this circle jerk is spot on. clearly it’s not just authors missing key details.

  • Matt C Colgan

    it’s not ad hominem to note the mismatch between your purported authority in the field and the appeal to authority fallacy you’re subjecting us to when you cite your personal experiences in what healthcare.gov should do. what you do in website development is pretty irrelevant to the type of development being done here. sorry if my making that point rubs you the wrong way.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    Why would anyone want to discuss anything with someone who thinks ad hominem points like this are constructive? (Scanning the page to see if I’ve done the same.. arguably, and if so I apologize to those involved.)

  • SkippyFlipjack

    Here’s a little more to the story. I noted below that I thought it was a little odd that the CNN guy says that “my status was ‘in progress’.” That seemed an strange way to express that he’d submitted a form and was waiting for the page to load when he hit “Refresh”. So I created an application (for Georgia, figuring that’s where he might be) and went a ways through the process and then, at a point at which nothing special was happening (first image, below), reloaded the page and got the error shown in the second image. I reloaded again and was taken to the main application screen where I was shown that I had an application in progress. The screen noted: “Status: In Progress.” I think that’s what CNN guy was talking about — he was either in progress in his application, or looking at a status screen that told him it was a “in progress”. I don’t think he was trying to post a form multiple times. I was actually able to get the same error message three times, just by reloading the page at various parts of the application process. I never had to wait 30 minutes, I was able to just start again immediately. I did notice that the site was sending info back to the server throughout the application process. FWIW.

  • Matt C Colgan

    but back end infrastructure routinely takes years and years to build and has big cost overruns because you’re connecting together dozens of incompatible systems in a grid. HIPAA took years over initial projections by all the actors, public and private. Medicare D had similar rollout problems. Your experience as a PHP hacker or whatever doesn’t really give you perspective on a problem of this magnitude.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    I’m using it as shorthand because the back-end infrastructure matters (and was incomplete at launch.) Stick in whatever number you want, I’ll stand by my point.

  • BillFromDover

    In what way?

  • Lawerence Collins

    Time for a new tin foil hat! I’m sure with the ACA. you can get mental health care.

  • Lawerence Collins

    CNN. Doesn’t seem to care about the facts or truth any longer. They’re actively going after the low information. Faux News viewer. Sad and shameful!
    If it weren’t for the ACA, Medicaid expansion, instead of convalescing from a nine day stay in the hospital, I’d be home waiting to die! These are the stories the GOP refuses to see or care about.

  • BillFromDover

    If this is such an easy solution, why all the messages not to hit refresh or the back button on most sites when processing transactions?

    Are we to believe that most programmers are really that lazy or stoopid?

  • Lawerence Collins

    It’s appears they are in a race to the bottom with Faux News! CNN’s glory days are long gone! RIP. CNN!

  • Vipsanius

    It is one of two things: stupidity or meanness.
    Having decided that it is one or the other, I do not need to decide which one it is.

  • Kelly Cowan

    The ACA page didn’t ”crash”, the idiot just lost his link by refreshing while his claim was processing.

  • Matt C Colgan

    nobody paid $300 million for a ‘website’, $300 million was the price for all the back end infrastructure to support the ACA AND the website. if you don’t know the difference between those two things, don’t bother commenting about any IT issues because you flat out don’t know what you’re talking about.

  • markpkessinger

    I’m certainly no fan of CNN, am a supporter of the ACA, and think much too much has been made of the website problems. HOWEVER — proper error handling is a very basic, fundamental skill for any web developer. It is simply not true that one can “never” hit refresh while a transmission of information transaction. Informational transactions can be handled differently from purchase transactions.

    With purchase transactions, the reason one doesn’t hit “refresh” while the transaction is not that doing so will crash the page, but rather that the credit card authorization may have already been transmitted to the credit card company, and there is thus a danger that it will be submitted and reauthorized a second time, resulting in a double charge to your credit card. If a “refresh” command is issued while the purchase transaction is processing, appropriate error handling would return a message to the user, reminding him or her that the purchase transaction has already been submitted, and that resubmitting could cause the user to be charged a second time. It should then give the user an option to resubmit, or not.

    With the transfer of information, where there is no danger of double-billing, a simple message asking if the user wants to resubmit the data will suffice. If the user then chooses to resubmit, the web server cancels the prior request, and resubmits the data as a new transaction.

    In NEITHER event, however, should hitting “refresh” result in the page crashing. If it does, it is reflective of very poor design.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    Unfortunately they don’t show the interaction w/ the site, just the error, so we don’t have enough information to ascertain any of that. (Which is a weakness in the ‘it’s CNN guy’s fault’ argument.) If I needed insurance I’d go through the whole process, clicking and refreshing, just to see if I could get the same result. (FWIW out of curiosity I did go through the account signup process today and kept hitting back, forwards and refresh throughout, and never had a problem. But that’s a different part of the signup process, so is of limited relevance.)

  • http://www.newmillgay.com/ The_Fixer

    But did he get a “When you click Submit, do not refresh the page” warning? If he really was even a reasonably learned tech guy, that refresh warning should have tipped him off that he shouldn’t do it.

    But it’s clear that some kind of warning should have come from the page itself, if refreshing were a problem. The clip above (the complete clip) does not show what led up to the error screen.

    So my opinion is unchanged – I don’t know where the fault lies.

  • Tom

    CNN is a tool for the GOP/Tea Party.

  • http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Arel Harry R. Sohl

    It’s worse than Benghazi!!1! It’s Obama’s Katrina!!Eleven!

  • grandpamike1

    Take your meds, please.

  • dweb

    Daryl Issa again???!!!!! The man is everywhere and I feel so much safer as a result!

  • Ninong

    I think this may have been a deliberate effort on CNN’s part to make it appear that the Obamacare website was still not functional.

  • Josey

    You truly are a fucking idiot. Incredible that you have a blog.

  • Indigo

    When somebody tells you they’re an “expert,” that’s your first clue that they are not. People who actually know what they’re doing don’t brag and besides, they understand there’s always somebody smarter around.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    Gotta love really patronizing posts that aren’t really all that accurate.

  • MyrddinWilt

    It is quite possible to avoid refresh causing problems but it requires the Web site architecture to be correct from the start and virtually no sites on the Web are coded that way except for a handful that process payments such as Paypal and EBay.

    What you have to do to avoid problems is to make use of server side state. You put a unique transaction ID in the page and look for multiple entries.

    It can be done but there is a huge performance impact on a high traffic site and it is certainly not a feature I would enable on the healthcare.gov site at the moment.

    One of the main problems with an overloaded site is that people start doing things like refreshing pages trying to get a response which tends to increase the load and positive feedback sets in.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    No, it says come back in 30 minutes, not “Start over”. (And “start over” would itself be a pretty crappy response to hitting “Refresh” an extra time after eight minutes filling out form fields.) Not sure where you’re getting your information.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    You actually don’t know that. We don’t see what the browser was doing when he hit Refresh, and his description of the state of the browser at the time could be read a couple of different ways. It doesn’t sound like you’ve done a lot of troubleshooting or listening to end users. Their words are always subject to some interpretation.

    And if you think it’s OK for a website to respond to user input by saying “Aaaah f*ck, you broke me, come back in half an hour and maybe I’ll work again,” please send me your contact info so I can make sure to never hire you to build anything.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    Exactly — if you take the error message at face value, the site is having a problem that won’t be fixed immediately. John’s contention is that the user caused that problem by hitting “Refresh”. So I see one of two situations: either the error is the result of bad site code which couldn’t handle a predictable user error, or it’s a more significant systemic issue. In neither case is the user fully to blame, so I think the headline that he “crashed the Obamacare website page” is as inaccurate as the conservative crowing that it’s just another Obamacare failure. That’s what I was trying to say.

  • artistsh

    You’re working very hard to try to prove it was the website that screwed up. Truth is, if te arrogant twit waited until it completed processing, he would not have gotten the error message.

  • artistsh

    Sure, it could recognize a second submission – however, he refreshed BEFORE the first was complete. Totally wrong thing to do. CNN screwed up.

  • artistsh

    Yes. It is. When you refresh WHILE A SUBMISSION IS PROCESSING, you will get an error – or the site will just crash. Basic internet browser reaction. The site doesn’t understand what the heck you’re doing. So it tells you to start over. Understand?

  • artistsh

    This will happen each and every time you fill out a form, submit it, and then hit refresh WHILE IT IS PROCESSING. It will happen on EVERY website when you do this – not just the healthcare website. The article (and the video) explains it pretty well. If you fill out a form, and it tells you that it is processing your application, DO NOT REFRESH OR CLICK ON THE “BACK” ARROW! Hope that helps – it’s pretty basic internet knowledge.

  • BillFromDover

    My point is “Why can’t you simply follow instructions?”

    You know that the site is having a problem, so why exacerbate it?

  • BillFromDover

    The reworked software has a new “reset” button which allows returning users to trash their old incomplete applications and “start anew. Have you tried this?

  • BillFromDover

    Gotta love all the criticism coming from all those that haven’t a clue as to the HTML specs, the difference between a get vs a post, the limitations of JavaScript and the algorithms at play here.

    For instance, during a synchronous transaction (vs an asynchronous, or queued transaction like Amazon uses) the simplest way out of this mess would be to simply disable the refresh button in the browser until the transaction has completed or (for error handling) until a set amount of time has expired.

    However – and for good reason – there is no function in JavaScript code running in your browser to allow this as also there is (for security reasons) no functions to allow access to your hard drive (except indirectly through cookies).

    Ask yourself this: Why do sites tell me not to hit the back (or refresh) button if there was a simple/any way for the server to simply ignore it?

    And ask yourself this: Why are there warnings on ladders not to stand on the top of it?

    To those of you (especially with with no programming experience) giving explicit solutions as how to fix these problem, I simply say: Why don’t you offer your services and become instant ka-billionaires?

  • Drew2u

    CNN: Clowns, Not News.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    Right, we’re thinking along the same lines. No city name is 4000 characters long, but if a user enters a 4000-character city name the site should tell him “That name is too long”, not blow up. In your example, yes, the site should either say “Something went wrong” (eg, duplicate submissions received), and ask the user to go back a step and confirm or re-enter information. It’s not easy stuff to be sure, but this is no cheap little site. If you’ve done your taxes online you’ve seen really high-functioning complicated application processes which are able to always keep track of a user’s place, and which never explode because of a page refresh.

    I’d walk through the healthcare.gov process to try to recreate the issue, but don’t want to risk ditching my employer-supplied health insurance accidentally :)

  • maria

    Strange as it seems, when I first tried to get to this entry on the blog, I got a 404 error. I hit back, went to the entry about Dan Savage, then came back here a few minutes later and now… here I am. Must have been all those video ads that sometimes come on in several spots and run a nanosecond after each other.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    I don’t get your point. Are you saying that’s how the website is supposed to function?

  • FLL

    I’m not sure I’d call ACA a Heritage Foundation idea. It’s what Massachusetts implemented, which is about the farthest any state has come before now, and by all reports, it has been working fairly well in Massachusetts. I really don’t think ACA will push single payer further off. If anything, it will get people used to some government involvement in health insurance, making single payer more likely in the future.

  • BillFromDover

    What part of “Sorry, there’s a problem with our system. Please log out, then try again after 30 minutes.” don’t both you and this guy understand? Please be specific.

  • http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Arel Harry R. Sohl

    I peeked through the window and he was working from a marble-topped work desk!!!!!!!!!! I hope he dies instead of getting insurance!! This is worse than being worse than Benghazi! This is Obama’s Benghazi!!!!!

  • FLL

    Is that an Anglo-Saxon Jesus in your avatar? How ever could that have happened? I don’t think John Aravosis has to include programming code in his post in order to make a valid point. What point are you trying to make with the Jesus picture, I wonder? A “circlejerk of clicks for idiots with no grasp of technology”? And I suppose your grasp of technology is superior, O Jesus worshipper? OK, my turn. Why doesn’t Jesus eat M&Ms? Because they fall through the holes in his hands. Now run along to your Bible church.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Relax. You’re not the only one.

  • mirror

    My only question for anyone is: has this been replicated by anyone to find out if it does it every time and under what conditions?

  • FLL

    I used the example of payment systems to suggest a warning for not sending new commands while the transaction is processing, which might be a reasonable addition to the healthcare site. I’m not sure how reasonable it is to expect the system to fix the problem in the middle of processing. In the case of the payment system, the double charge is a problem that would have to be fixed separately, after the double charge is registered. In the case of the healthcare site, the problem is starting the transaction over again. The Disqus example doesn’t apply because you’ve completed the first post; you’re not trying to mess around in the middle of a transaction. So I guess a warning not to do anything while the transaction is in progress would be in order on the healthcare site.

  • mirror

    BTW, I’ve had some very low points in my life, but I would kill myself I had to pay the bills by being a smug asshole like that guy. Maybe it was the only way he could get health insurance for himself and his chronically ill wife or child…

  • SkippyFlipjack

    Yes, and any decent payment system can recognize that the same request was sent twice by establishing a unique transaction ID before the button is clicked. Hell, Disqus won’t let you make the same post twice in succession — don’t you think payment processors have figured it out?

    Just to be clear, I’m not saying the CNN tester did a good job or that the website has to be perfect and anticipate every possible issue. I just think that it’s inaccurate to assign all blame to the user here. (Trust me, as a guy who builds these things, I would love to assign all blame to users for doing unexpected things.)

  • FLL

    The fact that the error message is just a generic one doesn’t change the fact that the first time he got the error message was when the system said “my status was in progress, so I went to refresh it…” Error messages are most often generic rather than really informative. The CNN correspondent still caused the crash by refreshing the first time, while the transaction was in progress. Are there really better designed systems that will ignore someone who refreshes in the middle of a transaction? Even if there are, this isn’t the most valid of criticisms. Most programmers don’t expect the user to be doing things when the system says that the transaction is processing.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    Well.. I guess I’d sum it up like this — No well-designed web application should give a full-page “Sorry, theres [sic] a problem with our system” error when a user refreshes a page in the midst of a normal workflow. This is an error that says “Crap, we were expecting one piece of info and we got two; what do we do now?” That’s not good system design. (It could also have been coincidental, and the error was indeed indicating internal issues, which I guess could be a worse thing.)

    I agree that the reporting was half-assed and his actions were silly in terms of establishing a baseline of successful website operation. But I think the website’s response is something that needs to be fixed, and I’m sure it was on the short list of bugs to be addressed within ten minutes of this segment’s airing.

    You asked what error I’d expect. I’d expect an alert, not an error. If you refresh the “add a shipping address” page on Amazon it probably tells you “That address already exists.” If you refresh the “Add Product to Cart” page it probably just adds it again. If I built this site as a side project I’d expect an error like the above. If someone paid me $300 million for it, I wouldn’t. So the issue isn’t with the error precision but that it indicated that the code wasn’t smart enough to know and communicate what had gone wrong. I think the headline of this post is telling — nobody should be able to “crash” an Obamacare web page, period. (All that said, I’m really encouraged by all the positive stuff you’ve been reporting about your interactions w/ the site.)

  • Tom in Lazybrook

    The website still isn’t fixed. No one, including the technical staff at the site can figure why they cannot create a profile for me that I can access. At their request, I’ve signed up twice (over the phone) but cannot get any information from the site when I attempt to link the profile with the information filed with the telephone operator. I also cannot access any emails because that requires….you guessed it… a working profile. They’ll fix it eventually, but right now I’m frustrated.

  • Pope Ratzo

    That’s also a good point. Who hits “F5″ while they’re waiting for a web request to go through?

    Maybe they got a little worried because up to then everything seemed to be working fine, which doesn’t make for a story that gets on Drudge.

  • Pope Ratzo

    That’s a good point, John. We don’t know exactly what happened when the CNN reporter said it gave him an error message. For all we know, the “error message” could have been, “waiting…”.

    I hope this thing ends up helping more people than it messes up. We won’t know until shortly before the employer mandate kicks in. It’s certainly worth waiting to see what happens, but I don’t have high expectations for what is essentially a Heritage Foundation idea. It keeps insurance companies primary in the process. Maybe the worst thing that can happen is that it works a little bit – just enough to push single payer further off. National health care based on corporate “insurance” is doomed to fail.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    I’m a bit confused, what error do you expect it to give you when you refresh a web page in the middle of it processing a purchase transaction? Now we’re haggling over the error page not being precise enough? And yes, he should have gone back to see whether he was info was in the account, and what the status was – whether it said it was submitted. But he’s not a very smart individual to refresh that page. Not to mention, what idiot refreshes an error page and expects to find something different pop up? That was beyond dumb.

  • sonoitabear

    In the immortal words of the anonymous IT tech, “The Problem Appears To Lie Between The Chair And The Keyboard”…

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    I’m game on them making sure that the page says “don’t hit refresh” – then again, I’ve never seen a page on the Web that tells you not to refresh after you make a purchase and the purchase is done. If you do refresh, it will still often attempt to resubmit the info and give you an error. But of course, that’s not the the allegation – CNN didn’t even mention if there was or wasn’t a notice about refreshing. They’re claiming that the simple fact that an error page came up is evidence that the site still doesn’t work. And that is simply untrue.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Make an allegation, then we can respond to it. So far, I’ve offered video and a transcript of the guy admitting he refreshed while the transaction was processing, and right after having made a transaction. You’re allegation to the contrary is what exactly? That we don’t mention how the error was handled? Handled by whom, by what? CNN’s allegation, that has GOPers in an uproar, is that a Web page offered up an error message when the user did something stupid. Welcome to Web 101, any and every Web page does that when you do something stupid like hit refresh during or immediately after a purchase has been transacted. So again, I ask, do you have a point?

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Who said it wiped out the information he entered before? That’s not in the CNN report at all. The allegation is that “an error message” came up when he hit refresh – that’s the entirety of the CNN allegation, and it’s the entirety of the allegation from Republicans using this incident to undermine health care reform.

    And I’ve got news for you, and it’s something that any child who’s been on the Web knows – if you enter a form field on any Web site, and click “enter” – and the site says it’s “processing,” you do not hit “enter” again, or refresh the page, or you mess everything up.

    Not to mention, refreshing the page after it’s processed then very often attempts to re-submit the info all over again, if it doesn’t simply give you an error.

    I was happy to criticize the first web site, and did repeatedly. This one works, and the criticisms, yours included, aren’t even factually accurate.

  • Vegas Dave

    So much b(f)lame flying around. Anybody should know, website should have, both are to blame! Very little on how the CNN segment was nothing less then a “gotcha” piece. Or the fact most news outlets are engaged in the same biased reporting over a software problem that afflicts less then 5 percent of the population. Come on grownups, a little perspective.

  • allgood2386

    totally informative, you showed me how much I have no clue. Idiot. Please show me where they talk about any of that info, you know the stuff pertaining to the error message? Or are you claiming that knowing what kind of error it was isn’t important. Please educate me on how I don’t have a clue.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Yep—-It was a deliberate setup.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    you have no clue

  • SkippyFlipjack

    If you look at the link above, he did get the “are you sure you want to refresh” alert, but I think it came from his browser because he’d just submitted some form data. I put this more on the coders than him.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    I just meant that while I like your phrase about the ‘plural of anecdote’ in this case I think anecdotal evidence is indeed significant. The website should be able to handle errors at this point a lot better than it seemed to have. I agree about the changing scope etc — but a few hundred million dollars should be enough to handle any complexity encountered.

  • FuzzyRabbit

    I was thinking the same thing.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    The clip on YouTube only shows part of the CNN segment; the rest of the segment is here: http://www.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/us/2013/12/02/newday-kosik-testing-healthcare-gov.cnn.html

    An image of the error is below. The error says “Sorry, there’s a problem with our system. Please log out, then try again after 30 minutes.” Then it gives some contact information. The guy refreshes the page again and it takes him back to the homepage. This is a problem with the site, not with a guy refreshing the page. However, the error message also suggests trying again, which the guy didn’t seem to do (there’s no real reason to wait 30 minutes.) He should have gone back in to see what information was kept or lost.

  • http://www.newmillgay.com/ The_Fixer

    I would like to know what the error message was, and if the previous page told him not to refresh the page.

    I see such warnings not to refresh a page commonly when purchasing something on line. It mostly comes up when I enter in credit card info (yes, I can refresh when I am adding to a shopping cart, that’s generally no problem). Once you do that, it usually tells you to wait while the transaction is processing, and after that wait, it comes back and gives you a success message or a fail message.

    Note that credit card transactions are secure (supposedly) and this “transaction” should be secure as it is dealing with a lot of personal information (like SSN, etc).

    So my thought is that if he was warned not to refresh that page, then it’s on him. If he wasn’t warned, then it’s on the people who coded it.

  • Flaffer

    I am not excusing it. From the descriptions of what they are having to code, I am actually amazed it works as well as it does (now). And Google is a mature web site, so the comparison is not analogous.

    Was the rollout botched? Hell yeah. But they were under a tight, rather short deadline with ridiculously changing scope (thanks Repub governors) and complex back end issues.

  • allgood2386

    It’s rather embarassing to watch a bunch of ‘news’ organizations (americablog included) report on issues that they have no clue about. But yeah, no mentions of how the error was handled nor what type, you know something that would actually give a clue what is going on instead of this circlejerk of clicks for idiots with no grasp of technology.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    Also, the guy says that “My status said ‘in progress’ so I went to refresh it, and got this error.” He doesn’t necessarily mean that the browser was in progress of a transaction; could be that there was a general application status that told him that an application was currently in progress, or a page that said that his app was in progress and that he’d be contacted when it was ready — things that shouldn’t give errors when refreshed. We’re piling some mediocre reporting on top of mediocre reporting here.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    Yes but.. If you went to Google and couldn’t get a search to work, you’d be right to conclude that Google had some issues they needed to deal with. There are some basic expectations about websites — like reasonable error handling — that should be met here, and shouldn’t be excused so breezily.

  • cole3244

    anything to drum up a story only this time they got caught and the story was them.

  • chris10858

    If he is truly an “expert”, he would know better than to do what he did. Heck, my grandmother is in her 80s and she knows not to refresh the page if it’s in the middle of something like that.

    IMHO, he was trying to cause a “gotcha” moment so he could get his face and name plastered on the news.

  • Flaffer

    The plural of anecdote is not data. Whether it was the site or the refresh, it is idiotic to generalize from one user’s particular experience at one time as indicative of the overall performance.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    Sorry but there’s no “always” or “never” when it comes to web coding. Without seeing the actual error he got we don’t know much about what was happening or whether refreshing the page caused the issue. Modern web apps have the ability to remember which step you’re app and not croak entirely because of a page refresh. It still may be worth some criticism — it’s not hard to add code to a page that pops up an alert if the user leaves the page or tries to refresh it before X is done happening. But I don’t think it’s as clearcut as it’s made here.

  • Pope Ratzo

    No. A refresh shouldn’t wipe out everything you’ve done on a website. This isn’t ticketmaster or an airline where the supply is limited.

    If I go to Amazon and fill my shopping cart and hit refresh…everything is still waiting for me. After eight minutes, there should have been greater persistence from the server side.

    This stuff is not hard. Penny-ante commerce sites all over the web do it every day.

    We’re never going to get single-payer as long as we continue to elect incompetent top-level management. Why would anyone support letting our government run our health care system when they can’t even get this right after several years and a fortune in costs?

    Maybe they can just call up Canada or Denmark and ask to borrow their floppy disks so we can have something half-way decent.

  • pliny

    Assuming this is a mistake is awfully generous.

  • Whitewitch

    Morons should not be allowed to play with computers…wait I guess then my co-workers couldn’t get their job done. Saw this with ComicCon do – EVEN with explicit instructions NOT to hit the refresh button – they did and bam, bash, pow – down goes theirs purchase of the hardest tickets in the world to get!

    Don’t hit refresh – unless you are willing to start over. Simple rule #2. Don’t close out of a document without hitting save, and if it asks you if you want to save when closing a program – please say Yes…or don’t moan when the document is not there when you reopen.

    Just saying ID- 10- T Error.

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