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There is such a thing as too fast
I just got around to reading SCOTUSblog's account of What Happened on June 28th -- that is, the debacle where CNN and Fox both announced that the individual mandate had been struck down, when it hadn't been. (Thanks to gyzki for pointing me to the article.)

The story is well worth reading, and not just for those interested in law and healthcare -- it's actually one of the most important communications-tech stories of our time. The upshot is that CNN shot itself in the foot by being *too* efficient in news dissemination, and thinking that that was the most important thing. What's shocking is the realization that the story takes far longer to read than it took to happen: the first several pages are basically the first 90 seconds of the tale -- time enough for people to read the beginning of the decision, come to the wrong conclusions, and broadcast those conclusions nationally before they got to skimming page 3.

The moral of the story is that we've gotten to the point where we can now distribute information globally faster than we can *think*. That has profound implications, not least that, if you're in communications, and human beings are part of your communications chain, you need to be acutely aware that they are quite likely to be your weakest link, and you need to design your systems to take that very carefully into account. The GIGO Principle (Garbage In, Garbage Out) has hit downright dangerous levels.

(The story is, BTW, almost blackly funny in places. I halfway hope Newsroom survives a couple of years, solely because this is the tale that show was born to tell...)

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Ah -- haven't gotten quite that far yet. (We've watched the first couple of episodes, and the show is very much on probation...)

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We're generally liking it, *except* that the two female leads are both scatterbrained doormats. It's doubly annoying because most of characters (including the secondary female ones) are generally well-written. We're hoping they get past that, so we're giving it a chance...

A modern day Dewey Defeats Truman! announcement, eh?


Yeah, very much the modern cognate. Some lessons have to be relearned every generation or two. (Although I don't think this one will be remembered nearly as deeply...)

Thanks for posting this; it was unexpectedly interesting.

Yeah, it's the sort of article -- spelling out well-researched facts, leaving the analysis for the end -- that one sees too rarely nowadays.

It also show that despite assigning "experienced" producers and on-air reporters, they were not the right folks to put on the story.

Other analyses I've read and heard, have said that the final SCOTUS decision is almost never on the first page, but on the last page of the summery. The details of for/against arguments that impacted the decision are listed first, then then process, then the result.

That idea extends past news. There have been some rather cogent arguments that our financial trading systems would be much better off if we slowed it back down to human speeds, rather than the computer speeds much of it currently operates on.

Yep -- I was hearing echoes of the flash crash as I read the article...

*gleeful sysadmin schadenfreude*

The Court’s own technical staff prepares to load the opinion on to the Court’s website. In years past, the Court would have emailed copies of the decision to the Solicitor General and the parties’ lawyers once it was announced. But now it relies only on its website, where opinions are released approximately two minutes later. The week before, the Court declined our request that it distribute this opinion to the press by email; it has complete faith in the exceptional effort it has made to ensure that the website will not fail.

But it does.

Of course it does! I got a first hand report from the lead sysadmin on duty when CNN went down for September 11th, and the Herculanean efforts he and his team had to go through to get it back up - there's no chance the government has really thought through the capacity planning they're going to be faced with. Anyone who hasn't already gone THROUGH one of those crashes - or talked directly to someone who has - is unlikely to really grasp the level of capacity planning required...

And as SCOTUSblog said, At this moment, the website is the subject of perhaps greater demand than any other site on the Internet – ever. It is the one and only place where anyone in the country not at the building – including not just the public, but press editors and the White House – can get the ruling. And millions of people are now on the site anxiously looking for the decision. They multiply the burden of their individual visits many times over – hitting refresh again, and again, and again.

This is the exact same problem that hit UVA in the wake of the shootings there, hit CNN and the Washington Post and everything else on September 11th...it amounts to a DDoS attack on the site, and it's all *real people*.


See above about the financial system - there's a strong argument that they *shouldn't* go through the capacity planning. Let the site crash.

Why? Because this information is not critical. It is not a power system for a hospital, or something. It does not require "five nines or better" uptime.

This is somewhere that our culture still has to catch up with technology - we act live Veruka Salt with respect to information.

'See the financial system' is right. Having key information seconds ahead of everyone else is worth a lot of money under the current system. people were sitting with fingers poised over the 'buy' or 'sell' button while listening to their news source of choice.

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