Good morning, everybody. I was on WTAG this morning with Jim Polito. He wanted me on to discuss the problems that Massachusetts was having with the rollout of their Vaccine Scheduling website. Here we go with Jim.
For more tech tips, news, and updates, visit – CraigPeterson.com.
Automated Machine Generated Transcript:
Craig Peterson: [00:00:00] Dah, dah, dah, dah, dah. He had a special command appearance this morning to answer a major question that’s been bothering people in Massachusetts. Their state just yesterday came out with a COVID vaccine registration site and a million people ages 65 and up became eligible that had not been eligible before.
Of course, it did not work. They were getting errors like bad gateway error or this application crashed. It’s just incredible. Incredible. Talk a little bit about what should have happened and the ways to really think about putting together something for your business. Should you, should the state be developing these systems from scratch?
I give some alternatives here. You might know. I built one of the first large-scale websites in the world. The whole thing, including the data center for the silly thing, way back when. It was for Big yellow. I don’t know if you remember that or not, which was the predecessor to Superpages. We were able to get it up and running in a matter of weeks from scratch, which was a database of every business in the entire region, multiple, multiple States. In fact, we ended up covering the entire United States before we even launched. We managed to get it finished at 2:00 AM. 9:00 AM they had a press conference down a New York City, and the site was released to the world and everything worked. It never crashed, which is absolutely amazing.
In fact, we ended up after 18 months deciding maybe we should start rebooting some of these servers because they’ve been online yeah. For a year and a half. Of course, I was not running windows. Right.
I have some credit here. I know what I’m talking about, kind of the bottom line. I think you might find this a little interesting if you’re wondering about these government projects. Cause I also bring up Obamacare and what ended up happening with this $600 check that people were getting for being laid off over the whole lockdown thing.
So here we go with Mr. Jim Pollito.
Jim Polito: [00:02:27] Charlie. Baker’s not having a great day. Didn’t have a great day yesterday. The governor of Massachusetts because his computer system to register people to get the COVID vaccination crashed. It’s been opened up to people 65 and older, and apparently, 1 million people to log on to set up appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine.
It just crashed. It crashed.
Joining us now to sort this all out is our good friend. Who’s usually you’re on Tuesday, but this is why he’s such a great asset to the show tech talk guru Craig Peter song. Good morning, sir.
Craig Peterson: [00:03:06] Hey, good morning, Jim. Hey, not only was the site unavailable but if you called2-1-1, the vaccine hotline, it also failed, they couldn’t transfer through. So, the frustration level was just out of this world.
Jim Polito: [00:03:22] It reminds me of the old days when you were calling and trying to get tickets to see the Rolling Stones when they went on sale and the systems would just crash to try to get through. I have advertisers who really attempt to crash their systems because I want to send them so many people for their system. That’s a good thing. Like they say, Oh my God, all these callers from the Jim Pollito show were all of these people trying to log onto our website. What happens? Why does that happen?
Craig Peterson: [00:03:53] In one-word incompetence. We remember the rollout of course, of the Obamacare website. I said, Hey, listen, this is going to take about three years for them to get right, after what is already online. It took about three years for them to get right.
I have done some amazing things and seen some amazing things done when it comes to websites over the years. You just can’t find competent people in some of these organizations, particularly some of the larger ones.
It is easy enough in this day and age. In fact, it’s very easy in less than a week you could put together a website that is effectively crash-proof that will automatically scale itself up. The question about why does it crash, has to do with the components that they’re using and the way they’re spreading the load.
It’s not as though all of a sudden yesterday a million more people were eligible for getting shots and they should’ve been concerned about this. There just weren’t enough computing resources behind all of this is kind of the bottom line.
Jim Polito: [00:05:01] It’s like you got a bag that’s rated for 10 pounds and you’re trying to put 20 pounds in it.
Craig Peterson: [00:05:07] Think about having a Toyota Prius and all of a sudden you want to get a hundred people into it. You should have known that since there were a hundred people that were going to line up, a Prius just wouldn’t have done it. You needed a couple of buses. That’s why it goes back to incompetence.
Let’s not even look all the way back through the Obamacare website. Let’s look at what happened with unemployment, where people were getting these $600 checks, right? We have the exact same problem.
All 50 States had it, but there’s an even simpler solution besides designing this properly using sites like Amazon web services or Microsoft Azure, which both have systems to make sure that you can handle the load. It’s something called queuing.
They had something that many States adopted for their unemployment site. Very easy to add. I mean very easy to add. I looked into it because of problems I saw States having thought, well, maybe I could put a product together for them. I found Florida was using something and it took them all of about half an hour to put it in place.
What this queuing system does is you go to the website and the queuing system says all the backend systems are pretty busy right now. So I’m just going to give you basically a line in number and when the backend systems are ready for you, then little it’ll all be well and good.
Now, I’ve got to give them a little bit of leeway here, Jim, because I’m not sure what’s actually behind all of this. Are they actually trying to tie into all of these pharmacy’s computer systems from that front-end website, ultimately, because there are so many pieces?
Jim Polito: [00:06:59] No.
Craig Peterson: [00:07:00] Okay.
Jim Polito: [00:07:01] No, I don’t think so.
It’s the super sites that they’ve set up, but I’m fairly sure that’s how it is. Frankly, I have been suggesting, why don’t we just put this in the hands of the people who’ve been doing it all along, and then it’s their problem. Say to CVS, Walgreens, Stop and Shop, Wegmans, Price Chopper, all these places where you can get vaccines. Send them to them, pay them and say here.
Craig Peterson: [00:07:32] Yeah, exactly. Why do you build a website in the first place to take appointments? There are dozens of calendaring and scheduling websites out there.
You talk about these events, getting rolling stone tickets. Well, there’s a website called that is designed to do exactly what the state is trying to do right now. The cost of this is like next to nothing to use it. I’ve used it before for events. We use it for the FBI InfraGard events. It’s so simple. Yet, no, we’ve got a bureaucracy. We have people who are here on phony-baloney jobs, as Mel Brooks would say. They need to design it.
No. All we’re talking about is some basic calendaring functions. To your point, why set up these sites? Walmart has pharmacies, and so do most grocery stores, as you’ve just mentioned. Let them do it. Maybe have one of these things like the event or one of the other scheduling pieces of software or websites do the scheduling. Just let them do it.
We don’t need a whole new bureaucracy. They can’t get it done.
Jim Polito: [00:08:45] Yeah. See, here’s the thing though that’s different with Charlie Baker versus when Deval Patrick was governor in Massachusetts. As you alluded to the Obamacare exchanges and that site kept crashing, but not just from demand, it just wasn’t designed well. It was a mess but different Deval Patrick just made excuses about it.
Charlie Baker went out. I think Wednesday and said, yep, it’s all ready to go. Which knowing what I know about Charlie Baker when he ran Harvard Pilgrim health care, he went to the person said, is this ready to go? Are you sure? Okay. He went out there.
That’s why, yesterday, he actually used the word I’m pissed, which I think is better for him to say and he will say I own it. I’m pissed. It’s gotta be fixed. I would not, Charlie Bakers’ a really nice guy. Some people say too nice. I wouldn’t want to be the person who told him, it’s ready to go. It’s all set.
Craig Peterson: [00:09:45] The other side of this is the testing involved because again, you can put these systems under load test and you should, and in the regular non-governmental space, we do put them under load tests and make sure they’re going to work.
Obviously, none of this happened. I can see why you’re saying his hair is on fire and he’s really upset, but so were all these other people.
The design of the site was you went to the site, you filled out a PDF form online, and this form went on for pages and like you, so you’re filling it all out, which I don’t get either, right? Government paperwork and all of a sudden the site crashes. It does not keep any of the information that you just spent all your time filling out. Pages and pages form so that the design of it, even from that standpoint was ludicrous. What there is going to be a problem. The person’s internet could go down, their computer could crash. Your website might not be able to handle the load. Then what are you going to do? Because now everybody has to start from scratch again.
Jim Polito: [00:10:58] My goodness this is why you’re the great resource. Hopefully, the state was listening and Rhode Island is listening to, and they’ll call in and they’ll say we got to get this Craig Peterson guy.
Craig, by the way, while you’re here, how would people get you through a system that would not crash?
Craig Peterson: [00:11:16] Well, you can always just email me firstname.lastname@example.org and I have all of my podcasts and everything up at my website, which of course is also. craigpeterson.com. If you have any questions or anything email@example.com and I’m always happy to answer pretty much anything that comes my way.
Jim Polito: [00:11:36] There you go.
Craig. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
More stories and tech updates at:
Don’t miss an episode from Craig. Subscribe and give us a rating:
Follow me on Twitter for the latest in tech at:
For questions, call or text: