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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Perfect Virus Principle #3 Would Have Solved All The Healthcare.gov System Snafus

My creation of the 22 Principles of the Perfect Virus (click here to see them all, in their glory) really evolved from a seminal work by Jeff Walker when he created a software company called TENFOLD (see the nomination of Jeff to my Cyber Privateer Fantasy League here). Jeff's 22 Principles of the Perfect Application saw reality as TENFOLD delivered a working Chicago Board of Trade commodities trading floor as well as the Allstate Insurance system. These systems were infinitely scalable, bullet proof, and worked perfectly right out of the box. TENFOLD no longer exists, but that's a whole other story completely unrelated to the technology. I know the story, because I sat on their board of directors, and for a time I was chairman of the board audit committee. Again, that's another story I won't spend time discussing here. I've never gotten permission from Jeff to publish his 22 Principles of the Perfect Application, but I did get his approval as I modified them for my own 22 Principles of the Perfect Virus.

Adherence to principle #3 alone, which happens to be identical in both our topographies, would have saved our healthcare computer system (just today, Computerworld ran this story the "War Room" notes describing the chaos at Healthcare.gov). Both Jeff and I call Principle #3 "Self Awareness" and you can read all about it here. I described the key benefits of Self Awareness as follows:
  1. The Perfect Application (and The Perfect Virus) is analogous to a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. It does whatever you want it to do, and does it perfectly. Whatever hardware or operating system underpinnings support the spreadsheet, those are invisible to the application. Furthermore, the spreadsheet user can immediately see if it's doing what he wants it to do, because it runs instantly. No compilation. No human errors introduced through punctuation errors in assembly language or C++ coding. No SQL infinite loops because of mistyped syntax in queries.
  2. The Perfect Application functioned in a bullet-proof virtual machine, independent of hardware architecture, network protocol, or operating system.
  3. The Perfect Application was written in itself, which meant that it could self-diagnose and change its own DNA as it were.
In other words, Self Aware applications work perfectly out of the box every time. They automatically scale as server load increases. They self-diagnose and self-repair as needed.

On October 7th of this year, I seriously offered how Jeff Walker could have saved the healthcare website (see my story here).  As the story of Healthcare.gov has unfolded (Stratfor's George Friedman recently shared an intelligence gathering truism that "The first story is not always the right story."), more and more of "the right story" is unfolding. And I am more certain than ever that TENFOLD's demise will remain one of the great ironies of my professional life.

In my nomination of Jeff Walker as the #3 man on my Cyber Privateer Fantasy League team, I wrote:
When Jeff tracked me down to help him with his public company Tenfold, he immediately endeared himself to me by saying, "You wouldn't know a good application if it bit you." Now since my training is really in mathematics and since I'd once written a real-time operating system that took less than 700 bytes of computer memory, I could have been offended. Instead, I kept my ego in check and paid close attention. Over the next few years, first as a consultant and then as a member of his board of directors, I learned about applications. And guess what? Jeff was right. Before that time, I absolutely didn't have the faintest idea what constituted a good application.
I make the identical observation of the creators of Healthcare.gov: "They wouldn't know a good application if it bit them." And they obviously didn't give Jeff a call.

Taman Shud.


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Implementation suggestions for THE MORGAN DOCTRINE are most welcome. What are the "Got'chas!"? What questions would some future Cyber Privateering Czar have to answer about this in a Senate confirmation hearing?