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Inside Team Romney's whale of an IT meltdown

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#1 Denis W.

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 17:11

Note: this story is four days old and is related to the recent US election, but focuses more on the IT blunders that went on instead of politics.

Orca, the Romney campaign's "killer" app, skips beta and pays the price.

It was supposed to be a "killer app," but a system deployed to volunteers by Mitt Romney's presidential campaign may have done more harm to Romney's chances on Election Day—largely because of a failure to follow basic best practices for IT projects.
Called "Orca," the effort was supposed to give the Romney campaign its own analytics on what was happening at polling places and to help the campaign direct get-out-the-vote efforts in the key battleground states of Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Iowa, and Colorado.
Instead, volunteers couldn't get the system to work from the field in many states—in some cases because they had been given the wrong login information.The system crashed repeatedly. At one point, the network connection to the Romney campaign's headquarters went down because Internet provider Comcast reportedly thought the traffic was caused by a denial of service attack.
As one Orca user described it to Ars, the entire episode was a "huge cluster****." Here's how it happened.

Continued at: http://arstechnica.c...an-it-meltdown/


#2 theyarecomingforyou

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 17:17

Politics aside, it's foolish to develop a system and only test it on virtual-machines rather than in the real world. There should have been several real world tests, including a mock-election type scenario to work out the issues long before the election. As it was they had volunteers standing about not knowing what to do when they could have been making worthwhile contributions to the campaign. Unfortunately they only have themselves to blame.

#3 Enron

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 17:36

Maybe they had just upgraded to Windows 8 and couldn't figure out the new interface.

#4 CentralDogma

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 17:50

Politics aside, it's foolish to develop a system and only test it on virtual-machines rather than in the real world. There should have been several real world tests, including a mock-election type scenario to work out the issues long before the election. As it was they had volunteers standing about not knowing what to do when they could have been making worthwhile contributions to the campaign. Unfortunately they only have themselves to blame.


Those virtual machines are the way the cloud holds the database servers. There’s nothing wrong with doing it that way rather than having physical servers, it actually makes things more flexible and error resistant. Problem was, they didn’t do that for the web server, so that was a weak point that was failing under pressure.

Also looks like it was a major problem was bad coordination. They waited until the last minute to do things and it seems doubtful they did any real world tests of the system.

#5 xpablo

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 17:53

To build Orca, the Romney campaign turned to Microsoft and an unnamed application consulting firm.


One big part of the problem is getting services from Microsoft, a company that is a huge Obama/ Democratic Party supporter.

#6 zhangm

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 17:55

From another related article:

"For whatever reasons, the conservative bloggers have latched onto Orca as the reason it all fell apart," Moffatt added. Those bloggers have suggested that developers with Democratic sympathies somehow acted as a fifth column within the Romney camp. Targeted Victory was singled out by some bloggers because a few of its developers worked for Al Gore in the past.
"Why do they have Al Gore's dev working on Romney's social media development?!" blogger Catherine Ann Fitzpatrick asked. "Truly, how can they expect dedication?" She also singled out another developer who is African-American and "who has a 96 percent chance of being an Obama voter… I will be accused of 'racism' for even flagging. But it's the truth."


In the end, not enough people voted for Romney, and the reason behind it was that they didn't want to. It's not because some technological Tower of Babel that went flaccid at the last minute.

#7 guru

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 18:12

So which is it? Azure didn't scale or really bad middle tier development?

#8 +Quillz

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 20:58

They're just programming it wrong.

#9 Growled

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 01:45

As one Orca user described it to Ars, the entire episode was a "huge cluster****."


To say the least.

#10 TheExperiment

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 04:52

One big part of the problem is getting services from Microsoft, a company that is a huge Obama/ Democratic Party supporter.

who loves money. ****ing off clients would be a great way to not get them in the future!