Monday, December 1, 2014

The Corruption of Welfare - Not so Corrupt

There is a hidden problem with joining the future that I rarely discuss, because it's not a problem inherent in technology. The lag of upgrades.

Technology is a sink or swim endeavor, not something that can be done willy nilly or half assed. The most important thing an organization must do is how decent IT personnel.

To better understand this I will use Washington state as an example of how to do it wrong. The specific point of interest is the Department of Social and Human Services.

This organization is notoriously a mess, the majority of workers are lazy and callous. Visiting in person was always the best method to take care of issues, however, visiting in person has an inherent issue with convenience.

The Moyer traditional method is to call by phone, which should have very few problems. This office ha's average wait times of 60 minutes, even if no one if being helped.

So it was great to hear that they finally have an online method available. That is, until you visit their website.

The Washington state DSHS website is designed as poorly as those old Altavista websites designed for people's parrots and gerbils in the 80s. The Lansing page is bland and login links are obfuscated, and none of it is mobile friendly.

When you manage to find the link to create an account they demand you choose a password based on insane criteria, like including a special symbol. This  ensures that you will forget the password in the future.

So you sludge through their poorly conceived login system, but you still have no access to what they want you to complete.

For that, there is another account system you have to find, yes, it is also obfuscated. Then you create a second passcode.

Okay, now you're ready to begin the rebel process, if you can figure out which text word you're suppose to click on. Instead of obvious menus or links, they bury the correct links in the actual text that drones on about different languages and how to get help if you can't read this page in English.

Ladies and gentlemen, the stupid of that one page alone is a threat to the sanctity of the internet. We have not  reached the end of our misadventure yet.

Once you start filling out the forms, you glance at the URL and notice, it now looks like a document on its own. The session ID is probably about 1k of data on it's own, excessive barely covers it.

Assuming your browser and connection are both perfect, in which case you don't need DSHS anyway, you get through and just wait for the letter telling you their decision.

Most browsers or connections will crash, that session ID and the fact they use JavaScript in ways the spaghetti monster never intended.

If you are a poor person who needs this service, you load the browser back up an navigate to the page again. Instead of your application, you are greeted with a warning that you have to wait 30 minutes for the other session to expire.

Yeah, they don't use cookies, and they have no way of tracking your IP address. In server scripts your IP address is very easy to check, even some of the laziest coders will connect that with the session for reconnects.

Alright, 8 hours later you manage to get this all done and now you can rest easy knowing you have renewed your much needed benefits. Then you get the letter explaining that you no longer get any benefits.

You have to call them anyway, wait more than an hour on the phone listening to the annoying voice telling you that it's better to use the system that just screwed it all up in the first place. This is not how you join the future, or save the planet, this is the result of bad hiring practices that result in nerds working positions where geeks should be.

I type this after being on the phone for 55 minutes, my second time trying to call to figure out why my medical renewal was denied in spite of no major changes. I am still waiting for an operator, and I was using my cheap $15 phone's keyboard.

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