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Why are we so bad at software engineering?

An app contributed to chaos at last week’s 2020 Democratic Iowa Caucus. Hours after the caucus opened, it became obvious that something had gone wrong. No results had been reported yet. Reports surfaced that described technical problems and inconsistencies. The Iowa Democratic Party released a statement declaring that they didn’t suffer a cyberattack, but instead had technical difficulties with an app.

A week later, we have a better understanding of what happened. A mobile app was written specifically for the caucus. The app was distributed through beta testing programs instead of the major app stores. Users struggled to install the app via this process. Once installed it had a high risk of becoming unresponsive. Some caucus locations had no internet connectivity, rendering an internet-connected app useless. They had a backup plan: use the same phone lines that the caucus had always used. But the phone lines were clogged by online trolls who jammed the phone lines “for the lulz.”