Alright, What’s Up With That?


This morning we got this email from TPM Reader RN

Hi Josh, I have been writing software for 35 years and have to say that these quotes from the NYT article are very suspicious

“One specialist said that as many as five million lines of software code may need to be rewritten before the Web site runs properly.”

“According to one specialist, the Web site contains about 500 million lines of software code.”

I assume it is the same specialist in both quotes, who is either lying or being lied to. 500 million lines would put among the largest program in the history of humanity, if not at the very top. For comparison, the Linux kernel is about 15 million lines of code and has taken two decades to get to that size. I don’t know if the contractor is getting paid by the line (which, to paraphrase Bill Gates, is like measuring aircraft quality by weight) or if someone just fat-fingered the zero key in an email, but that number is either a lie or we are considerably more fucked than anyone is acknowledging. No piece of software remotely that size will EVER work.

Anyway, the secrecy behind the code is very very suspicious to anyone who actually knows what they’re talking about. Run this past your developers and see what they think.

I always hesitate to guess or think I have a grasp of the scale the government and large governmental programs need to operate at. And I don’t know or do code. But in my role at TPM I’m involved with it because we do a lot of our own programming. And that number does see really crazy to me. I talked to our lead tech and it didn’t make sense to him either.

This could simply be a typo or perhaps some confusion on the reporter’s part about what a ‘line’ means. But something seems weird. Any large enterprise programmers want to chime in?


Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of