Web traffic brouhaha at Covered Cal

Peter Lee on day 1 whistlestop tour

Peter Lee talks with a reporter at the Rancho Cordova service center moments after launch of open enrollment.

Covered California found itself backtracking after initial reports that its web site surpassed 5 million visitors Oct. 1, the first day of operation.

The actual figure was about 514,000 unique visitors, it turns out. There were about 5 million page views, apparently.

Regardless, the online Covered California enrollment section was taken down for tweaking at least twice in the first few days of operation. The rest of the web site — which has up throughout the year — remained online. The enrollment technology has remained stable since day 2, officials said.

Covered California CEO Peter Lee started the 5 million brouhaha when he told a celebratory gathering that the Covered California web site “had literally over 5 million hits on our web site today,” a number that the media ran with.

Lee and his spokesmen later said the 5 million hits figure accurately referred to the number of page views, which is still a misuse of the Internet traffic term — but a good bit closer to reality.

Hits in Internet terms are file requests, so the number is much larger than that for “unique visitors” (or uniques) or even “page views” (pages typically call on numerous files). “Hits” was used for traffic measurements in the early days of the World Wide Web, but it soon was replaced by uniques and “page views.”

The relatively useless term “hits” has remained as popular jargon, however, sometimes resulting in misunderstandings such as that on the first day of the Obamacare signups.

Covered California officials said about 19,000 phone calls came into its centers on day 1. “People calling for information continued to face wait times of 30 minutes or more,” the L.A. Times reported.

Lee told KPCC radio: “Starting on Monday, every person who goes through, we’re going to survey them to see what we can do to make the system better and smoother. …”

No doubt tired of the topic, Lee continued: “I would ask you or anyone who’s listening to think of a big huge build or system that has launched on time and on budget? Few. … If anyone expects perfection in anything in the world, I’m not sure what world they live in.”

Those seeking individual health insurance via Covered California have until Dec. 15 to sign up for policies beginning Jan. 1.

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