What if a Software Glitch Cost You the Winning Powerball Jackpot?

 With tonight’s Powerball jackpot hovering just above a half-billion dollars, people across the United States are dreaming about what they will do first when they win. What will you do? Will you go to work the morning after your lucky numbers are pulled, or would you retire on the spot? Companies (including SmartBear employees!) are pooling their money to purchase tickets and individuals who rarely ever play are plopping down their $2 at the chance of life on easy street.

But what if you were shut out from your chance at the jackpot because of a software quality problem, or a mistake on the ticket? And no, this isn't just some hypothetical we randomly came up with.

In fact, software problems and heavy demand have slowed some lottery machines in the state of Georgia, one of 42 states officially participating in the Powerball game.

The chance of having the winning Powerball jackpot ticket is 1 in 175,223,510, slightly better than the chance of winning a Mega Millions jackpot, which is 1 in 175,711,536 (I like those odds). And while the software glitch that plagued the Atlanta area appears to be resolved, different glitches have caused problems for other lottery games in the past.

Chances of winning the lotteryJust months ago, in Illinois, duplicate lottery tickets caused a big problem earlier this month when about 3,000 duplicate quick-pick lottery tickets were issued. According to the story, only 340 or so "duplicate" small prizes were actually won, so the Illinois lottery is playing the incident down. Even so, this could have been far worse.

In addition to the software glitches that could affect your purchase of the winning ticket, Powerball activity is taxing other avenues, including social media outlets such as Twitter, where there have been more than 50,000 tweets about Powerball in the last 24-hours. Tweeps everywhere are getting into the game (pun intended).

For example, @yaboybillnye is offering up a portion of his winnings for anyone who retweets his message. Or consider The Valley Inn, which offered up a portion of its winnings to their Facebook fans. Even Good Morning America (@GMA) got in on the fun, tweeting 5 tips to win the Powerball jackpot.

This Google search volume graph highlights just how intensely public interest has shifted to "Powerball" over the last few days.

 

Search index Powerball

Software quality matters in virtually everything that we do today, both as consumers and in business. Those who build lottery systems have to be adept at statistics, probability, load testing, code review and more.

You build your application and, if you are diligent and disciplined about it, you do all your load and performance testing, too. You even do all the right research to ensure you have correctly estimated your concurrent users and associated load based on market projections… sounds fancy and organized, doesn’t it? And then, stuff happens. Forces outside your control get all up in your business, like a $500,000,000 jackpot, and, if you're not prepared, it could be disastrous.

Don’t let that happen to your software. Consider load testing to be a critical part of your process rather than "nice to do," and you, too, may be rewarded with your own jackpot – very happy users. That's almost as good, right?

 

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