It was 2008, and banks were closing left and right. I was working at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), whose primary task is to pay back depositors of closed, failed, and insolvent banks. I admit that, in terms of job security, my job was on par with working at Lehman Brothers or being a ticket salesman for the Titanic. But when my department’s eventual budget cuts were still far in the future, I had the chance to work on an app called Electronic Deposit Insurance Estimator (EDIE). The app became hugely popular for a simple reason: people were anxious to find out how much of their savings was insured by the United States federal government, and EDIE estimated that amount.

But there was a catch: people don’t like to tell ...

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