Re: Left off the ballot?

From: Douglas W. Jones <jones_at_cs_dot_uiowa_dot_edu>
Date: Thu Apr 15 2004 - 13:51:51 CDT

David Jefferson's note ended saying:

> My suggestion is the OVC make this point publically and strongly: the
> bottom line is that the only possible way to know that problems like
> these are not written into the code is to make the code public!

But we also need to make it clear that we understand the limits
of open source development. There's an analogy I like to use when
I present this to the public. Consider our code of laws. The
formulation of law codes in democratic countries is an open process
once the law is formally introduced for debate. All revisions are
published, and thousands of citizens, many of them lawyers, many
of them paid to do this, examine the text of the proposed laws
with an eagle eye, looking for anything that isn't in the public
interest.

Despite this open development process and despite this scrutiny,
the laws we enact have occasionally contained clauses, that, long
after the fact, were discovered to be personal favors from
legislators to their friends, or even worse, legislation that serves
only the personal benefit of one legislator.

Legislation that, after the fact, served only to create a tax
exemption for a long-time supporter of one congressman, or that
built a private tennis court for a congressman, or things like that.

How does this stuff get by? Because, like software, legal text
is arcane stuff. An experienced reader can go over a section of
text several times and never understand its real implications.

We need to admit that we know this.

Of course, without the public scrutiny the law is exposed to before
passage, the situation could only be worse, and we know that the same
is true of software.

                Doug Jones
                jones@cs.uiowa.edu
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Received on Fri Apr 30 23:17:07 2004

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