Software restarted

From: David Mertz <voting-project_at_gnosis_dot_cx>
Date: Thu Apr 28 2005 - 12:12:48 CDT

On Apr 28, 2005, at 12:46 PM, Alan Dechert wrote:
> I like it! Their discussion is somewhat less sophisticated than our
> early
> voting-project email list discussions back in 03. They have a very
> long way
> to go before they understand the assignment.
>> http://bluescreen.sourceforge.net/

It's nice that folks like JamBoi and the SV OVC--and also the Blue
Screen Democracy folks--whom I chatted with a few months ago[*]--come
to the idea of developing Free Software voting systems with new
enthusiasm.

[*] As far as I can see, Blue Screen is exactly where they were four
months back.

Unfortunately, there have been a pretty long line of similar
enthusiasts. Each come on to the idea with an idea that the technical
problem isn't that large, and could be done by a fairly small number of
programmer, fairly quickly. Often the idea is that this number would
be volunteers, after the model of various successful Free Software
projects. But so far, each new group starts with a bit of earnest
discussion, then fizzles out as a lingering Sourceforge page or
website. Part of each new start involves a lot of NIHS (not invented
here syndrome), which is rampant among--but not restricted to--Free
Software.

The thing is that all the new enthusiast are right. There actually is
*not* all that much technical difficulty in programming a touch screen
interface, or a canvassing system, or the other parts. Getting them
each just right is a bit harder than new people think; but it's not
outrageously hard either way. But part of what it takes is a very
clear focus and good project leadership. It's easy to let too many
extra interesting ideas and directions sneak in--and here I think the
problem is especially bad among volunteers. A half dozen paid
programmers with a semi-dictatorial manager would probably be better
focused. But OVC (or affiliated organizations) hasn't yet gotten
grants or other monies that would allow for those half-dozen paid
staff.

One more thing: while the programming itself isn't necessarily huge,
there are some design issues that can go subtly wrong. Particularly
around security and anonymity. This stuff has been pretty extensively
and well hashed out on the OVC lists in the past; but I recognize it's
not easy to extract the answers from months of discussion. I'd really
recommend that anyone trying to write code run their outline/plan by
ME. Not just as CTO, but having been involved in the demo development,
I think I can give a pretty quick and accurate analysis of potential
stumbling blocks.

Yours, David...

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Received on Sat Apr 30 23:17:18 2005

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