Re: Is Open Source Enough?

From: Greg Christopher <stork_at_electronify_dot_com>
Date: Thu Sep 06 2007 - 10:47:11 CDT

On economics:
On Sep 5, 2007, at 1:39 PM, Brian Behlendorf wrote:

>
> On Tue, 4 Sep 2007, Arthur Keller wrote:
>> At 11:05 PM -0700 9/4/07, Brian Behlendorf wrote:
>>> On Mon, 3 Sep 2007, Arthur Keller wrote:
>>>
>>> The primary reason to be in favor of open source voting systems
>>> is not
>>> technological, but economic. Such software encourages
>>> competition, as it
>>> lowers the cost of becoming a voting system vendor.
>>
>> That's still a theoretical argument. Suppose there are two companies
>> competing using the code based by Open Voting Solutions? Would that
>> help them compete better against closed source vendors?

Yes that's possible.

>
> Yes. Instead of spending money implementing the same thing twice,
> they can
> spend that money on more hardware in precincts, more staff on site
> to address
> issues, more training for election workers, etc.

True-

        As many folks on the list are obviously familiar with software
development, what is the largest cost?

        I won't make you scroll down for the answer- it's "testing".
Something things that Karl said seem to be symbiotic with that thought:

---
Testing can be done ad hoc.  But ad hoc methods give rise to
non-repeatability and disputes and plausible deniability on the part of
vendors.
In light of these considerations I tend to subdivide the idea of
inspectability into component elements:
	1. The right to poke and prod the entire system to ones heart content
(without destruction of the equipment and for a finite time).
	2. To right to preserve the test harness and to fully publish (to
everyone) the tests and the test results without constraint from
non-disclosure agreements, use limitations, or copyright except to the
extent that any code publication may be constrained to only what is
necessary to illustrate a flaw.
	3. That others be afforded the ability to repeat the tests, subject to
some limitation on the financial and time risk of the vendor (i.e.
perhaps they might only need to have one system available for testing
and people who want to test would have to queue up.  That tends to allow
the "scientology" form of blocking in which the machine is forever
checked out to vendor friendly reviewers, but that's a secondary level
of problem.)
---
	Wow- I am having a tough time believing a software vendor would  
argue with people who want the "right" to take one of the biggest  
burdens of developing software off of their hands. (once they've  
gotten by giving up their source that is!)
	There are some workflow issues and I'd certainly be concerned about  
completeness.  However,  they aren't about to remove their quality  
team. But having more testing is a good thing, once you understand  
the complexities of managing "beta programs" and the like. This just  
means their software is going to perform better and hopefully exceed  
expectations.
And finally:
---
And let's be realistic, voting machine vendors have had their dose, a
big dose, of the consequences of hubris.  In the future they are
probably going to be more cooperative and responsive; we should begin to
consider them as partners in getting things right rather than as
insatiable enemies.  So given them a bit of slack and recognizing some
of their business concerns is not unreasonable.
---
Exactly. If someone came to me and told me that they wanted to employ  
an army of testers on my software, it wouldn't take me long to say  
"yes please". I think the response time would need to be measured in  
milliseconds.
Of course as an ISV, that would be contingent on getting past the  
idea that people outside my company see our source code. However,   
dangling the carrot of free testing could get them a lot closer to  
agreeing to that.
Increased free testing gives you:
-quicker detection of problems
-reduced time-to-market
-free advertising. And there is no better advertising for a secure  
product than showing you espouse real security, not through obscurity
Seems win-win to me. Unless, you know, they're in the business of  
compromising elections.
And obviously I don't think we wait for them to agree. We keep doing  
the good work we're doing now to force the issue.
Greg
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Received on Sun Sep 30 23:17:06 2007

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