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The Rise of Open-Source Politics

michael posted more than 9 years ago | from the so-2003 dept.

The Media 492

Incognitius writes "There's a great article in this week's The Nation about the rise of open-source politics. Never before has the top-down world of presidential campaigning been opened to a bottom-up, networked community of ordinary voters. Applied to political organizing, open source means opening up participation in planning and implementation to the community, letting competing actors evaluate the value of your plans and actions, being able to shift resources away from bad plans and bad planners and toward better ones, and expecting more of participants in return. What do you guys think, is open source a good model for politics?"

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What I'm wondering is... (5, Interesting)

students (763488) | more than 9 years ago | (#10750826)

Why isn't protection for open source software and limitation of intelectual property law a political issue? I never heard it discussed in the presidential election. What can we do to force politicians to bring these issues to the forefront? Don't we want to put all the FUD behind us?

Re:What I'm wondering is... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10750866)

it doesn't have a wide enough political impact to become one. The number of people affected is too small and/or doesn't provide politicians a giant govt program that can be used to con the voters into becoming dependant on.

Re:What I'm wondering is... (2, Insightful)

students (763488) | more than 9 years ago | (#10750934)

But the majority of internet infrastructure is based on open source software. That doesn't have a wide impact?

CivicSpace Labs (2, Interesting)

turnstyle (588788) | more than 9 years ago | (#10751009)

"But the majority of internet infrastructure is based on open source software. That doesn't have a wide impact?

Time to mention CivicSpace Labs [] , a project started by Zach Rosen who had been with the Dean campaign (along with a few others who I don't know).

Quoting from the site:
"CivicSpace Labs is a funded continuation of the DeanSpace project. We are veterans of the Dean campaign web-effort and are now building the tool-set of our dreams. We are busily completing work on CivicSpace, a grassroots organizing platform that empowers collective action inside communities and cohesively connects remote groups of supporters."

Agreement and Journal Entry plug (5, Interesting)

Allen Zadr (767458) | more than 9 years ago | (#10751036)

You are right, because there is nothing in open source that doesn't also get implimented by a closed source company. Similarly, there's very little created in closed source, that doesn't eventually become and open-source implimentation.

I've actually been experimenting with open politics a bit myself. See my Journal [] . It turns out, I've started defining a political platform. I'd love some wider comments on it.

Re:What I'm wondering is... (5, Insightful)

mind21_98 (18647) | more than 9 years ago | (#10750871)

A large voter bloc that always comes out to elections is seniors. To candidates, it's more efficent to cater to the issues of seniors than to many of the other issues out there (not to mention the AARP's enormous influence in politics). And contrary to what you might think, seniors care more about whether they'll have Medicare tomorrow than whether the DMCA is repealed. Maybe if more young people voted this might change.

Re:What I'm wondering is... (2, Funny)

SunPin (596554) | more than 9 years ago | (#10750905)

How do you compile open source politics?

Re:What I'm wondering is... (4, Funny)

grcumb (781340) | more than 9 years ago | (#10751086)

"How do you compile open source politics?"

Ask Diebold. 8^)

Re:What I'm wondering is... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10750908)

The simple answer is that Republicans take in a lot of money from the Media corporations and Democrats take in a lot of money from Media personalities (actors and executives). The computer industry is nearly universially pro-Patent and spreads money to both parties. Even big Linux-backers like IBM and HP are known for their patents.

Futhermore, you are fighting the Great Myth of the American Inventor, and the idea that the patent/copyright system are the foundations of American Industry and its cultural influence.

Most engineers, songwriters, and filmmakers support the IP system as it stands. This is only an issue on GNU/Lunatic Fringe places like slashdot.

Re:What I'm wondering is... (1, Insightful)

fireduck (197000) | more than 9 years ago | (#10750909)

Why isn't protection for open source software and limitation of intelectual property law a political issue?

Once we've finished with the war, fixed the medical system, social security, homeland security, the environment, etc., then maybe we can talk about open source software. Open source software issues are only on the minds of an incredibly tiny portion of the US population, so why should a politician who has limited time talk about it? Health care and social security affect everyone, so you're going to focus about those issues.

besides, I highly doubt Bush/Kerry/just about all politicians have much insight into open source software, or even software in general...

Re:What I'm wondering is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10751079)

You must not be a /. regular, how dare you interject a bit of sanity in this otherwise ego-centric crowd. My god, I can't believe someone is so narrow-minded as to wonder why OSS isn't discussed and endorsed by politics. You nailed the majority of issues and on that list, OSS is so low in the rankings as to need a magnifying glass to see it. Poster is whining like his BMW got a bit of dust on it from being parked too close to the Twin Towers on 9/11.

Re:What I'm wondering is... (1)

students (763488) | more than 9 years ago | (#10751198)


A good polititain should be able to reinforce the towers of civilization with one hand, and clean the dust of the windows with the other.


Re:What I'm wondering is... (1, Flamebait)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 9 years ago | (#10751181)

Exactly the way the beast wants it.

Re:What I'm wondering is... (5, Insightful)

slashname3 (739398) | more than 9 years ago | (#10750918)

Open source software does not generate millions of dollars that can be funneled into a politicians pockets. As such it will never be an political issue, unless it threatens some proprietary software vendors enough. Then the politicians will pass laws to regulate open source software which will in effect make it illegal to write and dissiminate free software.

Unless you are a special interest with lots of money to buy a politician your pet issue will not have a voice in government circles. That is the way the system works.

If you want to force politicians to bring these issues to the forefront you will need to pass the hat and collect a sizeable wad of cash which may eventually attract a politician that you can sway to push your issue.

So pass the hat and start looking for a congress critter of your very own.

Simple answer (4, Insightful)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | more than 9 years ago | (#10750949)

Why isn't protection for open source software and limitation of intelectual property law a political issue?
It's too bloody confusing. Half of Slashdot seemingly doesn't understand the difference between copyright and patents. The vast majority of the general public wouldn't relate to it at all. (Though this is one area where projects such as Creative Commons [] may help in the long term.)
What can we do to force politicians to bring these issues to the forefront?
Your best bet would be to find a section of the bible pointing out that software patents are bad.

Re:What I'm wondering is... (5, Informative)

taylortbb (759869) | more than 9 years ago | (#10750960)

Although its not a forefront issue is one that is brought up. Generally the left parties support open-source, a good example (though possibly co-incidence) is that the George W Bush website ran IIS but Kerry's ran Apache/Linux.

Though, to the average voter it doesn't matter, many think Microsoft is the best thing since sliced bread and really wont be told otherwise. (These are the same people that say Firefox is auwful before even trying it). And those that don't like Microsoft generally still consider many other political items to be much more important, and to an extent they are correct. If I was American (not Canadian) I would have voted Kerry, but if Kerry liked Microsoft and George W liked Linux I still would have voted for Kerry. I really think nuclear war is a bigger deal than Microsoft vs. OSS; and many would agree with me.

The Canadian Green Party ( is an example of a party that support OSS, if you look at their technology policies ( .php?p=16#pt14 , Open Source section) they very specifically say that they will ban proprietary software in government unless there is no OSS alternative, they will say that everything must be done in open, standard formats, they say that anything developed by the government will be open source. They are one of the few parties that makes a big deal of it, and although they have 7% of the popular vote they don't have concentrated enough support to win seats in the House of Commons. They are one of the small parties, I don't see any big parties (Liberal, Conservative, Bloc Québécois, NDP) doing this, and that might be because they have realized that this doesn't win votes.

As long as I can see... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10750827)

George W. Bush's source code.

Re:As long as I can see... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10750911)

Can you understand BASIC?

Here's how. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10750835)

"What do you guys think, is open source a good model for politics?"

You, shutting the fuck up.

Re:Here's how. (1)

Geoffreyerffoeg (729040) | more than 9 years ago | (#10750855)

Can't you just, uh, not read Slashdot if you're so angry with it?

Or just register and block michael's stories, if you want.

Re:Here's how. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10751186)

"not read Slashdot?" I'm afraid I don't follow you.

Re:Here's how. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10750889)

"What do you guys think, is open source a good model for politics?"

You, shutting the fuck up.

Seems you may have missed a comma in that sentence, which makes your reply completely senseless.

Open Source? (2, Funny)

Anik315 (585913) | more than 9 years ago | (#10750836)

I think you mean anarchist libertarian politics which has been around for quite some time.

Re:Open Source? (2, Funny)

Hatta (162192) | more than 9 years ago | (#10750913)

What do you guys think, is open source a good model for politics?"

Sure, as long as we're allowed to fork.

Re:Open Source? (2, Insightful)

Pxtl (151020) | more than 9 years ago | (#10750931)

Not all open source nerds are extremist libertarian nutbars.

Re:Open Source? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10751002)

Not all libertarians are extremist nutbars.

But such is the level of discourse American politics has been reduced to. This unwillingness to see any rationality in those that may have an opposing viewpoint is the reason for all the problems in American politics. But I'm just a nutbar libertarian who believes extremism like the constitution actually limits the role of the federal government. Silly me.

Re:Open Source? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10751040)

Silence you nutbat!

Re:Open Source? (1)

sinnfeiner1916 (793749) | more than 9 years ago | (#10751082)

yeah... some are extermist communist nutbars.

Re:Open Source? (0)

upsidedown_duck (788782) | more than 9 years ago | (#10751160)

anarchist libertarian


Someone thinks so (1)

Apreche (239272) | more than 9 years ago | (#10750841)

Douglas Ruskoff [] seems to think so. He also thinks its a good model for religeon [] .

Re:Someone thinks so (1)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 9 years ago | (#10750867)

People who aren't smart enought to go to the doctor when a car has hit them may not be smart enought to know what they are talking about...

Re:Someone thinks so (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10750981)

DAldredge, You aren't smart enough to be lecturing people on anything.

Re:Someone thinks so (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10750899)

Religeon? Is that a seminary for Pidgeons?

Get the Facts (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10750854)

In other news the Republicans launch their "Get the Facts" campaign, more at 11.

It was supposed to elect the Democrats, right? (1)

sulli (195030) | more than 9 years ago | (#10750864)

Then NO, it didn't work.

Re:It was supposed to elect the Democrats, right? (1)

iso (87585) | more than 9 years ago | (#10750927)

I guess all that "bottom up" information still wasn't enough to overcome the "Fox News" effect? With any luck, as the Internet comes to more households, 2008 won't be so bad. :)

Re:It was supposed to elect the Democrats, right? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10751039)

Forget the Fox News affect and consider that the GOP had a kick-ass IT infrastructure and was counting votes down to the block level all across the country.

Using "IT" to photoshop a Hitler mustache onto a picture of Bush at can't compete with that.

The "Open Source" analogy is quite apt, because a million message board flamers means absolutely squat in the real world.

Outsource it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10750870)

Hrm, I think outsourcing is a much better option, for instance what sort of market is there for a disliked unpopular Prime Minister who 'mildly' puts his own party on edge... yet the market for this product in the US for example is greater than for its own leader, as demonstrated by the work he did on a short-term contractual basis.

We can out-source him, open source him, whatever you like, bidding starts at $10 USD to get him off our hands, I'll write a cheque right now if you like.

Deja Vu (3, Interesting)

Lord Kano (13027) | more than 9 years ago | (#10750874)

I feel like I'm reading a Jon Katz story.

Enough with the buzzword bingo, please!


Re:Deja Vu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10751051)

Here's a buzzword for you: Sabine Ehrenfeld

Sabine: Sometimes it's about the gold! []

Usenet genius: Oh really? []

Sabine: Yes. []

What do I think -- Felt Good! (1)

smchris (464899) | more than 9 years ago | (#10750877)

I printed out about 100 copies of an activist .pdf from a web site on the home laser and trucked them around the neighborhood.

Felt better than watching Cheers reruns.

open source? (1)

the-build-chicken (644253) | more than 9 years ago | (#10750878)

...hmmm, because quite often a political campaign has source code! actually, the restaurant I just had lunch at posts their menus to the internet, perhaps they're an open source restaurant? What do you think, can the open source model be applied to restaurants, or is that just a really really really unbelievably stupid things to say?

If you mean low cost (LOW TAX) government .... (1)

riversky (732353) | more than 9 years ago | (#10750885)

count me in!!! I want the lowest cost, most effective government that does only the things that matter and gets out of social services and morals, I want it now!!! This is the libertarian party politics!!! It has been around forever.

Open Source == Communism/Fascism (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10750894)

Thing is, most people in the Open Source world for whatever reason seem to have really extreme right or left wing views. Like RMS who is known to some a 'Stalinman' rather than Stallman for his rabid anti-freedom views, to ESR, who won't be happy until every 5 year old is packing an AK47 to school along with their lunchbox.

The Open Source community have a childish attitude to everything, and politics is no exception. Imagine will the CEO of a fortune 500 corporation want to use Linux after he has seen ESR and RMS in action? I highly doubt it!!!

Re:Open Source == Communism/Fascism (2, Insightful)

lnoble (471291) | more than 9 years ago | (#10751087)

Please try not to mix terms here. Fascism and Communism are ideologically at odds; they don't mix. It is a common misconception that has been part of the american hyperbole ever since the red baiting of the cold war. Democracy / Fascism / Totalitarianism, is just as relevant. Thing is both democracy and communism have never been truly practiced. The russian revolution was probably the closest thing we had to a full working class based movement for equality. It was only due to the rapid industrialization and the war that gave Stalin power and the motivation / license to murder so many millions of what were once his comrades. Read up on your Marx to get an idea of what it could have been if not for Stalin and international pressure from outside of the russian state.

Now I can't comment on specific members of the open source community, but the open-source movement itself is, although with many metaphorical flaws, is a good example of a modern collective. Developing a stream of production and distribution for the common good, that is roughly equivalent to many other non-capitalist alternatives, growing in strength everyday.

I don't have time to clean up what probably were poorly worded, unsubstantiated statements, or dive further into what could be the subject of a doctoral dissertation, so I apologize if that was all completely incoherent or inaccurate.

We can only see good from this (4, Insightful)

mind21_98 (18647) | more than 9 years ago | (#10750895)

For instance, open-source style politics was the reason Howard Dean was leading before the primaries. It allowed him to reach out to more people than he otherwise would have. In general the Internet is causing the voice of the people to be heard, and we should expect more Howard Dean-style campaigns in the future.

Re:We can only see good from this (4, Insightful)

danheskett (178529) | more than 9 years ago | (#10751071)

open-source style politics was the reason Howard Dean was leading before the primaries

Dean's supporters and staff fell into the trap of the ultimate echo chamber: blogging. You take a group of like minded people, throw them into constant communication for months on end, and suddenly you start to think that you are the majority.

Dean never won a majority of the votes in primary, save maybe Vermont. They had a few thousand extremely active users and it really got people into thinking that everyone else was on board. Add in a few early polls and all the sudden Dean is front runner who has never caught any votes.

Blogging is great. And politics that are more open are great. But let's be real here for a minute. Blogging is not a way to influence people's minds. It is a way to connect to like minded people.

I am convinced that is what happened with Dean. You had a sizeable but still minor portion of the population on board with him. The echo's got very loud, and convinced everyone he was the guy to beat.

It's not dissimiliar to the rest of the OSS minority. Some OSS apps have made great inroads, as have some companies. Get people together that use the apps, and all you get is how the players are going down.

It's like the constant stories/comments about how "5 years from now MS will not exisit as it is known today", despite the fact that MS has increased units shipped and profits consistently and that although it's relative market share isn't necessarily growing in all segments, its absolute users clearly is. Yet none of that matters. Because a large plurality of the users use non-MS products at least somewhat often, therefore, MS is losing users left and right, and MS is doomed.

Whenever you discuss events online, and get involved in a community you always have to recognize that you are dealing with like-minded individuals more than you expect.


Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10750907)

Oh come on. That still isn't a significant step forward in politics. The only reason it got posted was because of the phrase "open source". Back off of the stupid "buzz words" for a bit, won't you? Open source stupidity isn't a good thing, as exhibited by the overuse of said phrase.


MyOwnSavior (798719) | more than 9 years ago | (#10750920)

Open source is rarely stupid, because of the number of people who get involved and catch each others mistakes, and contribute on a whole. How is this bad from a politcal standpoint?


Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10751075)

How is it new or interesting from a political standpoint? Grass roots politics have been around a lot longer than grass roots software. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10750910)

Watershed 3ssay,

Too many "experts" (2, Interesting)

moofdaddy (570503) | more than 9 years ago | (#10750912)

Like it or not, modern day politics is a game for professionals. In open source technology related things, people who don't know what they are doing stay out of it. In politics though, everyone thinks they know what they are doing and everyone has an opinion.

The era of top-down politics ... is over? (5, Interesting)

Joseph_Daniel_Zukige (807773) | more than 9 years ago | (#10750919)


I thought that was what the guys who wrote the US Constitution said when they were done?

Are we just saying we mean it for real this time, or are we just fooling ourselves?

Eternal vigilence is the only real way to keep the politics bottom-up.

It does help when the leaf nodes in the socio-political processes have as much access to the technology that controls information as the root nodes, of course.

I wonder how it is that we moderns have access to that technology when so much of history is full of examples of political and social systems where it was assumed that the masses must be strictly guarded to access to it.

Or are we fooling ourselves?

i dont know maybe something by the people for... (1)

DJ_Tricks (664229) | more than 9 years ago | (#10750937)

The main thing is this nation is founded on compromise i think rich poltical neo-cons could deal with the fact they might not be making monkey off us though taxes if we did a project FOR THE PEOPLE BY THE PEOPLE!!!!!!

zerg (5, Insightful)

Lord Omlette (124579) | more than 9 years ago | (#10750941)

Ok, I saw no mention in the article of the echo chamber that Democrats lived in for the last 4 years. If we're going to take back the country, we need to instill some discipline: STOP ACTING LIKE THE GUY ACROSS THE DIVIDE IS AN IDIOT. Until we get every single Democrat repeating that in their sleep, nothing's gonna change.

Open-Source Politics means: "I think Republicans are idiots. What's this? Lord Omlette says I shouldn't treat Republicans as idiots? FUCK THAT NOISE! I'ma ignore him and surf a different website. Oooh look, this blog agrees w/ me that Republicans are idiots. Hurray for the Internet!"

All the nifty tools and new communications paradigms are not going to change a goddamned thing until we get back to recognizing that the opposing force are Americans, same as us.

Re:zerg (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10750973)

I agree 100% on this -very- simple principle:

Calling a person names is going to motivate them more then it's going to motivate people who agree they are a moron.


The liberal approach of constantly calling Bush and friends a moron mobilized more red votes then it did blue.

Re:zerg (3, Insightful)

mind21_98 (18647) | more than 9 years ago | (#10750982)

Amen! Kerry didn't give me a good enough reason to vote for him, and neither did Bush. All I heard was "he's not Bush", and nothing substantial. Unless the Democrats can differentiate themselves from the Republicans, people aren't going to want to change what party's president.

Re:zerg (3, Insightful)

Hard_Code (49548) | more than 9 years ago | (#10751066)

"Unless the Democrats can differentiate themselves from the Republicans, people aren't going to want to change what party's president."

It seems to me that differentiating themselves from Republicans has been a losing strategy, not winning strategy. Republicans have a fixed top-down message that is easily and often repeated. You can't fight it with having a more complex opinion on anything. If it took you more than 5 seconds to explain your position in a witty quip you lost the sound-bite war and are immediately cast as an effette ivory tower liberal who is "out of touch" because apparently "in touch" means supporting simplistic nice-sounding policies that get votes today without any regard for long term effects.

Hasn't this election been a refutation of "open source politics"? Republicans got out their base, and although they did do a lot of grassroots politicking, the message was still based on agenda bullet points. It was still the Cathedral, not the Bazaar. Democrats are the Bazaar with a lot of disparate and less clear cut factions, without strict adherence to absolutist positions. The Cathedral is going to win over. More people attend and are influenced by Cathedrals in this country than Bazaars.

I think it is clear that to compete Democrats have to start fighting this Noise War. That's why they started Air America to compete with conservative talk radio. But to compete they need to stick to a very few, very well-defined, divisive, and visceral positions, and just hammer them relentlessly. Frankly I think that goes against the grain of the whole left which has rested on the notion that the truth will set them free, and if people just know the truth they'll vote correctly. But truth is not always simple and not always sound-bite-ready, and I don't know if it is a winning strategy. The only way it could be is if they somehow astro-turf crazily but that's dishonest.

Re:zerg (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10750999)

Except for the fact that demonizing your opposition can be very effetive politics. For example, the long-time GOP propaganda that "Democrats are Elitists that are against the Common Man!!!" which completely inverted the 'populist' appeal and provides wonderful cover for cutting millionares' taxes.

The "Republicans are Idiot Cavemen" line has helped the Dems to solidfy their support in certain educated parts of the country (like California). The problem is that the Dems (Clinton, Gore, Kerry) never actually produce any compelling "smarter" proposals, so it's largely a hollow boast.

Re:zerg (1)

iso (87585) | more than 9 years ago | (#10751025)

All the nifty tools and new communications paradigms are not going to change a goddamned thing until we get back to recognizing that the opposing force are Americans, same as us.

So if I'm reading you correctly you're saying .. you're all the same, so all Americans are idiots? That sounds about right.

Democrats need Republican votes (3, Insightful)

KalvinB (205500) | more than 9 years ago | (#10751050)

They need to remember that the next election so they don't do a repeat of this election. The anti-Bush crowd did an excellent job alienating the Republicans and motivating them to vote for Bush. In the process they failed to build up the support they needed for their own candidate. Any rational argument against Bush was quickly lost by screaming loonies calling Bush, Hitler and insulting the intelligence of anyone who didn't have the same negative opinion.

They put the Republicans on the defensive which resulted in Bush being re-elected, the Republicans getting a larger margin in the house and senate and the minority leader losing his job. The first time that's happened in 50 years.

I think the problem was that the Democrats thought they were in the majority judging by all the various polls and world opinion and they didn't need "idiots" voting for their guy. Turns out they really were the minority.

Re:zerg (1)

goon america (536413) | more than 9 years ago | (#10751077)

I hate to say it, but negative tactics work. People tell you that they don't work, but they seem to be saying this because they just don't like them. That's very different from them not working.

Studies show that people fairly consistently say they don't like, and aren't affected by negative advertising, and they also show that people are consistently wrong in those opinions of themselves. People pay more attention to and remember negative ads significantly better than positive ones. They aren't persuaded of the other side, but that was never the point: the point mostly is to convince you to stay home on election day.

And, I might add, haven't you ever noticed how the right-wing propaganda outlets do nothing, NOTHING but villify and demonize the other side? I fail to see how this strategy backfired.

Re:zerg (1)

upsidedown_duck (788782) | more than 9 years ago | (#10751081)


But, like, this is for-real acting, not some made-up stuff.

Re:zerg (1)

TummyX (84871) | more than 9 years ago | (#10751091)

Yes, especially since 58% of college graduates voted for Bush and 54% of high school drop outs voted for Kerry.

See or yourself [] .

Also, despite Bush's attempt at a constitutional ammendment against gay marriage, 23% of homosexuals still voted for Bush. I guess that means 23% of gays are stupid hicks too eh?

First (1)

AbbyNormal (216235) | more than 9 years ago | (#10751163)

Republicans are idiots post!

Just kiddin, but that is generally the mentality you are going to be dealing with. The people here on Slashdot, are just as impressionable as those who backed the Republican party for "Morals". The problem is that no-one wants to listen to each other anymore. You do not hold my views because they are counter to my A.) Church B.) Party C.) Company D.) Parents, and therefore you are wrong. No sense in why you are wrong, but just knowing that you are.

Here in Australia (5, Interesting)

darnok (650458) | more than 9 years ago | (#10750944)

... the two major political parties work very differently. The Liberal Party (who are the more *right*-leaning) have a top-down model broadly similar to how both major US parties work - decisions are made by the man/men at the top, and filter down to the underlings whose job it is to make them happen.

The Labor Party have a bottom-up model, where various factions (e.g. trade unions) push ideas, solutions etc. upwards to the man at the top. Infighting within the Labor Party is very much out in the open as the various factions try to win out, whereas infighting in the Liberal Party is almost exclusively carried out behind closed doors.

One thing that has been a pattern is that, when the Labor Party has been running the country, their leaders have almost always been extremely charismatic people. Keating, Hawke, Whitlam (and now we're back 30 years) have had very strong public personas. The Liberal Party, on the other hand, has had "grey men" in charge whenever they've been in power - nobody ever accused Howard, Fraser, McMahon, Holt or Gorton of being particularly visionary in the way they went about doing things (OK, Gorton is a slight exception, but he was nowhere near as charismatic as any of the Labor guys).

Here's my point, at long last: if you equate the open-source (bottom up movement) with the Australian Labor Party (bottom up model), maybe the thing that's missing is a highly charismatic leader for the open-source movement. Maybe FOSS needs someone who can present the vision, paint the future as rosy, etc. etc., while managing to galvanise the hard-headed FOSS coders behind the scenes to buy into the same vision. Someone who can stand up and convince a room full of sceptical businessmen and politicians that he knows what their problems are and FOSS can address them, while being able to stand up in a room full of C++ and Java coders and convince them his coding and design skills are on a par with theirs.

From what I've read, Miguel de Icaza would possible be the foremost candidate for that type of role at this particular instant, but I've got no idea if that's a role he sees himself filling at any point in the future.

hahahahaha (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10750946)


NEVER! (2, Funny)

HexRei (515117) | more than 9 years ago | (#10750953)

Never shall I allow actors, competitive or not, to evaluate the... value... of stuff.

Emphatically, yes! (2, Insightful)

RealProgrammer (723725) | more than 9 years ago | (#10750955)

The Open Source model is the future of politics. In the next few election cycles, I think we'll see a Cathedral/Bazaar phenomenon take place. Whether that phenomenon supplants the current right/left paradigm or not remains to be seen. A lot depends on whether the Democrats pick up the mantle of "Open Politics" or not.

Open Politics is, in many ways, what grass roots politics is supposed to be. In the current system I think it has turned into the national parties manipulating the local people, though I speak only for my own locale.

The Republicans are just coming to terms with the notion that their base is comprised, to quote one Republican polster, of "theocrats" - people who believe not that a theocracy is desirable, but that the separation of Church and State has been overemphasized to the nation's detriment. That's who won the 2004 election, and it will be very hard to deny that movement. Democrats should not make the mistake of dismissing the theocrats or ignoring the intellectual and numeric strength of the movement.

The Democrats need new intellectual vigor, and tapping in to the Open Politics movement seems like a natural for them.

If the Republicans embrace Open Politics, I don't know what effect that will have. If neither major party embraces it, then a huge vacuum is opened up for one of the minor parties to fill.

Re:Emphatically, yes! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10751138)

Ha, what planet are you living on? "Open Politics" what a joke, you think that's new? Seems like a whole bunch of folks a couple centuries ago came to this country and started the original "open politics". Kids think they're always inventing something new, when in fact, they're just rehashing the past and in the process repeating many of the same mistakes. We (collective "we" of a society) allow that because we understand it's a learning process just as we let toddlers fall on their ass a few times while learning to walk.

Memeset propagation, not campaigns, most important (3, Informative)

Cryofan (194126) | more than 9 years ago | (#10750961)

The campaigns are not what is important. Before you can get a good populist candidate, one who favors egalitarian change, you need to get the right set of ideas (memeset) out into the political "air". The rightwing wealthy and the mega corporations have already done that over the last 30 years using their think tanks and foundations. See here:
http://www ive_counterpa.htm

So before you can get a "candidate of the people" you need to have the voters already aware of a set of ideas that reflect his politics. What you need is a Leftwing Meme Propagation Machine which needs to be up and running YEARS before the campaign.

If you want to get a real liberal (as opposed to faux liberals like Kerry, Dean, Edwards, et al., you need to sell the idea of progressive politics to the public.

Rightwingers here on /. will no doubt tell me that CBS, NBC, PBS, et al are the leftwing meme propagation machine. I used to think so, too. But I was wrong, and so are you. Economically Leftism and social leftism are two different things. One feeds the bulldog, and the other does not.

Fundamental Differences.... (3, Interesting)

DJ XpL0iT (828323) | more than 9 years ago | (#10750962)

Ok...Given that the article talks about using open source as a model to galvanise the 'grassroots' supporters, I don't see this as a model that can be applied so easily to politics.

Open Source as a paradigm relies pretty much on two things, a desire to participate, and the belief that well reasoned argument based on merit will ensure the implementation of the best solution.

In Politics, I think both things are lacking from the general populace (as opposed to the, for the want of a better word, intelligentsia(sp?)).

Joe Everyman doesn't vote based on a rational discussion of ideas and policies - he votes along pretty much strict party lines. And that's when he bothers to vote at all.

Open Source is about informed intelligent participation, and I think that sounds too much like hard work for Joe Everyman.

As examples, I don't think anyone could argue that between Kerry and Bush, or Latham and Howard, that either of them won or lost on their MERITS

...or maybe I'm just cynical...

Election has been a victory of FUD over Facts. (1)

NZheretic (23872) | more than 9 years ago | (#10750966)

From Unfortunately, the 2004 USA Election has been a victory of FUD over Facts. []
The mainstream forth estate news organizations, on both sides, have utterly failed to hold either Democrats or Republicans accountable for claims that diverge widely from the known facts. In cases where journalists have made a consistent argument, the news organization has allowed that position to be "shouted down" by political camp followers repeating the same lies over and over again though the same outlet.

Some alternative sources, be they partisan or bipartisan organizations, individuals, websites, documentaries, forums or the blogosphere, have done a better job at holding both sides accountable. Sadly, even the most popular alternative source reaches a small fraction of the audience covered by the mainstream media. However, to even that small fraction, those same sources have utterly failed to present an overall palatable, concise and coherent position to the opposing or undecided viewers.

RFC (1)

madgeorge (632496) | more than 9 years ago | (#10750972)

An idea struck me the other day. I've been thinking about what I consider to be our broken democracy for several years now, and I've half-ass considered writing A New Constitution, just as a personal writing project really. Wednesday (a time for introspection for a lot of people) I decided if I do that it should be submitted as an RFC. What could be more democratic than open source government? It's an intriguing thought.

Open Source Politics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10750977)

Lawrence Lessig, President 2008

What I'm REALLY wondering... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10750985) seriously, is everybody here *drunk*? I mean, come on people, I know that "open source" is more of a buzzword than a real signifier of anything these days, but do you HAVE to apply it to every aspect of life? What in the holy name of god does "open source politics" MEAN? Nobody's requiring a non-disclosure agreement to read the legislation governing our electoral system... give it a try.

True open-source.. (3, Interesting)

Geoffreyerffoeg (729040) | more than 9 years ago | (#10750986)

Allow laws to be publicly editable via the web (in a Wiki style). The only power elected lawmakers would have would be to approve for a version of the page.

Not with our voting system... (5, Insightful)

adam31 (817930) | more than 9 years ago | (#10750987)

Not until you change to a "vote for as many as you like" style voting system, where candidates have to compete for the greatest-common-cross-section of opinions. Now it's a system where the politics have led people to believe that how you feel on 1 or 2 issues determines how you feel about everything. How do you feel about taxes? How do you feel about abortion? Alright, here's the entirety of your other political opinions.

They've even convinced us that it even goes down to the very fabric of our being... Who are you? A Liberal, or A Conservative? So it's vitally important to *them* that *they* be the ones to draw the line... make the definition. But of course it's not true. You can believe whatever you want about any different issue. Son of Reagan shows up at the DNC to promote stem cells... and people are SHOCKED.

But no politician has to worry about the lines being blurred when it's a battle of Us or Them. Not until you destroy that paradigm can you begin to have influence.

Re:Not with our voting system... (2, Informative)

lnoble (471291) | more than 9 years ago | (#10751191)

Instan Runoff Voting roughtly accomplishes this. Though electoral reform must go much farther through increased campaign finance reform, a new system of proprtional representation or some form of alternative districting that does not give the economic and political power holders control over how our vote is counted. Not to mention bringing the Federal Reserve into public oversight, and a plethora of other things neccessary to fight the current economic class system, and neoliberal policies of our country.

Washington State currently has an IRV legislative initiative that desperatly needs your help to get on the table, so if you live there please visit [] and learn more. Also their example software is all open source.

Re:Not with our voting system... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10751197)

A case in point [] . What happens when you step out of line.

Go for it. (1)

Stumbles (602007) | more than 9 years ago | (#10750996)

Sure.. it can't be any worse than the crappy way things have/are been/being handled.

Brings out extremists (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 9 years ago | (#10750998)

The internet gives an equal voice to everyone, and that means a weighted voice for extremists, who care more about their positions than anyone else does. The mainstream process mutes these loonies and produces something that all Americans can support (in theory). I mean, if Howard Dean's campaign is the example, it's not exactly a shining theory.

Politics? We already have an idea (2, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 9 years ago | (#10751004)

Ever take notice of the KDE vs. GNOME camps? That's a political divide if ever I saw one.

The two projects could have merged long ago if only they didn't have such different models at the time. Can they merge now? Doesn't seem like it. And that division would seem to mirror the kind of division we might see in "open source politics" of the future.

I can only imagine that two camps out there might have "the best answer" to global warming, renewable energy, clear air, keeping the nation's unemployment rate down, managing terrorist threat, you name it.

I can see an open source model for research projects, however. The trouble is, people with money care more about profit than progress... then again, that's how they become people with money now isn't it.

I think the idea has merit but I can also see where it would be supressed or at the very least competed against by commercial interests so it wouldn't be enough that OS public activities would be competing against themselves but also against commercial interests. Is it a good idea? Yeah... I think so. If for no other reason than to maintain and incentive to keep politics close enough to the people that it's never completely out of the public's reach.

Open-source is a HORRIBLE model for politics (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10751013)

Because of the lack of games which is what politics is all about. Until you change the market shares in playing games, MS has the best political model.

Makes me think about Groklaw (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10751017)

No way could the open source community replace IBM's nazgul lawyers. And yet Groklaw is the best anti-FUD device ever invented. I think the same thing will happen in politics. Actually, it already has. The example that comes to mind is exposing the forged memos about GWB's service or lack thereof.

Re:Makes me think about Groklaw (2, Insightful)

Tufriast (824996) | more than 9 years ago | (#10751096)

"These are the same people that say Firefox is auwful before even trying it."
The fact is that people who state this aren't really what opensource is looking for anyways. Opensource in and of itself is a pretty much a violation of the key ruleset of capitalism. Therefore, people with money, who can throw it around - don't really care for something that isn't interested in making a substantial profit, and gaining power. These two in tandem are key for capitalism to continue. However, open source politics CAN make money. Why? B/c if people have the choice to put people in power, and more people are donating their free time to help a politician, more money will be generated as a result. For whom though? The political parties, underlings, and so forth involved in the effort. I do not think this is an original idea, but simply a swing in the opposite direction of U.S. Politics. It was not so long ago that people were much more activley involved in politiking, and seeking to help out their neighborhood politicians. It is only recently (within the last 35-40 years), that people have decidedly forgotten about U.S. politics. Increasingly over time people have been forced to forego their political ideas, and thoughts in order to attain marginal gain. This is dangerous, and I do think that more involvement is needed on behalf of the people's part. They should keep in mind though that what they say should offer NEW ideas, and improvement to already existing entity - not simply respewed zealotry. The last election was a prime example of such things though.

WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10751033)

Uhm, what you're describing is called "democracy" and is, like, how it's supposed to work.

I.e., if you give a shit about something the government is doing, MOBILIZE and get involved. Start organizing. Start doing. And if you can't do, DONATE.

I guess if you have to slap "open source" on it to get the geeks to move, so be it. Most of the slashdotters think they can create change by posting angry messages on message boards filled with people who already agree with them!

The Cathedral and the Bazaar (4, Informative)

pherris (314792) | more than 9 years ago | (#10751034)

From "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" []
The fact that this bazaar style seemed to work, and work well, came as a distinct shock. As I learned my way around, I worked hard not just at individual projects, but also at trying to understand why the Linux world not only didn't fly apart in confusion but seemed to go from strength to strength at a speed barely imaginable to cathedral-builders.
Politics up until recently has been an insider's only game. Any information about a candidate was only available through a few select news outlets and many times it was "polished" so said outlet wouldn't have their access shut off. Discussions were limited to the local coffee shop with a few people. It was the cathedral.

Now the news and editorials come from everywhere. We can discuss the same issue with hundreds of people in a day. Opinions can be formed with the help of a diverse and eclectic group of people. While this system scares traditional news outlets like daily papers, local tv and radio stations, it works very well. It is the bazaar.

Even though I don't think when Eric wrote his landmark article about the history of GNU/Linux it could or would be applied to politics, I think parts of it fit this issue quite well.

The Internet and FOSS have truly changed the way we live. Is it any surprise that it's also changing politics too? BTW, if you haven't read "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" read it soon. It's great stuff.

Re:The Cathedral and the Bazaar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10751111)

Cathedral and the Bazaar is a bunch of wishful thinking claptrap and not even a good description of open source development practices, much less some playbook for poltics.

You guys have it completely backassward. Open Source is the application of certain political ideals to the software development process. To then go an claim credit for those political ideals is ridiclous. Software might still be developed in "smoke filled rooms" but politics certain isn't.

it's what democracy was supposed to be (1)

maryjanecapri (597594) | more than 9 years ago | (#10751043)

democracy by definition is supposed to be "of the people for the people" type leadership. that's the way it was created. unfortunately the politicians and the parties have twisted it into being something all together different. i think we could possibly save our country if we begin by getting rid of the partisan system. once that is gone we allow the people to actually vote on all issues, systems, and governances. but the US government would never allow such a system because it would take the power away from them. i only wish this country had the balls to actually revolt. but we've become so apathetic and numb we'd rather just sit in front of our plasma televisions watching reality tv as our rulers take more and more rights away from usl.

Fuck your tribe. (2, Informative)

otis wildflower (4889) | more than 9 years ago | (#10751045)

Here's what I hope.. The internet helps folks bypass the party tribe system, and that history is used as a lesson on which to base improvements of the future. That people can argue ideas on their merits, not on the tribal associations of those fielding the ideas.

Unfortunately, there's something in the limbic system that makes people want to conform and seek the approval of others in their social groupings, something hardwired in the primate brain.

The one thing about opensource that I would want to see in politics is the concept of meritocracy. People earn respect and legitimacy on how correct their code or arguments are. That's pretty unique in the world of human endeavor. There's rarely an 'old boy's network' in opensource, there's rarely arguments about technology that last longer than a few testable patches. How much of that is applicable to things like socialized medicine, foreign policy, the environment, etc. I don't know, but I'd hope it's more than what we have now :p

No Secrets! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10751049)

How can a government be held accountable to the people if it is allowed to keep secrets? It can't. A democracy cannot function properly if it is allowed to obfuscate its methods. Get everything out in the open.

Monitor politicians 24/7 so they can't take bribes. Put webcams in Abu Ghraib. The fact that we don't know what our soldiers are up to is almost as disgusting as the things they are doing. Developing new aircraft in area 51 with taxpayer money? why bother keep it a secret? get all that shit out in the open.

Is this a risk for national security? Sorry, you should have thought of that before you cried wolf. Its time to demand accountability.

Open... Source... Politics? Linus, is that you?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10751063)

Dang, I sure didn't see him on the ballot. Must have been hiding under one of those hanging chads.

cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10751070)

does this mean we can compile our president from platform independant sourcecode ?

Lies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10751090)

Since politics is all about lies, and open source is, well, open, it's clear that the open source philosophy can not be applied to politics.

The invasion (and weakening) of open source by politics is, however, inevitable.

Who... (1)

Rick Zeman (15628) | more than 9 years ago | (#10751097)

...can be bought in open source politics?

wtf are you blathering about? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10751120)

This election was won on 1st millenia principals, of frear & doubt care of the church.. All that you have proved is that you are still out of touch with most Americans, who think the world was created in 7 days, that science is a joke (unless they get sick) and that people like us should be shot. Hate to break it to ya sunshine, but *we* are in the minority... Hell most of the midwest has never *seen* a computer before, let alone used one.

Why stop with politics? (2, Insightful)

Aggrav8d (683620) | more than 9 years ago | (#10751133)

First point: Why not run whole businesses that way, with open accounting and forcing renewal of corporate charters that have a limited "lifespan"? ...sounds a hell of a lot like a socialist plan except that, being based around the internet, it doesn't need the top-down heirarchy. So at least it gets rid of the weakest link. Second point: if the government were going to be run in a bottom-up, buzzword loaded "open source" system...why elect anyone?

C'mon.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10751166)

It's only been what, 5 days since the election? What's with the politics talk so soon? I need time to decompress!

Cart before the horse... (2, Interesting)

venomkid (624425) | more than 9 years ago | (#10751171)

Open source is just a programming "contexted" facet of the regular behavior of information (Open/Free).

The fact is that, under real, tremendous stresses (like this election), this kind of information gets out anyway.

It has nothing to do with your software movement. Your software movement is a small acknowledgement of something bigger.
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