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Software Government Politics

Starting a Political Career with Open Source? 66

Posted by Cliff
from the if-you-must-fall-to-the-dark-side dept.
byronmiller desires to get to the root of the following issue: "I have chosen to run for office to represent the people of the 16th district of Pennsylvania. I am looking for software and solutions to help manage a grass roots and budget friendly campaign. What applications are available for everything from district management/contact management solutions to online fund raising and campaign management solutions? We are already rolling out staff PC's running Suse 9.2, OpenOffice.org and of course Firefox. Are there any collaboration suites and mail systems that we can use for calendaring, notes, email and conferencing? Anyone build a campaign using open source technology or is Politics still only putting money where your mouth is? Technology is a major initiative of my campaign and i'm very interested in what political software and civic solutions are available - especially experience and reviews of such."
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Starting a Political Career with Open Source?

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  • by mellon (7048) * on Sunday February 27, 2005 @01:17PM (#11794660) Homepage
    It's early days, so you'd need to be a little smart about it, but it might be worth a shot. http://www.hula-project.org/Hula_Server
    • Thanks.. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by byronmiller (861060)
      Hula looks good, just don't know if i can rely on it just yet. A bit too new - Looking for systems "Tried and true"
      • Although I wouldn't call it "tried and true", I would say that it is "ok", even if local security needs some work (passwords are not encrypted).

        There were a lot of problems in the earlier revisions (pre-40), but at the current time (78) it works quite well, expecially since it hasn't had its first release yet (it is still in Subversion).

        I've been doing the ebuilds for it, and I haven't found too many problems with it recently. You should probably know that it IS based on the Netmail codebase, so it isn
    • You might find some GIS (Geographical Information System) tools, such as GRASS http://grass.itc.it/ [grass.itc.it] [grass.itc.it] useful for plotting out/ organising things such as:

      *likely voting patterns

      *areas of responsibility for canvassing

      *local issues (flooding, crime?)

      *Junk mail shots... (if you want to go there!)

      *And maybe a spot of gerrymandering!!

      http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&client=firefo x-a&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&q=define:+gerry mandering&spell=1 [google.co.uk]

  • by Anonymous Coward
    best on your side with electronic voting. Just make sure your vote-count is an unsigned long long field, and your opponent is a signed char.
  • by slashkitty (21637) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @01:26PM (#11794736) Homepage
    You know, you can't trust everyone here because they are not all on your site. You might want to try dailykos or something like that if you're looking for advice.

    That said, I suggest you go 100% Microsoft. Outlook does wonders. Switch your phones to Skype. Distribute your press releases on Kazaa... Hope that helps.

  • by astrashe (7452) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @01:46PM (#11794888) Journal
    Running open source in your office is a noble gesture, but doesn't really help anyone else.

    Getting a vote in Congress probably won't help anyone either, since the leadership of the majority party can do whatever they want. But at least there's a chance that you could do some good down the road if you win.

    Do what you can to win. Don't focus on things that aren't directly related to winning. Winning is hard, and if you don't focus on it, you will probably lose.

    Winning might include open source -- if you want to set up community web sites to bring people into your campaign, for example, open source might be the way to go. Take what you can from Joe Trippi's Dean campaign.

    But don't get hung up making people type letters in open office, because it won't help you win.

    • by Ithika (703697) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @02:44PM (#11795253) Homepage
      -1, Missed the Point

      That's exactly what *everyone else* is doing and see what's happened? Focusing on winning with no interest in *why* you're winning or at what cost, leaves the whole exercise pointless. The poster may as well not stand at all if they're just going to do what everyone else does.
      • That's exactly what *everyone else* is doing and see what's happened? Focusing on winning with no interest in *why* you're winning or at what cost, leaves the whole exercise pointless. The poster may as well not stand at all if they're just going to do what everyone else does.

        Absolutely. If you can't answer why you're running (and be able to answer briefly) you shouldn't be running at all. That said, our open source candidate friend here is already making a common mistake most candidates make. Right n

    • by x2A (858210) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @03:33PM (#11795558)
      Running open source in your office is a noble gesture, but doesn't really help anyone else
      Are you saying there's no actual benefit to using OSS? Is a company that moves over to OSS (esp free OSS) just performing a 'noble gesture', or could, for example, CUTTING COSTS, increase how competitive you can be?

      If you spend less money on software for your staff to use, does that not leave you more money for more/better staff? If you spend less money on software for designing posters, does that not leave you more money to print more posters?

      Does how efficiently your representative spends your money not effect who you choose to represent you?

      I say go for it.

      -2A
    • by Dachannien (617929) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @04:11PM (#11795840)
      I get the feeling that while the OP might like the concept of OSS (free as in speech and all that), he's just as interested in the actual benefits of OSS to end users as opposed to developers (meaning, free as in beer). While the OSS movement may (and hopefully will) benefit from the attention, I think the ideology here is to run a budget-friendly campaign, as the OP put it.

      That said, here's what this guy's up against [opensecrets.org].

    • Getting a vote in Congress probably won't help anyone either

      Wrong! Anyone interested in real sweeping changes in the government needs to realize that it won't happen overnight. Our next president will be a Republican or a Democrat, so will the next.

      What we need is to get in at the ground floor. 1 or 2 3rd party members in congress won't do a lot, but when that number grows to 10% of the floor, then they have some power.
      • What we need is to get in at the ground floor. 1 or 2 3rd party members in congress won't do a lot, but when that number grows to 10% of the floor, then they have some power.

        Yes. A dangerously large amount of power - because 10% could be enough, (along with one of the Big Two), to constitute a majority. It's worse in the 10-20% range where one of the majors *must* court the minor in order to hold a majority.

        When that happens, the '3rd party' holds power all out of proportion to it's size. The tail star

        • But you do realize that most democracies have no problem with more than two parties?
          And wait, a smaller party working together with a bigger one so that they have a majority, where have I heard that before? Oh yeah, it's called a coaltion and it's absolutely normal in most democracies.
          • But you do realize that most democracies have no problem with more than two parties?

            That depends on your definition of 'no problem'. Most people don't consider walkouts, constant compromise bills, gridlocks, and other ills to be 'no problem'. Don't mismark me, the goverment continues to function, but there more to 'no problem' than simply continuing to function.

            And wait, a smaller party working together with a bigger one so that they have a majority, where have I heard that before? Oh yeah, it's calle

            • That's funny, I studied political science :)
              And from that point of view, I think it's pretty safe to say that a system with two parties has far more problems and disadvantages the a system with more parties. Of course too much parties is another problem.
              I'd say that everything between 3 and 5, maybe 6 parties is rather "safe". By the way: 2 parties is much better then 10. I give you that any day.
              I think the germans are handling it pretty well: two major parties and up to 3 (depends on which level) smaller
      • 1 or 2 3rd party members in congress won't do a lot, but when that number grows to 10% of the floor, then they have some power.
        Yes, but that power will be to split the vote between other similar parties and let a dissimilar party dominate. The U.S. still runs on simple majority, until that changes there will be no "third" party in federal government. Local yes, but not federal.
        • Voting based on a simple majority works perfectly with third parties in coalition with a larger party. If neither of the two big parties has a majority, the third party that can tip the balance becomes important.

          You seem to be confused with our actual elections, which don't require a simple majority. When the outcome is based on a plurality, a strong third party does throw power to the big party with which its voters are most likely to disagree. We saw that in the 1992-2000 elections.

          Unfortunately, thir

    • Well said. Unfortunately the case, but true.

      Politicians have to do what it takes to win. Ideals take a second to that.

      That's all for now. Don't have mod points, but I gotta give ya some props for speaking the truth.
      • There is no wrong way to go about politics. The software/backend and systems you build your campaign on don't necessarily reflect your political ideals across the board either. I happen to be quite the tech head myself, but that isn't the overriding factor of the campaign. We're looking for something we can roll out to save time re-developing the wheel as well as to implement something we can pass down to other potential candidates so the opportunity for others to have great tools will be afforded. If yo
  • Hey (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 27, 2005 @01:49PM (#11794902)
    Some open source web tools you should look at:

    http://www.advokit.net/ for voterfile, campaign management and voter relationship managemnet.

    http://www.civicspacelabs.com/ is based on drupal, and provides a great way to make an interactive community driven site for your campaign.

    ShadyDial, a predicitve dialer add on for asterisk.

    You should also check out http://www.personaldemocracy.com/ for general commentary and discussion on techonology and software in politics.

    ~Nathan
  • by Anonymous Coward
    You're taking on Joe Pitts [house.gov], a five-termer Republican in an area of PA that is very Republican. Even if you're a Republican yourself, you're taking on quite a challenge with the opponent being a long-time incumbent.

    Your best bet is not to worry about what operating system is runnign your campaign website or other computers, but rather what your political platform and campaign slogan will be.
  • by enrico_suave (179651) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @02:03PM (#11795004) Homepage
    Clark Tech corps [clark04.com]

    wired article [wired.com]

    I for one welcome the possibility of an open source advocating/understanding overlord =P

    (Granted the dean and clark campaigns weren't a political success, but dean's online campaign was considered initially a social networking success... until he ARRRRRRGGGGGD himself out of the race...)

    Good luck!

    e.
  • Howard Dean (Score:5, Informative)

    by fsck! (98098) <jacob.elder@gm3.14ail.com minus pi> on Sunday February 27, 2005 @02:05PM (#11795021) Homepage
    The Dean campaign ran on open source software. Looks like the project lives on under the name "CivicSpace."

    http://www.civicspacelabs.org/ [civicspacelabs.org]
  • by magefile (776388) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @02:14PM (#11795072)
    Use Mailman to build a campaign-wide mailing list, either internally, or as a way of keeping supporters in the loop.

    Use an internal wiki for discussions (the problems of public Wikis in political situations should be fairly obvious ...).
  • In what way ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zangdesign (462534) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @02:33PM (#11795167) Journal
    Technology is a major initiative of my campaign ...

    In what way is "technology a major initiative of your campaign"? We've heard candidates state the same things before, at all levels of government, but what does it really mean? While it's obvious that technology cannot be the sole focus of your candidacy, does it mean you are going to be pushing some form of Open Source adoption or what? Are you going to pushing digital rights legislation? There are a myriad of technological concerns that are being pushed into the political realm, where the people most likely to legislate are the ones least likely to be informed. Is this focus on technology merely a way to get low-cost assistance at pushing the same old non-tech issues?

    So, again, how is technology a major initiative of your campaign?
    • http://www.byronmiller.org/technology Finer points will be published as we work towards 2006. Believe it or not I am a "tech head".. By day I work for a large bank maintaining an Oracle 11i upgrade and by night I enjoy my mythtv and watching it with my family. I have a mythtv box, i've built out my own networks and i have even implemented a small asterisk box to do voip for our growing campaign. I'm just looking around to see if there is anything out there i have missed so i can get some of my techs invo
      • Please speak english (Score:4, Interesting)

        by LWATCDR (28044) on Monday February 28, 2005 @04:46PM (#11806310) Homepage Journal
        I checked out your positions.
        " * Continued investment in and support of broadband infrastructure & access."
        Will you support the right of communities to provide free wifi and create local broadband networks? Yes or no.

        " * Stronger recognition of consumer rights in the digital world."
        Will you protect fair use? Yes or no.
        " * Legitimate copyright protection & enforcement."
        Will you restore due process? I.E. Media companies must get court orders to track user IP addresses? Yes or No.
        " * Modernization of patent laws to protect innovation and technology."
        What heck do you mean by that?
        " * Technology assurance programs, including product liability to ensure consumer protection." Again what the heck do you mean by that?
        " * Technology & protocol standardization - open system specifications, common infrastructure, and unified industry adoption."
        So the government is going to make system specifications the LAW? Good grief I can not think of many ideas worse that than one.

        What about funding research in to new Nuclear reactor technology like the Pebble Bed?
        What about a solar roof program? Requiring each new home to have a small solar voltaic panel tied to the grid? Even 100 watts to start with? Just enough to to increase the production of solar cells. In the future the required size could be increased as the cost comes down.
        What about increased funding for NASA?
        What about a bio-diesel program? Maybe giving bio-diesel a bigger tax break.
        I found your site short on specifics. Since you have jumped into the frying pan let's crank up some heat.
        • by byronmiller (861060) on Tuesday March 01, 2005 @04:46PM (#11816086)
          ?? Will you support the right of communities to provide free wifi and create local broadband networks? ??

          Yes.

          ?? Will you protect fair use? Yes or no.??

          Fiar use has no meaning. Fair use is like the clean are act, it sounds good but has no bite because the meaning doesn't PROTECT your freedoms afforded to you via copyright laws. We have to stop the UNFAIR business demands taking away our rights or come up with bills that define them to be easily understood and inclusive of all media types (digital/analog/printed...).

          ??" * Modernization of patent laws to protect innovation and technology." What heck do you mean by that??

          Exactly what I mean. Modernization of Patent laws to protect innovation and technology - not prohibit such. Patents are used for the wrong reason and prohibit small businesses from innovating in many ways. We Need to be a bit more proactive in setting precedence for what could be patented and for what reasons instead of applying with the hopes (or lobbying for support of) getting approval on some unknown review process. (or the skill of your lawyer)

          ??" * Technology assurance programs, including product liability to ensure consumer protection." Again what the heck do you mean by that???

          Take fair use and give it a law with Bite. Take consumer rights and make them known. What do you mean with or interpret as "fair use"? How do you know what to do with software you buy? Songs you purchase? Dvd's you own? Can you copy? Can you resell? Can you transfer license? What happens when your using something that advertises "secure online banking" but your information is exposed through a vendor mishap or lax security - why should YOU be punished for using a service sold to you as secure? How are you protected in such instances where your computer/network is unkowningly used to attack or break into others? What rights do you have as to what is running on your PC? Can you sue Spyware companies because they're breaking into your PC or is it assumed the risk we take is warranted and we shouldn't do anything to assure net access, net security, licensing protections and corporate awareness of consumer rights? I'm about consumer advocacy and awareness.

          Technology & protocol standardization - open system specifications, common infrastructure, and unified industry adoption."

          So the government is going to make system specifications the LAW? Good grief I can not think of many ideas worse that than one.

          I beg to differ. Every industry has a standard protocol of acceptance, qualifications and industry standards. Medicine, Healthcare, Global Trade, you name it they all have rules, standards and laws to define them.

          I'm not asking the government to enforce specific technologies but to create an environment that strives to create industry acceptance of such as a standard.

          IT is being highly commodotized, in order to trade on the open market and to remain useable and accessible by all laws have to be created to set precendence on the industry, standards and adoption of such.

          • "I beg to differ. Every industry has a standard protocol of acceptance, qualifications and industry standards. Medicine, Healthcare, Global Trade, you name it they all have rules, standards and laws to define them."
            Fair use is easy. If I buy a cd or dvd I own the rights to listen to that movie or music. If I want to convert it to a different format.
            Here is one where I really have to disagree. The government has no more place deciding what file formats or communications protocols a program uses then it does
      • There's some attrocious spelling errors here. You should get someone trustworthy to look over your communications with the public.
  • eGroupware is an excellent product that has become very mature in the past couple of years. It is all web-based and works great in Firefox.

    It has email, shared calendaring, shared todo's. User is in control of what users can see/add/edit their appointments etc.

    A default install comes with FAR more applications than you will need, but you can prune it down to do just what you want.

    Check out eGroupWare [egroupware.org]

    I would love to know what you and your staff think about this product.

    disclamer: I am not affilia

  • Take a look at OpenGroupware.org
    It's quite stable, permits document and project management, as well as individual/group scheduling, and contact management.

  • by cleetus (123553) on Sunday February 27, 2005 @04:28PM (#11795928) Homepage
    As a political consultant/PAC founder [startchangepac.org] who bootstrapped the entire enterprise from hand-rolled code and open source projects, The best I've seen so far is the CivicSpace [civicspacelabs.com] initiative started by the techies from the Dean campaign. It's still at 0.8.0.3, and so there will still be bugs, but they fix patches quickly and the team is quite responsive. In addition, if you combine a CivicSpace installation with some intelligently placed hooks into the great stuff at Democracy In Action [democracyinaction.com], you will be able to communicate and co-ordinate with your grass roots (and collect money from them), all at an extremely low cost.

    Tim
  • OpenACS is my favorite content management and collaboration suite. At openacs.org, there are links to campaign sites, etc., built with OpenACS software.
  • Greetings from District 9. We're never gonna be rid of the Shusters
  • A wee bit offtopic (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SupremeTaco (844794)
    Dude is like 28 years old! [byronmiller.org]. Must give him props for even running. Most people that age don't even care enough to get involved.
    Good luck, man! Hope it all works out for you.
  • CivicSpace (Score:5, Informative)

    by 3.2.3 (541843) on Monday February 28, 2005 @02:41PM (#11804774)

    While the people who support CivicSpace mean well, I ran it for several months and found it all bark and no bite. PHP apps are so brittle, it is foolhardy to attempt to run large scale projects on them. And too many PHP libraries are not threadsafe. Although it seems more and more (I would assume inexperienced) democratically oriented political organizations are starting to use CivicSpace. This concerns me.

    I think the main reason CivicSpace has caught on is that it takes little skill to set up. That part of it is extremely democratic, and first impressions are everything. Then folks start doing the things it can do out of the box, like blog, and blogging a campaign does not make (actually, it distracts from an actual campaign).

    Note that although CivicSpace came out of the Dean *grassroots* campaign, it took nearly the whole campaign to make it even minimally usable (although there were a lot of "skins" for it early on to make it look nice), and even then not many sites of any consequence were running it. The actual Dean *professional* campaign ran on a grab bag of proprietary and open source software (Convio, Moveable Type, roll your own PHP) that never had a single sign on and seemed to change every few months as a new person would get an audience in front of the right campaign official and convince them that some new software would solve all the problems of the old software, which had been the new software only a few months before. Each successive generation seemed to go downhill a bit as folks who were supposed to be more qualified took over from folks who had supposedly reached the limits of their usefulness.

    At one point there was a tour by some software folks from the professional Dean campaign office that claimed they would come to your town and talk about open source software and leveraging technology to people interested in it. I was too busy with CivicSpace (then DeanSpace) at the time to mess with being a host, but I went to the whistle stop functions for the tour in my town when some other people did host it. There wasn't much talk about actual software or content management or leveraging technology. Just a lot of jumping up and down about what a good time the campaign people were having on tour.

    Be forewarned, when I used CivicSpace, it required PHP Safe Mode to be turned off and would not run in a PHP hardened environment. It is not secure enough for real campaigns.

    If anyone reading this is a CivicSpace advocate, this is not meant to discourage you. If CivicSpace is serving your needs, by all means have at it. This is just my experience. Dealing with the hype and pressure to use CivicSpace in my activist network pretty much set us back the entire campaign.

    Also, avoid Voter Activation Network at all costs. It's .Net, so you probably won't even consider it to begin with. Slow. Inflexible.

    Anyway, I've found that rolling your own with a *robust and scalabe* open source CMS like Plone works best for me. There are value add companies [cignex.com] that have very quick (< 2 month) turn around to provide something custom built on top of open source platforms to your needs. This is going to take you a lot farther than something free out of the box, supported by college students on Instant Messenger when they happen to be around, with a smorgasboard of common PHP message board functions.

    Finally, remember that althought CMSes sound democratic, there are complex social patterns to successfully deploying a CMS your community will actually use and contribute content to. People will fuss to get things on the web. Then when you actually give them the tools to do so, they will still try to pass all the content creation off on the webmaster, creating both a bottleneck and a political problems (why is a webmaster the most qualified person to shape political messages? why is the webmaster supposed to know finance law? why is the webmaster suddenly in charge of scheduling and managing your rally?). You will need to devise a

  • Bravo on your guerilla marketing attempt.
  • You may want to consider Drupal for web/intranet/extranet needs.

    http://www.drupal.org/ [drupal.org]

    lots of modules, active devs, php and free.

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