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The LOTV Code-A-Thon
Jon Lebkowsky, 25 Oct 06

(There are two other Code-A-Thon episodes, shot by Kai Mantsch.)

Silona Bonewald, instigator and evangelist for the League of Technical Voters (LOTV), spreads the word about her organization far and wide, and most people get it right away. They hear what she's doing, their eyes grow side, and they ask "Why hasn't anybody done this before?" Of course, there are various organizations that bring techs together with political intentions, including EFF-Austin, where Silona's an especially active member of the Board of Directors, and ACLU, where she's also assisted with the Texas Cyber Liberties project.

Then there's also the very active national EFF organization (only informally connected to EFF-Austin), the revival of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR), the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), and others... but none of these organizations focuses specifically on technologists as a voting bloc, allowing them to systematically examine and give input on national and local technology policy. LOTV is so compelling because we are increasingly dependent on an electronic technical infrastructure for critical aspects of our daily lives. Silona wants not only to create an organization that includes and serves techs; she also wants to build a set of tools that would inform techs about proposed legislation and channel their feedback. And when she talks about working with technical voters, she's not just thinking about local and national elections. She sees voting as an essential,everyday tool within the system she wants to build. Members of the league would connect, form groups, and cast frequent votes, which would be blood for the political pulse of the tech sector.

Based on her conversations with legislators and their aides, Silona learned that they would welcome the feedback. Most legislators don't understand technology, and the perpective they get on technical issues is often delivered by lobbyists, therefore biased.

She spent time refining a plan for LOTV's technology, but the requirements she defined were going to require a system that would be expensive to build from scratch. As she was considering how to raise the funds to pay for a sophisticated system to support all the requirements she had identified, she discovered Drupal, a popular Open Source content management system that's been used to build many political and mission-driven nonprofit sites. She wasn't sure that Drupal would work as a final LOTV platform, but it seemed a logical package for prototyping. What she needed, then, was a team of programmers to write code to meet the requirements for which Drupal lacked native support.

She knew plenty of coders who might be willing to help in the right context, and she new how to create that context based on many years at Burning Man and other, similar celebratory scenes. She would through a work party, with equal emphasis on "work" and "party." It would be a 48-hour Code-A-Thon, held at Tek Republic in Austin, a venue that sells time on high-end game-optimized boxes. She invited a load of geeks, built a tent in the parking lot to extend space for food and drink, found tons of donated food, and arranged various forms of entertainment, from a fancy-dress martini slurp to a 4am zombie invasion.

Held October 13-15, the Code-A-Thon was a big success... the work got done, the play was spectacular, and the LOTV system is much farther along (though there will be more work - and more code-a-thons - over the next couple of months). As I type this, Silona's on her way to Seattle and San Francisco - more evangelism.

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Comments

Gee, ya think the LOTV could do a code-a-thon for an open source voting platform? A voting platform that actually works? A voting platform that has no backdoors? A voting platform that is secure? A voting platform that produces a verifiable and recountable record? Ya think they could? Maybe?

And if they can do that, ya think LOTV can do an open source system for the voter rolls too? You know, like the voting rolls that were just hacked, for effect, in Chicago?


Posted by: gmoke on 25 Oct 06

Held October 13-15, the Code-A-Thon was a big success... the work got done, the play was spectacular, and the LOTV system is much farther along (though there will be more work - and more code-a-thons - over the next couple of months). As I type this, Silona's on her way to Seattle and San Francisco - more evangelism.


Posted by: Pozycjonowanie on 29 Oct 06



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