Re: San Francisco debate heating up

From: Alan Dechert <dechert_at_gmail_dot_com>
Date: Thu Mar 01 2007 - 20:23:30 CST

Thanks, Brian, for the response.

> While it's easy to get rather worked up at this, is this process
> served well by such a lengthy and flame-y reply? ...
That's a good question. It probably could have been toned-down a notch or
two. Even Brent Turner remarked about the ! marks. I went back and checked

.... I counted 4 ! marks ... still, that's only .5 per page!

I used to collaborate quite a bit with Doug Jones, one of 3 OVC founders.
Some of his letters had several ! marks per paragraph. So, maybe I can
blame it on him.

On the other hand, Arntz delivered a couple of low blows, and this
absolutely required a response from me. He suggested that I wanted to
replicate the Sequoia system for my own purposes, and he twisted Jim Soper's

language and propped it up along side a non-existent group ("count as cast")

to counter OVC.

I get no joy from flaming someone. I wish this whole experience in the past

6 years had been all love and understanding. It just doesn't work that way.

I wish we had been able to work with McPherson. I mean, read this letter:

If McPherson had worked with us -- as I was led to believe he would -- we'd
be so much further along. The idea at the time of this letter was to hold a

hearing (or hearings) on open source software for elections, get a good
report out of that, then get some legislation drafted that McPherson could
support and that would be supported by the report. Most likely, we would
have gotten something like what we're trying to get now: a welcome mat for
open source vendors/developers with testing and certification for public
software underwritten by public funding. I thought that was a great idea,
and I still do. With support from a Republican SoS, we could have passed
such a bill (spending bill requires 2/3 vote).

We wish he had worked with us, but it just wasn't to be. His constituency
wouldn't have it; his experience didn't support it; and he was under too
much pressure to get everything done for the next election. He told us to
go away. I threw down the gauntlet.

That's all I could do. It wasn't pretty, and it sure wasn't going to win
him over to our view. We were out to defeat him. So, maybe we have a
better situation with Bowen as SoS. Then again, we will have great
difficulty getting a spending bill passed. Probably, we can't. If
Democrats want it, Republicans are likely to oppose. Whatever incentive we
can provide to open source vendors will have to be pretty small. I'll talk
to Villines (Republican leader) about it, but I'm not too optimistic. We
can get disclosure with a simple majority, but that may be all we can get
this year into state law.

The Arntz open source task for announcement was not sincere, in my view.
McPherson's office actually asked me for recommendations for panels. That's

how I got in touch with you. Arntz told me go away before we even got to
talk about the task force. I think it's clear he was just trying to get
support for the Sequoia contract. After that, the task force could have
gone on for years serving no particular purpose. OVC would have no leverage

with a task force started after such a contract is signed.

> The fact seems to be, unless I'm mistaken,
> that there is no other vendor willing to come in and answer SF's election
> and meet the requirement for publication of their code under an Open
> Source
> license. I realize OVS's solution is still yet to be certified and when
> it is,
> we will have that alternative option to promote (though it'd be better
> when
> there are two, as then we can demonstrate that it's not rigged to favor
> one
> vendor over everyone else). Until then, what else can Arntz do?
There are all sorts of things that Arntz could have done in the last couple
of months. For example, he could have called some meetings to work on some
compromise proposal that both sides could have accepted. He took a hard
line trying to ram through the deal with Sequoia. He could have actually
formed a task force like he said he was going to do.

These is a possibility that OVS could get part of the deal with the vendor.
Sequoia never made a serious offer to do anything we wanted. Arntz didn't
really try, as far as I can tell.

> I think there's a risk of Arntz and others who read this being dismayed by

> the
> tone and left facing the prospect of having to go with ES&S because
> Sequoia
> couldn't meet a new obligation - one that ES&S will not have to meet with
> its
> renewal. Is forcing SF to re-up the original ES&S contract better for our
> cause? Is lecturing Arntz and others on what open source means and how
> open
> source businesses might work going to draw them closer to your position?
Arntz made the outrageous suggestion that I wanted the ability to replicate
the Sequoia system so I could use it commercially. I showed why this was
wrong by showing what OVC has done, what OVC is doing, and what OVC is
trying to do. If the reader gets that, the Arntz suggestion is disproven.
That was a little windy, I admit. I did what I had to do.

Actually, amending the ES&S contract is much better for our cause for a
variety of reasons. For one thing, there is a better chance of getting a
new RFP specifying open source if SF gets the ES&S contract extended.

> I think it's worth correcting the factual mistakes, clarifying that COTS
> software and firmware is not required to be disclosed, succinctly stating
> why
> private disclosure is not enough, and acknowleging the limited options
> Arntz
> has right now. It might also be worth suggesting to Sequoia that they
> consider
> using one of the existing Open Source voting software, but only if you and
> others here really feel that's a realistic suggestion.
Yes, we have suggested that. We haven't ruled that out at this point. The
ball is still in Sequoia's court, as far as I know.

> To be honest, I really don't want to see Sequoia's current code released
> as
> open source. Unlike the OVS codebase or other codebases, it was not
> written
> with public disclosure in mind, and has no shot of attracting a
> development
> community that would help fix bugs, a critical counterbalance to the claim

> that
> releasing code will just make it easier to hack.
There is something at work here very different from your experience with
Apache. Importantly, it is the public's right-to-know factor. That,
together with the regulatory barriers, makes Open Voting a lot different
project than your average open source project. The techniques involved to
get our points across are also necessarily different.

Alan D.

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Received on Sat Mar 31 23:17:03 2007

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