Re: San Francisco debate heating up

From: Greg Christopher <stork_at_electronify_dot_com>
Date: Sat Mar 03 2007 - 21:01:40 CST

Hello Brian, Alan...

On Mar 1, 2007, at 11:31 PM, Alan Dechert wrote:

> Brian,
>> I did see the insinuation that the only reason we are
>> advocating Open Source is because we want to enable
>> someone close to us to copy Sequoia's oh-so-precious
>> IP for a competitive offering. But, to be honest, that is
>> exactly what is legally possible with an Open Source
>> license, ....
> True. And our disclosure language does not mention "open source."
> It's
> about disclosure only.

Wow that's an interesting point re:open source could legally copy the
code for use. I was not aware that copyright law wouldn't apply to a
public use of the source code such as deploying an open source voting
system. Even the GPL which promotes copying of source code seems to
start applying restrictions when that source code starts to get used
for business purposes. I would be surprised if any such usage of
Sequoia's source would be legal. There is some use of open source in
Adobe products and we need to be very careful to make sure credit is
given in those situations.
      To really understand if it would be legal to repurpose
Sequoia's source I would have to read the license agreement for
Sequoia's system. They don't have a EULA. Thank goodness.
      While I don't think it is in anyone's benefit to copy source
for what is basically a glorified calculator, I do think there are
some hours spent understanding and implementing rules based on the
thousands of individual governments inside the U.S., and I could see
where protecting that information would be important to Sequoia.
However, all that information is public knowledge.
      I could think of some techniques that sequoia could use to
protect their "IP", for instance watermarking. However, they would
need a little time to be able to apply whatever techniques they
decided to use to their current products.

>> ... and is one of the big differences between OS and
>> simple disclosure, and until there is a certified alternative
>> ready to go, there won't be much of a credible come-back
>> to that claim. ...
> Sorry. I don't get your point. Our proposed contract language
> does not
> require "open source." Only disclosure.

Perhaps Brian means that we have no interest in their source for
repurpose once we have a certified alternative system. Still, the
fact that there is a completely functional open source system
available today seems to be a very good indication we don't need it.
Besides, there is a complete dump of the diebold TS system flying
around the internet. Of course at this point I think people are
about as interested in that code as they would be in catching malaria.

> Certification is a complex issue. Some states don't require federal
> certification.
>> The logical links don't hold up - we want voting systems to
>> be open source, because a true open source community creates
>> more reliable code - yet none of us see Sequoia's code as
>> forming a reasonable basis for such an collaborative community,
>> so forcing Sequoia to open source their code feels like a non-
>> sequitor.
> We are using disclosure as a step in the direction of open source -- a
> pretty big step at that. We are using the right-to-know as
> justification
> for disclosure -- not as much for the value of peer-reviewed
> software. AB
> 852 will require disclosure for new certifications.
> I believe if we get disclosure into law, it will be a short step to
> open
> source. I mean, vendors will say if disclosure is going to be
> required, why
> not go all the way to open source. They'll get more eyes on the
> code and
> better participation from the open source community in code
> improvement.
> Disclosure also enables review of the testing and certification
> process.
> Right now, we have no way to know what tests, exactly, were
> performed in the
> certification process. We can't know all the test details as long
> as source
> code and hardware design is kept secret. This is a big issue since
> we know
> many flaws have slipped through the certification process.
> Ultimately, we want all the benefits of totally nonproprietary voting
> systems. It will be a while before we get there. We have to map
> out the
> process of getting there. If we had a lot of money, the process
> could be
> much different. We have to proceed with what we have.
>>> and he twisted Jim Soper's language and propped it up along side a
>>> non-existent group ("count as cast") to counter OVC.
>> That did seem odd, I don't have enough context to judge intent
>> or weight, but I do suggest that if the reply assumed that it was
>> a mistake rather than an intentional mischaracterization, it's more
>> likely to be corrected.
> I only characterized it as a "factual error." I said, "I believe
> he is
> addressing your mistake in a separate email to you and the Board."
> For the
> record, this is what Jim Soper sent to the Board:
> I don't think any further action is needed to correct the mistake.
> We did
> that.
>>> 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:
>> Why go into McPherson at all in the response to Arntz? ...
> I brought it up to make a point. The point is that we've seen an
> official
> say he's organizing a task force on open source for elections, and
> then poof
> ... nothing. We are challenging Arntz to show us he's serious
> about this
> task force.
>> If you feel that Arntz hasn't enough knowlege of the history of open
>> source voting in California, I'd suggest writing a document on that
>> history up on the site and providing him the URL; including it in the
>> letter, especially if he's likely to already know, just feels like
>> lecturing.
> Our meetings with Arntz go back a couple of years. I have
> presented him
> with lots of documents, history, etc. over the years. A year ago
> this
> month I provided to all attendees a one-sheet outline (copy on
> front and
> back) of my presentation to the SF Elections Commission -- a 2-hour
> forum.
> He was in attendance. I'm not sure "writing a document on that
> history"
> would add much. He's busy and filters out a great deal of
> material. I
> pointed out your Jan 22nd email to him at a meeting with him about
> a week
> after you wrote it. It drew a complete blank. He had no idea of it.
>> If I received a letter like that I would be unlikely to reply, let
>> alone contact you in the future, and Arntz is under no obligation
>> to do either.
> I think it's incidental that my letter was addressed to Arntz. His
> memo was
> to members of the Board of Supervisors. I suppose my letter could
> have just
> as easily been address to the supes. Soper's letter went to the
> supes.
> At this point, we are dealing mostly with the Board of
> Supervisors. In
> January, OVC was asked by a member of the Elections Commission to
> draft some
> policy language that could form the basis of contract language for
> source
> disclosure. I wrote the policy statement and OVC counsel Dow
> Patten wrote
> the contract language based on the policy.
> Although the policy has not been formally adopted, it seems like
> the Board
> is working with the policy. We are going to try for formal
> adoption of the
> policy. A friend in City gov is working on getting it into an
> appropriate
> format.
> Arntz has chosen to ignore us for several weeks now. I think he
> made a
> mistake. If he really wanted the Sequoia deal to go through, he
> should have
> tried to get language that would be acceptable to all involved --
> including
> OVC. He has never called me, and he has never requested a meeting
> with me.
>>> 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.
>> Does the OVC have the time and energy to work against individuals
>> who are against its goals? Or should it instead focus on supporting
>> those who favor them? ....
> We have to do both. For example, we opposed McPherson and
> supported Bowen.
> As far as I have been able to ascertain, there are very few people in
> government that strongly support our goals. Oh, there are lots of
> people
> that say, "I'm all for it :-)" with a big grin. And a lot of
> people would
> probably vote in our favor if an issue is put before them we are
> backing.
> But when it comes to the number of people I know that will take
> initiative
> in our behalf, that number is very very small. Jackie Goldberg was
> absolutely wonderful. She's been termed out.
>> I'm sure it was frustrating to have McPherson saying supportive
>> things and then turn 180 degrees, but once that's done, what's the
>> point of making enemies? ....
> Since he was opposing everything we proposed, we had to work on
> getting him
> removed from office.
>> If your reputation was abused, make a public clarification via a
>> blog or something, stay on good graces as tides can
>> shift again, and then route around them or find other better
>> opportunities.
> I appreciate what you are saying. In politics, it's a tough call.
> Sometimes, you have to throw down the gauntlet. At that point, "good
> graces" may evaporate. Nonetheless, I try to keep it civil enough
> that
> things can still be patched up after the battle is over.

This is a tough one. In the end, I think Alan made the right decision
because the writing was on the wall that Arntz was backing off of
disclosure. I think briging up McPherson actually helps OVC justify
their position that we're "concerned"- I look at it as a way of
saying "I'm being judiciously cautions regarding our optimism for the
proposal because we've been through this before". I think that helps
Alan make a strong statement without looking like the bad guy.

One thing I have to consider at work whenever I need to call someone
on the carpet: Do I cc: the group or not? If I feel I have an honest
chance of correcting someone and garnering a change of opinion
without responding to a larger group, I always do. However, if it's
likely that person will shrug me off or not acknowledge the
seriousness of the problem, I choose to cc: a group as Alan did. At
that point, you are saying: "this is my position. I think that I have
arrived at these conclusions factually and I invite anyone else to
challenge my assumptions". It also shines some sunshine on the
discussion. It means that person will be aware that there is a larger
group with interest in solving that problem who expects a solid
answer to the question.
      Unfortunately the personality of the person receiving the
response is very important. For some people, being rebutted in a
large group automatically results in clutching more tightly to their
viewpoint. It's a face-saving maneuver. That's why deciding how to
respond in these situations is important and difficult. Nonetheless,
I think Alan did a good job on the response. I think that someone in
Arntz's position is used to strong statements, and that can garner
respect. I bet what he's NOT used to is receiving a carefully
considered, technical response that shows a lot of thought and
effort. Therefore, I remain hopeful that the communication was well

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Received on Sat Mar 31 23:17:04 2007

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