Picking the open source candidate

I Voted!My buddy whurley is at it again, but this time considering which candidate(s) is the most compatible or supportive of open source — in other words, among the many options, which could be considered the “open source candidate”?

Just as I voted for Obama yesterday, I voted for Obama today. I’m not sure why, except that 1) he’s on Twitter and 2) Hillary is more of a “dynasty” type of candidate as opposed to a “meritocratic” candidate (in my limited view) and given that Obama’s success seems predicated on his previous good works (rather than inheriting a presidential legacy, let’s say), he seems more in line with the nature of open source development. Then again, cognitive science suggests that I can essentially rationalize any irrational decision to explain my actions, so I could just as well chalk it up to gut instinct.

Whatever, here’s the poll if you’ve got an opinion:

A couple related thoughts and questions::

  • How might a candidate demonstrate that they understand or value open source? Just by running Linux? Or something deeper?
  • What kind of “open source platform” would the ideal candidate support? (using platform in the political sense) That is, getting beyond the software or hardware, how would their policies be affected by ideals and practices derived from the open source ecosystem?
  • Is it just about transparency, or would the candidate need to understand how open source itself is becoming increasingly important to the economy and to the future of work?
  • As whurley said in his post, where would an “open source” candidate come down on patent and IP reform?

If you’ve got any inside knowledge about where the candidates sit in terms of open source, I’d love to see some references or stories about their leanings. In the meantime, don’t forgot to vote — on whurley’s poll!

Author: Chris Messina

Head of West Coast Business Development at Republic. Ever-curious product designer and technologist. Hashtag inventor. Previously: Molly.com (YC W18), Uber, Google.

14 thoughts on “Picking the open source candidate”

  1. I think there are two overwhelming reasons why Obama is the right answer to this question.

    (*) He’s the only major candidate (that I’m aware of) who has released a comprehensive technology plan.

    (*) He’s been endorsed by, and consulted with Lessig, which tells me he’s gotten great IP/Copyright policy advice.

    Quoting the XKCD blag:
    Lessig was impressed by Obama’s commitment to open systems — for example, his support of machine-readable government information standards that allow citizens’ groups to monitor what our government is up to…

  2. Hey Chris,

    Thanks for posting this! Hopefully we can get a large number (100k plus) of people to share their opinion on this.

    As with all “open source”, the code to the poll is available on my website for anyone who wants to take it.

    Thanks again for helping drive interest in this!


  3. Chris-
    I know at least one lawyer who was informally working on IP related issues advising the Obama campaign. She asked me a really basic question on how to develop a patent reform proposal: How would you develop an *objective* measure of the quality of a (software) patent? What sort of test would you use? Right now, bad patents are like porn – “you know them when you see them”. But how could you show a neutral, uninterested third party (e.g. a court, or the PTO) that a patent was indeed junk. What test would you use.

    Answer that question and who knows, maybe a presidential candidate would have a patent reform proposal that was interesting…

    BTW, there is some *immediate* action on patent reform happening in the Senate. EFF has a action alert: http://action.eff.org/site/Advocacy?id=361

  4. Gabe–

    My solution to all problems is software 🙂 I used to program for a Virginia company that maintains the largest database of patents in the world. They use the database and their own algorithms to figure out where the “holes” are in patent citations…essentially determining the quality of an individual patent by examining the innovation space surrounding it. Really cool stuff — the USPTO has more or less ignored them though, preferring to stick to their legacy systems. Anyways, the company’s called M-CAM. I worked for them 2 summers during college coding Perl.

  5. Eric-
    What exactly is the algorithm/heuristic/metric here? Not quite sure I follow. Just because a patent doesn’t (or does) cite other patents, not sure it is an indication of its junk status or not..

  6. Gabe–

    It’s a proprietary system the developed. Essentially, it works like this: every subject patent cites patents it builds off of (prior art). Future patents cite the subject patent (subsequent art). By building a big web of these citations and following all the links between patents, you can figure out where the holes are.

    So, for example, subject patent cites has 10 prior art patents and 10 subsequent art patents (they cite the subject patent). All subsequent art also cites another patent that the subject doesn’t cite. The question becomes, if patents in the same innovation space all cite a particular patent but one doesn’t, why?

    This is a gross oversimplification and there are some other parts to it like determining what patents are similar (this involves some language analysis) but that’s the basics of it.

  7. Hi Chris! Greetings from Barcamp Latvia which I have found a very well organized event with about six rooms and maybe two hundred people and I was able to accomplish a lot so far. I presented our work in Kenya on the Pyramid of Peace http://www.pyramidofpeace.net Here is a link to a video interview I gave http://network.barcamp.lv/video to Chris Schuepp.

    Also, I think that a politician’s “open politics” approach is more important than their “open source” stand. So for example for the Pyramid of Peace we are distributing resources through people who agree to make public their telephone numbers. For a candidate, I would wonder if they would say that public funds for software should go to open source projects whether in education, military, bureaucracy. And whether they would support a constitutional ammendemnet that “Public Domain have primacy over Copyright” (you could only copyright your ammendations of a work, and you would have to keep available any public domain sources, and if you don’t then your work would become public domain.) And to forbid corporations from owning or managing creative works (as they are not able to create them – human beings do – and they are not able to apply fair use – which is a gray zone, whereas corporations only think in black and white, which is why they were happy with a judgement of $200,000 for making 24 songs available, whereas no musician or human being would ever ask for such a punishment. These are the kinds of issues that we’re debating at our workshop on March 31, 2008 in Vilnius, Lithuania “Ethical Public Domain: Debate of Questionable Practices” which is a workshop of COMMUNIA, the European Union’s thematic network for the Public Domain. http://www.ethicalpublicdomain.org I hope you might come!

  8. “except that 1) he’s on Twitter and 2) Hillary is more of a “dynasty” type of candidate”

    I simply can’t understand that those are you arguments for electing an candidate president. Shouldn’t your choice be based on the political ‘message’ a candidate is bringing you? (The US is big, there must me tons of problems to be solved). Are you going to vote your president who is dressed best? I really understand US elections.

    – xul-vipz, The Netherlands

  9. Ofcourse “I really understand US elections.” should be:

    I really *don’t* understand US elections.

  10. We have a choice between moving forward towards more open government, or sticking with the way things have been for a long time. The change (thanks to a bill co-sponsored by Obama) is already starting to happen…the U.S. government now has an API. Who would’ve thought that would ever happen??

    Here’s the link:

  11. @xul-vipz: Well, I guess I’m beyond believing what politicians say and am typically more interested in how they make decisions and who they work with. Consider that George W Bush proclaimed that nation-building is not the intended role of the US Govt during his campaigning… I wouldn’t exactly say that he kept that promise, so why would I believe other politicians now?

    In any case, I like that Obama has the potential to bring a new outlook and a new kind of leadership to the fray whereas Hillary, to me at least, represents staying with the past, (in spite of the fact that some of her policy ideas are actually attractive).

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