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The White House just open sourced their first Github repo (github.com)
314 points by maxogden on Aug 23, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 121 comments



> "President Obama is committed to creating the most open and participatory government in our nation’s history"

I'll believe that when his administration stops being one of the most secretive and most aggressive prosecutors of whistleblowers in recent history.

Sources:

http://www.salon.com/2012/02/09/obamas_unprecedented_war_on_... http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/06/obamas-whistlebl... http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2009/04/expert_con... http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/26/us/politics/new-rules-to-c... http://www.salon.com/2012/03/30/the_most_transparent_adminis... https://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/24/us/government-documents-i...


I reckon this was simply a first-pass readme -- hands-up, who likes writing those?

I submitted a pull request that tones down the hyperbole somewhat: https://github.com/WhiteHouse/petition/pull/5

I sense it's essential for them to keep the project focused on the software. Partly what makes this interesting is managing the partisan nature of discourse. That's a unique non-functional requirement here.

It's a good test for Github as a collaboration platform.


If it is possible to manage the partisan nature of discourse, it is also possible to exacerbate it and to frame it in a desired way. Since this project has no special protection and seems to be uniformly hated by citizens, we can expect it to be abolished in the next Presidency and possibly replaced with something more blatantly partisan.


Rather than piling another pull request on top... you've put

  [@WHWeb](tyyp://twitter.com/WHWeb)
I assume you meant http? Other than that extremely minor issue these look like some solid modifications to me - well done :)

(In case it's relevant: I'm from the UK.)


I'm consistently amazed at how agencies full of information security experts, who understand that security by obscurity is the bottom of the barrel of fake security, nonetheless believe that keeping information secret from citizens is the best way to keep the country safe.


If your objective is to keep information secret, then keeping information secret isn't "security through obscurity". And while governments certainly do stuff they shouldn't be doing, and take advantage of the significant security apparatus at their disposal to do so, I don't buy the idea that governments don't, like most other organizations, need a shield of privacy to conduct it's business, including the significant legitimate bits of it, effectively.


They don't care about keeping the country safe, they know _they_ won't be safe if everyone knew all the shit they've been up to.


> I'll believe that when his administration stops being one of the most secretive and most aggressive prosecutors of whistleblowers in recent history.

Is "recent history" the last four years? Because you're right. Out of 1 administration, they are one of the most secretive and most aggressive. How about that.


Seriously.. putting their petition software online is hardly creating an [open and participatory] government we can trust.


I think they mean participation in that you can choose the left or the right lane of the conveyor belt to the butcher house; it's not about addressing actual stuff. You just have to keep up with the newspeak and it all makes perfect sense.


"you can choose the left or the right lane of the conveyor belt to the butcher house."

I am going to use this phrase, thanks.


Feel free. I wish it wasn't true, you know.


I like yours.

I generally use the example of a slave given sudden democracy: now they can vote which of two slave owners they want to be a slave to.

Vote, no vote: they're still a slave.

Sometimes, "choice" doesn't matter at all.


Less so than bush and presumably less so than Romney would be*

*if anyone wants to contest this, please read "no apologies" authored by Willard mitt Romney or just look at his tax returns


I'll contest that he's more so than Bush. http://www.salon.com/2011/05/16/whistleblowers_6/


Let's not discuss politics here.


And, in the spirit of the project, they'll reject all pull requests with a patronizing response about the way things are.[1][2]

1. https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/legalize-and-regul...

2. https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/abolish-tsa-and-us...


Not to worry, someone has created an issue for this bug: https://github.com/WhiteHouse/petition/issues/2


That's just stupid. As if the developers involved, who are likely proud of their work and the go-ahead to release it to the community, have anything to do with the petition outcomes.

People need to think things through sometimes.


It raises awareness of the issue. Why should any self-respecting developer want to contribute to a code base that does nothing but facilitate the government ignoring peoples' grievances, while at the same time making them feel like they are participating?


> It raises awareness of the issue.

OK, I'll bite. Who is now aware of the issue who wasn't previously?


You're right. It does nothing except belittle the efforts of the developers. They're trying to make their work more open which should be applauded. Just because the entire administration does not adhere to their stated philosophy, doesn't mean that we (the developer community) should be jumping on those who are at least making an attempt.

The majority of HN readers and GH users would immediately close issues / pull requests like this and be bitter about it. I don't understand why there is a double standard being applied here.


But shouldn't they? They are accessories. They are developing something that has no purpose other than to mislead people. They're writing political malware, if you will. They should be belittled, as it's completely unethical to participate in such a farce.

We should also note that making this software open (which is actually pretty badly designed, actually looking at it) is a similar farce. The objective they claim, for doing so, is somehow related to an open government. That's like claiming open-sourcing the software you use to send electronic messages back and forth is making your actual communications with said software "open." Nonsense.


Are you suggesting that the President doesn't read these pull requests?


Wow. Just wow.

How about the fact he is contributing and trying to make the government better and more open instead of whinging like an immature, sanctimonious dick.

I have 100x more respect for people that at least try.


It's humorous to me how many people attempt to turn anything remotely criticized into a positive by justifying it with effort. Since you escalated into name-calling so fast, I can confidently say that you don't have one hundred times more respect for anyone or anything, you are simply under the false notion that those you support actually try harder.


Com'on guys. Give these guys (the WH dev's who released the code) a break. If the tech community starts throwing mud around, we'll never ever see another project open sourced from the administration again.

Give them the benefit of the doubt that maybe, just maybe, they have good intentions; clone the repo and and say, "Thank you".


Please describe how the programmers on this project can solve or mitigate the problem that some people will post petitions demanding legalization of marijuana (not necessarily a majority opinion in the US) and then be incredibly angry when this does not singlehandedly reverse the administration's policy.

Otherwise it is pretty mindless to attack the programmers for that.


Because: (a) Developers don't make policy decisions ; (b) In enterprise environments it takes a lot of effort to get an open source project approved ; (c) We should be actively encouraging more openness and transparency in government.

So I don't know what your argument is. But I assure you I do have 100x more respect for someone who does SOMETHING in the right direction as opposed to do someone who just whinges.


It is not like that pull request really creates any undue burden on those developers. Seems like a perfectly legitimate, no matter how ineffective, form of peaceful protest.


Seemed like a joke or an effort to raise awareness. I took as devs poking fun at the White House and found it hilarious :)


You know, I rather doubt the developers are the ones who set policy. More likely, they're the ones fighting a thankless internal campaign to get permission to release anything and would like something more to show for it than a bunch of predictable snark.


This snark doesn't apply to the Github release of the code, it is just politics. I guess one cannot publicly speak the phrase 'White House' without a hundred knees jerking into action.

Anyway, rejecting pull requests with patronizing responses is hardly uncommon on Github.


If you want to see the cause of #1 advanced, donate some money to Washington's "Yes on 502" group, http://www.newapproachwa.org

It looks like we're at or just barely over the 50% mark in favor of legalizing marijuana here in Washington, but there's a lot of moneyed interests (e.g. medical marijuana sellers) who are doing their best to kill the initiative.

Please note that I don't smoke pot. I might if it's legalized in the state, but choose not to because, among other reasons, it helps fund narco-terrorism.


Give this man a kewpie doll!

http://rlv.zcache.com/cute_mustache_octopus_sticker-p2177152...

2008: Rag tag, understaffed, throw them into the deep end working on rewarding projects that made small strides toward advancing the infrastructure of technology in politics and bring widespread public attention that gave hope for burgeoning markets and a space for competition. A new frontier! Technological solutions for campaigns and the American people!

2012: Best and the brightest fighting to uphold the principles, ideals, and best practices of all veins of the technology industry but they only actually let them do their jobs in order to give lip service to what got those young talented people so excited and what got them there in the first place, and they only let them do it if there's a blatantly obvious way to save face if it backfires, or in a subtly insulting way.

Its a beat down for uppity youngsters who thought they might be able to, I don't know, start a business, or run for office, or provide solutions in the political realm. Technology in politics is a victim of its own success. Politicos don't see technology as way to connect with people and do their jobs better. They see it as stealing their thunder because they don't know how to control it yet. They don't understand the rules so everyone, down to the president himself seems to be spending more time playing whack-a-potential-political-zuck than doing their own job. The only thing we can hope that that eventually they'll be spending so much time preventing technology workers in politics from doing their job that they won't have enough time to screw over voters as much.


So you expect serious government action from an online petition system?


Yes. Every policy decision of the executive should be made by an online vote, weighted toward those who have their friends sign up under many different email addresses.

People who do not use the website should be totally ignored, regardless of their votes in the actual election.

Otherwise, the President is ignoring petitions and hates Democracy.


"Unfortunately, you can't vote the rascals out, because you never voted them in, in the first place." -- Noam Chomsky


However, the point about the brain is accurate. While this is purely my own experience, two people I've known, have developed schizophrenia in their early twenties (when the onset usually occurs) and both had smoked pot heavily in their teens. I and many more friends however, have and continue to smoke pot with no ill effects save short term memory.

Link: http://www.usatoday.com/yourlife/health/medical/pediatrics/2...

However, repeated studies and surveys show that it is easier for teens to get certain drugs, including pot, than it is for them to get cigarettes or alcohol. This make sense considering someone mandated by law to check for id is selling it to them, oppose to another teen selling them unchecked, non taxed pot without doing so.

Link: http://blog.norml.org/2009/08/28/study-says-its-easier-for-t...

While this thread may be about the white house's code base, hear this; don't put your github account near this. You may think it could be harmless, but they could be collecting your account names. After all we are all just dangerous computer hackers!

Link: http://www.channel4.com/news/hackers-are-more-dangerous-than...

Disclaimer: Just my opinion.


This is not about marijuana. It's about the government ignoring high-signatory-count petitions. Stop with the red herring, please.


Actually, it's about the petition software being released on GitHub. Others have made this thread about the unrelated matter of how they dislike the government's use of this software.


High-signatory-count petitions?

0.024% of the US signed that one, and it wasn't ignored. A response was given. Not liking the response isn't the same as it being ignored.


You assume that I don't like the response.

You also skipped over the part where the response given was bullshit boilerplate and amounted to ignoring it.

At that point, why have petitions at all? It's just handwaving.


"You assume that I don't like the response"

"the response given was bullshit boilerplate"

Well I guess he assumed correctly.


I like bullshit boilerplate too.

If you really want petitions, start a real petition. The website is for something much more informal and you shouldn't get depressed just because 4chan isn't setting policy now.


High-signatory-count means a high level of engagement, among people who were exposed to the message. number of signatures / number of users on the site, or some other measure along those lines.

And the response largely ignored the thrust of the petition. I.e. that the side effects of prohibition are worse than the effects of the substance.


Disagree. 70,000 people signing a petition wanting marijuana legalized does not obligate the government to legalize it. The response they gave contained their view on marijuana legalization and scientific research supporting some of their claims.

All in all, the release of this code was probably for two reasons. 1) The developers liked what they built for the government, and felt that people should be able to use/learn from it. 2) Releasing the code with the readme it has shines a good light on Obama and helps his reelection efforts.


They didn't ignore it. They answered your question.

You just didn't like the answer. At least be intellectually honest.


I am curious about GPL compatibility in this situation. According to [1], software developed by US federal government cannot be licensed under the GPL since it is automatically in the public domain. However, the github repo readme makes the following claim:

"The project utilizes code licensed under the terms of the GNU General Public License and therefore is licensed under GPL v2 or later."

While I applaud this effort and wish to see more like it in the future, is there a possible issue with licensing here?

[1] http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/gpl-2.0-faq.html#GP...


The way USA.gov puts it, government works are "not subject to copyright" or restrictions thereof, which I think explains the situation better.

I am having a hard time finding a model for (or even discussion about) what happens when government works have been derived from copyrighted material. Anyone know of another example?

But I'm assuming that since there is no copyright to the additions, from a copyright point of view it's essentially equivalent to the software from which it's derived.


Seems like it matches the situation of wanting to release your additions to a GPL codebase into the public domain. Doing that is perfectly fine[1]. It feels like a hole in the GPL for some reason though.

[1] https://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#RequiredToClaimCop...


This was exactly my question. How can they put limitations on public domain code?


So obviously I don't work for the white house, but I suspect that since this code depends on bits of gpl'd code to function, they made the entire project licensed similarly.

Also, it is not as simple as you think, government code isn't always pd. If written by a contractor, the contractor/contracting organization can decide to not release code/work to the public.

Finally, if this code was written by Macon's team, and not by contractors, then you could maybe make an argument that the parts of the code that came from original gpl parts would be gpl'd, but not the code written by the wh team that doesn't depend on the gpl'd parts, as the code isn't distributed to end users the way the gpl mandates sharing.

Anyhow, I'm trying to simplify a lot here, but thought I'd chime in.


They can't, but only part of the code is public domain. If you want to use the whole pile of it, you do so under the GPL - if you pick out the changes made by the govt, then you can apply those elsewhere.


So effectively GPL imposes a dual (or multiple) license on the non-GPL part.


Insofar as the non-GPL part is specific to the GPL code, yes. If you reimplement the GPL code under a different license, you could reuse the public domain bits. I expect in most cases, it wouldn't be terribly worthwhile.


Just want to point out that this is not the first code contributed to open source from the WhiteHouse.gov project. Several of the Drupal modules developed for the site were made available to the community on Drupal.org not long after the new site launched. Some examples (may not be all of them):

http://drupal.org/project/govdelivery http://drupal.org/project/akamai http://drupal.org/project/context_http_headers http://drupal.org/project/node_embed

Actually it strikes me as a little strange that this code is on Github since Drupal.org has an entire section devoted to Drupal "distributions", which is what this appears to be. I mean, is the White House tech office moving to a full open source development model? Are they planning to appoint volunteer maintainers and accept pull requests? I sort of doubt it.


And specifically it includes a drupal-org.make file which is a manifest for the Drupal.org packaging system which bundles up this profile, all of it's dependencies, and Drupal core into a single download. Perhaps they are planning to put it there, or just decided to mirror it on Github for now.

Also FWIW, the petition namespace on d.o is already occupied, perhaps that is blocking the release on d.o?


A drupal-org.make file, like any .make file that the Drupal tool Drush uses, is independent of the Drupal.org packaging system.

There's a lot of pressure from within the Drupal community to host all Drupal contrib modules, themes, and distributions on drupal.org but I don't see anything wrong with a distribution being hosted on GitHub. It certainly brings more visibility to the project from developers outside of the "Drupal Island".


It does, which might have been part of the reason they did it this way. Github is increasingly "the place to be" for open source projects, so the White House probably wants to get involved there too. (I don't mean this cynically BTW--I believe they honestly are trying to move the government more toward open source.)

And a lot of Drupal developers do use Github for their own work. On the other hand when they go to check out distribution options for a new project, I bet they start on Drupal.org. It's just so convenient, and like you say, there's a strong norm within the community to put everything there. Even the few "commercial" distributions can be found there. I assume this work will show up there at some point as well.


Except there's no specific reason to name it drupal-org.make except that the d.o packaging system requires that specific name.


Who cares? This is boring code. Save all the "it portends an open government!" handwaving for once the Obama admin does something _actually_ meaningful (in a positive way - starting a new war doesn't count).

Seriously. Much ado about a Drupal module that is used for people to petition the government to be patronized and ignored.


That's a pretty cynical way of viewing things. Take a look at the big picture: the highest office in the land (world?) is doing what we here on HN do: push public code, accept feedback, leverage open source etc. It's a fantastic start towards a new paradigm of open source code in public places. This should be celebrated; a new generation of people are running things now. It can only get better.


Thank you for doing exactly what I suggested that you not.


You just said "a fantastic start towards a new paradigm" about something that happened 3.5 years into a 4 year presidential term, with an election coming up.

I don't think a new generation is running things. That kennedy camelot spin was used in 2008, but it is 2012 now, and I don't see any evidence to support it. (EG: Pick your issue, Marijuana dispensaries are getting raided, the PATRIOT act has been expanded, the Afghan war is expanded, the TSA is now molesting and taking nude images of travelers, etc.)


I'm pretty excited at the prospect of a FUSE implementation of /dev/null-as-a-service.

But seriously, what'd you expect? The financial industry lost its place as the American poster boy, so the politicians needed something new with which to pretend they're relevant.

Besides, don't be such a buzz kill. Everyone gets laid at the Whitehouse. Everyone.


It would be really cool if they let the devs use their public names and GitHub accounts to commit. As of right now it is WH-NewMedia, and there is no history. Makes me think this is a marketing excersize rather then a new leaf in federal software development.


I doubt it's a marketing exercise. There are people who really are trying to change things from inside. It takes time, and it takes a lot of small steps. Why don't you contact them and encourage them to use individual public names?


I don't doubt there are people on the inside trying to change things, and I applaud their efforts, but I would hate to see their efforts hijacked by the political arm thinking they can sell us a bill of goods and get a bunch of free press.


I would believe that more if there were a single White House petition that resulted in action. Even their SOPA petition response was pretty murky.


Here I'll weigh in. Working with groups like Public Knowledge and EFF in killing SOPA, we were going to lose the Senate on PIPA until the President weighed in. We heard from Senate staffers who felt there was an arrangement between the parties until the President (through IP staffer Victoria Espinal) put out his statement.

The White House letter, as murky and contradictory as it was, represented a clear break with its previous unequivocal support for the MPAA/RIAA position.


What does whether or not a petition is responded to have to do with open-sourcing code in a White House repo? Your complaint is like if Mac open sourced a component of OS X and you went on a rant about them not moving work out of abusive factories in China due to a petition.


True, but it's hard to disentangle the product from the thing that produced it. If Apple open sourced a product, I would fully expect to see criticism of their policies (probably around openness and and transparency, rather than labour) in any collective reaction.


I don't see how petitions are at all relevant.

What is relevant is programs like this: http://www.whitehouse.gov/innovationfellows


Pull request merging so far have all been done by one Peter Welsch (https://github.com/welschp). Seems like this is happening. Perhaps these are white house specific alts, but still pretty public.


Moving from MongoDB to MySQL. I never understood why people felt they need MongoDB/NoSQL for their projects. Does anyone have an example where it was really necessary/advantageous?


I'll give you an example for CouchDB that, for the first time in my life, I saw an advantage:

I created a webapp where a user can author a form (with several different kinds of fields), then it syncs with a mobile app that downloads the forms and allows for data collecting.CouchDB supports synchronizing with a server very easily and already has mobile support to. If/when the user changes the number of fields in the webapp, starting to collect that data makes it very trivial... no need to schema 'alter' statements in the server and synced back to the sqlite db in the phone. It all runs couch and it "just works".

Mind you, I am very skeptical about NoSQL in general, but for this particular example, for the first time in my life, I saw a clear advantage.


Nice example! This clears it up for me a lot.


Sure, a couple I can think of:

- when JSON is the native language of your application, certain NoSQL implementations are beneficial. The value/need for this is changing with more RDBMS introductions of JSON datatypes.

- speed/ease of development/familiarity - sqlite is easy to set up and maintain for small installations/projects, so is mongo or couch or redis - fairly straightforward tradeoff

- leveraging other platforms. Quick example might be wanting to take advantage of Amazon Dynamo or SimpleDB. Sure, RDS is right there too and scales in a similar elastic fashion, but Dynamo especially feels much, MUCH more hands off in terms of redundancy and application design. We use Dynamo since day 1 of its release (we transitioned from mongoDB to Dynamo with 1 day of work) and have not looked back. In our particular project I cannot conceive of how or why we would want to use an RDBMS, it does not fit the task.

I'm not advocating for NoSQL over RDBMS in any given, or especially all, situations. But there are plenty of reasons to select nosql-based implementations.


Dynamo looks very interesting. Thanks for pointing it out.


When I don't know what my schema would look like I like using mongodb.

Also, when I don't feel like dealing with the OR impedance mismatch.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Object-relational_impedance_mis...


Hadn't heard about OR impedance mismatch... good to know about.


According to the README they say preformance improvements with Mongo. The downside was having to port all the new features over to it.

Personally I have used it to speed up development. It allows very fast iterations early on and integrates much more nicely with most languages then a SQL based solution. Also its a lot faster the MySQL.


10gen sponsors development of a Drupal module, EntityFieldQuery[1], which aims to improve support for non-SQL databases. Although I'm unfamiliar with Drupal project layouts, I didn't find a reference to the module in the GitHub project, so I don't believe they were using it. That said, there are still challenges to making MongoDB play nicely with Drupal 7, but 10gen is aiming for better integration in version 8 (through the same sponsorship).

1. http://drupal.org/project/efq_views


Yeah, I think this was a case of the developers just wanting to try the latest thing without really understanding the impact or tradeoffs.


When speaking about Drupal specifically, it means improving the rate of requests served 5x in some cases.

http://cyrve.com/mongodb

edit: Data stored in Drupal is way normalized, and read from a hell of a lot more than it's written to. I think in this case, when they weren't using it for general field storage, but just petitions and signatures which consist of endless names and links to user pages, the data was naturally denormalized enough. Nothing in that usecase would take more than three, maybe four joins. All it's doing in that case is just making upgrades difficult.


I like it because it provides a flexible material for development without committing to a schema.


I think I finally "get" it. Thanks for putting it succinctly.


Session data. NoSQL isn't meant to be a catch-all solution, and it's certainly not meant to be the only database you use in a complex project. It's meant for data that you really wouldn't mind losing that you have to access a lot. Normally, that's temporary data in an app that might require it on every page view— recently viewed items, sessions, shopping carts that aren't saved for later, etc.


I'd like a clear example too.

I can see the benefits of using something like NoSQL for temporary datastores (in memory only), but MySQL can function just fine as a key->value store as well to the best of my understanding.


this is bad reputation for mongodb anyway


Here in the UK, the Government Digital Service [1] are doing much the same thing. They're building a single site for all government services and publishing all their code on GitHub.

[1] http://digital.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/


I've never seen the name "Obama" and "licensed under GPL v2 or later" in the same document before -- cool.


I'm a little disappointed; I wouldn't have thought this community to be so cynical and partisan. Can't we all just get along?


While this is the first with respect to releasing on Github, in April 2010 White House also released 2 open source Drupal modules (for Akamai integration and another one).


Now if we could just get THOMAS into Github so we can upgrade that beast...


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/THOMAS

So who developed THOMAS?


Hey I know this is late but I just got an email back from "O'Keeffe, Hope loke@loc.gov" that just says it's based on a commercial system that is "out of support" and not available.


I would presume Congressional IT? No idea. Good question.


I know this is late but I just got an email back from "O'Keeffe, Hope loke@loc.gov" that says it's based on a "commercial system" that is "out of support" and not available.


Finally I can sass the whitehouse using github issues!

https://github.com/WhiteHouse/petition/issues/2


Let's say you were a web developer hired to design some part of Apple's website, and by some miracle Apple let you open source your code. You, as a web developer, have no special way to contact or pass information on to Tim Cook, or any other top Apple executive. Would you appreciate sassy comments about Foxconn in your repository's pull requests?


Well, being that I would probably agree wholeheartedly with the sassy comment, I wouldn't mind someone using the release as a platform for their political expression. But that's me.

In this case the POINT of the software was supposed to be political expression, so it doesn't seem that out of place to me.


Seeing that I would be a web developer designing real products for the real world, yes, I would appreciate being exposed to the grander political and social context of my work, because nothing is created in a vacuum, and anything involving a group of people in public becomes political sooner than later anyway.


Considering how insulting it is that the README parades this project as evidence of how radically transparent the administration is, I think it ought to be highly appreciated.


Opening issue #2 was not a wise or helpful act. This initiative should be encouraged; presumably the government will be more enthusiastic about continuing the experiment if they do not receive the impression that the community of open source developers are childish and counter-productive.


Ignoring all the snarky comments about how the current administration has ignored every online petition so far, this is really cool. Everyone now has a chance to have their name attached to an official government project!


Great! Now if we can just get some transparency into issues that matter.


Interesting case giving up MongoDB because of the complexity of adapting another application to use it. I wonder if this is a good use case for something like http://www.nuodb.com/


Check out the first commit to this project: https://github.com/WhiteHouse/petition/commit/fcb103e966f777...


Certainly an interesting microcosm of a type of democracy... I wonder how feasible this kind of model would be for actual policy making.


The more influential the channel gets, the harder people will try to game the system to push their own agenda. I.e. fake or hacked registrations, buying signatures, or trying to promote comments favorable to your point of view while burying opposing ones.

Right now the influence of this app is zero, so we don't have these problems. It's just a marketing dog-and-pony show where they can say "Look we're actually responding to people's questions" but the answers are extremely vague nothings and you have no idea if the President / Cabinet / anyone with real authority even reads the petitions that have 6- or 7-digit signature counts, let alone acting on them.


Oh I don't know, it isn't much different from a system which analyzes emails to see what motivated constituents with email are saying - it's just public. I think it's an interesting experiment and a starting point. I don't think it is ever wrong in a democracy to give people a way of publicizing a message or to give elected officials visibility into relevant things people are saying publicly.

I don't know where the high expectations came from. But I might speculate that many people are starting from dislike of the President's policies and then from there tarring the website, rather than actually responding directly to the idea of the website.


Suddenly, I became interested in politics again.


Government ≠ Politics


Huh?


$markup .= 'You've got my vote, Little Face Mitt.';


Here's the quote I was looking for.

"A totalitarian state simply enunciates official doctrine -- clearly, explicitly. Internally, one can think what one likes, but one can only express opposition at one's peril. In a democratic system of propaganda no one is punished (in theory) for objecting to official dogma. In fact, dissidence is encouraged. What this system attempts to do is to fix the limits of possible thought: supporters of official doctrine at one end, and the critics -- vigorous, courageous, and much admired for their independence of judgment -- at the other. The hawks and the doves. But we discover that all share certain tacit assumptions, and that it is these assumptions that are really crucial. No doubt a propaganda system is more effective when its doctrines are insinuated rather than asserted, when it sets the bounds for possible thought rather than simply imposing a clear and easily identifiable doctrine that one must parrot -- or suffer the consequences. The more vigorous the debate, the more effectively the basic doctrines of the propaganda system, tacitly assumed on all sides, are instilled. Hence the elaborate pretense that the press is a critical dissenting force -- maybe even too critical for the health of democracy -- when in fact it is almost entirely subservient to the basic principles of the ideological system: in this case, the principle of the right of intervention, the unique right of the United States to serve as global judge and executioner. It is quite a marvelous system of indoctrination."

-- Noam Chomsky, "Language and Responsibility" (1977)

But of course, that was then, today it's totally different, right? Right.


Neat. Too bad it's drupal, rendering it totally useless to people with actual taste or skill.


Do you not find it ironic that people with those qualities would not leave such an ignorant comment in the first place?


Usually I do, but I make an exception for Drupal. I've got the battle scars to prove it.




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