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KickStarting a Revolution (coding2learn.org)
39 points by dajbelshaw on Aug 18, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 47 comments

I know that it's superficial, but I have an extremely hard time taking a blog post interspersed with large meme pictures seriously. I think you should only use them if your target audience is teens, and when you're near their age as well, trying to write something "popular". Definitely not when attempting to write a serious post.

Note that this is the same blog that recently started a post[0] with:

  TL;DR? Why not just go watch another five second video of a kitten 
  with its head in a toilet roll, or a 140 character description 
  of a meal your friend just stuffed in their mouth. “nom nom”. 
  This blog post is not for you.
which makes this seem quite ironic.

[0]: http://www.coding2learn.org/blog/2013/07/29/kids-cant-use-co...

These are not "meme pictures" but rather image macros[0].

[0]: https://wikipedia.org/wiki/Image_macro

They are both.

I'm so tired of memes. Most of them look stupid to me now, and I bet that articles that are written with that style now and are read in five to ten years (for the articles that are still relevant in that time), they are going to look weird and dorky.

Great article, just one major inaccuracy concerning the Pirate Party:

> they have a silly name and their focus seems to be solely on ‘sharing culture’ at the expense of everything else.

Then you go on to say:

> What we need in this country is a protest party that campaigns on the issues of Internet privacy, censorship, copyright/patent reform and computer misuse laws.

The Pirate Party campaigns precisely on these issues. For those that think the Pirate Party is just focused on protesting against unfair monopolies, please look up their actual ideas.

A good illustration is given on Rick Falkvinge's blog:


The Swedish Pirate Party definitely campaigns heavily on those issues, and less on "sharing culture". It took a few years for them to get through that phase.

I guess the UK Pirate Party is in need of more members who care about these issues?

Thanks. I'll have a think about this and then edit the article to give a fairer representation to the Pirate Party.

The Pirate Party's manifesto (https://www.pirateparty.org.uk/media/uploads/Manifesto2012.p...) specifically addresses privacy. On p.25 it says:

We feel that citizens' right to private and confidential communication is vital, but at present it is not respected. We will forbid third parties from intercepting or monitoring communication traffic (i.e. telephone calls, post, Internet traffic, defend the right of citizens to expose emails) and require specific warrants to be issued by a court before the police are allowed to monitor communications traffic.

Why not raise £338,568 for the Open Rights Group (http://www.openrightsgroup.org/) instead? They're a British group who actively campaign and defend privacy, freedom of expression, and innovation. They could do with the financial support, technical help, legal aid, and public awareness.

Putting your time and money behind groups like ORG (http://www.openrightsgroup.org/), the EFF (https://www.eff.org/), and Privacy International (https://www.privacyinternational.org/) feels more productive to me than playing an expensive system for a one-off political statement. We need to support and create sustainable groups with a vested interest in putting pressure on the policy makers in power. Groups who are well-established, who share your views, and who have a head start.

Expressing your distaste for existing parties is valuable. But it is easily ignored, especially if you do not intend to fight for seats.

If the EFF and ORG grew as big, influential, and sustainable as other pressure groups such as the National Rifle Association, then privacy and technology matters could start to influence policy makers pandering for votes.

If you're reading this from the UK, go ahead and join ORG today: https://www.openrightsgroup.org/join/ They need more members. £5 a month can make a big difference to them.

You should donate to the EFF while you're at it: https://supporters.eff.org/donate

> Putting your time and money behind groups like ORG (http://www.openrightsgroup.org/), the EFF (https://www.eff.org/), and Privacy International (https://www.privacyinternational.org/) feels more productive to me than playing an expensive system for a one-off political statement.

I agree that a one-off campaign in the 2015 general election is unlikely to bear much fruit. However, having said that, the Pirate Party's strategy of tackling these problems by being a political party and fighting elections is already bearing fruit.

For example, one reason the European Parliament decided not to go ahead with ACTA is that they fear it would give a major impetus to the Pirates, who the oldparties would rather not see getting bigger in the 2014 European election.

There is no reason, of course, why digital rights activists cannot do both -- political parties and campaigning organisations -- together.

I followed the, quite successful, foundation and raise of the Pirate Party of Germany very closely. Many of my friends and follow activists from our privacy movement, AK Vorrat, became members. I can not recall, money ever having been a major problem. This was certainly true for AK Vorrat* and I think it was true for the PP as well.

Sure, you would always like to have more money, but it never stops you from doing sensible moves. On top of that, not having boatloads of money makes you look authentic and fresh. When you campaign, you spend so much of your own time and energy, that you happily spend some of your money as well. The listed costs in this article are peanuts for any group of people that can afford to start and propel a political movement. You certainly don't need Internet crowdfunding for that though it might be a good idea for financing an election campaign. In my experience, there are many, many people who want to support your politics but don't think they have the time. Those people are very willing to support you financially with what ever amount they can easily afford.

So, at least in Germany, starting a political movement is not limited by money.

PS: There was actually some crowdfunding. The company Spreadshirt included donatations for every T-Shirt with the popular Stasi 2.0 logo. http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stasi_2.0 About 11,000 Euros were raised very quickly and I remember the many discussion on "How shall we spend all this money."

Political parties in Germany receive state funding, which doesn't happen in the UK.

Fair point. But again, even if you are not a party, your political movement will have to overcome a lot of major problems. I wouldn't count money as one of them.

Can someone enlighten me as to how this achieves anything, other than a count of people who abstained?

If you want to reform something, it seems like the required action is to reform it. Saying on record 'i want reform', or 'i don't like the old system' does not achieve anything, and in fact wastes everyones' time. The hard part: working out reform and enactioning it, still needs to be done.

Am I missing something?

I think that what this could achieve is stating the importance of the issues to the main political parties. Most "mainstream" political parties that I've seen will change their positions on things if they think it will get them more votes.

So what would this achieve. Well having a "privacy reform" party candidate on all the ballots would draw attention to the problem, in that voters would see the name and potentially hear about the platform. Also getting on the ballots would be likely to draw some mainstream media attention (heck the Monster raving loony party gets attention in the UK when it's on the ballot at by-elections)

Then if the party actually gets a decent number of votes, it may persuade mainstream parties to change their positions. My feeling is that at the moment none of them think it's that important a topic, so aren't formulating policies on the topic.

Personally I think it's a good idea to try and do something about this now, as once the idea that PRISM etc are fine and accepted gets embedded into culture, the next steps are likely to follow (e.g. what the US seems to be seeing with DEA and other law enforcement areas getting access to data). How long would it be before your local police are trawling your smartphone GPS data to see if you were speeding...)

Most "mainstream" political parties that I've seen will change their positions on things if they think it will get them more votes.

Yep, this has happened before. 25 years ago the Conservative party brought in a law banning the "promotion of homosexuality in schools", now they are legalising same sex marriage.

> Can someone enlighten me as to how this achieves anything, other than a count of people who abstained?

That in itself is quite useful. At the moment, anyone who doesn't vote generally falls into one of two categories:

1) I don't care

2) I don't want any of them

Having some way of explicitly saying "I care, but have no confidence in any of you" can be quite powerful. If it wasn't, votes of no confidence wouldn't mean anything.

> Saying on record 'i want reform', or 'i don't like the old system' does not achieve anything

Only when people agree that the old system has problems. If all the parties think it's fine and they think their constituents are happy with it then a significant voice saying "No, we're not" is important, even when there's no plan. If people agree that there are issues then yes, it's pointless.

You don't need to form a party for this however, you can spoil your ballot paper, that has to be counted.

Unfortunately, due to misinformation (IMO) the plan to reform the voting system failed. I think that would really have helped.

> Unfortunately, due to misinformation (IMO) the plan to reform the voting system failed. I think that would really have helped.

I'm ambivalent about it. I'm Norwegian, so can't vote here anyway, but my feeling, partly because of seeing the Norwegian system, I think that while the proposed system would've been a big step forward, it was also a quite poor stopgap measure, and if it had succeeded it would likely have killed the voting system debate for the next 50 years as anyone trying to lobby for further reform would have just been met with "but we already did enough".

I posted a couple of comments to the blog to the effect of focusing on the marginal seats.

Consider this: In 2010 there were 40+ seats with margins of 1000 votes or less. And Labour lost the chance of cobbling together a coalition (whether or not it'd have worked is another matter) by a handful or two of seats.

So a campaign like this, if well run, is a big threat of upset to all three of the big parties.

But as I wrote on the blog, you can get that same effect by focusing the effort on, say, the 100 or so most marginal seats and using any extra resources on advertising an PR to explicitly make a point out of spoiling it for the incumbent in those seats unless they take a principled stand on the campaigns issue.

For many of these seats, the margin would have only required a swing of <1% away from the incumbent for the runner up win, and many of these seats remain close in election after election.

Also, in these seats it's not only criticising their policy and getting votes that would upset the big parties, but any campaign that'd focus on telling voters "the big three are all just the same, so it doesn't matter which one wins" would be an issue for them in marginal seats as winning those seats depends so heavily on getting people to actually go out and vote as well - voters who decide that they don't give a shit about this campaigns issue but find themselves agreeing it doesn't matter if their seat goes to Labour, the Tories or the Lib Dems might very well stay home even if they'd otherwise vote a specific party out of habit or overall sympathies.

First past the post systems are very prone to big upsets from relatively modest campaigns due to effects like this, and that's one of the reasons why you see so extensive lobbying, but this is a quite interesting approach to it and as much as I loathe the current coalition government, I'd love to see it attempted (and I fall in the category who think that while they're not all the same, they're all so far from what I'd like that I don't care all that much).

This seems to be an avenue to (possibly) get enough leverage to have more than a snowflake's chance in Hades of actually getting somewhere, given the current power structure.

Sadly, you'd probably achieve more political change by making an e-petition and persuading Jeremy Clarkson to endorse it

I'm not a Brit but how can a country be run by corporations if the government is telling them what to do? Whether through judicial orders on what to filter, legislation on how to filter even more, and extraditions at the request of US federal government.

There is a legitimate concern about regulatory capture, about large entities having an unfair advantage... However, whenever I see the whole "OMG CORPORATOCRACY" shtick nowadays I just think that the author has seen one too many scifi movie from the 80s about how we will be ruled by some Japanese Omni MegaCorp and it has forever tainted his world view.

And then there's the signalling. UKIP is, of course, racist. The Pirate Party has a silly name. "What would my peers and colleagues think? We need a party that would make me, a constituent, look good to my friends!"

On the other hand, moral preening as a primary political concern surely is a first world thing. So that's a good illustration.

Not to mention that this article is yet another political manifesto with tenuous connection to technology at best.

The relationship between corporations and governments can be seen as roughly analagous to that of the King and the Church 400 years ago: both colluding and competing for power.

I think the biggest problem is that single-issue parties never gain widespread support. I may be interested in internet privacy and technology issues but I might also be interested in education, transport, housing, the economy and many other issues. If these subjects are secondary (or presented as secondary) to your party's main focus, how can you ever gain broad support among the electorate? Unless the real goal of starting a party is to make the main political parties sit up and take notice of the issues you're campaigning for.

The alternative to creating a party is to create a campaigning body or organisation - which of course may struggle to get noticed.

Raising and highlighting important public issues, questioning official claims is also the role of the press, but we can never expect that from the utterly abysmal UK press.

> Unless the real goal of starting a party is to make the main political parties sit up and take notice of the issues you're campaigning for.

That's exactly what this blog post argued for.

Consider that in 2010 there were 40+ seats where taking less than 1000 votes would have been enough to spoil the incumbent party's chance at winning the seat.

I care about this issue quite a lot, and the central idea - Kickstarting a new party - is a good one.

Having said that, there are an enormous number of problems with this suggestion.

" There should be no need for local campaigning. I’ve never had a politician knock on my door to discuss who I’d vote for, but I have had plenty of leaflets and fliers put though my letterbox and they end up straight in the recycling. "

Good - because everyone else thinks the same as the OP, right? If we promote on Twitter and YouTube, everyone who matters will learn about the party?

Not so much. A project like this is going to need a marketing budget, and a big one - as well as volunteers on the ground, whether the OP likes it or not.

Most people don't even have a Twitter account. Most people don't follow YouTube particularly closely.

And as many, many marketing professionals over the years have noticed, you need to tell people about your product a lot more than once for them to buy into it.

"There are 650 constituencies in the United Kingdom."

And for each of these, you're going to need a candidate. That's 650 people you need to find, who can appear credible to the media (so, they'll need to be skilled public speakers who can handle a debating environment as well as a media interview focused on soundbites), who don't have any skeletons in their closet or non-standard lifestyle choices that the other parties can use to discredit the entire organisation ("GEEK WHO WANTS TO BE PM IN BISEXUAL ORGY SHOCKER!"), and who are willing to give up their current careers should they win.

One of the biggest problems the mainstream parties have is finding qualified candidates - and they've got 100+ years of experience and network to do so. For an upstart party like this, it's going to be a far, far bigger problem than finding the money.

None of which means that this idea should just be disregarded, but it definitely needs more consideration.

> That's 650 people you need to find, who can appear credible to the media

They don't need this; I think the idea is purely protest, with no intention of the person actually getting voted in.

As long as the candidates are not batshit crazy some controversy might actually be a benefit in getting PR, as long as everyone knows to answer everything with "You know as well as we do that we don't stand a chance of getting elected and anyone trying to make a point out of that are just trying to score points; the point of this campaign is to give people an opportunity to show their displeasure with the big parties stance on privacy; [launch into info about the point]"

I would invite readers to consider just how non-trivial the following task is:

Here is a list of 650 people that are almost as geographically diversely located as it is possible to be while remaining in the UK. Demonstrate that none of them are "batshit crazy".

I am from India, and our parties do not give a shit for the ideals engraved in our constitution. Like the ones in most(all?) other countries, they have transformed from leveraging a shitty status quo to enforcing a shittier status quo.

Back to your post. What I understand is, you want to show to the existing parties that a sizable population wants something the parties are not offering, and hope that they will notice. And you yourself cannot support any of the existing parties because you disagree with several of their policies. Won't your proposed party face a similar problem? It probably will be less of a problem because the degree of disagreement on issues won't be so big, because the kind of people you will gather think similarly of most issues, have a similar (modern, liberal?) morality.

But I think you have to relay the implicit message of your post explicitly. LETS STOP BEING FUCKING LAZY.

>Kickstarter won’t allow crowd-funding of political parties from what I can gather.

Kickstarter cannot be used to raise money for causes, whether it’s the Red Cross or a scholarship, or for “fund my life” projects, like tuition or bills.

Indiegogo has no problem with it though.

Does anyone know why that's the case? Why would Kickstarter be so restrictive?

Kickstarter also requires each project team to sign up for their own Amazon payments account. Why wouldn't Kickstarter just collect the money and then wire it / cut a check to the funding recipient?

Also, why does Indiegogo charge upfront while Kickstarter waits until the campaign is successful.

The whole crowdfunding space seems to operate pretty illogically. Are there legal complexities that aren't apparent to an outsider that force their hand?

I think it's more a "who we want to be" kinda thing. Kickstarter doesn't want its brand associated with any potentially controversial/etc. topics.

That's true, some of the Indiegogo campaigns I've seen do sort of have an "off-brand" feel to them.

Still, I wonder why Kickstarter has each project set up their own Amazon Payments account and not collect the money themselves? Could it be a legal or tax reason? And how do they extract their 5% if the payment is processed with the campaign owner's Amazon account?

"There’s a single protest party, the UK Independence Party, but UKIP and I don’t really see eye-to-eye, due to the fact that I am married to a naturalised British citizen and together we have three mixed-race children.".

Rather than cast an unpleasant slur on UKIP (what nasty visions your comment conjures up) it would be helpful were you to identify the perceived problem. As far as I am aware, UKIP are not planning to discriminate against my own UK naturalized marriage partner or my child.

UKIP may not "plan to", but there's been plenty of unpleasant connections between people involve in UKIP and organizations like BNP and EDL, and with EDL endorsing UKIP candidates for upcoming local elections etc.

Enough that as a non-UK citizen with a UK born (and hence citizen) mixed race son, the thought of UKIP getting anywhere near power would make me consider leaving the country.

it would be helpful were you to identify the perceived problem

They're racist.

This is such a bad idea.

(a) null voting is already a "none of the above" option

(b) they ask to give money to do... what exactly? Why give this guy 300k£ to basically waste? Give it to charity FFS.

Does null voting leave the seats in parliament empty? Or do the other parties just get a bigger share?

The only way of leaving seats empty is to win them and refuse to take them up. E.g. Sinn Fein regularly gets MP's, but their MP's refuse to take an oath of loyalty to the queen out of principle, and so they can't take up their seats (though they can now use their House of Commons offices and get financial support for their office; previously that too required an oath of loyalty).

Leaving empty seats is much worse than null voting. It doesn't accomplish anything more, as in either case your vote doesn't go to a real, voting politician. It surely wastes more money as the corresponding parliamentary stipends are given to - I guess - the party for doing nothing. Surely doing nothing has a much better price point at "free".

Why do think they'd do nothing? Do you think Sinn Fein does "nothing" with the money it receives for it's Westminster MP's?

It's certainly possible for it to be a total waste, but in Sinn Fein's case, for example, whether or not you agree with their goals, it is a very clear principled stand: They don't believe Northern Ireland is rightfully part of the UK, nor that the queen is their rightful head of state, so they can't in good conscience give an oath of loyalty to the queen.

Voters who vote for them know full well that this will the outcome, yet they still vote for them because it accomplishes something to these voters: It (now) gives funds to Sinn Fein and it keeps sending a signal that a substantial number of people in these constituencies see British rule as unjust.

Surely there can be any number of other causes where the signal effect can be preferred by voters who otherwise don't see sufficient difference between the major parties to believe it makes a difference which one of them gets their policy through.

The reality anyway is that in the vast majority of votes in the Commons, the small parties votes have no bearing on the outcome at all because the first past the post system means the big parties has such a disproportionate portion of the seats, so most votes for parties outside the big three are still totally "wasted" by similar logic.

No. An MP is elected from each constituancy always.

There have been times when a party ran on a particular platform, enough MPs got elected so they decided not to sit in the House of Commons and set up their own Parliament, and managed to successfully break away.

I'd love to see an idea like this flourish.

Why not start with a smaller country like Luxembourg. We are currently running in elections and want to make of Luxembourg a privacy save heaven. We have a pretty good chance of making it into parliament and every support helps!

Look we even made a video ;) https://donate.piraten.lu/

It's much, much, more important for a party that cares about digital rights to fight the 2014 European election than the 2015 general election, for two reasons:

1. the Euro election is fought using PR, meaning it's possible to actually win seats

2. a lot of the relevant issues are decided at Brussels as much as at Westminster.

I would be very interested to see people running the numbers on past elections, and seeing what the results would have been under different voting systems.

The UK has a weird 'first-past-the-post' system, and it'd be neat to see what the different results would have been.

The UK's "weird" first-past-the-post system is very close to the US and French systems, and many others.

Unfortunately re-running data on past elections would be wildly misleading, as people vote with the knowledge of which parties stand a chance in their seat, and hence a lot of votes that might have gone for smaller parties in a more proportional system goes to one of the biggest parties.

But you might look to the EU Parliament elections for a demonstration of how different people here might vote (with the caveat that the issues are different, and so people might certainly vote differently) with a proportional system:


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