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Name: Thom Wysong
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  • Helped design, build, and test Workforce Connections - web-based content management software funded by the US Department of Labor and released under the GNU GPL license. devis updated the software and re-released it as EZRO, also under the GNU GPL.

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This past year I have mostly been focussing on my job, but there are a few highlights related to FL/OSS worth mentioning.

In March 2004, I was again able to attend the eGovOS conference in Washington, DC. This being the first year they charged for admission, there were fewer people and less energy. But the focus shifted also, with more content for government managers who are new to F/OSS and want to know what it can offer them - and less content for those of us who are already familiar with F/OSS. One thing that was memorable for me from this conference are several interesting conversations I was able to have with Bart Decrem from the Mozilla Foundation.

Also in the first half of 2004, a rather momentous event occurred when some government-funded software was released under the GNU GPL license. I was one of the handful of people who helped design, build, and test that software. Tom Adelstein wrote-up quite a good article about it for Linux Journal. The story got slashdotted, as well.

In May, I attended the first public hearing of the newly formed US Election Assistance Commission (EAC) - primarily as an observer from the F/OSS community. However, since I was attending, I also ended up writing a short article on the meeting for NewsForge. That story also got semi-slashdotted.

In September, I was able to attend one day of the three days of hearings for the newly created Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC) - a joint venture between the EAC and NIST. This hearing, also, I attended as an interested observer from the F/OSS community.

And finally, in December 2004 another momentous event occurred in which I was able to play a small part. The Mozilla Foundation got the crazy idea of getting people to donate $50,000 USD to help them buy a full-page add in the New York Times to both announce the 1.0 release of the Firefox browser - and to celebrate and recognize all the years of hard work that went in to creating it. I was (and am) proud to be one of the many people who contributed a small amount to help get the world's first large-scale, FL/OSS community-funded advertisement published.

1 Jan 2004 (updated 1 Jan 2004 at 07:00 UTC) »

I've been meaning to update my Advogato journal for awhile now. Here are highlights for this past year from my activities related to Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), e-Government, e-Democracy, and e-Voting.

In January 2003, Robin 'Roblimo' Miller wrote an article - Making a Living Saving the Government Money - for NewsForge about devIS (the small company I work for). Slashdot also posted a link to the story - Your Tax Dollars Buying Open Source Software.

In February, I attended 2003 Winter Meeting for the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED). The FEC, NASED, and the Election Center have been the three main organizations in the US in charge of testing and certifying voting systems. The soon-to-be-formed Election Assistance Commission will take over this part of the FEC's role.

In February 2003, I heard about the push for technologists to endorse a Resolution on Electronic Voting promoting voter verified audit trails (VVAT) for e-voting machines. I submitted my endorsement after carefully checking that the resolution (and the website) did not specify the VVATs had to be paper-based (I was/am aware that electronic VVATs are possible, just not easy). Unfortunately, the webpage and website containing the VVAT statement to endorse were later changed to be a very heavily pro-VVPAT (voter verified paper audit trails). This, it seems, has led many people (and the media) to be rather confused - thinking all those endorsements are/were for paper-only VVAT (VVPAT) when they're not, they're only for the general concept of VVAT.

In March 2003, I had the opportunity to deliver a mini-presentation of sorts on E-Rulemaking to an NSF sponsored workshop. The main presenter slots had already been filled for the workshop by the time I had found out about it, so there was only room for me to deliver a very brief mini-presentation on E-Rulemaking related work I did with TDP. The mini-presentation, eRulemaking Technology: Issues to Consider, is posted on the website. The workshop agenda is here.

Later in March 2003, I was able to attend the second eGovOS conference in Washington DC and meet a number of interesting people.

Sometime in mid-2003 (I don't recall the exact date) I had the opportunity and privilege to hear Richard Stallman speak at GW. After reading and hearing about RMS for years, it was interesting to see and hear him in person for the first time. He even transformed into the legendary Saint IGNUcius at the end of his talk.

In November 2003, the first eGovOS conference to be held in Europe ended up being cancelled due to some funding/political issues. Hopefully, Tony Stanco and the eGovOS crew will be able to setup another eGovOS conference in Europe in the not-too-distant future.

In December 2003, I attended the NIST sponsored 1st SYMPOSIUM ON BUILDING TRUST AND CONFIDENCE. I'm looking forward to NIST's involvement in this important area.

I've been using the past year to get up-to-speed at devIS and have been on a sabbatical from working on open and free software during personal time. After working full-time without an income for over a year trying to get TDP off the ground (unsuccessfully, unfortunately), taking the past year off has been a welcomed break.

I've been thinking for awhile of getting back involved, and this past week began that transition. I spent Wednesday through Friday attending the eGovOS Conference held in Washington, DC at the facilities of George Washington University and the World Bank. It was a good conference, made up mostly of policy people. Tony Stanco and his team recruited an excellent collection of speakers. From the free/open software community I was able to meet Bruce Perens from OSI and Debian, Robin Miller from OSDN and Slastdot, Miguel de Icaza and Nat Friedman from Gnome and Ximian, Tim O'Reilly from O'Reilly & Associates, Frank Hecker from Mozilla, Marten Mickos and David Axmark from MySQL, Rob Page from Zope Corp, Edgar Villanueva Nunes, the Congressman from Peru who stood up to Microsoft, and Vinay Deshpande of the Simputer Trust and Encore Software. Other interesting people I had the chance to meet were Doug Maughan from DARPA and Terry Bollinger from MITRE.

In re-looking at my Advogato page, I'm realizing that a number of the links I had posted earlier are broken. Since is no longer online, that accounts for several of the broken links. Here is a listing of archived versions of TDP links I reference below:

Also of interest (to me, at least), the US Congress *finally* passed Election Reform Legislation this past week (16 Oct 2002). The Election Center website has explanatory material on the legislation (HR3295).

As was posted on Slashdot yesterday, and was posted here a day before that, the CalTech-MIT Voting Technology Report was released a few days ago. I haven't had the chance to read through the entire report. Due to the fact that the font-types used do not render well when printed on my DeskJet printer - or when displayed on my laptop screen - the text of the report is difficult to decipher.

However, the one section that I have been able to read through is contained in pages 60 through 66. This section contains an introduction to their AMVA, which stands for "A Modular Voting Architecture". The authors begin this section by stating ...

This section presents a new framework - a reference architecture - for voting that we feel has many attractive features. It is not a machine design, but rather a framework that will stimulate innovation and design. It is potentially the standard architecture for all future voting equipment.
After reading this I thought, "Hmm. Interesting. Let's see what they came up with." I went on to be more than a little amused when I realized that this "standard architecture for all future voting equipment" was almost an exact duplicate of a voting system design I had posted online three and a half months ago.

For the fourth version of TDP Notes I had written up a new section called - ironically enough - The Future of Voting Systems. In it I described Hybrid Paper/Electronic (HPE), Paper-to-Electronic (P2E), Electronic-to-Paper (E2P), Electronic-to-Electronic (E2E), and Peer-to-Peer (P2P) voting systems. (This page is also cached at Google. Scroll down to see the section I'm referring to.)

Of these, the P2E and E2P descriptions were simply laying out what had already been suggested or previously implemented by others. However, the E2E and P2P explanations were new - as well as the terminology I was using. Of particular interest is the E2E design I laid out.

With the CalTech-MIT AMVA, they specify generic designs for both a paper-based and an electronic voting system. The paper-based system is simply a traditional mark- an-X-on-a-paper-ballot type of system, where the paper ballots are counted by hand. However, the AMVA electronic voting system design is almost an exact duplicate of my E2E design.

I don't believe I had ever heard of this type of split, two- step voting system design before I thought of it, and wrote about it, earlier this year. To my knowledge I was the first to publicly suggest this type of design when version 0.4 of TDP Notes was posted online in March 2001. I realize someone else may have publicly suggested this before March, but if they did I was not - and still am not - aware of it.

I will probably post more of a comparison between the AMVA and the E2E design out on the TDP mailing list when I get the chance. In the meantime, I will be feeling more than a little pleased that the CalTech-MIT team has validated my work in such a positive way. The sad part is, I didn't have the benefit of a quarter million dollar grant to fund my efforts. :-<

The fourth version of TDP Notes is now online. For anyone interested in using open/free software for e-voting, e-democracy, and e-government, you might want to check it out.

Even though there is more material to write out, it may be the last version created.

Any future news on Techno Democracy Project will be posted to the TDP Mailing List.

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