The Raymond Rule

“Only at grave peril shall you ask a question for which there already exists an answer somewhere in the world.” This principle drives me batty, and causes geeks to waste hours of time. It’s the macho-geek version of guys refusing to ask directions and driving till they are hopelessly lost.
Erik Raymond wrote the canonical explanation in How To Ask Questions. The geek world is run by wizards who don’t have time to answer newbie questions and keep the earth orbiting the sun.
Therefore, if you have a question, you must read the man pages, scour google for diagnostic phrases, spelunk through code, and test your hypothesis. If you still haven’t found the answer to your question after two hours, three hours, eight hours… then you may ask the wizard who may know the answer off the top of his head.
Otherwise, you risk scathing criticism, and a permanent deduction of 20 points from your interlocutor’s estimate of your IQ.
I’m really glad to see LinuxChix which looks like it provides a forum for improving one’s tech skills without facing the consequences of the Raymond Rule.

On the “Echo Chamber”

David Weinberger said something great about the allegation that online political conversations create an “echo chamber.”
Some of the time you want to talk to people who are different and learn from them. Some of the time you want to find supporters, energize supporters, and acheive a goal. You don’t have to do both things at the same time.
When you’re learning and coalition-building, it’s good talk to everyone, find and create common ground. When you’re trying to achieve the goal, you find allies, co-ordinate with them, cheer with them.

Joe Trippi at Etech

The Joe Trippi talk at Etech yesterday was disappointing. He pointed fingers. He blamed the media and the primacy cycle. He didn’t take responsibility for the disorganization in his own campaign and the lack of precinct organizing savvy that made the Dean get-out-the-vote effort less effective than Kerry. He didn’t take responsibility for communication failures and flaws. After all the candidates had taken up the anti-war message, he didn’t move on to other issues like health care and fiscal responsiblity.
It was all somebody else’s fault, none of it was the responsibility of the campaign or the candidate.
Trippi’s example of listening to the grass-roots was using a blogger’s idea about using a baseball bat as a stage prop. He was proud of the fund-raising they were able to achieve, and didn’t understand the community that the Dean campaign helped to catalyze.

How to affect the voting system

1) Congress sets policy for the nation. Call/Write your congressman to support the Holt bill, HR2239 mandating a voter-verifiable paper trail at the federal level
2) In each state, the Secretary of State sets standards for the voting systems in their state. In California and Nevada, the Secretaries of State have taken the lead in requiring a voter-verifiable paper trail. The Secretary of State’s office is in charge of certifying voting machines.
Call or visit your Secretary of State. Encourage them to require a voter-verifiable paper trail at the state level. Find out about the process to certify voting machines. If it’s secret, use the press and legal system to make it not be secret.
3) Voting machines are selected and implemented in each county. Make friends with your county clerk. Understand the process that they use to implement voting. Many of them are struggling with the technology. The county-level voting system has traditionally used a lot of volunteers. If you’re a geek, your skills are needed.
4) Follow the issue at Verified Voting

Political Blogs and Democracy

The blogging session at O’Reilly Edemo had one part of the point. Yes, political blogging is “about” a new generation of A-list opinion leaders, those on the panel among them. AND it’s about building groups of the like-minded. AND its a tactical tool that campaigns can use to co-ordinate in public and in private.
Social software tools play a variety of roles:
* express opinions
* build community of the like-minded
* discussion among the diverse
* tactical organizing in campaigns for elections and issues