28 January 2013

Political Intelligence

Yet another oxymoron enters the blogosphere. As I've written a few times over the last few years, building a better mousetrap with databases and stats can be used in electioneering. While the DNC has been screwing the pooch for some time (2010 and 2012 were disasters at the state and local lever; 2014, thanks to those cycles and the fiddling being done by the Lunatic Right, will be more of the same), the Obama crew did a bang up job. You can find my post-mortems in the archives.

Today brings yet another, focusing on whether to publish the work as open source. Previous reporting from the trenches made clear that the techies asserted themselves, pushing the operatives aside. Now, the operatives, in appears, want to keep the Koch secret recipe, well, secret. The comment stream is way more interesting than the piece itself.

Even in the comments, the requirements of releasing "open source" code is confused. For whatever reason, "open source" has become a synonym for GPL, and it isn't. BSD is also an open source license, and amounts to freeware (it really isn't but...). One can do as one wishes with BSD source. One can use open source applications, MySql say, and in doing so keep said application as private as one wishes. Using open source to build an application does not make the application open source. That bit of FUD has been around since at least MicroSoft began to sweat many years ago.

On the other hand, if one modifies an open source application, then the GPL does require that those changes be returned to the source tree of that application. This is where MySql got into trouble with FSF from the beginning: attempting to dual license; some changes went to the open source tree, while others went to the closed tree. Oracle does the same, if not worse. In the R world, Revolution Analytics gets dinged by some.

The issue, and only those who built it can answer, is whether the application modified existing open source applications. The number of commercial applications running on Tomcat or linux is legion; these are bespoke applications. Think of it another way: much of the Cloud infrastructure is run on linux, MySql, and Postgres; yet the applications running in the Cloud remain closed. Here is a long standing explanation.
Almost everyone agrees that if you take the copyrighted source code of any program and physically modify it - actually revise the program or translate it into another computer language - you have created a derivative work of that program.

The conflict in the comments is mostly about whether releasing the Narwhal source would be a good thing or a bad thing for the New Democratic Majority. That the comments haven't a clue about the status of the New Democratic Majority shows that they live in a bubble, just like the Lunatic Right. The only difference: the Lunatic Right is effecting coups de etat in state after state. The DNC should, but hasn't yet, answer for that.

So, the OFA folks should keep their secret sauce, and continue to bitch slap those idiots at the DNC. There is only two years, less really, to the next Waterloo for the DNC and the rest of the 99%. The new Democratic majority is a pipe dream; the Lunatic Right is taking over state governments and busily changing the election rules to inflict Sunni rule on the Shiites, right under the DNC's nose. Boehner does look a bit like Saddam, with that spray bottle tan.

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