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[liberationtech] liberationtech Digest, Vol 128, Issue 5

Catherine Fitzpatrick catfitz at verizon.net
Sun Nov 11 12:28:25 PST 2012



Message: 19
Date: Sun, 11 Nov 2012 09:40:09 -0800
From: Yosem Companys <companys at stanford.edu>
To: Liberation Technologies <liberationtech at lists.stanford.edu>
Subject: [liberationtech] Killer fail: how Romney's broken Orca app
    cost him thousands of votes | The Verge

There's been a tidal wave of schadenfreude over Romney's fail-whale ORCA voting system that crashed on election day and caused frustration for numerous volunteers, one of whom has had a highly-quoted blog on the subject (Eckdahl).

And when techies see the name "Microsoft" in the mix, they rush to judge that closed software was the problem, or that ignorance and lack of "science" was the problem because it was Romney. 

But in fact, Zac Moffat used Drupal on his websites, an open source program, and he used other open sourced programs. And while located in Alexandria, VA, the firm that seems to have done the work for the campaign, the company where Moffat used to work, Targeted Victory, had all kinds of talent in it that is on the Silicon Valley networks -- in fact, one developer was Al Gore's developer.

So I ask a lot of questions that go beyond the snark about Microsoft, Romney, etc. Why did they have Al Gore's dev on this job? Was his heart really in the job? Were the other Obama voters really working all night for Romney? And really, who *did* code this mess, and how on earth could they not have field-tested it before the day of show? 

That suggests so much incompetence as to make it legitimate to ask if there was sabotage -- there have been so many nasty and vicious fights in this campaign, it's ok to ask that. Sabotage doesn't mean a conspiracy and plans. Sabotage can mean casual neglect and kicking over the server before you go out to vote for Obama.

As for the question of whether using open source software on a mission-critical large job like this, well, understandable an opposition campaign against an incumbent may feel as if they didn't need to have all of Obama-supporting geekdom in on the job -- although they seem to have had some anyway.

Ars Technica has had some of the best reporting on this, but Sean refuses Gallagher to name Targeted Victory, saying there was "an unnamed" firm involved -- because he says he doesn't have admission from them. But their website acknowledges they had the Romney campaign as a client, and Zac Moffat used to work there and always linked them in his interviews. 

The Microsoft piece of it isn't clear yet; there's also a Googler on it, and while originally reported as TechCrunch as a 20% er, this was corrected to say that the Googler worked on the campaign in his own time -- was this on the issue of scaling?

Romney could buy the best help he needed on this campaign. The question is: can you buy tech help that is supportive of the Republican campaign or at least neutral and professional enough to do their job properly? I think the answer is: no. The results tell us that.

And while everyone on this list is gloating that they are even more in power now, my question is whether some of you will at last become dissidents, as you should -- with even your beloved in power -- if you really have the values you claim of "openness" and "independence" and "freedom".

Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
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