Politics and the Net: What about the software?

Wired News reports that General Wesley Clark entered the race due largely to online prompts to do so. This is another example of how the net is affecting politics in a radically new way. This represents an interesting twist in what has already been a fascinating year in terms of the net’s influence on the political process… and it could have some impact on software delivery.

The Wired article points out that this is just the beginning, though. Drafting a candidate is a very different thing from trying to get that candidate to be elected and it is obvious that the Internet will be a critical element in establishing who the nominee will be on the democratic side of the 2004 presidential campaign and will probably be a critical element in the overall campaign.

New tools like weblogs have enabled people to have a clear impact on the presidential process. Moving forward, the use of technology is only going to increase and presidential candidates might find themselves in a state where they become software producers to gain an edge over their competitors. Once that happens, one could start asking questions relating to use and distribution of the software they create.

Should it be open-source? That would be a good idea from an ideological standpoint but a potential disaster in a race as it would allow one’s competitors to quickly play catch-up. Should it be completely closed? If that’s the approach taken, good software developed during a primary race would not necessarily be used in the general election, possibly hobbling some good potential for the winner of a primary. Should it be turned over to the party (either Republican or Democrat) after the nomination conventions? And if that is the case, will it be used as a new bargaining chip in politics? (Imagine a campaign saying “Well, we’ve built this great software platform to do X and we will turn it over, along with support from our people, if you give me Y position in your campaign”)

And what about supporter lists? Let’s say that one candidate ends up with a million subscribers to his/her RSS feeds. Should those feeds then be redirected to the feed of the primary campaign winner? Or are they just falling under a single-use goal in the primaries.

Last but not least in the thoughts I have on this is the question of digital preservation. Since we are talking about software applications here, how will those be preserved for future generations of historians? The use of technology will have an impact but where will those collections sit in the future? Should all the software be turned over to the Library of Congress at the end of an election process? or should a non-profit organization like archive.org hold them? And if those are turned over, what limitations would be put on using the code?

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