Chromatic and OReilly

Awesome interview with Chromatic at Oreilly.  Be warned I totally targetted this interview at the geekier crowd. Feel free to ask me some questions about anything unclear!



why tools that enable transparency are key!

In Texas alone... there were 4000 bills submitted.  Elected officials have people that advise them currently - typically staff, lobbyist and special interests.   I was a Legislative Laison (aka unpaid lobbyist) for ACLU and I think what I did was a "good thing."  Honestly, I do not expect legislators to understand the unseen impact legislation can unintentional have on technological development.  I believe we as technologists should actual participate in govt and to advise them.  Hey they listened 9 out of 10 times. But the 10th is why I created this org - because of the undue influence of a corporation working against what I see as the public good.

Just as Obama created a CRACK staff of advisors and subject matter experts that wrote all his policy statements on  This is also not a bad thing.  What is a bad thing is that MONEY instead of information has an unbalanced effect on this. We need transparency and the ability to have more access for common people.  That is one of the things we hope our tools will address.  It is not about a political agenda but one of process and creating accurate metrics!

The Federal Budget is 6000 pages composed of 19 bills.  No one person can ever understand all of it.  And if there was one person - would you trust them?  Should you?

That is why I think we need a visualization tools like Connect the dots with something like the Free and Open Source Social network to help us filter the data transparently so that we can self audit. 

The plan is to make sure all of the information is available thru web services.  By doing things like permalinking on ALL legislation on a paragraph level and tracking Diffs.  This way individual blogs can participate in the disucssion without any ambiguity.  They can also track when the law (slow) or the legislation (fast) changes and update their opinions and documentation.  There is no certain point of control :-)






Questions regarding two-party system and reading legislation

you mention in the interview "The fact of the matter
and the way that we vote with one person, one vote, one area, one
territory means that we always have a two-party system" You refer to
the math behind the election system.

I understand from a basic civics perspective how the two party system
is favoured, particularly where you have the 'winner takes all' states
in the Electoral College, but how does the voting system hold us
mathematically to two parties?

When you talk about finding a way to make the system more
mathematically representational, what do you mean? Or perhaps, what do
you envision as the result of such a system?

The second section that really got my attention was this part, (I'm
going to quote a larger chunk here for context.)

Silona: The ACLU reads every bit of federal and state legislation.

Chromatic: Our legislators don't, is the problem.

S: Right. Exactly. They shouldn't. They can't. They can't keep up with
that sort of thing. Our role as citizens is to let them know what's
actually happening out of that.

It seems you are saying that legislators shouldn't be expected to know
what is in the bills they vote on without us telling them?? I see the
problem being that legislation is way to complicated for any
individual to digest, but I think that legislators should be held to
account for what is in the legislation they vote on. If the
legislation is too complicated for them to understand, that is a good
sign that it is way too complicated. Following a discussion at work
regarding the tax code, I found myself wading through legislation to
try to figure out how changes had been made and by whom. Our current
front end in Thomas at least is a mess, with amendments and references
to discussions, which based on the congressional record don't actually
seem to be discussing anything relevant.

I would love a system to make the legislative process more transparent
and digestible. As a citizen I want to know what is in the legislation
being passed and how it affects me, but I feel that my Legislators
SHOULD know what is in the legislation they are passing. I need to let
them know how I feel it affects me, but they need to know what they
are voting on.

I was wondering if you had any more feedback on your thoughts regarding that.


--Mike O.