A compilation of governance tools that
might deserve a programmer’s attention

The Revolution will be Engineered

  1. Assertion Processor – RSS feeds of facts that matter
  2. Constituents’ Issues Assessment and blog archives of comments
  3. Explicit vertical and horizontal linkages among like-minded individuals
  4. A citizen-based Administration elected by a citizen-based campaign
  5. Citizen-based (not faith-based) programs for training, jobs & mutual support
  6. Peer-to-peer vigilance through our personal sensors and shared video archive
    1. of terrorism
    2. polling place coercion
    3. brutality by armed and unarmed bureaucrats

1. Assertion Processor for the Great Centrist Party - Part B

Last time, I said I hoped to discuss the Assertion Processor with a journalist who could “spell RSS.” That was disingenuous since I’d already discussed it with Ben Hammersley, war correspondent, Guardian columnist, author of the O’Reilly RSS book, Content Syndication with RSS and savior of greyhounds. Not a bad place to start.

A week ago yesterday, I walked into the Intermezzo Café in Philly to see this tall, impeccably dressed Brit saying, “Yes, do bring me another quadruple shot.” Thus was I warned…

After an entertaining iChat AV video session with Doc, courtesy of Intermezzo’s wonderful free WiFi, we got down to business. (Ben and Doc had met in the real Soho (London) a couple years ago when Doc was seeking a WiFi connection. His warwalking led him to the hotspot that Ben had erected over the Petite Délice café). My question: how hard would it be to build an Assertion Processor? Ben’s answer was then about what it is in his blog post today:

It’s not really a technical issue at all. You could very easily create a markup to annotate news stories, and a database to hold the stuff and produce the links is prime RDF territory. Actually building the system, therefore, isn’t an issue (given cash). The problems that strike me are all social: how do you get people to enter stories into the thing? How do you prevent malicious insertion? What do you think?

Well, since he asked… I’m not sure it’s so much a database model as an aggregation model. And that means it shouldn’t take much cash to build the system, since you wouldn’t actually be building a system. I’m imagining a profusion of feeds that may then be arbitrarily aggregated with all the lovely chaos by which we aggregate blog feeds today. If we don’t set up a central database, we don’t have to worry about malicious insertions (ah the images Ben conjures . . . . . . Stop! This is a serious dialogue. Don’t get caught up in Hammersley’s irresponsible, ribald world view and its surrounding accretion disk! Must. Not. Yield.)

On Ben’s site, Eric Sigler commented (treating malicious insertions more seriously than I):

How do you prevent malicious insertion? You don’t. You provide a way to track who made the assertions, and then a way to squelch out people who make assertions you don’t like. But then that could allow people to squelch out others who make assertions they don’t agree with, and that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish.

Back to the Future

Where were we? Oh yes. Isolated RSS feeds aggregated in any way that any aggregator chooses to. Mine or someone else’s. Chaos reigning. The central function is the tagging of the elements that pique your interest when you read an article and then pump your fist like a Jets fan, saying YESSS! Or conversely, the same elements that cause an opponent of the assertions to throw down the paper in disgust.

(Aside: a few months ago, chugging around the Central Park Reservoir track at my usual serene pace, I passed another middle-aged guy with earphones, even more out of shape than I. As I passed, this fellow human erupted, “Fucking Liberal Bastard!” Well. He certainly told him.)

All Assertions All the Time

They’re just assertions! This entire quest is based on the assumption that we have a right to make any assertions we want to make. We can tag the parts of our assertions with flags like <actor>, <company>, <document>, <documentdate>, etc.

We all now accept that our statements in the marketplace of ideas are subject to the scrutiny of the rest of us. And their votes. Our votes. Google has defined our future, unevenly distributed though it may be. Whether by Google or Slashdot or Scoop or Drupal, any assertion will be endorsed or rejected by our hive-mind. Some assertions will gain stature and others will be labeled as loony. Whether those judgments are “right” or not is hardly the tag-designers’ concern. What matters is that we have a means to expose the fist-pumping/infuriating elements and aggregate them in useful ways so that all of us can endorse or dismiss them according to our biases.

Who knows? Maybe we’ll get so involved in the fist-pumpers and belief-violaters that we’ll recognize them for what they are–passing nuages–and consequentially start a dialogue that matters. We might even learn something from each other…

11:14:47 PM    

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