Unfortunately, the John Edwards Keynote at Gnomedex was overly political. As Chris Pirillo put it, once you open up the session to the audience, the audience drives it to where they want it to go.

For the most part it was political questions, comments on the democrat party, and grandstanding by audience members.

Back in the day, I used to have access to the Congressional Record computer system, an VAX/VMS system. One of the interesting things it had was variations of bills as they went through various stages. One thing I learned back then was that all bills are ‘patches’ to existing government code. So the obvious question becomes how that is visualized, written, edited, and collaborated on by the Senate right now. Further, is there any way to expose that inner workings, and the steps involved publicly?

Specifically taking the wiki approach, adding in added/deleted/changed hilighting, along with version control and version identification. It would be IMMENSELY valuable to see which Senator made individual changes in the bills, for instance. The other related question, is how Senators collaborate on writing a bill. For instance, since it’s all deltas to the government code, you have to keep track of what those changes are, and allow multiple disconnected Senators to send data back and forth in order to build the full text of the bill. This seems like a great place for wiki technology to be useful to improve the processes of government.

Anyhow, that was my ‘technical’ question, as opposed to the majority of the political questions/discussions.

We had a good chance to talk real technology with John Edwards, but it devolved more or less to a political mess, and I didn’t even get to ask my question.


— Morgan Schweers, CyberFOX!

1 Comment

  1. On RedMage Says:

    How do senators collaborate on a bill? Usually not in person; usually through their aides and other back-channel communication. Often times the sponsors or committees work together a little closer, and then talk about into a mike in an empty room to “read it into the record.” You can see lots of that on C-SPAN. Most of the import legislation going on isn’t even a bill proper; it’s on an amendment to someones elses “must past” bill. If there’s anything we need to get rid off (besides perhaps signing statements and earmarks) we should make it much harder to place unreleated crap on other bills.

    Yeah, I’ve got a personal story on this one recently, where one of “my” bills got creamed in the state of FL by a late amendment to another bill.
    (Ok, not my personal bill, but one that I really needed to pass…)