Following the trail.

Sunday, December 7th, 2003

Hi on a sunny but cool Atlanta Sunday afternoon, and I find myself grumping in disgruntlement looking at my site in comparison to writers (okay, bloggers) who really know what they’re doing. Despite installing a system that makes tossing entries into the big stack of history a breeze, I end up not sitting down to write because, it seems to me right now, that my interestingness quotient is at a fairly low ebb and my mom always said, “if you can’t say something interesting, say nothing at all.” Well, no, she didn’t really say that, but somehow I hear it in her voice.

But some folks seem to do just fine saying, in a few terse words and in a lot of daily entries, “hey look at this,” and simply pointing the way. Some other folks (my sister comes to mind) take the “recipient list supressed” approach and email the worthwile links they spot throughout the day. This is way more friendly than big-ass email attachments, and it does, in an odd 21st-century kind of way, give me a daily conenction to my sister, who, after all, is on the other side of the continent these days.

And I find myself taking my sister’s approach and then asking myself, why didn’t I just blog that?

If this site was more bloglike and in fact consisted of a series of quick entries, often links to other sites, then,well it’d probably work something like this. Did you see that Robert Cringely piece about voting machines? For the link-intolerant, it says in pertinent part:

Forgetting for a moment Diebold’s voting machines, let’s look at the other equipment they make.  Diebold makes a lot of ATM machines.  They make machines that sell tickets for trains and subways.  They make store checkout scanners, including self-service scanners.  They make machines that allow access to buildings for people with magnetic cards.  They make machines that use magnetic cards for payment in closed systems like university dining rooms.  All of these are machines that involve data input that results in a transaction, just like a voting machine.  But unlike a voting machine, every one of these other kinds of Diebold machines — EVERY ONE — creates a paper trail and can be audited.  Would Citibank have it any other way?  Would Home Depot?  Would the CIA?  Of course not.  These machines affect the livelihood of their owners.  If they can’t be audited they can’t be trusted.  If they can’t be trusted they won’t be used.

Now back to those voting machines.  If EVERY OTHER kind of machine you make includes an auditable paper trail, wouldn’t it seem logical to include such a capability in the voting machines, too?  Given that what you are doing is adapting existing technology to a new purpose, wouldn’t it be logical to carry over to voting machines this capability that is so important in every other kind of transaction device?

This confuses me.  I’d love to know who said to leave the feature out and why?

Next week: the answer.

Clearly, the Cringester makes the one key point–who made the decision to omit the paper trail and why? I’ll certainly be tuning in next week, whenever that is exactly. As far as my take on it (gee, thanks for asking,) I really am impressed with Australia’s open-source solution to voting technology that not only has a paper trail, the source code has a paper trail–it can be downloaded and scrutinized for deficiencies and if you find them, they patch ’em.

Can you see the U.S. government doing that? Naah, me either.

I’m not much of a fan of Diebold these days (despite having a friend who works there), because of their approach to the technology, their approach to free speech on the internet, and their general “we’re a big company, we know what we’re doing” approach to something so vital to our nation’s function.

I’m not even sure I’m comfortable with their ATMs these days.