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Submission + - Wikipedia to use large donation to change articles (networkworld.com)

so.dan writes: Wikipedia will be using a $1.2M grant donated by the Stanton Foundation — founded by Frank Stanton, ex-chairman of the policy think-tank The RAND Corporation — to "improve" articles dealing with public policy. The Stanton Foundation still sponsors RAND and other research institutions. It frightens me that such a large donation would be accepted by a single donor to change articles which educate the public on political issues from a group which is itself so focused on these issues. I thought that Wikipedia's political articles gained some credibility from the extent to which contributions to these pages were decentralized.

Submission + - Elections Canada Push for Laws for Online Voting (www.cbc.ca)

so.dan writes: The CBC is reporting that Elections Canada will push for legislation to allow online voting and voter registration to increase the percentage of Canadians who vote. Is there any way to make such a system secure, both from "hackers" and from corruption in government? Is it possible to make it transparently secure, at least to those with some basic knowledge of electronic security?

The CBC notes one argument in favor of such a change to the electoral process in a recent report by Elections Canada: "only 58.8 per cent of registered voters actually cast ballots during last October's federal election — the worst-ever voter turnout in Canadian history". Aside from the fact many I knew didn't vote for the (irrational) reason that they felt they had "just voted" for the previous federal government (which was prematurely "dissolved" by our Governor General), this argument seems flawed for another reason: High voter turnout in a country is a substantial piece of evidence that the population feels their vote will make a difference, and thus is a testament to the extent to which the country is democratic. So long as everyone who wants to vote has the means to do so (note that in Canada employers are required by law to give employees time off to vote), high voter turnout is not, however, (much of) a cause of democracy. Accordingly, increasing voter turnout in a manner other than through real increased enfranchisement of a population, when the method of increase involves (what I fear is) a substantial threat to democracy, seems wrong-headed in the extreme.

Even if the elections process can be made transparently secure, there is also the frightening prospect that some time after electronic voting has become accepted in the general population as normal and nothing to worry about, some change could be made to the system which (unintentionally or not) undermines its security or transparency.


Submission + - Canadian Govt Asks For Feedback On Open Source

so.dan writes: The deadline is quickly approaching to respond to a Request for Information (RFI) from the Government of Canada on creating adoption policies on "no charge licensed software" (which includes OSS) for use across federal agencies. The RFI includes a questionnaire and asks for comments on the how well such software meets the specific criteria which the Government considers when evaluating commercial software. It might benefit us Canadians if some members of the knowledgeable Slashdot community could respond to the RFI. Ars technica has more details. The deadline, according to Michael Geist, is February 19th, 2009.

Submission + - Canadian Govt Requests Feedback on Open Source (blogspot.com)

so.dan writes: The Government of Canada has apparently put out a "Request For Information" on the development of "common guidelines" for the use of Open Source Software within the Govt of Canada.

From the article (via Digg): "The objective of the RFI is to provide an opportunity for those interested to provide information they feel Canada should be aware of when developing internal guidelines related to the planning, usage and disposal of No Charge Licensed Software" within the Government of Canada.

The government has put out a list of specific questions, the answers to which will be used to come up with the guidelines. It would be great if the knowledgeable folks at Slashdot could provide some feedback.

Comment Re:Huh (Score 1) 722

CmdrTaco: If a disproportionate number of people of race X committed crimes or were not going through higher education (for whatever reason), would it be okay to add in comments to summaries which mention "Your race-X friends might be more interested in the armed robberies which can be more easily performed with this high-tech weapon." or "Your race-X friends might not be able to appreciate this cool advance in materials science which will allow faster processors soon (which we, with our good educations, are able to understand and appreciate), but maybe they'll be interested in the pretty graphics this new development enables!"? I understand that there's nothing wrong with appreciating gymnastics so the analogy to my first (armed robberies) example may not appear to hold, but there is certainly an implication that gymnastics is 'not a real sport' (maybe it is, maybe it isn't... that's not relevant to my argument here), and thus there is something wrong with those who like/appreciate it... and thus the analogy holds when we are considering not the value of those who like gymnastics but the likely implication (of CmdrTaco) regarding the value of those who like gymnastics. And regarding my second analogy: Whatever the reason for differences in interests in the two sexes (biological, or environmental (eg, privilege, encouragement)), why not make fun of people who like something (gymnastics or pretty graphics) only if (a) the thing they like is somehow stupid to like, and (b) (nearly) every member of that group likes the (stupid) thing in question? For example, if I want to make fun of people who like monster car truck races in a post about some tech advance which will both change the efficiency of fuel-efficient cars and will also impact some aspect of monster truck races (where, say, the impact is both relevant to the tech advance, but also something which I hope/think is considered stupid by the readers), would it be acceptable to make a comment at the end of a post saying something like "But men may be more interested in [insert something I'm implying it's stupid to find interesting and is in the area of monster truck races?". I don't know. Maybe you think it's okay. But I believe that's based on an emotion that depends on the fact that on slashdot, most people will be resistant to being sexist against men, because people are more likely to be (a) rational, (b) caring about social/moral issues, (c) men... and you know this. And thus, even those who are neither very _rational_ nor _caring_ about what's right/wrong (either factually or morally) when it comes to social issues (I'm sure there are some readers on slashdot who are like this), are likely to be men. And history has shown that people without properties (a) and (b) are likely to be prejudiced against those not in their own group, regardless of whether the group in question actually picks out the qualities which are sufficient for determining superiority over those outside the group.

Thankfully for me, I find that (at least highly-modded) posters on slashdot seem to have properties (a) and (b) in spades, and thus although for one depressing moment I felt not at home on slashdot, I felt at home again, after reading some posters' responses. Thank-you to those of you (especially to the men, who have nothing to gain from being outraged at sexism against women (except living in a more just society!)). Please know that I have, in the past, admonished my feminazi friends from being sexist assholes on matter of principle too. (I no longer do this because I've learned to choose better friends).

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I judge a religion as being good or bad based on whether its adherents become better people as a result of practicing it. - Joe Mullally, computer salesman