It would be a bit of a stretch to claim that Barack Obama won the 2008 election because his website ran open source software while John McCain's ran on proprietary software. But what is not a stretch at all is that Barack Obama's campaign built a powerful synergy between grass-roots politics and grass-roots technology, while presenting what many consider to be the most disciplined campaign of any candidate in modern history.
That combination of synergetic innovation and single-minded discipline produced this amazing commentary from conservative commentator Alex Castellanos on CNN's election night coverage, captured here by YouTube:
For those who'd like to do their homework and understand Castellanos's sources, the book he references is The Cathedral and the Bazaar. The connection between the failing industrial model practiced by companies like Microsoft compared with the organic open source development model is detailed in a whitepaper I published in 2006 titled Software Industry vs. Software Society: Who Wins in 2020?. Who knew that we'd only have to wait two more years before the logic that paper presents would become a mainstream explanation of a mainstream shift in American culture, identity, politics, and economic potential?
Congratulations to President-elect, Barack Obama!
But Open Source has much more to deliver to this President and to the nation, in terms of reforming Washington and our Federal government. One of the strongest criticisms made against Barack Obama during his campaign is that he consistently said that he would go through the Federal budget "line-by-line" and cut wasteful spending, but he never gave any specifics. The open source-based application http://USAspending.gov was implemented after Congress passed a law in 2006 saying that by the start of 2008, every government contract for every government agency (except those that are classified) had to be online, with information disclosing costs, sponsors, contractors, etc. By using open source software and an open source-friendly governance model, the program was delivered ahead of schedule and under budget. And everybody in the world can now inspect the Federal budget on a line-by-line basis.
Since we have been encouraged to participate in this great new democratic experiment, with a President who welcomes our participation, I suggest that we use this great application to help our incoming President identify some of the spending that might best be cut. It's something we can all do, and it's something that we should all do. With many eyes, all (budget) bugs are shallow...