Posts Tagged ‘Internet’

Asking the right people.

Saturday, March 4th, 2017

The report from Ottawa is that the Liberal government wants Canada’s Communications Security Establishment (CSE) to advise politicians and Elections Canada on computer security. Just why these should be the people to ask is the important question?

And since the listening agency is no longer so secret, one can now ask that question. It was in the early days of World War II that Canada started to develop a lead in signals intelligence when its researchers were listening in to the short-wave conversations of the Nazi regime and Vichy France. Combined with the learning from the Hydra operation on signal propagation at a top- secret training camp on Lake Ontario just west of the Oshawa General Motors properties, Canada came out of the war a leader in radio technology.

That is why nobody really questions the CSE expertise in listening to worldwide communications. In an era of digital communications, they have also become very expert in using computers to help them do their job. Whether the organization would also be adept at preventing hacking or even have expert knowledge of the processes is a question that needs answering. Nor do we expect the other partners in what has been known as ECHELON or the ‘Five Eyes’ (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the United States) have more such expertise in house.

We need to remember that most hacking of major computer systems is done by insiders. They can walk out the front door of the organization with the information and nobody can track it on them. Whether inspired by greed or a grudge, all organizations are vulnerable. The supposed expertise in Moscow or Beijing in computer hacking seems more inspired by Hollywood thrillers than reality.

And hacking a properly distributed voting system in an election is highly unlikely. A hack attempt using bots (robotic programs) would be immediately tracked and eliminated. A hack using the proper codes could only hack one voter at a time. Many years ago, we called that ‘personation.’ Attempts at such hacking can be tracked and the perpetrators will find a very old law applies and they could go to jail. It is not worth it.

Secure, fast, efficient and inexpensive distributed government servers can handle national elections electronically with ease. You could vote from home, from a telephone, at work, at your local library at any government office or at the local riding returning office. Canada has the computer expertise and the political experience to do it today.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

The Candidate: That pre-writ lit.

Sunday, April 12th, 2015

Part 2 of our series for Canada’s federal candidates.

There are many arguments about the literature required by candidates in the pre-writ period (the time between being chosen as the candidate and the election call being official). If the Prime Minister decides to wait for the chosen date of October 19, you can expect the writ to be issued, at the latest, shortly after Labour Day, allowing at least 36 days for the election period. There will be new rules in play for this writ period.

Since the rules are lax in the pre-writ period, some people spend a lot on communication. Most of this is a waste of money. The reality is that you only need two printed pieces in this period and the rest of your communication can be concentrated in social media.

The first piece is the candidate’s card. These are handed out and left everywhere by the candidate. They should be of just good enough quality that people will not automatically throw them in the garbage—you want them to read it first. They can be as simple as a two-sided business card and as elaborate as a slightly larger version that is folded.

The key information on the card is 1) the candidate’s name, 2) a contact number that will be operational for the entire campaign, 3) the political party and 4) the name of the electoral district. You might also show a small map of the riding if it has been changed.

Stay away from trying to include any policies or trite slogans. You might start thinking now of seven words or less that explain why people are voting for your candidate instead of any other. Do not hold up producing the card waiting for the answer.

The second piece is a candidate introduction. This is the one time that the literature really is about the candidate. It should never be an eight-and-a-half by 11 two-fold piece. It has to be something of substance. Think light card stock or heavy glossy paper. And be sure to write the copy first. Designers are not always good copywriters. Make sure there is room for all the copy. One of the best designs is like the Time Magazine cover with two inside pages with a grouping of stories about the candidate’s career and community involvement. The back page is all the contact, volunteer, donations, lawn sign, etc. stuff and do not forget to cover all the social media and other Internet sites.

This is also the time to build and promote the candidate in social media. Use it creatively, use it well and keep it lively. Your people have to remember that half your followers will probably be too young to vote but they make great volunteers and have older siblings, parents and friends. The job is to get them interested, including their friends in the novelty of something different, and volunteering—do not be an old fogey!

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to peter@lowry.me

Making democracy work.

Monday, September 26th, 2011

The growing number of pathetic stories in the media about the diminished willingness to vote can get to you.  You really wish that the editor or news director who asked for that piece had found a good fire to report instead.  Mind you a small story about Markham’s improved voting by using the Internet caught the eye this morning.  Babel should really pay attention to that.

In the last municipal election, your writer spent most of the time that polls were open visiting polling places, talking with the city staff people manning them and observing the procedures.  Babel uses electronic voting machines to screw up the voting process.

And it is going to get worse.  Once every four years, people who do not understand what they are doing are going to be inadequately trained to do an unfamiliar job under the instruction of people who have no experience with the process.  Municipal voting in Babel is a truly frightening process.  The only thing that saves us from the process becoming corrupt is that nobody cares that much.

Can you imagine an interview with an applicant for the job of city clerk: one of the questions relates to the city clerk being the municipality’s chief returning officer.  “Tell us, Miss. Jones, as the job includes being the returning officer, what do you know about elections?”  Would you believe an answer that the applicant once voted would be the most likely response?

Federal and provincial electoral districts each have highly trained and experienced elections officers permanently in place for when elections occur.  They are drawn from the ranks of political parties based on their knowledge and acceptability to the party in power.  The chief returning officer is their boss and this person is charged with ensuring that they are fair and honest in their dealings with the political parties and the public.  That system works well, most of the time.

In travels around Babel during the last municipal election, we found that the municipal employees were doing the best job they could.  There was some ambiguity in their written instructions and this resulted in some rather funny interpretations.  In one poll, we found the clerk had placed the candidate scrutinizers at one end of a large room while the polls they were scrutinizing where at the other end.  When she understood that scrutinizing included hearing what was going on at a poll as well as seeing, we had the room rearranged.

The main, and most obvious, problem Babel has is that its cumbersome, already antiquated electronic voting machines are not even a third of the number required.  The city needs to include Internet voting for the next municipal election.  To do that there needs to be a taskforce in place today to get it ready.  And the taskforce had better include people who know something about how politics works.

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Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and comments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

A friendly note from a whiny left-wing griper.

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

This note is for Toronto Councillor Giogio Mammoliti. He complained to the news media that he is tired of the “whiny left-wing gripers’ and “communists” who contact him.  No, this is not from a communist, Mr. Mammoliti.  Far from it.  The only real communists we have ever met were totalitarian.  They did not believe in democracy.  They saw people such as you as corrupted by a weak, self-indulgent society.

But if you want to think of this writer as a ‘whiny left-wing griper,’ that is fair comment.  Mind you, we will resist the temptation to refer to you as one of Mayor Rob Ford’s ‘storm troopers.’  Name calling is not our game.

When Don Cherry made his silly speech about ‘left-wing pinkos’ back at Ford’s inauguration, everyone recognized that Cherry was just trying to be entertaining.  In very small doses, he can be amusing.  Sorry, you do not have the élan of a Don Cherry.

It is good to see that you are using the new Internet media.  It proves that you are not entirely the Neanderthal that you make yourself out as.  We can only assume that your new Facebook page is an attempt at humour.  In analyzing Facebook when it was first popular, we tested a few concepts and came to the conclusion that any idiot can use  Facebook and often does.  It is not our favourite venue for intellectual discourse.

But the problem with Facebook, Twitter and other social media is the time it takes to edit an active page.  A cost-benefit analysis can show that the time spent is worth maybe 72 cents per hour.  As long as millions of people are willing to contribute their labour, we keep creating more dot-com millionaires.  As you have told the media that you can smell the wrong people on your page, you have an obvious advantage.

But getting back to us whiny left-wing gripers:  If you think we whine too much, we will try to do better.  We will henceforth be straightforward and keep our baritone at a reasonable pitch.

We cannot do anything about being left-wing.  It is our nature.  Frankly, we should envy you your ability to ignore and disparage the poor and disadvantaged in our society.  It must be so refreshing for you not to be concerned for any of those poor souls who voted for you.  No doubt they will correct their error in judgement, next time around.

And we promise to try not to gripe.  It is probably a waste of time anyway.  We will continue to make the case for politics of caring.  We believe that a man can only stand tall if he is not standing on others.

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All material in this blog is copyright © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

#31 – Learning about political twitters, tweets and twibes.

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

The most trouble was from the greybeards. There was an age barrier in the hotel meeting room and the chair was ready for the jibes, jokes and jaded comments from us older attendees. We were there to learn about using the Internet’s newest social media for political parties, candidates and office holders. What the chair was not ready for was that some of the older attendees knew far more about Internet use than they were letting on.

Maybe we were the ones old enough to know that when you attend conference sessions on familiar topics, you are sure to learn at least one or two things you did not know before. I certainly do and I did again this time. I probably made the harshest comments about twits who twitter but I was also willing to admit that I really wanted to understand how Twitter can be used more effectively.

Twitter is still a newcomer among the growing list of social media and seems to have been designed for the Blackberry age. The limitation in any posting on Twitter is that you cannot exceed 140 characters and that makes it a special challenge. It grates me of course that an entirely new language is emerging to thwart this limitation. If you can use a “U” when you mean “you,” two characters have been saved. In the same way 2’s are ‘two, to’s and too’s’ which works well for the illiterate. Using the 1001 variations of smiley faces is not required.

Facebook is second only to MySpace in the social media field but is more adaptable to political needs. Both have their roots in the American university scene where the main exchange of social information previously was in noisy bars. The recent complaints and concerns about invasion of privacy by Facebook tend to work for political users as much of the data has to be able to bear close scrutiny anyway.

Other major players in social media are You Tube and flickr. Which came first, You Tube or the camera/cell phone is the question but they are certainly made for each other. Politicians have to recognize that the person in the audience holding up a cell phone as the politician is speaking is not checking the service bars on the phone.

The flickr website adds something like 7000 pictures to its albums every minute of every day. The dirty old men who used to open their raincoats for the unsuspecting now have unfettered competition as people expose their bad photography to world-wide scrutiny. Quality is forgiven though if the pictures are of your grandchildren. To a politician, the ability to be linked through artful tags and the linkages to blogs makes flickr a very handy tool to improve exposure.

And that leaves blogs. Please do not say you do not read blogs: this is a blog. One of the most important points made at the conference was that people who are elected or hope to be elected write blogs at their peril. The reason is simple: nothing that appears on the Internet can ever be truly erased. There are too many repeaters, nodes and people storing for the supposed big brother to correct history for us. And while the original material might be erroneous or designed to mislead, the anarchy of the Internet will soon correct the situation on our behalf.

It should not disillusion you to learn that elected people do not write their own blogs, send tweets, add pics or clips, comment or otherwise expose themselves to the bruising elements of the Internet. When a professional on their staff does them for the politician, they are usually much better reasoned, often more interesting and, most important, deniable. And while Stephen Harper might have 30,000 crazed Conservatives avidly following his tweets, you know that the paid staffer who does them will be fired the minute he or she makes an error in judgement that reflects negatively on the boss.

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Please address comments by e-mail to peter@lowry.me