Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

Archive for January 4th, 2007

E-voting: our long national nightmare is almost over?

Posted by metaphorical on 4 January 2007

The NY Times is reporting today that the Federal Election Commission has “barred” one of the leading testing services of electronic voting equipment.

U.S. Bars Lab From Testing Electronic Voting

A laboratory that has tested most of the nation’s electronic voting systems has been temporarily barred from approving new machines after federal officials found that it was not following its quality-control procedures and could not document that it was conducting all the required tests.

The company, Ciber Inc. of Greenwood Village, Colo., has also come under fire from analysts hired by New York State over its plans to test new voting machines for the state. New York could eventually spend $200 million to replace its aging lever devices.

The article seem to say that the FEC withheld certifying Ciber when the issue came up this summer.

The commission acted last summer, but the problem was not disclosed then. Officials at the commission and Ciber confirmed the action in recent interviews…. 

Until recently, the laboratories that test voting software and hardware have operated without federal scrutiny. Even though Washington and the states have spent billions to install the new technologies, the machine manufacturers have always paid for the tests that assess how well they work, and little has been disclosed about any flaws that were discovered.

As soon as federal officials began a new oversight program in July, they detected the problems with Ciber. The commission held up its application for interim accreditation, thus barring Ciber from approving new voting systems in most states.

That makes it sound like the FEC knew over the summer that Ciber’s certifications weren’t worth the electrons they were written with, but didn’t mention it to the states that used machines certified by Ciber in their November elections—certifications that in most cases were required by state law.

It’s astonishing how long it’s taking federal and state election officials—and the public—to see that the e-voting emperor has no clothes.

Read the rest of this entry »

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This website as a graph

Posted by metaphorical on 4 January 2007

Okay, I guess this swept the net back in May, but I just saw it recently.

This is a representation of the HTML of this blog, in essence showing the extent to which it consists of links to other sites, image files, etc. (It’s not, as some say, “a representation of this blog, and all the blogs it is connected to.”)

Interconnected web

Color code:

blue: for links (the A tag)
red: for tables (TABLE, TR and TD tags)
green: for the DIV tag
violet: for images (the IMG tag)
yellow: for forms (FORM, INPUT, TEXTAREA, SELECT and OPTION tags)
orange: for linebreaks and blockquotes (BR, P, and BLOCKQUOTE tags)
black: the HTML tag, the root node
gray: all other tags

The author of the applet, Aharef, explains:

Everyday, we look at dozens of websites. The structure of these websites is defined in HTML, the lingua franca for publishing information on the web. Your browser’s job is to render the HTML according to the specs (most of the time, at least). You can look at the code behind any website by selecting the “View source” tab somewhere in your browser’s menu.

HTML consists of so-called tags, like the A tag for links, IMG tag for images and so on. Since tags are nested in other tags, they are arranged in a hierarchical manner, and that hierarchy can be represented as a graph. I’ve written a little app that visualizes such a graph, and here are some screenshots of websites that I often look at.

I find all visual representations beautiful, though their meaning isn’t ever clear until you see some examples. Sure enough, the page goes on to show graphs of the home pages of some major sites, such as Yahoo, MSN, CNN.

You can create your own here.

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