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Would you vote for a SysAdmin for president?

Someone sent me email asking, "With your familiarity of SysAdmin personalities, would you vote for a SysAdmin for president?"


Years ago I worked at a very small company. Their head of sales was boasting about being a Republican in a way that I believe was trying to mock me for being a Democrat. However it was a good opportunity to explain why I thought we were both "in the right place".

"You see", I explained, "Republicans value money over everything else, and that's how I think people in sales should be. Democrats value of expertly-run, centrally-controlled, and generously-funded infrastructure, and if you knew what's good for you, you'd realize that your ability to get your job done depends IT being that way."

So would I vote for a sysadmin for president? Hell yeah. All roads would bepatched the first Tuesday of every month. Nobody wouldn't complain about the DMV because they wouldn't exist any more: you'd renew your license via PayPal and download a PDF of your new license. "Jocks harassing smart kids" would become a federal crime or at least we'd reduce/eliminate school sports programs and redirect the money to the Chess team, math and science classes, and other intellectual pursuits. Schools should be palaces, don't you think? And lastly, the military would be replaced by robots... awesome robots. A ninja robot army with a pirate navy. Arrrrrrr.

But before a syadmin gets elected president, consider this: Obama understands that making government data available "electronically" as a bitmap or PDF is not the same as providing it in a parsable format like XML or CSV. Example: Politicians have to document where all the donations come from and the government made this data available as scanned bitmaps in PDFs. The Sunlight Foundation went to congresspeople asking them to change the law so that the the data was available not just "electronically" but in a parsable, usable format. In an interview with someone from the Sunlight Foundation (reference needed) they said that none of the senators they met with understood that "PDF wasn't good enough" until they met with (then) Senator Obama: he "got it", he didn't need it explained. So when people balked at him wanting to keep his Blackberry it wasn't a surprise to me: he's my generation of geek.

And consider this: The President is just one person. To change the entire government takes movement from the top and the bottom. The entire concept of "Government as a Platform" is basically being driven that "get it" about IT. That's why I'm excited about things like the Gov 2.0 Conferences, the concept of "Government APIs", and various forms of E-Government.

So until an actual sysadmin is elected president support Gov 2.0 efforts. It's going to bring government into the 21st century.

--Tom Limoncelli

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Politics

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3 Comments | Leave a comment

I'm not sure I'd want a sysadmin as president, but I know that I'd support Scott Adams (you know, the brilliant genius behind Dilbert - he's also an incredible blogger) in a heartbeat.

Savage/Hyneman 2012! =)

I share the thrust of your piece about the benefits of sysadmins and assorted other geeks in politics, having stood unsuccessfully for public office myself this year. The good news is that we are seeing a similar generational shift over here in the UK as well, especially regarding the push for APIs and machine-readable publishing.

However, I did find your characterisation of Republicans and Democrats interesting. I'm in England so watch US politics from afar, but my impression is that Republicans are not so much about money as religious conservatism.

I dare say there are some secular neoliberals in the Republican Party, but from what I can see they've slipped beneath the waves of Bible-thumping rhetoric.

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