Who should be America's CTO?
Vote now and tell us
Poll It must be the longest and most public job application in history. The Democrats' presidential candidate Barack Obama wants to create a new post of "Chief Technology Officer" in the Federal bureaucracy - and Lawrence Lessig wants the job.
He wants the job so badly, it hurts.
There's just two slight problems.
Firstly, there's the awkward fact that the President already has a formal technical advisor: the Office of Science of Technology Policy. There are also technology advisory units for major departments. The State Department, for example. The United States Federal apparatus does not suffer from the lack of technical advice: CTOs proliferate like bunnies in an undisturbed meadow.
Secondly, there's the issue of the Professor himself. What will he do?
Well, we can gain clues from the very distinctive communication technique that is Larry's hallmark. The Old Testament prophet Moses had his stone tablets - but his modern day counterpart, the Professor, now communicates to the world almost entirely through PowerPoint™-style presentations. In these, selective key words are patronisingly emphasised for the hard-of-thinking. (Lessig announced his non-candidacy for Congress through such a PowerPoint™.) But when the issue is critical, he does occasionally use other communications media.
And we know Lessig really, really, really wants the job, because former blog celebrity Robert Scoble scooped a rare interview with him this week - and decided (after a little foot-nudging from The Great Man, just out of camera shot) that Professor Lessig would indeed be an outstanding candidate for the role of CTO.
Using the more familiar Babytalk™ medium, His Lariness describes [video 14:00] the CTO job as "a particularly geeky proposal that I find extremely interesting".
No kidding. So what would a CTO do, then?
"A person charged not with making sure the servers run quickly and efficiently, but a person charged with making sure the principles and values embedded in the technology of our government reflect the values of our nation," Larry explains. "Someone to be charged with ensuring privacy and transparency and accountability and efficiency are built into how our technology in government works."
Did you catch all that? It's like seeing Superman dash into a phone booth, and burst out as Clark Kent. Shouldn't it be the other way around? Alas, "process people" - technocrats like Larry and Obama, are also the world's natural bureaucrats.
But more to the point, there's the delicate question of whether someone who is so flummoxed by something as simple as a personal email program is the man to make the nation's servers run efficiently and smoothly. Especially if they appear to be a serial offender.
Critics might say that someone with such a sure touch for technology needs to be kept as far from the machinery of government IT as possible - but that would be cruel and unfair.
But for the sake of argument, let's say a CTO is needed. If it's not Lessig - then who?
We have drawn up five very strong candidates - and we want your vote. Read the pitches and have your say, by electronic postal ballot.
"I love British girls!" is how Jeff Merkey greeted us on our one and only interview with him. "They've got the biggest tits in the world!" We've been impressed ever since. A former Novell CTO, Merkey's feuds are the stuff of legend: targets include Wikipedia, Groklaw, Slashdot and Bruce Perens (because Linux is used by terrorists). After Merkey's son fell ill from E.Coli poisoning after eating spinach on a Delta Airlines flight, Merkey sued both the airline, and its food supplier Natural Selection Foods (the latter for emotional distress). Merkey argued that use of the brand Natural Selection "...[implied] that the Plaintiff's 23 month old son...will be subject to Charles Darwin's theories of Natural Selection by virtue of not possessing an immune system capable of combating E.Coli and its deadly HES-inducing shiga toxins". A Merkey CTOship would not be dull.
Siegfried and Roy
The only CTO candidates to enjoy a place on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, the Las Vegas Legends aren't the first names on most people's list when it comes to overseeing IT infrastructure. But they bring a fresh, outsider perspective to the job, they can operate under pressure...and they can make a tiger disappear.
With Siegfried and Roy's show now closed after an unfortunate accident involving the tiger and Roy's neck, the pair now have more time to devote to The Secret Garden of Siegfried and Roy - and optimising Federal information technology.
Oh, and did we mention that they can make a tiger disappear?
"Continuity" would be the watchword of Cheney's CTOship. Unlike some of the wannabes for the position, the real brains behind Bush enjoys a low public profile. You couldn't imagine the former Defence Secretary and Haliburton CEO dropping in on Scoble's web show to tout his credentials. Despite a wishy-washy liberal arts degree, Cheney has proved his credentials. He takes disaster planning seriously (he's got the bunker), and he takes a pragmatic view on privacy - you don't have any. And thanks to inside sources, we can also clear up the mystery of strange noises at night that puzzled Cheney's neighbours in Observary Circle, the Veep's official residency. He was simply trying to get Myth TV to work.
Definitely an outside candidate - but Reiser has two advantages. He's intimately familiar with the internal workings of the very important "Lunix" operating system. And he's in jail, where he can probably do less harm to the US government's IT infrastructure than any other candidate.
Here's what you do. Thanks to the transformative social power™ embedded in Web 1.0 technology, clicking a link will create a fresh email in your favourite mailer, with your preferred candidate in the subject line. We'll then count the results and publish them as soon as possible - in a week or so.
For CTO Ted Dziuba, click here.
For CTO Jeff Merkey, click here.
For CTOs Siegfried and Roy, click here.
For CTO Richard M Cheney, click here.
For CTO Hans Reiser, click here.
Think carefully - and don't vote too often. ®
The polls have closed. To see the results - click here.