So I trolled The White House...

The tale of a parody bug report that grew and grew.

October 11, 2013 •

Github issue titled BUG: Government occasionally shuts down

On Wednesday morning1 I filed a bug report with the White House’s Github. That little issue made the rounds and has spawned 640+ pun-filled comments. Even though the government is still shut down and that issue still open, I wanted to share some postmortem’y thoughts.

  • I fear I opened Pandora’s Box. I probably ruined open source for the poor souls who actually work on the White House repos. I have remorse about that, but the entire government had one fucking job, so I feel non-violent open criticism is justified.
  • Civic trolling, is that a thing?
  • The comments are fantastic. In fact, Godwin’s Law has yet to present itself. Some kind of #internetWorldRecord. Although last night someone typed “ABORTION” in all-caps, that might qualify.
  • Though opinions differ, they mostly remain non-hostile and are delivered in prolific developer puns which ROFLs me to tears. I like that about America; deep down, given the opportunity, we’re clever.
  • sudo rm -f republicans: While those type of comments are “for-the-lulz”, it’s an agitating sentiment2. De-representing approximately ~50% of Americans3 is not even close to a solution. America is a melting pot and, like it or not, those are elected officials who represent real people. While you may call people who live in red states “hillbillies”, I tend to just call them “family”.4
  • “The nerds are on it”: While this thread is pretty nerdy, these kinds of tweets were a bit off-putting. Like “nerds” are some sort of dungeon-folk who are only really needed to hack into mainframes… guh. We’ve been dealing with these shit stereotypes since the late 80s.

Is an Open Source Government possible?

I now wonder what our government would look like if a team of designers and engineers (as opposed to lawyers and politicians) approached the problems that face our country. Lawmaking seems to be about arguing your way to the top. Design and engineering is about finding better solutions.

What if political issues were technical issues and seen in terms of feature requests, available resources, lines of code, performance & security concerns, and all centered around agile data-driven decisions? Our decision process could go from “I AM THE LOUDEST MOST IMMUTABLE PERSON HERE” to “Shit. We really gotta figure this out.”

In lieu of favor-based legislation, bills could be collections of self-documenting features described like Cucumber tests. Instead of sweeping reform every four-to-eight years, maybe it’s Congress’ job to A/B test rollouts to 2~5% of the population for a two year sprint to see if programs are viable. Maybe it’s as simple as only upstreaming ideas that have been successful in multiple, diverse state governments?

I don’t have any answers, just thoughts so I’ll leave it at that. What are your thoughts?

  1. After watching Kathleen Sebelius hopelessly explain Healthcare.gov on Jon Stewart nontheless. 

  2. Especially from the “Party of Inclusion”. 

  3. Especially the ones with all the guns D: 

  4. Don’t get me started on the term “flyover states”. That one burns me up enough to burn your house down if I hear you use it. It’s overly pompous and literally says, “These people mean nothing and should reside under my asshole as I use my egregious amounts of money and fossil fuel to fly over them.”