The Hacker Congress is in Session

Dave Cole, Democratic candidate for Congress in New Jersey, recently received some love from a self-labeled conservative.

“Just wanted to say that this is an awesome idea, and you deserve major kudos for doing it. I would go through and make some changes to the issues, but seeing as I am very conservative, I doubt that you would like many of them.”

How is he bridging this political divide? And who promised a random guy that he could “make some changes” to Dave’s campaign, anyway?

GitHub LogoEvery publicly-consumed moment of a modern political campaign is carefully vetted, honed, and packaged with a bow. However, Mr. Cole, a software engineer for Mapbox and former deputy director for the Office of New Media at the White House, is impressing constituents on both sides of the aisle by offering his political platform to the masses for remix. After announcing his candidacy, he released his political platform on GitHub, a collaborative code repository, encouraging the public to add and discuss topics. He also licensed all of his campaign  issues under a creative commons license, allowing others to reuse and adapt his platform.

Dave’s decision to open his campaign to the public is getting a lot of media attention and applause. But what does this mean for those who lie outside of the hacker realm?

During his first day in office, President Obama issued a memorandum about transparency in government. He advised, “Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.” The memorandum goes on to encourage government officials to utilize technological means to solicit public engagement and feedback.

Dave Cole assisted the Obama administration in making collaboration a reality. He helped develop We the People, the White House’s petition site, and managed the relaunch of Now, Mr. Cole is adapting his experience in open source government to his own campaign. His promise to utilize technology to allow others to contribute – including showing the inner workings of his website – sets the tone for completely transparent collaboration. As he wrote in a recent Medium article, “Sharing my campaign platform is an exciting first step in running an open-by-default campaign. This isn’t a major technological breakthrough — it’s about thinking differently about how campaigns should communicate.”

Transparent campaign access spurs open discussion and communication, helping to to bridge a political platform divide that is usually labeled as an unbreachable chasm. As one conservative GitHub user stated, “Anyway…thanks for taking this step toward opening government and politics more. I hope you do well in your campaign just for that.”

To check out Dave Cole’s campaign, visit his website or GitHub repository. In true collaborative style, feel free to add your thoughts to the comment thread below!