For the past couple of months, I’ve been working on Electowidget. Electowidget is a plugin for MediaWiki designed to make it possible to conduct Internet polls and elections using many different voting systems, including the Schulze method, Instant Runoff Voting, Approval voting, and even plain old Plurality.

Electowidget isn’t designed for secure public elections. Rather, it’s designed for the types of informal polls and elections that currently happen on wikis today. It’s also designed as a tool to help election theorists provide comparitive examples of how a given result will be tabulated comparing multiple different systems.

All data is stored on wiki pages, in JSON format, and some parts of the system currently require you to get your hands dirty editing JSON. My next step is to hide as much of the JSON away from the end user as possible, so that editing raw JSON
isn’t necessary. One nice bit about JSON is that it’s a very machine-friendly format, so I don’t anticipate that step being too tough to accomplish.

The ultimate goal is to make a library that can plugged into most any CMS or other PHP application. A lot of the functionality is already such that this is possible.

This work is seemingly unrelated to my work on Spectaclar (user management project), but there is a tie-in. I’ve done some initial work on a CMS-independence layer which can be helpful in porting plugins to different CMS systems. I haven’t decided yet just how far I’ll take this, but I keep this idea in the back of my mind whenever I’m in that part of the code.

Anyway, I hope people find this useful. I anticipate it’ll be useful for at least some of the things I’m doing, so I suppose that’s good enough for me.

Back from OSCON

Grrr….I’m ticked off at myself for not posting here more. I went to OSCON and shared the love on Spectaclar. I haven’t been as active as I’d like on Spectaclar, but things aren’t completely dormant. I’m starting to mull over the idea of using Electorama as a testbed for some of the work that I’m doing, since there’s a pretty big community there, especially on the election-methods mailing list

New Spectaclar newsfeed

I’ve implemented a news feed for Spectaclar that’s a general purpose open source access control feed, that will probably also veer a lot into authentication, identity, and other single signon stuff. It includes updates on Spectaclar, but also incorporates outside blogs. It uses the reFeed component of reBlog. reBlog is very, very cool…it makes it really simple to syndicate lots of news feeds.

Spectaclar Updates

I’ve been working on a bunch of miscellaneous stuff this week which are loosely related to the “Spectaclar” project:

  • A lot of wiki cleanup – I think I got most of the dead links, so that there’s at least stub articles everywhere there’s a link
  • Patch to MediaWiki – not a huge contribution, but one that really helped me understand the access control model in MW
  • Wrote a development planning doc for WordPress. There’s been a lot of acrimony this week about the WordPress development process, which the planning doc is a response to. I’m waiting for a review from Lorelle before floating it on the wp-hackers list. The acrimony has already died down, but I’m hoping this will provide some structure for requesting features.
  • I’ve installed Bugzilla/CVS (2.19.3+) – thinking about taking a stab an OpenID plugin for BZ, since I’m somewhat familiar with the BZ auth plugin model.

Spectaclar: Authorization first

More on Spectaclar. Haven’t done much today on the site, as I’ve been working on Mediawiki and riding my bike and enjoying being a slacker.

There’s a blurb that I just added to the site that’s probably worth blogging.

The primary focus for this site, at the time of this writing, is authorization, as opposed to authentication or accounting. I plan to go with the flow, so if there ends up being a bunch of interest in authentication or accounting, I’m not going to fight it, but it’s not where I plan to spend the bulk of my time. There are a lot of folks (Liberty Alliance, OpenID) thinking about authentication and identity issues, so I’m hoping for a little division of labor.

Both authentication and authorization are big problems. The funny thing is there seem to be more solutions for authentication than authorization, probably because authentication is the first “A” in “AAA”. They tend to run out of steam by the time they get to authorization, which is why I want to start there.

However, it’s not as though there’s a specific piece of software that we’re writing here yet, and it’s not as though the “authentication” community and the “authorization” communities are entirely disjoint. We’ll see which way it really swings after a while (if it does anything at all).


Well, I’m ready to start talking about “Spectaclar“, which is my new website (and hopefully community) around open source access control. I’ve written a rather long explanation of what Spectaclar is about. To summarize, I’m trying to find a few really good open source web applications, understand their access control mechanisms, and begin to try aligning them. I’ve added an announcement list and discussion list, and I’ll start bloggnig here about my progress as well.