Making educated voting decisions with Java

by Steve Anglin

Tuesday is election day. Mentata's Jon Roberts developed a web application to perhaps help you make more educated voting decisions. Follow the links below, and you can say "Yea" or "Nay" on some of the same issues your
congressmen voted on in their most recent session. You don't need to make a decision on every issue (you "Abstain" by default), but you need to vote on at least one to get results. Upon submission of your votes,
his application will evaluate how often your congressmen agreed with your calls (by %).

Feel free to try it as much as you want, and please forward this message
to anyone you can before Election Day. If you have trouble, contact

This example application is built entirely on open standards and
delivered using mostly open source software. In particular, it uses Java
servlets and an LDAP compliant directory database. The resulting
application is comprised of about 200 lines of Java code with a deployed
footprint of 10K. All work, including building the database, documenting
the project plan/requirements/design, writing the code, testing the app,
and delivering the system took under 40 hours. All software products
from Mentata Systems ( are free and open source.

Thanks for any interest, and don't forget to vote for real on Tuesday.

What do you think of this open source Java-based Web application; and did it make your voting decision more informed?


2002-11-05 08:22:12
EJB alternative?
I am the author of this example application, and I would like make a few timely comments about the underlying architecture. It is built on a small collection of open source software that enables you to build fast and efficient MVC web applications using only a web server, servlet container, and LDAP compliant directory server. Think of it as an extensible 80/20 solution for web services. I call it the Mentata LDAPHttp Framework. As a bonus, you get a directory gateway with the distribution that allows you to retrieve, create, delete, extend, update, and link entries in your directory database. Although I refer to the initial release version as 0.5, it's already part of a high-vis production system elsewhere (ie. it's not a toy).

I agree with much of what I read in Ted Neward's very recent posting on the PetStore benchmarks. In particular, he says:

"Java developers, this benchmark is essentially an indictment of EJB, not of Java."

I believe EJB is very powerful, but it should not be the only or even the ultimate way to effectively employ Java. After all, did perl stop growing after it found a home in CGI?

IMHO, the biggest problem with J2EE is complexity, not performance. Microsoft is delivering *lots* of new software that developers can just drop in place. The Java community can only answer the implied threat in the ways open source has traditionally stemmed the tide: by coming from multiple directions.

So look at Struts. Check out my software (I welcome all participation and feedback). Or do it your own way and surprise us with the innovation. I believe the gauntlet has been thrown down, and Java needs to now grow beyond what Sun tells you to do with it. Let the thousand flowers bloom.

Jon Roberts
sole proprietor, Mentata Systems

2002-11-05 20:55:20
"Educated" decisions
Nice to see the "unbiased" voter info on that site ;\ I am surprised that I was in agreement with the senators from my state on about 50% of the issues.

Get out there and vote!

2002-11-06 08:38:11
slant or angle; a matter of perspective
The selection of votes and their descriptions come from the voting records recorded by Public Citizen's Congress Watch at:

I like to build examples with publicly available information, and the database was the perfect size for this example. As for Public Citizen's "intellectual property", I'm testing their commitment to internet free speech; hopefully they don't sick their estimable team of lawyers on me :o

Then again, that would be like Jewel beating up a front-row fan with brass knuckles on. As a sole proprietor, I take an interest in the common man. While I don't always agree with Public Citizen's commentary or conclusions, I appreciate the fact that somebody is paying attention to these issues. Besides, they actively support using open source for the public good and help make a stand against unfair intellectual property claims. I got the idea from one of their mailings, but their comparisons only represented Public Citizen's evaluation of issues and congressmen. I tried to outdo them on the democracy angle and generate results that reflected those of the reader.

People aren't easily fooled. Most people put up their BS detectors as soon as the subject of politics is raised. And the Republican nose is twice as sensitive (perhaps because they work with it all day :) My Dad agreed with virtually every vote cast by his senators, DeWine and Voinovich, and they're upstage wing right of Bob Dole.


2002-11-07 10:42:24
searching for congressmen, votes, and college students
If you'd like to see what LDAP does best, that is make it easy to slice and dice data with a simple search filter syntax. Try the following pages:

The filters are barenaked in the form source.

Another example of LDAPHttp in action is at:

Thanks for your interest. And thanks to O'Reilly for posting this.


2002-11-10 14:58:33
docs and source
Some of the source code and documentation can now be found at:

I'll be making a few more revisions. If interested, check this link next week for the complete source code, some data files, and a design document.