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Electing the Doge.

The Doge was the leader of the Venetian Republic, which lasted for over a thousand years, so they must have been doing something right. Here's Wikipedia's concise description of the selection process: "Thirty members of the Great Council, chosen by lot, were reduced by lot to nine; the nine chose forty and the forty were reduced by lot to twelve, who chose twenty-five. The twenty-five were reduced by lot to nine and the nine elected forty-five. Then the forty-five were once more reduced by lot to eleven, and the eleven finally chose the forty-one who actually elected the doge." Sounds crazy, but Miranda Mowbray and Dieter Gollmann wrote a paper, "Electing the Doge of Venice: Analysis of a 13th Century Protocol" (pdf) explaining its virtues in terms that should warm the cockles of MetaFilter's collective geeky heart. From the abstract: "We will show that it has some useful properties that in addition to being interesting in themselves, also suggest that its fundamental design principle is worth investigating for application to leader election protocols in computer science." Interesting sidelight: "security theater" can be a good thing.
posted by languagehat on Jan 21, 2011 - 49 comments

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