[MG] Voting advice application

Ed Pastore epastore at metagovernment.org
Sun Jun 12 08:41:29 EDT 2011

Welcome, Alex!

I want to point out some linkages and possible issues here.

First, is your app deeply tied to Facebook? Personally I have a lot of  
reservations about putting a crucial element of democracy into the  
hands of a private party. We do that here in parts of US with  
electronic voting machines, and the question rises again and again as  
to whether or not those private companies are rigging the elections.

My understanding is that you use Facebook for identity validation. But  
of course, people can create more than one Facebook account. As an  
alternative, I'd like to point you to Michael's invention of the  
Streetwiki, which seems more reliable, totally open, and, well really  
quite clever:

I also want to invite you to check out DemocracyLab (represented here  
by Mark Frischmuth), which may be particularly interesting to you. It  
basically takes the opposite approach to the same end. Your system  
starts with position statements and derives people's values from their  
responses to those statements. DemocracyLab instead builds a map of an  
individual's values by taking them through a structured process of  
evaluating generic value propositions. It then helps them evaluate  
specific position statements using that value map (Mark, did I get  
that right?). I don't know if you can find usable synergies there, but  
it's worth at least thinking about for a moment.

And I also want to stress what conseo said yesterday. It is great to  
allow people to express their opinion, but we very much want to go  
beyond that and help people come together when they have a difference  
of opinion. Right now, people who have different views have to take  
sides and fight for dominance on the battlefield of politics. Society  
would be so much better served if that battlefield were instead an  
open-minded negotiation where people with opposing views were actively  
looking for ways to work together in order to get solutions that work  
for everyone. The two most active and relevant apps here are Votorola  
and Vilfredo. There may be ways for you to pull both of them into your  
application, or to coordinate with them.

One last thing. You mention that Finland has over 200 vaalikone. Is  
there any opportunity for those to be concatenated into a meta- 
vaalikone (is that a valid use of the word?) that lets people come  
together regardless of which one they started on? I am of course,  
trying to bring in the crossforum project here.

On Jun 10, 2011, at 10:31 AM, Alex Keskitalo / D4C wrote:

> It's true, I DO use data as my argument, but only because in the  
> finnish environment a specific type of data is abundant..
> Practically everyone, meaning 90% of all candidates, 90% of all  
> voters who "have internet", map their opinions against candidates  
> (and each other) in more than one brand of "vaalikone", and this  
> becomes an unofficial national passtime whenever elections are near,  
> Every major TV channel and Newspaper company heavily market/promote  
> their own brand of vaalikone, there where over 200 to choose from,  
> like greenpeace, the church, internet communities, even the  
> Zeitgeist movement had one. Its just something you do.
> You just go online, and you find your candidate by inputting your  
> opinions, and the vaalikone's match you to your candidate, with  
> varying success rates, of course. In such an intensely  competitive  
> market, the vaalikone's have evolved to a point that it works so  
> well that it is a permanent part of the political landscape,  
> elections are won and lost because of it.
> I know that's a handful, but that is just describing the facts.
> the next logical step is to add a vote-button to a vaalikone, as a  
> kind of a "i approve this candidate"-thing. this upgrade will be  
> done by this autumn anyway (upcoming election in spring), and it  
> really has me wondering about how that changes the political  
> landscape, on the internet, in finland.
> Is that a shift towards e-democracy? why yes it is.
> that was when i searched and found this place, and started shouting  
> my point of view :D
> nothing constructive is coming out yet, i seem to be having problems  
> expressing myself, must be the programmer in me, using proof-of- 
> concept arguments..
> Maybe i am asking, what kind of e-government, e-politics, e- 
> democracy systems (specific existing projects) would you use, if you  
> had a mass population of 5 million, already using an  online voting  
> system, ready to go?
> On 10.6.2011 8:57, Michael Allan wrote:
>> Alex Keskitalo wrote:
>>> If you told a finnish person that in other countries they don't have
>>> the voting advice app ("vaalikone") ecosystem, they would be
>>> surprised and wonder how you could vote blindly like that...  "what
>>> are the issues?" and "what are the solutions?" ...  This generates
>>> data, and lots of it...  What kind of data do you guys have to work
>>> with?
>> We are not very data centric, so I have trouble answering.  However
>> you appear to offer something more than data.  You had Finns wonder
>> "how [we] could vote blindly like that", which indicates that you
>> offer a new kind of "voting eye".  Is it correct to understand your
>> question on those terms?
>>>> I think so.  The larger the sample, the tighter the confidence
>>>> interval on the prediction.
>>> Users implicitly (explicitly?) sort the candidates by rating their
>>> answers, so they end up with a "best candidates for me" -list
>>> anyway, with or without the predictive algorithm.
>> I see.  There is another kind of prediction involved:
>>> But the predictive algorithm helps to make the process easier,
>>> faster, etc for the user, by giving the user the most relevant
>>> things they need to rate, on a personalized level.
>>> so as you have rated stuff in a certain way according to your
>>> personal politics, the algorithm compares your political fingerprint
>>> to everyone else's, then it comes up with your closest political
>>> allies, searches ratings they have made to find a candidate's answer
>>> you should like, shows it to you, you rate it, algorithm runs again
>>> with new data, etc.
>> Based on the behaviour of other users it somehow predicts the
>> questions that I (as a user) ought to be rating - the ones that would
>> offer the most traction - in order to improve the prediction of my  
>> own
>> choice of candidate.  I think I understand, roughly.
>>> of course that's just the generalized concept. under the hood the
>>> complexity is much higher, multiple parallel mechanisms are at work,
>>> with a self-regulating control layer on top, and that has
>>> hand-tunable parameters for stuff like how strongly should the
>>> individuals opinion be reinforced or challenged, higher order stuff
>>> like that, not perfect but helpful when you have to adapt to
>>> changing group dynamics as the numbers grow..
>> Yes, I see there is some positive feedback to be tuned.  The
>> prediction should not become a self-generated artifact of the
>> mechanism.  OK.
>>>> What will the voting feature be like?
>>> The idea is that the user narrows down their candidate choices until
>>> they have a winner, then we have them confirm the result.
>> What happens if they do not?  Suppose they decide to vote for a
>> different candidate.
>>> In theory this should guarantee a machine-measurable level of
>>> confidence in the macro-result...
>> Could you elaborate?  Any assurance of correctness would seem to
>> require an independent, external check on the mechanism.
>>> when an election is over, the generated user population is left high
>>> and dry, such a waste :D
>> True!  Although the atmosphere is very different after an election
>> than before.  This may have some effect on the users.  Will they  
>> still
>> be asking the same question, "Who should I vote for?"
>>>> Thank you, and likewise!  Tim Bonnemann recently observed that
>>>> e-democracy is "niche and fragmented", and I couldn't agree more.
>>>> Anything we can do to remedy it would be step forward.
>>> Agreed, convergence as a macro-strategy.
>> I guess there are different kinds of convergence.  Other strategies
>> might be viable too, depending on the situation.  Do you have
>> something concrete in mind?  (I do, but am more interested in hearing
>> your own ideas.)
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