Archive for June, 2005

Vertical Search

Tuesday, June 28th, 2005

Very promising line-up at Vertical LEAP: The SDForum Vertical Search Engine Conference today. It’s supposed to be the first of its kind.

Leaving Minneapolis, MN

Monday, June 27th, 2005

Minnesota has been so much fun. The ODDC conference was absolutely worth the trip - I even got to visit the world’s largest Walleye. Now if that isn’t something, what is? I look forward to watch all these e-democracy projects continue to grow over the next year and beyond. Way to go, guys!

Cast your Votags!

Sunday, June 26th, 2005

It’s late in Middlebrook Hall, but not too late maybe for a first little sketch on tag-based voting. Basically, in addition to the usual topic-based keywords or identifiers certain voting tags (votags, anyone?) could be applied depending on the desired type of vote. Several voting mechanisms come to mind:

  • Simple up-or-down vote: yes/no (votag_yes, votag_no)
  • Agreement on a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 represents “strongly disagree” and 10 represents “strongly agree” (votag_1, votag_2 … votag_10)
  • Rating of the quality of the content on a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 represents “poor” and 10 represents “excellent” (votag_q1, votag_q2 … votag_q10)
  • Multiple choice, e.g. option A through E (votag_a, votag_b … votag_e)

Surely, things like abstention, being undecided or “I don’t care” should be addressed as well.

With something like this in place, a vote could easily be organized (where “owner” refers to the governing body holding elections, and “user” refers to the electorate):

  1. Owner to define identifier tag (e.g. “proposal_1234″).
  2. Owner to define type of vote (different votes require different sets of votags)
  3. Users to assign votags.
  4. Owner to aggregate votags.

Other votes could run along the line of how well an issue is being understood, whether a debate should end (and when), whether the group feels ready to make a decision etc. This could be interesting for ongoing deliberative processes: “A decision shall be made only if a certain degree of understanding has been reached within the group.”

In a wiki environment, votes could be mapped against various historic versions: “Over the last five (major) versions the degree of comprehension in the group has gone up by 30 percentage points, while the degree of agreement has stayed roughly the same.”

Not yet covered here, I guess, are privacy issues and votes in closed groups.

Blogging your way to a decision!

Saturday, June 25th, 2005

Yesterday, Griff Wigley shared a compelling use case regarding blogging for politicians: To blog your way to a decision! Ray Cox, a state representative from Northfield, MN and one of Griff’s clients, has successfully applied this technique in the past.

How it works: over a certain period of time leading up to a vote, the politician would post blog entries whenever anything had had a significant influence on his point of view. A first post might briefly describe the issue, give the due date and his initial take on it. Every time the representative was approached by, say, a lobbyist or an interest group he would then blog about how that changed his opinion - or not.
In addition, the politician actively engaged in dialogue with his readers (via comments and email) and would regularly follow up on reader input, thus signaling sincere willingness to learn.

From Griff’s experience, people tend to gravitate towards a story-telling format like this. Especially for more complex issues, the trade-offs can be illustrated over time as they evolve. Instead of being confronted with a final outcome, the constituents can follow a developing story that relates to their representative on a very personal level.

One of the key benefits to this approach is that the decision making process becomes a lot more transparent and participatory to the constituents. In the end, even those who strongly disagreed with Mr. Cox’s final decision could at least understand and respect how he had reached his conclusions.

I can see how this could be applied quite similarly to other decision making or management processes, for example by a CEO inside a company that is undergoing substantial changes/challenges.


Saturday, June 25th, 2005

Probably not new, but so cool: Newsmap! Imagine a similar tool to bubble up the “collective opinion” within a large group.

Camera phone + Social bookmarking = Citizen engagement

Saturday, June 25th, 2005

Andrew Rasiej is running for Public Advocate of New York City. Nice idea for engaging citizens (not live yet): Snap a picture of a problem you see (e.g. a pothole in the street, a broken light etc.), upload it to Flickr and tag it “fix the city.” Jerry Michalski is helping him.

Wiki-based mind mapping?

Saturday, June 25th, 2005

Anyone know of a tool that enables wiki-based mind mapping?

Blog-based online deliberation

Friday, June 24th, 2005

Interesting idea that just came out of the group session: blog-based online deliberation. A few of us will most likely experiment on that. Key here is the use of tags or social bookmarks not only for categorizing the content by topic but also for rating the content for quality as well as agreement/disagreement.

Minneapolis, MN

Friday, June 24th, 2005

I got into Minneapolis, MN last night for attending the Face to Face Meeting of The Online Working Group of the Deliberative Democracy Consortium (ODDC): “Deepening Online Deliberation - Through Innovative Practice and Research” today and tomorrow. Two hours into the sessions it’s already proven worth the little detour on the way back to San Jose - great group of people, exciting case studies.

Things you can do with RSS

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2005

Following the recent L.A. Times experiment with wikitorials, Tim Yang has started his own wiki. Just look at all the nice things you can do with RSS. Myself, I’d like to try out right away but it seems to be down at the moment.