Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Voting 3.0

People have been voting for thousands of years, and in that time little has changed. Meaningful upgrades, not only to the means of voting, but also to the structure, function, and philosophy of voting is long overdue. What we need is to apply technology to create a free, universal voting system.

What does that something like that look like?
Well, you are already used to this kind of voting system in our web2.0 applications. Being able to like, follow, comment, and rate are all common parts of every current application. In ways, some groups are already have these features available in ways that relate to politics; being able to click a button the quickly creates an automated email that is sent to your senators, or being able to like and comment on legislation on government websites. However, we can do better. We can do much better at very little cost.

What are the Basic Principles?
  1. Everyone gets one vote on any issue
  2. Everyone gets a profile
  3. Every profile has a numeric rating associated to it. This rating is based on a select number of metrics that at up to an overall rating. These include metrics like Activism, Honesty, Intelligence, Knowledge of the Issues, Morality, etc. They will be based on several sources including other voter ratings, test results, and user activity to name a few.
  4. Votes will be weighted based on your overall metric
  5. Verified votes will be tallied separately from unverified ones, and will hold more sway.
  6. There will be tests designed around certain legislation that you can take. You score on the test will be tied to your vote, and the higher your score on the test, the greater weight of your vote.
  7. Votes will serve no official capacity but will be used as a way to assess the will of the masses.
  8. Voting accessibility will be balanced with security to ensure that each person or organization is limited to only one account. As part of this, there will be two account status levels; verified and unverified. Everyone will start with an unverified account, and will be able to apply for verified status by submitting forms of identification that identify you as who you claim to be.
  9. Organization of issues will be based on affected populations, and will be geographical.
  10. Along with this, Voting districts, states/provinces, and countries will be used as a framework, and will be used to help people find the issues most relevant to them. However, you will be able to vote on any issue, anywhere.
  11. Links to sources articles will be available on the same page as the voting pages for the issues. Sources articles will be rated by several metrics including accuracy, clarity, deceptive language, etc. These articles will be linked back to a profile of their parent source, and their ratings will create an overall rating for the parent. Those sources whose overall rating falls below a certain threshold will be removed.
  12. A history of user votes will be kept and able to be viewed by multiple metrics to show you're overall position on issues, and will be able to connect you to organizations and individuals who have similar likes and interests.
  13. You will be able to submit "Solutions" to all issues, and everyone will be able to vote on these as well. Like Reddit, those with the most positive votes rise to the top.
  14. This site will be advertisement free. Those things with the highest ratings will simply be the most visible, and those with the lower the least.
What is the benefit for those using the system?

Standard Users
Will have the ability to vote on any issue, anywhere. Those that are involved, well read, and provide positive contributions to other users will be rewarded with a higher user rating, and will have greater benefits in the system. They will have a history of their involvement and interests, and will receive tailored notifications on the issues that they care about most. They will also be able to easily collaborate with the other users, organizations, and government officials that have similar interests and goals. Will have one, simple way to communicate your views on issues that you most care about to organizations and government officials.

Will be able to better advertise their position and involvement in issues to a large audience. Will be able to collaborate more easily with similar organizations and individuals. Will be able to target users with similar interests, and refer them back to your organization. Will be able to build credibility, and be able to submit Solutions to users and peer organizations to critique. Will create greater visibility with government officials, and simple paths of communication.

Will give insight into true constituent opinions. Will have a large, reliable, and consistent source of data to pull from. You will be able to submit Solutions to users and organizations to vote on directly. Will provide a greater understanding of the constituency, and will allow for easier direct communication.

How would this develop?

Like any online venture, this would be a process that developed over time, going through several stages before reaching its full potential. Although there the future is unpredictable, here is a general outline of how this would likely progress.

Stage 1: Infancy
This would be the early development, where the sites and back end would be developed, and a small team of dedicated tech friendly individuals would build a simple system where users can log in, vote, and have a limited profile. A lot of time would be spent advertising and getting people to try the system. We would likely focus on a few select districts, and try to reach a predetermined level of market saturation before expanding.

Stage 2: Baby Steps
Once we reached a this level of saturation in one district, we would expand to other high profile districts that would be likely for adoption. During this time, we would start to focus more on some more bells and whistles in the application, and try to make Ease of Use and Features the high selling points. Mobile application development would start to become a priority at this stage.

Stage 3: Expansion
Once we've covered several Districts, and visibility is high enough, we will cut back on our focus on advertising and will focus exclusively on product. This is where the basic outline of the more advance features will be set and when their development will begin. We will also start targeting Business and Government users. At this point, we will also start focusing on looking at the available metrics and looking into the best ways that these can be collected, measured, and turned into reports.

Stage 4: Early Acceptance
We will know that we've reached this point by the growth of new users and the level of use of existing ones. When we get to this point, we can do two things. First, we can add the verification feature. This will allow those users who want to better protect their votes and identity in the system to go through a verification process that verifies that they are who they say they are. Second, we will open up a whole new set of features, and allow users to do even more than they could with their regular user accounts. This includes, most importantly, advanced profile features that allow user to develop their profile with more metrics, and therefore have advantages over the other users in the system. This will be a time really develop the Game aspect of the system.

Stage 5: General Acceptance
This will be a time when the system has reached a final stage in development, and moves to a regular feature development schedule. Once this happens, more time will be spent maintaining the system and enhancing what exists than building new features. Expansion will happen in the areas of supporting new languages, supporting new devices, and reaching new user markets. Reporting will be heavily developed during this time.

Stage 6: Tool Development and Relevance
Once the system is developed and accepted widely, focus will move toward keeping the metrics relevant, and ensuring that the system continues to serve the needs of all user groups. Development will focus on keeping the system relevant and adding new features as technology allows and as users request.

Final thoughts
This is a product that would empower users, would be easy to develop and deliver, and would be easily scalable. It is not a matter of if this will happen, but a matter of when. My hope is that we can reach stage 2 by the elections of 2012, but there is a lot of work that needs to be done between now and then. If you have any interest in helping with something like this, from a technical, business, or philosophical perspective, any help would be welcome.

Here's to something better than what we have. Let's apply technology to change the way we vote.

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