Thursday, March 6, 2008

UBC Year-Round VFM Design

I put this on the web at today:

I invite you to help me (Mark Latham) plan a new VFM system for UBC, that would let students vote funds to media year-round, not just at election time. My proposal is outlined below. You can give me advice on how to improve it by commenting in the VoterMedia blog.

I'll wait for an OK from AMS Council before launching this. I hope UBC students will grow to like this system enough to fund it themselves, and take over running it. To get it started, I'm offering to fund and administer it.

How to Vote: Email your UBC campus-wide login ID to me (email address: ubc[at], wait a few days for processing, then log in at Click on the VoterMedia workshop. Please join now to help test the system!

Contest Schedule: My basic idea is to have monthly awards, but it may be too much to ask students to vote every month. And in summer maybe contest periods should be longer. If we can start by then, I suggest the first contest period to start March 24 (coinciding with referenda voting) and end April 30.

Voters: UBC students. (How about including faculty and staff?)

(Media) Contestants: Open to any person, group or organization, whether affiliated with UBC or not.

Awards: May vary from one contest period to the next. My proposal for March 24 - April 30: $750 total -- 1st prize $250, 2nd $200, 3rd $150, 4th $100, 5th $50.

Contest Entry Fee: I guess an ideal number of contestants is about 10, so would adjust the entry fee to aim for that. For the proposed March 24 - April 30 contest, let me know (email: ubc[at] if you would enter if the entry fee is waived for entrants with websites showing the contest name and a prominent link to this page. If I get no more than 10 replies, then they will get that waiver. If more than 10, maybe we'll make it $10 or $20 (and ask who still wants to enter).

Voting Format: Many designs are possible, but based on extensive discussions with UBC VFM committees, I suggest trying preferential voting. You rank all the media, specifying your 1st choice contestant, 2nd choice contestant etc.

Vote Aggregation Method: Condorcet methods have desirable properties. Free software OpenSTV can handle it. I suggest using its Condorcet option to find the first place winner, then have it ignore that contestant and find the second place winner, etc.

Judging Criteria: Voters are free to evaluate media contestants any way they choose. Media contestants are free to appeal to voters (or not) any way they choose (of course subject to the laws of the land, like libel, copyright, pornography etc.).

I would appreciate advice on any aspects of this project, especially these topics:

1. Voter registration:
It’s cumbersome to ask every voter to email me their campus-wide login ID, but it seems the only practical way for now. It’s technically feasible to add every UBC student to the VoterMedia workshop. But that’s a bit like spamming everyone, and would require some high-level UBC admin permission. If the UBC tech people would implement a self-enrollment option on Vista, that would solve the problem. But my tech admin contact says that probably won’t happen until 2009.

2. Contest schedule:
Is monthly too frequent?

3. Voting structure:
What do you think of preferential voting and a Condorcet method for aggregating?
Also, the ballot for ranking media doesn’t force you to rank them all, so:
- If you rank a contestant more than once, only its highest rank will be counted.
- Any contestants you don't rank will be counted as ranking below those you do rank. (So for example, if you only rank one contestant, it will be counted as ranking above all the others, even if you put it in the lowest rank.)
Any thoughts on this?

4. Awards:
Is five too few?

5. Entry fee:
Is this the best way to manage the number of entrants?

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