The results are turning more into a popularity contest then a reasonable measure of political blogs in Vancouver. Half of the blogs on the list have little or no political content, especially Vancouver municipal political content.
As much as I like Miss 604's blog, I can't remember the last time she wrote about anything regarding politics in Vancouver. The closest thing I can think of was a discussion of the smoking ban.
Same goes for Vancity Buzz.
The Vancouver Observer, Price Tags, and Paul Hilsdon have minimal municipal political content
Bill Tieleman and Walter Schultz focus provincial politics.
A general Vancouver blog like Beyond Robson or Metroblogging Vancouver has more political content then most of the blogs on the list.
August 25, 2008 2:41 PM
Raul (hummingbird604) said...
I am the newest addition to the roster, for which I'm grateful. As for political content, I would ask one question and point out to one thing.
1) Is the contest purely for political blogs? That wasn't my understanding.
2) I am in no way, shape or form justifying my blog or my inclusion in the ballot, but I do write about Vancouver's public policy issues, particularly environmental policy.
I think that having a variety of blogs allows for the experiment to take place. As a social scientist myself, I can see how the experiment is developing and I'm curious to see the outcome.
August 26, 2008 6:59 PM
Thanks Chris and Raul for taking up this important question. I agree with most of the points you made.
Two weeks ago I invited Beyond Robson to enter the contest, and we’re just sorting out who on their end should approve the entry and receive any award payments. Once that’s done I plan to invite Vancouver Metblogs, which seems to have a similar structure of platform provider aggregating independent bloggers.
The contest is designed to empower Vancouver voters to fund whatever they think serves their interests. My expectation is that they will want to support bloggers that give insight on municipal politics and policies, so I call it the “Vancouver Election Blog Contest”. But to keep this process democratic, the contest administrator should not impose that view by restricting entry to political blogs. This is partly to prevent political control by the adminstrator, and partly to keep the door open to other possible community benefits – e.g. see Will VFM Provide Consumer Info?
Here’s a relevant section of the contest terms:
We refer to contestants as “media” or “bloggers” and call this a blog contest based on what we think contestants will do, but we do not actually require contestants to act like media or be bloggers. This contest is designed to benefit the voting community, and many types of benefit are possible. We think contestants will win votes by providing such benefits as blogs, websites, newspapers and broadcasts giving insight on Vancouver civic issues, especially those decided by vote.
Likewise the question of regional focus (municipal, greater metropolitan, provincial) is left to the voters. Vancouver issues overlap so much with regional and provincial (transportation, education, environment, crime, you name it) that I wouldn’t know how to draw a dividing line. Right after the municipal election in November, I plan to morph it into a B.C. political blog contest and promote it to bloggers and voters province-wide, as a run-up to the B.C. election next May.
When assessing contest voter tendencies, it’s helpful to look not only at the current week’s ranking on the ballot, but also at the cumulative awards won so far. Current rankings fluctuate depending on who posted about the contest recently. The leader in cumulative awards is The Tyee, with serious in-depth coverage of politics and policy. And speaking of policy, some contestants may not discuss Vancouver’s election specifically, but give voters valuable insight into municipal issues, e.g. Price Tags on urban planning and Paul Hillsdon on transportation.
Nonetheless, Chris’s point that the voting results are like a popularity contest is still something to worry about. Marketing is not my forte. My main promotion strategy for attracting people to vote is to depend on the contestants to publicize it in their blogs. Most of them have mentioned it once or twice, but that’s about it. So we may not have expanded the voter pool much beyond the bloggers themselves and their friends. As a result, many of the votes may reflect loyalty to friends rather than the broader public interest. To some extent such biases cancel each other out, but I think some flavour of a popularity contest remains.
Part of the problem is the limited award pool. $300 a week is not much to support independent political media for a city the size of Vancouver. Bloggers may not find it worthwhile to promote their entries for a few extra dollars. So this may change in future if we can attract more funding.
But meanwhile there’s a lot we can do. A few days ago I finally learned how to mask the ballot’s super-long URL, so now I can encourage bloggers to link to the new short URL: http://votermedia.org/van. A ballot link that stays near the top of a blog, like those at Vancouver Manifesto and UBC Insider, would bring multiple benefits: more voting support for that contestant, knowledge of other blogs for their readers, and a broader voter base for the contest. So it’s not just a selfish plug. Better still, bloggers can recommend other contestants they consider particularly worthy, as Miss604 did in this post.
BTW I’m writing a paper on the overall rationale and strategy for voter funded media – download the latest draft “How to Create Public Interest Media in Your Democratic Community” at http://votermedia.org/publications.
I welcome more comments on all this!