Wednesday, February 16, 2011

#votermedia spread parameter increased

I explained how the spread parameter helps to spread award shares more broadly across more blogs, in this December 10 post. Then on December 16 I implemented it, setting spread = 4 for all communities on except UBC AMS, whom I needed to consult since they are funding their votermedia ballot.

When UBC AMS reactivated funding for their ballot on February 1, I outlined in this post their plans for setting their spread parameter to 4 on February 8, and raising it to 8 on February 15.

Concurrent with UBC AMS, yesterday I also increased the spread parameter from 4 to 8 on all communities. The impact is not dramatic, but would be felt more in cases where one blog has a very large share, say above 50%.

You can see the effects of these changes on each community's "horserace" page, which shows the daily history of award shares. It's linked below each ballot.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

UBC continuous #votermedia changes

As explained in this post a week ago, yesterday we increased the "spread" parameter in the UBC Continuous VoterMedia contest from 1 to 4. This is designed to enhance competition at all award share levels, and especially to make it easier for less-known blogs to get started and get some funding.

You can see the effects of the change (effective as of the 2011-02-08 shares) on the sequence of past shares at (But keep in mind that some votes come in each day, so that has an effect too. Also shares are determined in 1% increments, so there is a slight effect of rounding off.)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Vancouver Opera, La Clemenza di Tito, freedom of speech

So glad I saw the Vancouver Opera production of La Clemenza di Tito last night! While the impressive performance gave plenty for opera buffs to enjoy (videos here), for me the greatest gift from this opera was to get an introduction to the amazingly public-spirited reign of the Roman emperor Titus (= Tito).

The opera focuses on four fictitious characters, and an act of forgiveness by Tito that was, frankly, unbelievable. But there is a brief reference in the dialog to a political act by the historical emperor Titus that blows me away for being so far ahead of its time. Here is a fuller description from Wikipedia:

One of his first acts as an emperor was to publicly order a halt to trials based on treason charges, which had long plagued the principate. The law of treason, or maiestas law, was originally intended to prosecute those who had corruptly 'impaired the people and majesty of Rome' by any revolutionary action. Under Augustus, however, this custom had been revived and applied to cover slander or libellous writings as well, eventually leading to a long cycle of trials and executions under such emperors as Tiberius, Caligula and Nero, spawning entire networks of informers that terrorized Rome's political system for decades. Titus put an end to this practice, against himself or anyone else, declaring:

"It is impossible for me to be insulted or abused in any way. For I do naught that deserves censure, and I care not for what is reported falsely. As for the emperors who are dead and gone, they will avenge themselves in case anyone does them a wrong, if in very truth they are demigods and possess any power."

Consequently, no senators were put to death during his reign; he thus kept to his promise that he would assume the office of Pontifex Maximus "for the purpose of keeping his hands unstained". The informants were publicly punished and banished from the city, and Titus further prevented abuses by introducing legislation that made it unlawful for persons to be tried under different laws for the same offense.

This free speech issue is alive and well today, as various laws against slander, libel, intellectual "property" infringement, and yes, treason, are used to silence voices that are exposing corruption. I won't give specific examples here, because I should get to work on solving this problem, I'm sure you can think of examples yourself, and I don't want to get sued!!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Continuous #votermedia relaunched!

UBC AMS has reactivated funding for its Continuous VoterMedia (CVM) contest at The blog award pool is now $40/day; they plan to continue this through April 30, then lower it to $10/day through August 31. You can track the award series at

The contest is also reopened for new entries -- see AMS Council has approved these new contest rules, including:
  • Minimum 40% UBC-related content.
  • Council members may not participate in the contest.
  • Blog Editor's name must be submitted but need not be made public.
  • "The SAC Vice-Chair may also impose penalties up to and including removal from the contest for the publication of content that the Vice-Chair deems to be libellous, offensive, a violation of personal privacy, or a violation of Society policies on confidentiality."
  • Funding shall be established each year in the AMS budget [likewise for 1-time VoterMedia].

To encourage more competition and diversity among blogs, the SAC Vice-Chair has approved the following implementation of proposals I made in this post:
  • Raise the cap on votable shares from 30% to 40% (effective today).
  • Raise the "spread" parameter from 1 to 4 (effective Feb. 8).
  • Raise the "spread" parameter from 4 to 8 (effective Feb. 15).

This will smooth out the "progressive tax rate" on blog votes as a function of share%. There's more detail in my earlier post, but below is a brief comparison. [Remember that each blog is supported by the number of (interpolated) votes above their current share%, and the required number of supporting votes is chosen so that share%'s total 100%.]

With the previous 30% cap and 10% interpolation interval, UBC Insiders at their recent 30% share has a tax rate of 50% (being half way through the interpolation) -- only half of their votes for 30% are being counted; AMS Confidential at 31% is taxed at 60% -- only 40% of their votes for 30% are being counted.

Now that the votable cap is 40%, let's suppose that all the 30% voters change their votes to 40%. [Actually some may not, and those that do change will take some time to do so.] So suppose there are no votes for 30%. Consider a blog with a current share of 33.333%. A spread parameter of 8 would discount the votes (for 40%) by dividing the number of votes by 8 to the power 0.33333, which is 2 -- so a tax rate of 50%, the same rate UBC Insiders are facing now. The interim (Feb. 8 through Feb. 14) spread parameter of 4 would discount votes by 4 to the power 0.33333, or about 1.6 -- a tax rate of about 37%.

The idea is to give the top blogs more upside potential if they work harder, while still facing tax rates progressive enough to give opportunity to several other blogs working their way up to becoming known. The new tax rates phase in much more gradually than before.

Unlike the "floating cap" system I outlined in my ealier post, the UBC AMS ballot will keep its cap at 40% for now. That will mean double taxation if a share goes above 35%. But I will probably recommend letting the cap float in the summer, when funding drops to $10/day and there may only be enough news to justify a couple of active blogs.

I thank everyone at the AMS who helped get CVM going again, especially Legislative Procedures Committee Chair Iggy Rodriguez and Student Activities Committee Vice-Chair Alannah Johnston. Let's keep monitoring and improving VoterMedia to maximize the benefit to UBC students!

Your comments are invited as always...