Tuesday, February 10, 2009

UBC AMS VFM voting results

Last Wednesday (Feb 4) we counted the votes in the third annual University of British Columbia Alma Mater Society Voter Funded Media competition. As in 2007 and 2008, UBC students voted on VFM as part of the AMS council election. The competing media concentrated mainly on covering the election candidates. In 2007 and 2008, I donated $8000 for the awards; in 2009, the $8000 came from AMS funds, i.e. student fees.

It's interesting to compare the results, summarized here:

Last year I posted this discussion comparing 2008 and 2007 results. Here's my update for 2009:

(BTW I don't consider myself an expert on UBC student politics, so these are just my opinions -- please add your comments! Also keep in mind that our analysis is only based on a limited sample of experience with VFM so far.)

Now that the media-to-voters-to-media feedback loop has gone through another year's iteration, it seems to be homing in on the serious electoral campaign coverage that we designed VFM for. Media name recognition and reputation are rewarded less than before; current content is rewarded more.

For example The Underground and The 432, known more for their years of newspaper publication than for depth of election coverage, dropped from combined winnings of $2,600 in 2007 to $1,200 in 2008, then did not even enter VFM in 2009. Long term VFM heavyweights The Knoll and UBC Insiders, which I expected to dominate again in 2009, instead fell to 4th and 5th place behind two new media (Spectator and Student Media) plus the resurgent Radical Beer Tribune, all with plenty of serious info on the election campaign.

This is all consistent with a trend of voters using the competing media more and more to help inform their voting decision process. Not only was the election turnout the highest in 22 years, but also participation in the VFM vote itself was almost double its previous peak -- 3,820 in 2009 versus an estimated 2,000 in 2007.

The apparent success of UBC's annual VFM comes in spite of its perennially late launch -- opened for entry about January 15 in 2009, January 7 in 2008, and early January in 2007, instead of about September as I and the VFM Committee have advocated. The VFM administrators get hired too late, but fortunately have been capable and energetic in implementing this complex new process. (BTW Condorcet voting for the 2009 AMS exec election was another great innovation.)

Is VFM worth $8000 to UBC students? Of course I'm biased toward "yes". Not only does it help voting decisions, but media coverage doesn't end with the election. E.g. as I write this, VFM blogs are the venue for a vigorous cross-linked debate on the Elections Committee's decision to disqualify the winning presidential candidate.

Our experiments, designs, plans and implementations continue toward a Global Voter Media Platform to support pubic interest media in all voting communities year-round.

Thank you all VFM participants: AMS council, planners, administrators, media and voters! And congratulations to the media award winners...


Maria J. said...

I think there are some other interesting aspects to VFMs. First of all, I feel like this year in particular, people have been trying to get their friends out voting for them, and some blogs have built-in groups of support, which would definitely help in a contest. I know I appealed to my friends to vote this year, and I know that authors for other blogs asked random people on the street to vote for them as well. Thus, I'm not sure if the trends really carry much meaning, aside from showing who puts in a lot of effort to either advertise their blogs and who has built in friends who would vote. Is this fair? I'm not sure. I don't think there's necessarily a correlation between effort of blogging and winnings, or even causation to be drawn from there. If you look at some of the VFM entries that won money, they wrote little about the election, and won more money than those VFMs that did a good job with covering the election.

Unknown said...

@Maria: I think I have to respectfully disagree with your points regarding this year's VFM - most notably the dismissal of voting trends due to 'familiarity voting' and the argument that greater coverage of the elections should necessarily equate to increased VFM winnings.

Indeed, as in the past, VFM editors have appealed to their friends and acquaintances to vote for them - but I think you are overstating the importance of this type of voting in the grander scheme of things. In the end, 6379 people voted in the VFM competition - and the numbers seem pretty conclusive in the interpolated consensus. It doesn't look like any one blog can chalk hundreds of votes to friend-ly voting.

Moreover, the role of the media is, indeed, coverage - but there is more than that. Voter-Funded Media should not necessarily, in my opinion, focus solely on elections issues (which may not interest the general student) at the risk of alienating students who are either unaware of such issues or unconcerned about them. Indeed - it's nice to see some blogs that were explicitly for amusement purposes be rewarded for catering to a demographic that would otherwise be left unsatisfied (that is, students who are seeking amusement à la Perez Hilton) - these, I want to suggest, translate into votes that may have otherwise not been cast.

Congratulations, however, on your excellent showing in this year's contest, despite being terribly ill! That really takes fortitude.

Mark Latham said...

Thanks Maria and Justin for your thoughtful comments. I helped tally the votes, and I think 6379 is the total vote count in the election + VFM voting, but many of those didn't vote in VFM. My count of VFM votes was 3820.

But more important than the hard numbers is subjective assessment of the value VFM adds to the AMS. I hope we get more comments about that.