Thursday, December 30, 2010

UBC AMS Voting Statistics for November 2010

I've posted a one-page report at, entitled "UBC AMS VoterMedia Voting Statistics for November 2010".

It lists the number of votes supporting each of the blogs competing at, along with some explanation, analysis and discussion.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

New video: What Is VoterMedia?

We just released a new video at, entitled "What Is VoterMedia?"

In it, students at the University of British Columbia explain that votermedia is a system for rewarding bloggers who inform students about their student union, elections and other issues that matter to their community. "’s an innovative incentive structure to encourage independent media to develop and to flourish and to cover events in their local communities." (-- Alex Lougheed)

Thank you to all who contributed to this!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Changing spread parameter

As discussed in my previous post, I'm changing the way we spread the wealth among competing bloggers. Until this change, we have been capping the menus of votable shares, e.g. to max 30% shares when there are at least 5 competing blogs.

For all communities except UBC, five days ago I let the caps "float" so as to stay at least 5% above the top blog's share.

This evening I'm phasing in the other half of our new spread-the-wealth system, which is a kind of "progressive income tax" on vote counts as a function of %share -- see previous post for details.

The "spread" parameter will change from 1.0 to 4.0 as of the tallies calculated tonight, which for North American time zones will mean starting with the award shares dated 2010-12-15 in the "horserace" pages.

I'll monitor the results, and if they seem good then I'll recommend a similar change for UBC.

Your comments invited!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Spreading the wealth among competing blogs

Thinking some more about the votermedia award algorithm change I made on November 22, I think we should make a more sweeping change to further enhance competition among blogs. Changing the interpolation range from 5% to 10% does encourage the top blogs to compete with each other more, but it still leaves the maximum vote ceiling as an overly firm limit.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Locust or Bumblebee raises votermedia design issues

This morning I received an application for the blog Locust or Bumblebee to enter the UBC AMS votermedia contest. This raises some big issues about the design and administration of votermedia – hence the long post below.

Locust or Bumblebee is an impressive blog promoting sustainability, created by UBC students Anthony Stal and Sam Wempe:
"Through this gateway we hope to inform Vancouver’s populations of the decisions and activities occurring around them that negatively affect them, the environment, or even some distant population. ... Once we gain a larger readership in Vancouver, we hope to spread to other cities around the world."

This entry poses a challenge for, because we have not yet built a login system that identifies whether a voter is a member of the community they are voting on. The lack of login is not a serious problem as long as the blogs listed on a community's ballot appeal primarily to members of that community. But if a blog attracts many voters from outside the community, then award funds may be directed in ways that the funding community may not want.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

VoterMedia enters $5 million funding competition

The Knight News Challenge is a media innovation contest that aims to advance the future of news by funding new ways to digitally inform communities. As much as $5 million will be given away this year.

I just submitted an entry for, requesting $200,000.

You can:

1. See the VoterMedia entry, vote on its rating, and participate in its comment discussion.

2. Enter the contest yourself! Deadline is December 1.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Planning to tweak the votermedia award algorithm

As I've been watching how the contest is working at, it seems to me we can tweak one of the model's parameters to make it work a little better. This parameter affects the trade-off between two things we'd like to achieve, both of which encourage competition but in different ways:

1. Limit the maximum share each blog can win. Currently with 5 or more competitors, the maximum votable amount is 30%. This ensures that at least 4 blogs can get funding, thus enhancing competition that way.

2. Even though their shares are at or near the 30% cap, we'd still like the top blogs to feel some incentive to keep making an effort. If the top 3 are all up against a hard ceiling at 30%, they may have little or no incentive to keep working at their blogs.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

New video: VoterMedia Should Be Continuous

We released our third video today at "VoterMedia Should Be Continuous"

In it, students at the University of British Columbia (UBC) talk about changing VoterMedia from a once-a-year system to a continuous year-round system for funding blogs about their student union, the Alma Mater Society (AMS).

"I think it’s something that I hope will only grow and prosper, you know, not just during the season where people elect their AMS executives, but the entire year." (Justin McElroy, Coordinating Editor, The Ubyssey)

It's the third video down at

Friday, November 5, 2010

Media Democracy Day: tomorrow at VPL

Media Democracy Day is on Saturday November 6 from noon to 5pm at the Vancouver Public Library main branch. It's free, fascinating and important -- see you there! Info at

Monday, October 25, 2010

Revised Terms for

Occasionally we revise the terms of use for our website, and notify users via this blog. Yesterday I posted revisions primarily to support the upcoming UBC AMS Continuous VoterMedia contest at, but which should also serve for similar sponsored contests in the future.

So there's a new section at the bottom entitled "Contest Sponsor Discretion". There are also two new references to our security measures in the section headed "Administrator Discretion".

Launching UBC Continuous VoterMedia Contest

The University of British Columbia Alma Mater Society seems ready to start funding the Continuous VoterMedia competition hosted at Watch for official confirmation from AMS Elections Administrator Erik MacKinnon, hopefully via a comment on this post.

Erik and I have discussed contest plans with AMS council, executives and staff. Like last year, we are aiming to run two contests:
  1. Continuous VoterMedia (CVM): This year with $6,000 of AMS funds, starting at [revised: $20/day] from November 1, with varying amounts through August 31, 2011 -- see [revised] planned award schedule. Continuous voting year-round at is already underway.
  2. 1-Time VoterMedia (1VM): This year with $2,000 of AMS funds. Voting on the same ballot as the AMS elections in January 2011.
To make it easier for new blogs to get started, we're planning no entry fee for CVM, and free entry into 1VM for the top ten CVM blogs as of January 15, 2011. Enter now -- see CVM entry form and rules. All blogs currently on the ballot must submit a new entry form by this Saturday October 30 if they want to stay in the contest.

Please note that all these plans may evolve and change through time!

Your comments & advice are welcomed.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

New feature: See more blog text

Yesterday I released a new feature on the VoterMedia ballot pages: You can now read more text from each blog by pausing your mouse over each post link. E.g. see ballots for UBC AMS and U Vic Student Society.

Is this useful? Distracting? Too much?

I welcome your feedback by email to mark[at], or comments here or on the ballots.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Lowered maximum vote from 40% to 30%

We've now had many months of testing and feedback on the ballot (e.g. UBC), in particular the menu options for blog funding shares. To increase competition among blogs, we've decided to reduce the maximum share you can vote when there are 5 or more blogs competing, from 40% to 30%.

Before long, we plan to enhance our system so as to allow different communities to use different voting parameters, including this maximum setting. But for now it's "one size fits all" -- same model for every community. However, at least we adapt to the number of blogs competing, with a higher maximum vote share when there are fewer blogs.

We welcome your comments & advice!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Shorter URLs like

Today we implemented a system of shorter web addresses for VoterMedia community ballot pages. For example, the page for the University of British Columbia Alma Mater Society is now:

instead of Sweet!

The old longer URLs still work too, but we'll probably phase them out after a while, so please update your links.

Our first video: VoterMedia at UBC

We recently uploaded our first video to Youtube:

Transcript available here. The video is also on our home page at We're learning as we go along, so please comment, email or phone me with advice on how to improve our AV techniques -- editing, composition etc. More videos in production!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Rebranding "VFM" as "VoterMedia"

I think it's a good long term plan to call it "VoterMedia" instead of "VFM". This is for both meanings -- the VoterMedia system, and the voter media.

"VoterMedia increases engagement in a democracy."
"Voter media tend to be more issues-oriented than mainstream media."

Main reasons:

1. As we expand the movement beyond UBC, "VoterMedia" is immediately meaningful to people who have never heard of it, whereas "VFM" is not.

2. If you google for "votermedia", all hits are relevant to this project. If you google for "vfm", most hits are about other things.

3. We have the web domains,,,,,, and We have none of the vfm.anything domains -- all are taken.

4. As a domain name, is too long; is short enough. VFM is a handy abbreviation of voter funded media, but VoterMedia (which could sometimes be spelled "voter media" or "voter-media") is short enough to be handy too.

5. One name, less confusion.

I'm not saying we should be obnoxious about it, trying to stop people from saying VFM. But we can gradually move toward "votermedia".

What do you think?

(BTW I'm giving a brief talk on VoterMedia at the UBC AMS Council meeting tomorrow evening.)

Monday, July 12, 2010 tally & archive system revamped

Today I released a significant overhaul of the tally & archive routines. The main tally algorithm (that calculates award shares based on votes) has not significantly changed, but:
  • Time zones: We now use a midnight cutoff in each community's time zone. However, a community spanning multiple time zones may use a midnight cutoff in its latest (western-most) well-populated time zone, so many communities use Pacific time.
  • If our server is down when it tries to tally, instead of leaving a gap it will automatically fill that in, an hour later.
  • We now have fairer tie-breaking routines for cases when there are few votes.
  • It's now easier to recalculate awards for many past days. We've recalculated from 2010-04-01 to the present.
Please send me any questions or advice, to mark[at] Thanks!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Discuss VFM in our video shoot at UBC AMS Council Chambers this Friday 6:30pm-8:30pm [#ubcvotes]

UBC AMS is letting us use their Council Chambers (Student Union Bldg room 206) to shoot a video of students talking about voter funded media. We'll edit it to show at

So join us there this Friday April 30, any time from about 6:30pm to 8:30pm, and share your thoughts!

You could talk about:
  • VFM -- what is it? [for newcomers to the website]
  • Your experiences with VFM
  • How does it affect UBC students? What difference does VFM make?
  • Pros, cons, how to improve it
  • Future of VFM at UBC and elsewhere -- other student unions, municipal politics etc.
Ideally, please email me (mark[at] to say you'll be there; or you can just show up. (Also, we'll probably do another shoot elsewhere at UBC the next day around 5pm.)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Interview you at UBC this week for video on VFM? [#ubcvotes]

What do you think of VFM at UBC? We're shooting some videos for our website How about sharing your views with the world?

We plan to get out to UBC to interview people this week. Possible days/times are tomorrow (Tuesday) evening from 6:30 pm on, or this Friday from 6:30 pm on, or Saturday any time.

Outside of that, most weekday evenings or weekends are possible if you can drop by my place in Coal Harbour (near Burrard skytrain station).

Let me know by email to mark[at] -- thanks!

BTW voting on blogs continues at

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Analyzing 1-time vs Continuous VFM results

Here are two spreadsheets showing some analyses of the results of UBC's two voter funded media competitions that we ran in January 2010:
Sorry I haven't taken the time to explain them in detail. Feel free to ask questions in your comments, or email them to me -- mark[at]

Monday, March 22, 2010

VFM horserace page shows history of funding shares [#ubcvotes]

You can now see the history of all funded media for one community on a "horserace" page -- enjoy!


Sunday, March 21, 2010

UBC VFM Awards [#ubcvotes]

This morning we calculated the last of 10 daily awards ($1500 total; info here) in the current UBC voter funded media competition. Winners are:

AMS Confidential -- $567
UBC Insiders -- $559.50
The UBC Spectator -- $216
The Radical Beer Tribune -- $157.50

Congratulations! Thank you to all participants -- media, voters, elections administrators, electoral candidates, and especially to the Arts Undergrad Society for sponsoring this competition. AUS will be paying the awards, so I guess the contact is arts.ubc.elections[at]

Voting continues on the VFM ballot. Hopefully awards will be funded again some time. You can see the daily history of shares by clicking on any share% number.

[Twitter #ubcvotes]

Friday, March 19, 2010

VFM for B.C. Municipal Elections

Today I submitted this comment letter to the British Columbia Local Government Elections Task Force, advocating voter funded media for municipal elections. The task force will recommend legislation to improve local government electoral processes. (Pdf file available at
Media for voters, funded by voters

March 19, 2010

Local Government Elections Task Force
c/o Ministry of Community and Rural Development
PO Box 9839 Stn Prov Govt
Victoria, B.C. V8W 9T1

Submitted by email to

Re: Public financing for local government election campaigns

Dear Task Force members:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

UBC elections hack update

The team investigating the voter fraud in January's UBC AMS elections gave another report at last night's AMS Council meeting. Details: UBC Insiders has posted an informative summary, and The Ubyssey has published an article.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

UBC VFM blitz!

The UBC Arts Undergraduate Society Elections Committee has generously decided to sponsor voter funded media during the upcoming constituency elections. They will award a total of $1500, at a rate of $150 per day for 10 days from Friday March 12 through Sunday March 21.

This is designed to benefit all the UBC constituency elections happening during that period, including Arts, Science, Engineering and Human Kinetics. Thank you AUS! See the multi-election info website

Media voting will be on the same Continuous VFM ballot we have been using for the UBC AMS: with same media continuing, unless any let me know they want to drop out.

NOTE: Only votes cast after noon tomorrow (Thursday March 11) will count! So the rankings will start afresh on the daily tally early Friday morning. (I'll probably trigger an interim tally Thursday afternoon so everyone can see how it's going.) This creates a big incentive for the media to get your readers voting ASAP, ideally by Thursday night.

It's also a great opportunity for new media to enter the fray. Please follow the entry instructions at For fastest upload, email entry to me (mark[at] If you emailed an entry to Taylor Lukacin that's OK too -- she's forwarding them to me.

There's no entry fee. Usual CVFM terms apply:

Our plan is for the AUS to pay the awards directly to media winners. We at will just be managing the ballot, tallying votes, calculating and displaying the awards on a best efforts basis, with no money paid to, from or via us.

Have fun!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

UBC AMS elections got hacked!

Someone figured out how to vote over 700 times in the recent University of British Columbia student union (AMS) elections (January 25 - 29). It's still being investigated, but Elections Administrator Isabel Ferreras presented a preliminary report to AMS Council on March 3.

I was involved because I helped the Elections Committee calculate the voter funded media (VFM) awards. We were running two VFM competitions simultaneously -- 1-time VFM and Continuous VFM -- see comparison table. 1-time VFM was on the AMS elections ballot, which required a UBC login to vote. Continuous VFM was on this page, where anyone could vote without logging in.

Surprisingly, it was the login-protected ballot that got hacked. That's why the Elections Committee didn't spot it, and why it took me 2 weeks to spot it -- no one expected such a thing. Now we're all older & wiser.

Check out the light-hearted coverage from AMS Confidential. UBC Spectator live-blogged the AMS Council meeting with Isabel's report:

Friday, February 12, 2010

UBC Continuous VFM Award Winners

This morning we calculated the last day's award allocation in the continuous voter funded media competition for the University of British Columbia's Alma Mater Society. Cumulative awards from January 4 through February 12 are:

1. UBC Insiders: $724
2. UBC Spectator: $665.50
3. AMS Confidential: $314
4. The Radical Beer Tribune: $207
5. Social Capital: $88.50
6. Geoff's Place: $1
(Total: $2,000)

Congratulations to the winners, and thank you to all participating media and voters!

Voting will continue indefinitely, and if any individual or organization would like to fund this competition in future, we at will be happy to help administer it. We can manage the website ballot and award calculations. We can also manage payments, or a sponsor could pay the winners directly.

What do you think of continuous VFM so far? How could we improve it? Please comment here or on the ballot or email mark[at]

Monday, January 25, 2010

Comments to FCC on the Future of Media

Four days ago, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission announced their request for comments on "the future of media and the information needs of communities in a digital age", along with 42 specific questions. I submitted my comments this morning, which are already linked on the FCC website page for "Proceeding 10-25". I've also posted these links at

Mainly I pitched the benefits of voter funded media, with the UBC Continuous VFM competition as an example.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Now is the best time to check out the UBC VFM ballot

The University of British Columbia Alma Mater Society's annual election vote is this week, January 25 - 29. So the voter funded media are in full swing, interviewing candidates, analyzing platforms and referendum questions, and making vote recommendations.

Now in our 4th year of UBC VFM implementations, we are running two competitions at once. Check out the Continuous VFM ballot!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

$8000 UBC One-Time VFM entry form available

This year's University of British Columbia Alma Mater Society Voter Funded Media Administrator, Will Davis, has sent me the entry form to post at You can enter now to compete for a piece of the $8000 award pool in the One-Time VFM competition -- go for it!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

UBC Continuous VFM: Enter now for $2000 award pool

This competition will award $50 per day starting Monday January 4, for 40 days. There's no entry fee, just send me an email -- info at

So far four blogs have entered: UBC Insiders, UBC Spectator, Radical Beer Tribune and Social Capital.

I've listed several other UBC blogs on the ballot. They will only be eligible for awards if & when they enter. But you can vote for them now, and your votes will be saved and counted if they enter. These include Geoffs Place, AMS Gossip Guy. Foxtrot UBC, Fair Vote UBC and UBC Student Media.

I hope to see some newly created blogs entering too!

BTW you can now see the latest post title & date from each blog.