Thursday, December 29, 2011

VoterMedia as Participatory Budgeting

I'm excited about the possibilities for adding votermedia to the menu in the growing global participatory budgeting (PB) movement. So I drafted this paper and submitted it to the March 2012 International PB Conference in New York City.

Related links:

Sunday, November 20, 2011

#bcmuni2011 Blog Competition Continues #SurreyBC #Burnaby #NorthVancouver

Congratulations to all participants in yesterday's municipal elections across British Columbia -- candidates, campaigners, media, voters, and election administrators!

It ain't over: The VoterMedia B.C. Municipal blog contests will continue -- rules & (free) entry form here.

When we launched this competition, our plan was to fund each of 5 cities for 50 days x $20 = $1,000. No one entered in West Vancouver or Richmond, so we plan at least to fund the other 3 cities for $1,000 each.

North Vancouver got its first entrants on October 4, so it's funded for 50 days starting then. Last funded day will be November 22.

Surrey will use up its $1,000 on November 29.

Burnaby started later, and will not use up its $1,000 by November 30. As you can see in the rules, we only committed to funding through November 30.

However, we aim to keep the contests going forever in some form, with the goal of encouraging blogger coverage of any issues of interest to the community. So even without funding, the ballots will stay open. New entrants can come in, links will show their blogs & posts, people can vote on them etc. Shares will continue to be calculated daily, but with no funding it will be e.g. 47% of $0 = $0.

There are several possibilities for more funding:
- I might donate some more, and keep it going at $10/day for a while.
- We plan to solicit donations/sponsorships from readers &/or city governments &/or media organizations etc.

So I've updated the contest descriptions on the website to reflect these developments. Will post again here if/when there is more funding.

I welcome any advice, questions etc.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Should journalists endorse election candidates? #bcmuni2011

My opinion:

Yes, journalists should endorse election candidates. Reasons below. Comments welcomed!


We are now at the height of the election campaigns for all municipal governments in British Columbia. Voting day is November 19. is sponsoring competitions for blogs covering the elections in Burnaby, Surrey and North Vancouver. (Info & entry form here.)

My reasons:

My main reason is having watched the UBC student union elections for the past 5 years, the endorsements of candidates published by bloggers covering those elections seem to have been helpful information for voters. Voters who did not want to spend much time doing their own research (i.e. most voters), could find well reasoned endorsements to help guide them to choose candidates that would serve the voters' interests well. (Here's an example.)

It's important to note, however, that those 5 years of elections were held in the context of bloggers being rewarded via a VoterMedia system, where voters allocate funds to blogs they found helpful. I designed that system to give journalists a stronger economic incentive to build reputations for serving the voters' interests. Once they have built those reputations, they can endorse candidates without worrying so much that their endorsements will automatically be viewed with suspicion.

Journalists working in other incentive contexts have good reason to worry. There is widespread suspicion (probably justified) that many media organizations have incentives other than the broad public (i.e. voters') interest. For that reason, I think, many excellent journalists avoid endorsing. Many of those who publish endorsements (often non-journalists) are partisan, explicitly or implicitly campaigning on behalf of those they endorse, and often paid for doing so. Perhaps to avoid that taint, some journalists believe they should maintain "objectivity" by not taking sides.

Limits on my opinion:

So perhaps I should limit my opinion to the context of bloggers in VoterMedia competitions. I don't understand the incentives of mainstream media journalists well enough to have a strong opinion for them. And in the VoterMedia context, I should further limit my opinion by emphasizing that this is only my advice to bloggers and voters, but they are free to ignore it. I'm used to having my advice ignored!  ;-)

I believe more strongly in freedom of the press and democratic choice by voters than in my own opinions. But I also believe in free speech, so I feel free to express these opinions.

What are your opinions? Express below or by email to mark[at]

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

#bcmuni2011 $5k Blog Competition Update #RichmondBC #SurreyBC #Burnaby #NorthVancouver #WestVancouver

There's still time to enter and vote in the 2011 VoterMedia BC Muni Election Blog Competition -- entry form here. We're offering up to $5,000 in awards for blogs covering the November 19 elections in:
Press coverage of this contest:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Media Democracy Days in Vancouver this weekend #MDDVan

Media Democracy Days this weekend, Fri Sat Sun, Nov 11 12 13: Free events but reservations recommended & filling up fast. (Sorry I didn't post this sooner!) Info at

Panel on The Future of Journalism, Sat Nov 12 1pm-2:20pm at Vancouver Public Library main branch (Alice MacKay Room) is very timely since top B.C. independent political journalist Sean Holman just gave up blogging for lack of $ -- see Tyee article & my comment. Great panellists:

DAVID BEERS is founding editor of The Tyee. He has won national awards for his journalism in Canada and the United States, writing for The Globe and Mail, Vancouver Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, and many other publications. He edited the “Fate of the Strait” environmental series for the Vancouver Sun, which received Canada’s National Newspaper Award for Special Projects.

PETER KLEIN began his career as a radio reporter for National Public Radio, covering the Bosnian war and the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. In 1999 Klein joined CBS News’ 60 Minutes as a producer remains a contributor to the program. Klein joined the faculty of UBC in 2005, and in 2008 he launched the International Reporting Program, Among other prestigious awards, his 2010 class’ Frontline/WORLD documentary, Ghana: Digital Dumping Ground, earned him an Emmy for best investigative newsmagazine.

CHARLIE SMITH has been editor of the Georgia Straight for six years. Before that, he was the news editor at the Straight for 10 years. He has also worked at CBC Radio and CBC TV and taught investigative journalism at Kwantlen Polytechnic University for seven years back in the days when it was known as Kwantlen University College. These days, most of his writing appears on, but some find its way into the print edition.

KAREN PINCHIN is the founding editor of OpenFile Vancouver, a community-powered collaborative news website. She has reported and edited for The Canadian Press, Maclean’s and Newsweek, and freelanced for outlets including The Globe and Mail and The Walrus.

& moderator:
LINDA SOLOMON is the founder and editor-in-chief of the Vancouver Observer, which was the winner of the 2010 Canadian Online Publishing Awards for “Best online-only articles” and took second place in “Best overall online-only site”. She is also the founder and director of The Vancouver New Media Foundation and is CEO of Observer Media Group. Linda was the recipient of the United Press International award for Best Investigative Reporting.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

2 entries in North Van blog contest #bcmuni2011 #NorthVancouver

Today two blogs entered the blog contest, covering the October-November municipal election campaigns in North Vancouver City & District. You can read them and vote them shares of the $1,000 award pool at

Anyone can enter a blog in our contests to win a share of the $5,000 in cash awards for covering elections in any of 5 cities: North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Burnaby, Surrey and Richmond. There's no entry fee or deadline. Awards tallied daily in October and November. Info & entry form at

Friday, September 30, 2011

Civic Surrey enters $5k blog contest #bcmuni2011 #surreybc

Civic Surrey is the first entrant in the $5,000 VoterMedia blog contest covering the October-November B.C. municipal election campaigns -- welcome! You can vote for them and follow links to their blog at

Anyone can enter a blog in this contest, covering elections in any of 5 cities: Surrey, Richmond, Burnaby, North Vancouver or West Vancouver -- info & entry form at No entry fee.

Civic Surrey's entry illustrates our contest rule that even election candidates can enter their blogs. Blog editor Paul Hillsdon is a candidate for Surrey School Board. See rules (end of page) for our reasons, and feel free to comment here!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

#bcmuni2011: $5,000 for bloggers covering BC municipal elections

British Columbia municipal elections will take place on November 19, 2011.

To encourage better voter information, is offering up to $5,000 in cash awards for blogs covering elections in 5 municipalities -- up to $1,000 each for 5 blog competitions covering:
The competition judges will be the public -- anyone who votes on each city's ballot linked above.

Info & entry form at No entry fee or deadline; daily awards start from October 1.

Please forward to bloggers, election candidates, current and former city councillors, and anyone interested in municipal elections.

Twitter: #bcmuni2011

(We're also happy to add blogs and ballot pages for other municipalities, without funded contests.)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

#CIRA Election: Who I plan to vote for

The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) is holding its annual board election:

Sept 13 - 20: Candidates online forum

Sept 20: Annual General Meeting & Symposium (free & open to public)

Sept 21 - 28: Online voting

As a CIRA member, I've been participating in the campaign forum. As in many large democratic organizations, member engagement and voter turnout are low. This is a problem that votermedia is designed to help solve, so I have focused my participation on the issue of voter information and engagement (here and here).

I'm planning to vote for these candidates:

Members' Slate: Kevin McArthur

Nomination Committee Slate:
Kerry Brown
Bill Gibson
Gary Evans
[2011-09-26 update: Michael Geist's post today has raised my opinion of Bill St.Arnaud. So I now plan to vote for Kerry Brown plus 2 of these 3: Bill St.Arnaud, Bill Gibson and Gary Evans.]

These may not be my final choices. Voting is Sept 21 - 28, so I have time to gather more insight which may change my mind. I don't consider myself especially well informed. I'm posting this in the hope of receiving comments etc from people more informed than I. My main role in votermedia is not blogging -- it's building a system to support and encourage blogging that benefits the community.

I have asked for candidate reviews from people whose views I respect, and so far have received these replies:

From Michael Geist, 2011-09-17:
I'll likely post an endorsement of some kind once the election launches.
[2011-09-26 update: See Michael Geist's post today.]

From Steve Anderson, Executive Director,, 2011-09-18:
I haven't studied the candidates yet - if I come up with a list I feel confident in endorsing I will let you know.

What I can say is that I will vote for and endorse Kevin [McArthur]. He's a long time advocate and active contributor on key issues like Net Neutrality, UBB, and lawful Access. You're welcome to make my endorsement of Kevin public.

If/when I hear more from them, I'll add a comment below and/or edit this post. Meanwhile, here are some reasons why I'm choosing the above candidates:

Kevin McArthur is my clearest choice. He is supported by Steve Anderson. He has been very active in the campaign forum. I like his proactive policy advocate approach to the director's role, as well as the policies he advocates. And his technical expertise seems at least stronger than my ability to assess it.

Kerry Brown has been active in the campaign forum and in his thoughtful blog. His technical knowledge and experience seem strong. I know enough about governance to say that I find his discussions of it intelligent and balanced.

Bill Gibson's track record at MEC looks strong, and very relevant to a large democratic organization with low voter engagement.

Gary Evans is a governance specialist. That alone would not get my support, since many conventional governance models are not worth the time and effort, in my view. But Gary has an eclectic scope that includes some worthwhile approaches, so I think his contribution would be valuable. I should confess a personal bias here: I found one of my publications on his course reading list, and on my suggestion he has added another one. Anyone who agrees with me I find particularly intelligent! ;-)

BTW I also have a positive impression of François Vidal, with his experience on the board of a large nonprofit (Hostelling International - Canada) and for improving CIRA's representation of Quebec.

Anyway, I hope this post will prompt some more enlightening links and comments on who we should vote for and why, from other CIRA members, board candidates, and anyone with insight and/or interest. Please comment below or by email to mark[at] You could also add a link in the comment thread at

See you at the Sept 20 AGM!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

New video: Mainstream Media vs Voter Media

Today we released a new video at Mainstream Media vs Voter Media.

In it, UBC students discuss how VoterMedia (= voter funded media = VFM) provides healthy competition to the University of British Columbia's established student newspaper, The Ubyssey.

"...does VFM work for students? I think yes. Does it increase campus discussion and student engagement? I think absolutely. Does it ensure that established media does a better job? Yeah. And are students and is this campus better off because of that? Well, absolutely." (Justin McElroy, Coordinating Editor, The Ubyssey)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Dan Hind on the BBC & on the riots

Dan Hind, author of The Return of the Public, last month wrote this insightful critique of the BBC. Quotes:

"I would argue that it is a problem that derives from the structure of the institution, rather than from the shortcomings of individuals."
"The BBC is a political actor of considerable importance. It is in some ways central to the operations of the British state and as such it has a stake in the existing constitutional settlement. Its reliance on revenue from the license fee means it is vulnerable to pressure from the political class and from the privately owned media. It has interests about which it cannot be entirely candid. When its interests overlap with those of other powerful actors the social silence is likely to be deafening. For these reasons it is also unrealistic to think that the BBC can be left with so much discretion in decisions about whether and how debates in civil society are covered."

(We can apply a similar analysis to Canada's CBC.)

More recently, he wrote this post (which I also recommend) about the UK riots -- Nothing 'mindless' about rioters:

"...there is no single meaning in what is happening in London and elsewhere. But there are connections that we can make, and that we should make. We have a major problem with youth unemployment. There have already been cuts in services for young people. State education in poor areas is sometimes shockingly bad. Young people cannot afford adequate private housing and there is a shortage of council-built stock. Economic inequality has reached quite startling levels. All this is the consequence of decisions made by governments and there is little hope of rapid improvement. The same politicians now denouncing the mindless violence of the mob all supported a system of political economy that was as unstable as it was pernicious. They should have known that their policies would lead to disaster. They didn't know. Who then is more mindless?

The global economic crisis is at least as political as the riots we've seen in the last few days. It has lasted far longer and done far more damage. We need not draw a straight line from the decision to bail out the banks to what's going on now in London. But we must not lose sight of what both events tell us about our current condition. Those who want to see law and order restored must turn their attention to a menace that no amount of riot police will disperse; a social and political order that rewards vandalism and the looting of public property, so long as the perpetrators are sufficiently rich and powerful."

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Website privacy policy revised for Facebook logins

Yesterday we updated items 2 and 9 in the privacy policy, to reflect our new Facebook login option.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Knight Foundation media innovation contest announces 2011 winners

"Sixteen ideas that push the future of news and information will receive $4.7 million in funding as winners of the Knight News Challenge, an international media innovation contest funding digital news experiments that inform and engage communities."

"Knight News Challenge winners receive $4.7 million, including $1 million in support from Google; winners include traditional news organizations and Internet entrepreneurs, projects focused on government transparency, mobile and more."

You can browse the winning projects at: entered the contest, but didn't win funding. We congratulate the winners and look forward to watching their progress!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

#ubcvotes #votermedia contest results

Voting ended last Friday (March 25) in the EUS-AUS-SUS rep elections and their 1-time votermedia contest. Two votermedia contestants were disqualified under rule #6 for insufficient election coverage. The remaining three won these awards:

- UBC Insiders: 38% x $1500 = $570

- AMS Confidential: 36% x $1500 = $540

- 11' Eleven": 26% x $1500 = $390

Congratulations and thank you for helping voters with your insight!

If you'd like to see the detailed vote tallies and award calculations, they're in this spreadsheet. More info on the algorithm here.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

#ubcvotes #votermedia contestants & rules update

We now have 5 contestants in the EUS-AUS-SUS rep elections 1-time votermedia contest:

- UBC Insiders

- AMS Confidential

- 11' Eleven"

- The Syrup Trap

- Radical Beer Tribune

Info for voters.

We are still accepting new entries -- more info here.

Rules update: We have added a 40% option to the votable shares menu. So rule #5 is now:

5. The planned total award pool is $1500, and voting menu options are 0%, 10%, 20%, 30% and 40%.

The award calculation algorithm will be Interpolated Consensus in 2% steps, with spread parameter = 8 as we have been doing in all Continuous VoterMedia ballots since February 15. Info on the spread parameter here and here.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

#ubcvotes #votermedia contest starting now! $1500 award pool

Win cash by blogging about the UBC undergrad society elections (Engineering, Arts and Science)! Engineering is already campaigning this week (see candidates list) and has an all candidates forum tomorrow (Friday March 11) at 3pm - 4pm in the Kaiser Atrium. Voting starts next Monday, March 14. Arts and Science are one week later.

Voting in these elections and on the votermedia (VFM) blogging contest will be on Webvote -- instructions here. Blogs entered will also be listed here. The contest coordinator is Rose Gambrel.

UBC students can enter their blogs by pasting this text with blanks filled in an email to mark[at] AND TO hb_t_[at]
Name of Blog:

Blog URL (web address): http://

I am the main editor of this blog. I hereby apply to enter it in the 2011 UBC Votes VoterMedia Competition. I agree to the contest rules below. I am a UBC student. I request that any award this blog wins in this contest be paid to me as the representative of the blog's contributors. My contact information is:




Mailing address:


1. Since there is no entry fee and we are still working out all the plans, we reserve the right to amend these rules. Any changes will be announced at Below are the current planned rules:

2. Any UBC student (including AMS Council members) can enter their blog in the contest with no entry fee.

3. All UBC Engineering, Arts and Science students will be eligible to vote in this contest via Webvote from March 14 through March 25, 2011.

4. There is no hard entry deadline, but we recommend entering as soon as possible, preferably by Friday March 11. We will try to add newly entered blogs promptly, but note that blogs added to the ballot on or after March 14 will start missing out on voters who have already voted by then.

5. The planned total award pool is $1500, and planned voting menu options are 0%, 10%, 20% and 30%.

6. The contest coordinator may require some basic minimum coverage of all three elections (Engineering, Arts and Science), for blogs to be eligible for awards.

7. The contest coordinator may require blogs to refrain from disrespectfully slandering candidates, especially in an over-the-top overt manner that causes the candidates extreme distress.

Monday, March 7, 2011

UBC continuous #votermedia award calculations suspended pending login system upgrade

We're finding that the non-automated voter registration system is too cumbersome, resulting in low participation rates. This is especially a problem for the UBC AMS funded ballot, because it tends to give award calculation results that do not fairly reflect an AMS community consensus. So we're putting the UBC AMS continuous votermedia award calculations on hold until we finish automating our registration and login system.

A better login system has long been needed and often requested for continuous votermedia. For the past few months we have been giving priority to building an automated system, including giving users the option of logging in via Facebook. It's taking longer than expected, but we're getting close.

In spite of the weaknesses of the no-login system we've been using for the past year or so, we have managed to produce reasonably meaningful award allocations so far. But 2 weeks ago I noticed an apparent hacking attempt from Europe, so I discussed with my AMS liaison (the Student Activities Committee Vice-Chair) that we probably need to implement a manual voter registration system temporarily, so as to keep the award results meaningful. We phased that in the following week, but it turns out to be too cumbersome to attract enough voters so far, so it can't produce meaningful results either. Hence the decision to suspend until the automatic system is implemented.

Meanwhile, the three UBC undergrad societies (Arts, Engineering and Science) are sponsoring a $1500 votermedia contest on their election ballot using UBC's Webvote platform, which uses the Campus-Wide Login (CWL) system. So it is secure enough to work well, and I'm working with them to make the contest successful. See more info in this earlier post.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Login system for #votermedia

By popular demand, we are finally implementing a better login system for the website. Voter registration works by email for now; we plan to upgrade soon to an automated system.

Anyone can still browse the website to see blog rankings, recent posts, past awards and other info. The main practical impact will be that a login is now required for voting on funded competitions like

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

$1500 for #votermedia coverage of #ubcvotes

Three UBC undergrad societies (Arts, Engineering and Science) have committed $500 each to reward competing bloggers who cover their upcoming elections. The funds will be allocated by students voting on the election ballots, so this is a 1-time VoterMedia (1VM) contest. [The AMS Continuous VoterMedia (CVM) contest is also ongoing with $1200/month.]

The 1VM contest rules are not quite finalized, but watch the UBC Votes website and #ubcvotes Twitter tag for news.

Engineering (EUS) elections start first: nominations close this Friday March 4, campaigning starts next Monday March 7, voting the following week March 14 - 18. Arts (AUS) and Science (SUS) elections are one week later.

You can start covering the campaigns even if you haven't officially entered the contest yet. So get ready!

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...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

UBC 1-time #votermedia results & calculations [#amselections]

Congrats to all participants in the UBC AMS elections that ended yesterday! It got messy at times, but ended with a success for democracy, it seems to me.

- Results for elections & votermedia

- Detailed vote counts

If you'd like to see how we calculate the voter media awards from the vote counts, see this spreadsheet. In words, we find a cutoff number of votes that will allocate the exact total $2000 award pool, when we award each contestant the amount of money supported by that many votes for that amount or higher. (Well, the spreadsheet is coded in terms of percentiles counting up from $0 instead of votes counting down from the top, but it comes to the same thing.)

One extra wrinkle is that we interpolate the votes. Voting is in $125 increments, but we wanted to calculate awards in $25 increments. So (for example) a vote for $250 is treated as 1/5 of a vote for each of these amounts: $200, $225, $250, $275, $300. (Votes for $0 are not interpolated.) The spreadsheet first shows what the awards would have been without interpolation (easier to follow), and then the actual awards with interpolation.

Last year's AMS 1-time votermedia contest had 4 times as much funding -- $8000. So all the increments were 4 times the size -- see spreadsheet.

Comparing the two years' results, I think UBC students "get" votermedia better this year, making awards that correspond more with the quality of the blogs. For example, Radical Beer Tribune did not place first the way it did last year when most observers found that odd.

The above results are for the 1-time VoterMedia (1VM) contests on the annual AMS elections ballot. We also have Continuous VoterMedia (CVM) running year-round on this ballot.

[See also Twitter: #votermedia OR #amselections]

Thursday, January 13, 2011

CTV News on E-voting at UBC AMS [#amselections]

CTV News last night talked about possibilities for internet voting in B.C. to engage more young voters. They used UBC AMS elections as an example, interviewing AMS President Bijan Ahmadian -- see the January 12 link on this page, about 18 minutes in (3 minutes before the end).

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Continuous vs 1-time VoterMedia

At tonight's UBC AMS Council meeting they plan to review funding allocations for the Continuous VoterMedia (CVM) and 1-time VoterMedia (1VM) contests. I just got an email requesting more info on this issue. Here's what I've pulled together:

Links --

1. Video: VoterMedia Should Be Continuous – UBC students' views on how CVM benefits the AMS community.

2. CVM statistics for November 2010 (also linked from

3. CVM funding shares since January 1, 2010.

4. Spreadsheet discussed below: Correlating media votes with President votes (also linked from this post).

The main conclusion from the spreadsheet in link #4 above: Most CVM voters read the blogs before voting on them. Most 1VM voters didn't read the blogs before voting on them, so their voting decisions were more superficial (e.g. based on the blog name), and the funding allocations were not as well aligned with the quality of blog content.

For example in column I: The blog Social Capital endorsed Bijan for President. Among the students who also voted in CVM, those who voted for Bijan allocated an average of $533 to Social Capital, while those who voted for Natalie (the runner-up) allocated $148 to Social Capital, a difference of $385. This strongly suggests that Social Capital readers follow (or at least agree with) Social Capital's endorsements.

By contrast, among the students who did not vote in CVM, those who voted for Bijan allocated $444 to Social Capital, while those who voted for Natalie allocated $384 to Social Capital, a difference of only $60. Comparing this with the above difference of $385, we see that CVM voters are paying a lot more attention to the blog. (CVM-1VM correlations were determined via voters' ip addresses.)

Likewise in column O: UBC Insiders endorsed Natalie for President. Among CVM voters, the Bijan supporters allocated $650 to Insiders, while Natalie supporters allocated $1000 to Insiders, a difference of $350. Among non-CVM-voters, the Bijan supporters allocated $522 to Insiders, while Natalie supporters allocated $648 to Insiders, a difference of only $126. Here again, CVM voters are paying more attention to the blog they are voting funds to.

The sample sizes were small relative to the standard deviations of voted amounts, so only some of the results are statistically significant. Note that AMS Confidential was a brand new blog at the time, so had not yet built its reputation. Thus it makes sense that even CVM voters were not looking to that blog for endorsements yet. Its results are likely to be different in 2011.

The above statistics confirm most observers' subjective assessments that the CVM allocations made more sense than the 1VM allocations. The top award winner in 1VM was Radical Beer Tribune, perhaps partly because the name alone attracts many voters who have not read the blogs, so have only the names to go on. Even the author of RBT felt that it did not deserve first place. From Matt Naylor's video interview (June 3, 2010):

"One of the things that we saw last year was my blog, The Radical Beer Tribune, winning the top amount in the one-time VFM, that we did for the election, but winning the fourth-highest amount – I think it was fourth-highest – in the Continuous VFM. I think, you know, while I am fantastic, the coverage that we provided was probably more deserving of the fourth-place amount, in terms of like consistent coverage and in-depth analysis of the election than perhaps some of the other blogs. But, you know, I’m not complaining!"

In spite of its shortcomings, the past 4 years of 1VM have added a lot to the UBC AMS mediasphere. Each year I have collaborated with UBC students to improve the system, and CVM is the latest product of that process. CVM looks like a promising improvement, but it's still in its infancy. It has been funded only sporadically so far, and has had little promotion. Once it becomes more known and continuously funded as it was designed to be, we can expect its performance to improve still further.

I'll be at the AMS Council meeting tonight. My thanks to the AMS for this productive and fascinating collaboration!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Enter the $2000 UBC AMS Elections VoterMedia Contest

The annual election campaign at the University of British Columbia's Alma Mater Society starts today! In addition to their Continuous VoterMedia blog contest ballot at, they are having the usual 1-time "Elections VoterMedia Contest". Entry deadline is this Friday, January 14 -- info here.