Tag Archives: election

Apple blogging comment spam communication compliment spam democracy electoral college FUD geek Google hierarchy of needs information seeking marketplace of ideas mass media McCain Obama programmers spam Yahoo

Okay, we should dump the Electoral College – but no need to spam my blog!

One of the things I mentioned in my last post was how the Electoral College distorts the vote in favor of those in small-population states.

I got a comment from NationalPopularVote.com along these lines…

The major shortcoming of the current system of electing the President is that presidential candidates concentrate their attention on a handful of closely divided “battleground” states. In 2004 two-thirds of the visits and money were focused in just six states; 88% on 9 states, and 99% of the money went to just 16 states. Two-thirds of the states and people were merely spectators to the presidential election. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or worry about the voter concerns in states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. The reason for this is the winner-take-all rule under which all of a state’s electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state.

They make a good argument, and I agree with them, but I find it pretty reprehensible that they are spamming blogs to make their point.  If the comment is on-topic, why do I call it spamming?  Grab a snippet of text and do an exact-phrase Google search by wrapping quotes around it, like this:


As of this writing there are 233 occurrences of the exact same comment slathered all over the web.  It looks like they’re using an automated program to watch Technorati or Google Blog Search for posts about the Electoral College and autopost the same comment.  I’m going to email them and ask that they stop.

The phrase search is a good technique for discovering compliment spam as well.

In any event, we already looked at the fact that some people’s votes count four times as much because they live in a state with a small population.  Do the NationalPopularVote.com folks have a point about swing states?

One way to look at the power of your vote is to figure out the likelihood that yours will decide the election.  By this definition, it helps a little to be in a small-population state but the most important factor is how close the election is in your state – your best bet is to live in a swing state.  Andrew Gelman has a great article explaining why, but it’s pretty intuitive.  If you live in a safe Democrat state, for example, it doesn’t matter if you live in California or Rhode Island – your vote is much less likely to be the one to flip the state to one side or the other.  The same is true for safe Republican states, from Texas to Wyoming.

Democratic Usability: Where to Find Information on Local Elections

Sunset reflected over Chinatown I’m not going to turn this into a full-time political blog, but I just spent the evening researching local issues and candidates and a thought occurred to me – does anyone test the usability and the user experience of the democratic process?

There’s a number of different ways to approach this question.  The usability of voting systems is a big part of it, and in the case of electronic voting machines, this would be identical to traditional usability testing.  I’m going to put that question aside for now since I haven’t studied it very closely and talk about the information seeking portion of the electoral user experience.

Also, I apologize in advance for making this post very U.S.-centric.  Please comment below on how these issues apply in your country.

Political information seeking

We are completely inundated with information and misinformation about the major candidates for national office, from a wide variety of communication media.  Everything from dinner-table conversations and door-to-door canvassing to cable news, candidate web sites, and political blogs can influence how we vote.

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Why Geeks Support Barack Obama

ObamaI just donated $25 to Barack Obama. Much like many other geeks before me. Obama is clearly the choice of the country’s programmers, researchers, and other eggheads. Why?

Despite the explosion of baby name voting posts, I usually write about more technical topics on this blog. I’m very interested in the intersection of technology and society, and use of the internet in social interaction. So I think it’s fair to talk about that other vote that’s going on right now, the 2008 U.S. Presidential election.

As I said before, Obama is clearly the choice of the geek constituency. Don’t believe me? Here’s a graph of individual campaign contributions by employees at five large, notoriously geeky tech companies, Google, Apple, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Amazon:

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