Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs: Our Organization

What is VoterMedia.org? What's it for? Who is behind this? Why are you doing this? What are your goals? Who is funding it? Who is working on it?
Uh... relax, OK? VoterMedia.org is a nonprofit nonpartisan public interest project for improving voter information and elected leader accountability in the world's organizations -- governments, corporations, unions, nonprofits etc. We are implementing voter-media as explained in the paper Global Voter Media Platform and our other publications. This website is built by a group of volunteers, led by Mark Latham. We plan to create a nonprofit organization to manage the project, with a board of directors elected by the website's users. We are already practising what we preach, by inviting websites/blogs to critique VoterMedia.org.
How do you make money? How do you plan to make money?
Our goal is saving the world, not making money. However, money can help get things done, so we invite donations from individuals, foundations, and the communities served by VoterMedia.org. So far the main donor to this project has been Mark Latham. In the long run, we expect most donations to come from the communities we serve. Most of those funds will flow through as awards to the websites/blogs serving those communities, ranked by voters. Donors will be able to designate which community's website ranking the funds will flow to, and whether to donate for the expenses of VoterMedia.org.
Can I use the VoterMedia.org website without a login? What difference does it make whether I have a login here or not?
Yes, you can use the site without a login. Most functions are available without logging in, including browsing the rankings and voting. Most communities give your votes more weight if you log in. We will gradually be adding more functions, and some of them will need you to log in, e.g. to customize your user interface in various ways. As you become comfortable with using the site, we invite you to create a login and participate more fully in the VoterMedia.org community. We plan to elect a board of directors to oversee the website, and our voting members will be active users with logins.

FAQs: Ballot Listings

How are the communities in VoterMedia chosen? What sort of communities should I add?
VoterMedia.org website users and administrators choose what communities to add to the system. We recommend adding communities with over 1,000 voters and annual budgets over US$200,000. That gives enough scale to make voter funding of competing websites/blogs a worthwhile benefit to the community. You can add communities and blogs by emailing your suggestions to admin[at]votermedia.org.
How are the listed websites/blogs chosen? What sort of websites/blogs should I add?
VoterMedia.org website users and administrators decide which websites/blogs to add to a community's list. You should add websites that you think provide a service to that voter community. These can be blogs, or websites for other media like newspapers, radio, TV. But it need not be limited to media. You could add websites/blogs from organizations that provide other community benefits that voters may want to support, including charities, events or whatever. You can add communities and blogs by emailing your suggestions to admin[at]votermedia.org.
Why are more posts showing for some blogs than for others?
More voting support indicates more public interest in that blog, so we show more posts for blogs with higher funding shares. As of 2011, we are showing 1 post each for blogs with 0% share, 2 posts for blogs with 1% to 19% share, and 3 posts for blogs with 20% or more share. We collect blog posts once an hour, and display the most recent ones.

FAQs: Voting

How many websites/blogs should/can I vote funding for?
You can vote for as many websites/blogs as you like. BTW there's no "Submit Vote" button -- each vote is submitted as soon as you select it.
What if I don't vote on all of the competitors?
Not voting on some of them is equivalent to voting 0% for them. The way we combine voted shares to determine the consensus awarded shares, votes for 0% are, in effect, ignored.

We don't take averages. Votes for % shares lower than that competitor's consensus share do not bring down their share (compared with not voting). Rather, low votes provide support against falling below that level. But a share can't fall below 0%, so 0% votes have no effect.

However, if you voted a positive share in the past 60 days, then voting 0% will override that vote; whereas not voting again would let your previous vote continue to count.
Do my voted shares have to total 100% ?
No. They can total more than 100% or less than 100%. Our vote tally algorithm ensures that the consensus allocations will total 100%. You can vote for whatever share you think each competitor should get, without worrying about your total.
How often should/can I vote?
You can vote as often as you like. We count your latest vote on each website/blog. We suggest voting about once a week.
How often do you count the votes?
We tally votes daily, overnight.
By what criteria should I judge the websites when I vote?
You can vote based on any criteria you want. You might want to consider whether some websites/blogs are already receiving funds through other channels. VoterMedia.org is designed to direct funding to websites/blogs that benefit the voter community.
How are votes tallied?
We sometimes adjust our tallying method. Here's a description as of 2010-12-16:

Percent shares are determined in 1% increments, totaling 100%, with each website's share supported by the same number of (weighted) votes for that share or more. If your voted share is higher than the current share of a given competitor, you are supporting it by one vote, regardless of how much higher you voted. We aren't taking averages, so there's no point in voting higher than you really think they should get.

Here's an example spreadsheet showing the above-described calculation, the way it is used for one-time votermedia contests. Note that it does not include the continuous-time contest features described below.

We count your latest vote for each website/blog, subject to "vote decay through time", which means that votes are weighted according to how old they are. Zero through 10 days old gets 100% weight. After 10 days, a vote's weight diminishes by 2% per day, so that its weight falls to zero when it's 60 days old. So if you vote about once a week (as we suggest), your latest vote will always have 100% weight.

To interpolate between the % share choices in our voting menus, we interpret a vote of (e.g.) 30% as being evenly distributed from 25% to 35%. (One exception: votes for 0% are treated as entirely at 0% -- no means no!)

As of 2011-02-15, for all communities except UBC AMS, we have phased out hard caps on the %share you can vote, replacing them with floating caps that are always at least 5% above the top blog's share. Instead, our new method for spreading the wealth among competing blogs is now to apply this "progressive marginal tax":

after-tax vote count = (pre-tax vote count) / ( spread ** share)

where spread = 8. Details here.
How do percent shares translate into cash awards?
Cash awards depend on donated funding. If there is funding for a given day, then a blog's award is its % share for that day times the funding for that day. We encourage communities to fund the media/blogs who cover them. Funding need not flow through VoterMedia; a community's government can pay awards directly to the media/blogs, e.g. monthly. VoterMedia calculates shares automatically each day. Past shares are shown on a "horserace" page e.g. for Burnaby. If you tell us how many dollars you will fund per day, we can show it on the ballot and build it into the horserace calculation. (For most community pages on votermedia.org there are no cash awards yet.)

FAQs: Why VoterMedia Works

Why should I care about VoterMedia? Why should I use the VoterMedia website? How should I use the VoterMedia website?
VoterMedia.org is designed to benefit you by improving accountability of elected leaders. But we need your help to make that happen. Please add relevant blogs and communities to our system by emailing editors[at]votermedia.org. Check out some websites/blogs that serve your communities, and vote on their funding. Encourage your communities to fund their top-ranked websites/blogs.
How does this website help achieve the goals of the VoterMedia project?
This website builds support, exposure and reputation of websites/blogs that many voters consider beneficial. They may also receive financial support, if the voter community decides to fund them. These different kinds of support encourage websites/blogs to help voter communities. We think an important type of community benefit they will provide is a check and balance on the power of elected leaders, increasing accountability and thus improving the leaders' policies, decisions and administration.
Wouldn't some media award contestants be biased, corrupted by bribery or other influence?
Yes, there are likely to be such biases, just as there are in our current news media. But voter funding will add a new incentive for media to build reputations for serving the public interest, so we can expect them to produce better information.
Why would voter-supported news media be any different from the news media we have now?
Voting is a community service. Information to help people vote better is a public good. So it is not surprising that commercial markets do not supply enough of this public good, especially in terms of its quality. Commercial markets supply goods with personal benefits that people will pay for individually. Many experts and other citizens agree that we need to improve our public-interest media (see for example freepress.net). The usual way to pay for public goods is with public funds. Normally public funds are controlled by politicians, but for political information that would be a conflict of interest, so voters should control that funding directly. The incentives that determine which media you pay for individually are different from the incentives for voting public funds. It makes sense to pay for your own entertainment, but when you are influencing the media going to all citizens, it is not in your interest to vote for entertainment for everyone, since most of that wouldn't benefit you. However, information that helps everyone vote more intelligently does benefit you. It is a public good that lacks the private benefit of entertainment. It is rational to be unwilling to pay as an individual for a public good, but to be willing to vote for everyone to pay for it. So the same citizens who buy People magazine at the checkout stand will vote public funds for serious investigative reporting.
How do we know whether VoterMedia will actually be beneficial?
So far we have four years of successful implementation at the University of British Columbia's student union. That community's assessments of the benefits of VoterMedia are increasingly positive -- see this video.

As we implement VoterMedia in more communities, we will continue to improve its design, and the evidence of its quality will become clearer. The arguments in the paper Global Voter Media Platform are plausible, but the only way to find out is to try it. If voter funding for media is beneficial, we can apply it throughout democratic politics as well as for shareowner voting in corporations. So the potential benefits are huge compared to the cost of trying it out.