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Author Topic: Best Idea Ever!
Adam Masterman
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Hey all, want to make a difference? Collectively, as a group here? In a completely non-partisan way? Here's my idea, expanded and clarified:

Part One
Start a website, maybe as a sister site to this one (do we need Card's permission? probably). Call it Ask the Candidates (or something). On the site, people can login and write questions for (probable) presidential candidates in 2008. There is a section for generic questions for all candidates, and a section for each potential candidate. People can also vote for questions, with a limit of x number of votes per day, and only one vote per particular question. New questions appear for a trial period to gather votes. Following that, all questions are listed by rank, most popular at the top, with the unpopular ones eliminated. Over time, it becomes a continually updated list of the questions site-users most want asked of the candidates. Our selfless and dedicated mod or mods periodically review the questions, throwing out obviously unserious or offensive questions, combining repeats or similar questions, and just maintaining the list in general.

Part Two
We'll put a big mission statement right on the front page. This site is about letting the PEOPLE decide what to ask their presidential candidates. Its nearly perfectly democratic (and, as the technology spreads, it will only become more so), anyone can participate to the extent of their interest. And though the process can accomodate any opinion, the method is perfectly neutral and free of partisan manipulation! It even eliminates the specter of bias on the part of media personel involved in official debates.

Next, we publicize the heck out of it. Link it in our blogs (hell, write about it in our blogs). Mention it on other message boards. Encourage all new members to do the same. As we all know, word of mouth can move like wildfire on the web. Our goal, which is an open secret, it to create an institution so large and legitimate that would could concievably propose that our questions be used in official debate. Failing that pie-in-the-sky goal, if the website is widely regarded as legitimate, candidates can and may unilaterally choose to answer the peoples questions, making them look more forthcoming than opponents. Imagine: candidates actually being accountable (in some way) to, *gasp*, the American public!

So, what do you think? Technology enables advances in mass democracy? Anyone here think this could work? And, the kicker, anyone interested in possibly working on this? Or making it an extension of this site? OrneryMod, what is possible?

Adam (breathlessly excited) [Smile]

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KnightEnder
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I think it is a great idea. Unfortunately, I can't think of any way of getting the candidates to actually "answer" the questions. They don't even answer, directly, the questions they are asked now.

KE

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JoshuaD
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quote:
Our selfless and dedicated mod or mods periodically review the questions, throwing out obviously unserious or offensive questions, combining repeats or similar questions, and just maintaining the list in general.
quote:
Its nearly perfectly democratic (and, as the technology spreads, it will only become more so), anyone can participate to the extent of their interest. And though the process can accomodate any opinion, the method is perfectly neutral and free of partisan manipulation!
Danger Will Robinson!
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canadian
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An addendum:

After the question is answered, it can be judged, debated, torn apart, and rated on it's level of percieved honesty and "forthrightness"...

How to get candidates to actually answer the questions?...???

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javelin
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Well, I'd be willing to help out. I'd guess that we can get the candidates to answer by: (a) asking them; (b) getting the national news media talking about the website. So, how do we do (b)? [Smile]
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Adam Masterman
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Joshua,
True, true, quis custodiet ipsos custodes and all that. Solutions?
Adam

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Adam Masterman
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Jav,
I guess by starting it, getting it going, spreading the word, and getting millions of hits a day.
Adam

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javelin
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Let me know how I can help.
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foliated
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I concur with canadian. One might post the candidates' replies on the website and then dissect them. Evasive answers could be marked as such, together with the reasons for marking it that way. If the site gets a reputation for doing this kind of thing fairly and accurately, marking a politician's answer as "not complete" or "evasive" might start to carry some weight.

A while ago, during the election season, I had an idea for a TV show that would dissect advertisements of various sorts, especially political adverts during election season.Look at the claims made, both explicit and implicit, and evaluate their accuracy. I wanted to call it "Adwatch". Perhaps something like that could be adapted to website form, too?

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JoshuaD
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quote:
Originally posted by Adam Masterman:
Joshua,
True, true, quis custodiet ipsos custodes and all that. Solutions?
Adam

Just trust the voting system. If people know there isn't someone weeding out "funny" questions, they'll probably be less inclined to vote for them.

You should also bring the site to a point. For example, the question that recieves the most votes in a {day, week, month, year} is the question of the {day, week, month, year}, and is prominently displayed on the front page of the website.

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canadian
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Imagine what this could do for the small money candidates who have no need to be evasive. What's this? The possibility of a real choice in American politics?
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javelin
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If the software tools for doing this aren't readily available, I'd be interested in helping develop them.
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Adam Masterman
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Jav,
That would be awesome. I was about to admit this, but I know nothing about web design, with a capital N. We seem to be developing a good consensus on how the site should work, its basically common sense anyway: popular questions float to the top, new questions get a chance to be seen and voted on, different sections for each candidate and generic questions, etc. If you know how to do these things, great.

The other problem is hosting. Are there advantages to a non-commercial host. I would imagine that it would be hard to make this legitimate if there were an ad for microsoft in the corner (right above the question about anti-trust laws [Big Grin] ). I wonder if Card would be interested. It would seem like an easy sell to him: an idea generated on his forum, to use the web to facilitate the average american's involvement in politics. HEY ORNERYMOD! If this idea were developed, could we pitch it to Card? To the rest of you, would we want to, or find some other host?

I'll be gone till monday, but I get back to work on this then.
Adam

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javelin
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I could host it for free until it ate all my bandwith, but I think we need to investigate existing tools, and see if we can get some sort of nonprofit, neutral sponsor. Arg.
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Paladine
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Superlative idea, Adam. [Wink]
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ben5
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Great idea, if this works it would bring the people back into American Politics.
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Everard
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I really like this idea.
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The Drake
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I like the idea, but in my version I ask all of the questions under various fictional personae, and support the answers with made-up polling data.

Dang, I forgot, the White House and CBS beat me to it.

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TomDavidson
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I'd be happy to host and design this thing for free, actually. But at some point, we'd have to start taking donations and/or selling CafePress crap to recoup bandwidth costs -- assuming it got as successful as you'd hope.
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cperry
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This is great, and I like Foliated's idea, too. It would be like Consumer Reports, only for advertising!
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Adam Masterman
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Tom and Jav,
Great! Maybe we should hammer out how this is going to work and get it up and running. How is it that you guys have your own bandwidth, by the way? I have no idea how that works.

I just drove for like two hours and came up with an added idea:

We have an online, informal affadavit (is that the right word?) that people can sign, saying (basically):

"I will not vote for any candidate, in any office or position, who refuses to answer the questions generated at this site."

With sufficient numbers attatched, we could then send that to candidates and say "look, here are x number of people who will not vote for you unless you answer these questions." That could really help generate momentum.

As for responses, I say put them up on the site immediately, and let people vote on whether they are fairly answered or artfully dodged. That way, the whole process is democratic and safe from partisanship.

For your second point Tom, I guess you are right, but if you guys are willing to get us started, we could cross that bridge when we get there. Any way you and Jav could combine bandwidth (I told you I was clueless about web hosting)?
Adam

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TomDavidson
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"How is it that you guys have your own bandwidth, by the way?"

Money. I am not poor. And bandwidth is not expensive.

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Zyne
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Great idea!

I especially like the part about floating up questions based on popular support.

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Slander Monkey
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How does this idea compare to the New Voters Project Presidential Youth Debate?

Aside from the more general audience of the proposed forum, how would it improve upon the approach of the New Voters Project, which generated a measly 7 comments on this thread. Slashdot discussion fared quite a bit better, though, so maybe it's all an issue of reaching the right audience, e.g. through getting the moderated questions into the formal televised debates.

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javelin
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I have bandwith because I own a (couple) of small technology businesses. And Slander Monkey - it's the audience and approach. I like that project, but it's not open to everyone, and it's geared for the "young".
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noah
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I don't have bandwidth, but I can help with software development if needed.
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Hurst
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Hello all. Been lurking and just had to register and reply. This is nearly exactly an idea that I've been toying around with for a couple years now. In talking with a number of people on it over that time, I've come up with a few caveats, benefits, and income streams. The major difference is that it's on a slightly larger scale, but much more profitable and easier to gain large exposure. Anyone interested?
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auron
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I love the idea, but I question whether any candidate will actually wish to put themselves in such a position. There's little gain -- they can state their positions on the issues anyway -- and a lot to lose -- their questions can be openly criticized, mocked, and if the website gains any decent sized audience, a failing answer could hurt them immensely.

I don't pretend to be any sort of expert in this arena, but from the view of a cynic, in order to achieve the greatest success you'll probably need:

-A ton of publicity, most importantly in national news and commentary outlets. Nothing would help so much as an open challenge from a Rush Limbaugh-type pundit, or consistent editorial pressure from a major newspaper.

-The appearance of impartiality. Moderators should be demostratably independent, or at least ideologically balanced; members should be encouraged to refrain from partisan attacks; on the message board, topics should be debated evenly, even if you have to fake views from one side. These measures show the site to be a serious, fair place of honest politcal exchange, and not a trap laid by proponents of one side.

-A huge audience, to generate the necessary publicity and to raise the perceived importance.

-Public endorsement from at least one major candidate.

-Participation of the front-runners from each party for the primaries, and of all major candidates in the general election.

-Even though this is a little redundant, I state it because of its importance: you have to sell the idea to the Republicans. Even though conservative views are substantially represented in the blogosphere and the web in general, there is still the perception of the internet (especially message boards) being the realm of the younger generation, who also happen to lean heavily democratic. The web site could easily be perceived as the democrats' home court.

-In order to demonstrate the site's fairness, seriousness and increase its stature, you may want to devote at least a part of it to balanced political news and commentary. In addition, the attempts to 'get the word out' in the blogosphere should come from ideologically balanced blogs. You may also try to secure the endorsement and support of a non-partisan group.


I hate to be the pessimist; like I said, I love the idea, and would really like to see it work. I just thought a few suggestions might help.

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velcro
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Cool idea!

I don't think we want to dissect or critique the answers though. The candidates will try to make the answers bulletproof, which means they will not have any content. Voting on the usefullness of the answer is good, though.

I think less is better. Rank the questions, and ask candidates to answer as many as they can. Once a question is answered, there can be follow-ups suggested, especially if the usefullness is low. It can be spun as an opportunity to get a better grade on the question.

Other content can be found in other places. Concentrate on what is unique.

I don't think we want to be "much more profitable". We want an unbiased site.

What about factcheck.org, or some similar organization for good politics as a sponsor?

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KnightEnder
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Adam,

Where are you on this idea? Are you going to wait until the next presidential election?

KE

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potemkyn
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Adam,

Question: Is the intention of this to benefit the average Joe Schmo voter or the more informed, interested, and intelligent voter?

At this point, I can't see how you'd get it to work to appeal to Joe Schmo.

If this is to work, you will need to appeal to people who have access to the internet and are interested in spending their free time online talking about politics. This seems like a rather small segment of the population. It also seems like a segment of the population that is most likely to already know about politics and are already searching for answers.

That might be a good thing.

I'm not sure what your goal is with this website, so that's why I'm asking.

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philnotfil
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quote:
Originally posted by foliated:

A while ago, during the election season, I had an idea for a TV show that would dissect advertisements of various sorts, especially political adverts during election season.Look at the claims made, both explicit and implicit, and evaluate their accuracy. I wanted to call it "Adwatch". Perhaps something like that could be adapted to website form, too?

Factcheck.org- good stuff.
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Adam Masterman
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Sorry guys, school has been sucking up all of my creative energy lately. Anyway, Both Tom and Jav voulnteered bandwidth and programming know-how. Are you guys ready to start? I wrote above about the features I thought the site should have, we seem to have reached some consensus. Personally, I would like to see the feature where the popular questions float to the top, and the optional affadavit where people can write that they will not vote for candidates who refuse to answer the questions. Beyond that my vote would be to keep it simple, maybe with links but no hosted opinion pieces. Tom and Jav and anyone else, if you are still interested say so here, and I will draft a mission statement and send it around via e-mail for revisions.
Adam

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javelin
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I'm still interested - not sure how much time I can devote to it - it'd be nice to get a team together, but if we can get a small scope document together to decide what the site should do upfront, I can get started on trying to build something that does what we need.
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KnightEnder
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I will support you guys in any peripheral way possible. I kind of have my hands full with OWW.

KE

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