FOUNDING STORY: We want to hear about your “Aha!” moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution’s potential to change the world.
This project is the direct result of my doctoral dissertation, which largely concerned the controversy surrounding the privatization of the Internet’s domain name system in the mid and late 1990s. Those events included the world’s first global election using Instant Runoff Voting, electing five members to the Board of Directors for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.
During my research and writing, I had a front row seat to the breakdown of the famed collegial culture of the Internet engineering community. It was not unlike the move toward radical and paralyzing polarization that can be seen in the United States today. I wondered if there was anything I could do to solve the problem, combining my professional skills as a database programmer and my deep background in political science. How might it be possible to structure dialogues that bring together people of diverse views? The Indaba Application Network and the online collaborative venue project I have described here is the result.
Along the way I learned that Thomas Edison’s first patent was for an electric voting machine. It was a flop. I am honored to be working in such an esteemed tradition.
Specify both the depth and scale of your solution’s social impact to date
There are generally two kinds of reactions. One is, “What a great idea! Good luck!” The other, more common, is, “How are you going to make any money doing that?
An early iteration of this project, Choiceranker.com, was used to conduct frequent straw polls during the 2007-2008 presidential primary season. The information collected at that time was as good as catnip for political wonks, providing nuanced insights into the preferences of participating voters.
The first paying client for this system was a new Major League Lacrosse team based in North Carolina. Over 1100 fans ranked their choices for team’s new team name at a Facebook iteration of this project called WeVote.
The long-term benefit of this project depends on network effects. The greater the number of people using it, the more value it can provide.
It may be noteworthy that observers of the ongoing SF mayoral race, which will use ranked choice voting, have said that the candidates have been acting relatively civil toward each other, apparently in the hope of not alienating voters who might be willing to cast 2nd and 3rd place votes for someone who compliments rather than insults their 1st choice candidate.
What is your projected impact within the next 1-5 years? Is your idea replicable? If so, how?
There will be two ways to measure success. Will use of these tools, engineered to support multi-candidate voting events, help overcome the tendency toward demonization of opposites in a political process? At the same, time, will the quality of online discourse benefit, encouraging people to offer informed thoughtful ideas to their peers, secure in the knowledge that their submissions won’t be ignored in a noisy swarm?
The idea is replicable, but it would take considerable commitment to reach the standard of fairness and the drawing together of diversity embedded in Indaba's design.
Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and mark growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact
Break the 5,000 vote barrier in a straw poll that parallels a real world vote... either the GOP 2012 race or SF Mayor 2011
Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone
Iterate into foreign language sites (Spansh, Arabic, Russian) using the same underlying data structure and functionality