November 27th, 2006


A vote against...

This was going to be a comment in response to The right to vote... or Democracy R Us by kits_the_dm, but I thought I'd make a post of it.

Dom argues that the ballot needs some sort of "none of the above" option for voters who do not wish to vote for any of the candidates. Also pushing people's civic duty to vote, he writes: It is ridiculous that the only thing compulsory is getting your name marked off a roll.

No it's not. It's not practical to insist that every voter consider the available parties and policies and make an informed choice. By marking off names, Australia reduces the possible error rate of one party's supporters being more apathetic about voting than another party's; but wanting to force more than attendence is just being idealistic rather than realistic.

What, practically, would a none/abstain box achieve? Let's see:
  • Stats for the next day's newspaper headlines.
  • An extremely low possibility that a majority rejects all candidates, resulting in a repeat election for much the same parties and policies.
  • Confusion or lack of representation for voters who are against all candidates, but want to express their least preferred options.
    • Confusion: "I don't like any of them, but I particularly hate Party X - do I tick 'none' or do I number the boxes to put Party X last?"
    • Lack of representation: people ticking 'none' because it's an option, when they otherwise would have voted against particular candidates.
Perhaps an alternative is for the existing ballot papers to be modified such that voters can specify whether they are voting for or against a candidate. However, this adds complexity, which in turn increases election costs whilst decreasing accuracy of the vote. All for a small benefit: parties knowing how many people like them and how many dislike them the least.

One more comment on elections: be grateful we still have paper ballots. Not a week goes by without more damning evidence about the problems with electronic voting machines in other countries. I'm happy to both turn up and vote, but that may change if we get EVMs (unless they are ballot machines with voter-verifiable paper trails, independently scruitinised code and very rigid election procedures). I wonder how much trouble you get in if you don't pay the $50 fine for not turning up to vote.

Difference between LJ & Vox?

LiveJournal: You can let anyone comment on your posts. If you don't want to allow anonymous comments, your friends can still sign in using OpenID, so they don't have to create an LJ account. And you can add them as Friends so they'll see your Friends Only posts.

Vox (the new service from the same company): Not so much.

It seems to me that Six Apart, who accepted a lot of funding for making Vox, have made it inferior... deliberately.

It may very well be better than MySpace, but it's clearly designed to compete by being yet another user lock-in service. A shame, but it's to be expected really. And to be fair, nearly everyone does it. Flickr is no better. (Flickr competitor Zooomr allows OpenID login.) Although technically you could use the Flickr API to get your data if you want to break free. Just as Flickr, MySpace, YouTube and others are doing, Vox is trying to be an appealing service that no one wants to leave... but failing that, will settle for being a service that is difficult to leave.