Taking the Money Out of Politics

In the Citizen Media Progress Report, Dan Gillmor talks about "Citizen Media", and he mentions ongoing experiments in that area. As it happens, I have a concept that could be highly synergistic with those efforts.

It took many years, but I finally figured out a way to take money out of the election process. In essence, the idea is to use RSS feeds, XML structures, and filtering aggregators to achieve two goals:

  1. Let people get voting advice from people they trust
    (all the advice they need, all in one place, conveniently)
  2. Let advisors make recommendations without fear of spamming anyone
    (the filters make sure that people only get recommendations they care about)

I wrote up the idea here: http://www.citizensAdvisory.org
The design paper is here: http://citizensadvisory.org/design/index.html

The weakness of such a system is that's only useful at election time. But if that system were part of a regular news-feed aggregrator, it could empower today's "citizen journalists" with serious election-time influence.

One way the two ideas could work together would be configurable filters. The voting-advice filter would be pretty much determined by the person's location (unless they wanted to expand it to cover other areas of interest). But it would be cool to add filters for other feeds based on tags or text. There would be both global filters and feed-specific filters, exclude-filters and include-filters. The filters would help to minimize traffic and make sure you only see stuff you really care about.

Such filters would go a long way towards solving the "blizzard" problem. After all, just because you care about some things I have to say doesn't mean you care about everything I have to say. By the time you've subscribed to 10 blogs, you begin to encounter a veritable snowstorm of posts--most of which are a total "don't care". Of course, this blog has categories. That helps quite a bit. But not all blogs have them. And even categories don't provide a total solution.

A better solution is provided by the "neural net" approach that spam filters use to "learn" what is spam and what isn't. In this case, the neural net could learn what you're interested in and what you don't care about, both in general and with respect to specific blogs.

It would be a fun system to build. And it would have pronounced effects on the way our society operates.

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