So we should be updating the live site in a week and then again in a month. We are going to cover the Lehigh Valley, and Philadelphia and then New York City. At this moment, we are writing the five minute quiz for votersa dn politicians to take. What questions do you think we should ask?
VoteWise is a cross between OkCupid, Wikipedia, Facebook and Reddit but entirely dedicated to politics. If successful, it can change the face of democracy, and you can help build it.
VoteWise.net is a non-profit non-partisan website aimed at connecting voters and politicians without advertising dollars getting in the way. Right now, politicians have no way of reaching voters without advertising. This means that politicians have to waste a lot of time begging for money instead of doing what they want to do — help the community. This often forces politicians to listen more closely to the people who give them money than they do to the voters. Likewise, with local newspapers failing and space limited, voters have no way to find out what local politicians really want to do- especially for the smaller offices like school board.
VoteWise.net aims to change this by giving politicians a way to get their voice out without any financial backers while voters get to see what their politicians truly think in clear black and white terms. VoteWise.net will help make elections about ideas and not dollars - and the communication doesn’t end there. Voters can continue to express how they want their employees (their politicians) to vote on every subject. Politicians get free polling data so they know what you want in great detail. It’s all absolutely free.
Votewise.net has three sections:
- A Q and A section where you and the politicians can clearly see how each other thinks. After answering questions, you can also get an OKCupid style match-up.
- An informational section that has essays explaining the basics of the various issues by showing the logic of the extremes. It also has essays from different interest groups explaining their stance. There is also a politician-to-voter dictionary and links to other useful sites.
- A user forum where users can discuss the issues locally or across the nation. The user forum can also be used for local politicians to keep an open dialogue with their constituents and for politicians to debate each other.
How can you help?
We are currently trying to decide priorities for this year. Do we focus on local elections in a few larger cities or do we focus on 2020? Doing local elections requires a different set of tools than federal ones and different research/networking. we can get information on national candidates eaily, but there are over 10,000 local election boards, and we just don't have enough time to contact them all. So we can spend a lot of time trying to build tools and relationships with other organizations that can do the footwork for us, or we can pick a few cities, or we can focus on 2020.
Because a lot of people vote along party lines, Votewise.net is most useful for primaries - which unfortunately cuts down our lead time.
You can check out the our progress at our test site http://22.214.171.124:6080 or you can see the live tools at VoteWise.net
Right now, it works as a pretty decent voters guide.
- There is a 5 minute questionnaire you can take to get matched up with your politicians (this is 21 questions for this election)
- There is a Ballot Match questionnaire where you can answer every single question that politicians in your area answered (this is over 60 depending on your area)
- You can take quizzes on just about every topic imaginable - Unlike the match questions, we wrote these to make you think while you are being polled . You learn about the issue from all sides of an argument so you can start thinking about middle ground while we match you up with organizations, politicians, and other users who can help you make a difference in your community.
- You can see how organizations rated politicians. -You can see links to the organizations to learn more about them.
- You can see the voting records of national incumbents
- You can see who paid for the campaigns of National Incumbents. -You can see what committees the national incumbents have been on.
- you can see the websites of the politicians -you can contact your elected officials year round. -you can contact the candidates.
- you can see videos and essays from organizations so you can learn about the topics. -You can discuss the issues with other users in your city, your county, your state or across the nation. -You can see news feeds from national and international sources.
So what's the next step? Well, the goal of VoteWise is to get people to think about solving problems instead of treating elections as a football game to be won or lost. We realize that the competition aspects of elections is what gets people pumped and that's why we focused on the election tools first. But we'd like to start getting more into our actual goal of problem solving.
Tools we hope to build soon:
- A way to track legislation and be notified when something you care about is coming up for a vote.
- More integration of state and local info
- Better integration of organizations into the mix (501 c3' and c4's)
- Better integration of news feeds so users could see a variety of news feeds from their specific locality rather than a selection of 50 or so from a drop down) This feed would ultimately be a national source, a local source and a randomized source so that they get the information they want, but they are also constantly fed some other source to get them out of their bubble.
- A tool separate from our regular discussion tool that is especially aimed at creating solutions to problems. Think of it as a hack event with no timeline and the goal is actually solving the problem rather than getting an award. (Someone proposes a problem or a solution to a problem. People discuss the solution in committee and fine tune it. It gets presented to larger community and suggestions are made. It goes back to committee, reworked and proposed again. This happens until a significant number of people think it is a workable solution and then we get interested organizations/politicians involved and track it's progress. Perhaps we create a tool that collects the skills of volunteers, so that when a coder, a doctor, a mechanic, or whatever is needed, we can find them. TO track progress after proposal we could include links to Git or back here for coding things, GoFundMe or similar for funding, or whatever. I would love to hear your ideas.
Oh and before I forget, here are some ads we made:
https://vimeo.com/298708834 (30 second get out the vote ad)
https://vimeo.com/295984284 (45 second funny get out the vote ad)
https://vimeo.com/294472087 (1 minute serious ad about how money affects politics)
https://vimeo.com/295179318 (2 minute ad amusing as about how VoteWise helps democracy work better)
Feel free to share.
We are doing a LaunchPad2018 project where we automate a nightly scrape of jSON legislation files from the Library of Congress and ingest it into our database so that we can inform users of upcoming legislation. Users would make a list of keywords, and they would receive posts on their home page as well as text and email alerts if they so chose. We would eventually want to build on this by having legislation become endorsable by organizations and have a user forum associated with each piece of legislation so people could discuss the pro's and con's. And of course, they can always use the other VoteWise tools to contact their politicians to express their views.
Of course, if someone has a better idea to achieve similar results, we are very open to that.
On Saturday, Braden visited the team and shared some of his wisdom about scraping but was unfamiliar with Mongo (our database) so he was unable to do any coding. Hopefully, he will take another stab at it or we will be able to find someone else to help us.
Liz Brown and Christine Martino also gave us very useful feedback about the rework of our new user interface.
After a presentation at philly barcamp, it became apparent that one of our big hurdles was the look of the site and user interface. So we are reworking it to be more professional, more appealing, and more user friendly. On top of that, we are adding functionality to see the voting records of federal politicians and who funds their campaigns. You can see our work in progress at http://126.96.36.199:6080 and you can see the current live site at votewise.net
Do you have widgets that work? On votewise.net, we are making a space where people can make use of the local widgets based on where they live. So, if you have any widgets that work with no bugs that we can embed, we'd love to see them. API's are a bit tougher for us to install, but if they are awesome and maybe you could help us install them, then fantastic. We would be particularly interested in APIs that enhance our database rather than living alongside it.
So what are we looking for?
The goal of VoteWise.net is to connect voters, politicians, and organizations without advertising dollars getting in the way so that they can work together towards solving all the problems we face. We are looking for widgets that improve the lives of people without a financial benefit. So a widget that tracks crime, yes. A widget that reviews restaurants, no.
Local widgets can be categorized by any combination of the following topics: Civil Liberties, Crime and Punishment, Education, Energy, Environment, Gun Control, Health & Safety, Immigration, Infrastructure, International Relations, jobs/economy, quality of life, reproduction, social services, and taxes. So, if for example, you have created a widget where people can find the safest bike route around South Philly, we would list it in infrastructure, quality of life, and health and safety for the area of Philadelphia, PA and users could easily access it.
And of course, if you see anything that we can improve in any part of the site, let us know.
But it can always work better:) Check out VoteWise.net. Use it to make a better world, and let me know how we can make it better.
It's alive. It's ALIVE! IT'S ALIVE!!!!! Check it out at votewise.net There are still a few bugs to knock out, but I'll be populating it with politicians and advertising it in about a week and a half.
If you want to help build more tools for it to make it even more awesome, drop me a line. There are tons of cool features yet to come.
We have a lot of cool stuff up already at Votewise.net. If you go there, you can see a video of how the question section will work, and you can explore some of the look of the site. Unfortunately, our back end and front end are not yet connected, but we hope to connect the question section within the next couple weeks.
For a debate portion of the site, we really need some specialized tools. I would greatly appreciate if people could check this out and tell me if you have seen anything like it so I even know if it's possible. http://silentmonkeys.com/Debate_forum.docx
Thanks for an awesome year, everyone!!!!
Next year, we repair democracy!!!!
This week, we found a lead that may end up in getting us voter and politician districts, which we can integrate into our site so that voters can type in their address and get linked to politicians in their voting area, which is SWEEET!
We also got a new user to help us change our Discourse to fit our needs.
The Code for America brigade Code for Philly is tinkering with a new voting app called VoteWise. The app is in an early prototyping phase at present, but has ambitiously set its sights on the Herculean issue of campaign finance reform.
We still need connections to Google's Civic API or other Open Civic Data stuff, but we are doing and end run around that and going straight with data from the board of elections - I think. We are getting sooooooo close to our alpha launch. A lot of great work done so far. A lot of great work yet to be done. Come be a part of the fun.
A lot of cool stuff. We are well on the way to making an alpha launch of the question section in Philadelphia and allentown, PA on October 1st. We could really make use of anyone who can help integrate Google's Civic API or who knows anything about Open Civid Data ID's. We can also use help on the next stages of development - the learn about section and the user forum.
We just applied for a grant which would be awesome if we won.
To help with explaining the question part of the website to potential donors, we made a video: http://youtu.be/3MzvXG56Bsw
This weeks we had some ups and downs, but ended up awesome. We are really undermanned in our back end and we lost someone to a previous commitment. So we really need people who know PHP. If you know Laravel (a PHP framework) that would be particularly awesome. On the up side, we have met a couple people at Code For Philly who can help out in various ways. Gabrielle, an artist is helping redesign a particularly troublesome front end display. (Really thick in data and kind of scary looking.) Nathan and Henry are back end developers who are going to try to learn PHP in time to help.
Also, Microsoft swung by and they are going to give us free web hosting.. which is AMAZING.
Part of our site will be a user forum and we need advice from those of you with experience. We need suggestions on which platform to use or if things have to be built from scratch or what. The more plug-n-play, the better. And if we can't do something that does everything we want, then we should go with something that would allow us to upgrade to what we want later on without losing all the posts and upsetting our users.
We won't have money to pay people to moderate, so it will be mostly user run. The point of the forum on our site would be to allow voter and politicians to debate issues amongst themselves locally, in their county, their state or across the nation. We want three traffic lanes for this: "Official Debate", "Possible Solutions" and "Free Debate". The "Official Debate" section would be a place where politicians could debate each other. More on that later. In the "Possible Solutions" lane, there would be drachonian rules on what you could and couldn't post. It would be mostly well thought out suggestions and tweaks. In "Free Debate", there would be just a lot of tossing around of ideas and a lot of the same old stuff you see in user forums.
We want to show the users debates in chronological order so posts make sense, but also have the ability to easily search popular posts or filter by whatever search criteria the user wants.
Users should be able to flag for: -Spam -Abusive language -Useful information/Good ideas -Entertaining
Users should be able to search by those criteria plus keywords, and users.
We should have some way where spam gets removed without us having to pay moderators.
There should be a way to automatically filter out/flag curse words and to remove duplicated posts (as possible spam).
Threads should be able to be linked to our Questions.
So, back to the the "Official Debate" section… we would want three windows - the main window would be where we see the Politicians talking to each other. In another window, we would see the Press asking questions. If a politician clicks to answer a question, then it becomes a part of the main window. Voters can up and down vote questions in the Press window. The third window would be for people to leave comments about the debate. It would also be awesome if the Politicians could set up a "Town Hall" function where for that debate only, the Voters were treated as press and could ask questions. There should be a "next" function, so users could go to the next comment/question/answer without having to scroll because one tactic that people will probably use is to leave numerous super long answers to make it almost impossible to find the other person's answers (and some people just tend to ramble).
Sooooo….. all that said…. Any ideas?
We have the project up on GitHub. You can check out at https://github.com/spencersnygg/VoteWise The Angular branch is the most up to date.
Our database is up, but not integrated with our front end yet…. but SOON.
Requests for advice: 1- Does anyone have any favorite user-forum plug-ins we can drop into our site? We want voters and politicians to be able to talk to each other locally, county wide, state wide, or across the nation.
2- We started our back-end using Phalcon as a PHP framework, because it compiles to C++, so it runs super fast. Unfortunately, we are having problems finding people who know Phalcon, so it's hard for volunteers to jump in and contribute on back-end stuff. We would love to hear people's opinions on back-end frameworks that are best for groups of various skills and time commitment abilities.
3- We are looking at integrating the Google Civic Information API. Anyone have experience with API integration? The API is at https://developers.google.com/civic-information/
email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
We just had some major progress at the Lehigh Valley Hackathon. We took over a thousand questions and translated them from word into xl and txt, ready to be inserted into sql. We also took a bunch of mock-up pages and got them to the point of almost functionality. With a bit more work, the databases will be filled and those pages will be functional.
We are trying to make a strong push to get something launchable finished in the next week or so. We want to do a test run of the very basic functions for the municipal primaries in Allentown in May, then expand to the municipal elections state wide for November and then go nationwide fully functional for the spring primaries.
You can take a look at some of the latest mock-ups at http://msalas74.github.io/VW-Login-Mockup/app/index.html#
We are hoping that we can get a lot done this coming weekend at the hackathon. If anyone wants to contribute remotely or in person, this weekend, or at any time, it would be greatly appreciated.
Dear Awesome people,
I don't know why there was an issue with Google Hang Outs last time we had a meeting. Perhaps if any of you have any ideas, we could prevent it from happening again. When I tried logging on, it said the "party has ended" and that hang out link would not work anymore. So I had to create another link and email it to you all. I think we may have lost a few of you in the shuffle. I will be logging on early and emailing you all if there are any problems, so if you have problems logging on, just check your email for the new link.
The current link is: https://plus.google.com/hangouts/_/gt47benngr7q3hcp3cpory4yiaa
Here's the latest update: We recently added two additional people to help write questions. One is a specialist on environment/business issues and another is from Camaroon, Africa.
Garret is trying to put together a user verification through email to text messaging, and Ryan is looking into physical infrastructure, cloud structure, security and efficiency for building the site.
It had been awhile since we took a look at the databases, so Sharon and I got together to refresh our memories on what each of the fields was designed for in each of the tables. I will be uploading descriptions soon.
For leaving notes for each other between meetings, we have Hipchat: https://votewise.hipchat.com/invite/271846/8940384cac7a9371e
Our next meeting is This Saturday, Feb 21st, 12noon Eastern Time. If you have any updates on what you have done, or what you haven't done, I would love to hear from you.
Thanks to everyone for their awesome work so far.
We just had a meeting on Saturday. Many were out sick, but we still had some good accomplishments. New to VoteWise is a quality assurance specialist with a lot of experience with the Committee of Seventy (a group dedicated to combating corruption in Philadelphia elections since 1907). She wants to get on board with focus group testing as soon as possible so we can find errors before they snowball out of control.
Matias produced a couple tests for one of our question types - dragging and dropping items into preferred order.
Our next meeting will be at https://plus.google.com/hangouts/_/gt47benngr7q3hcp3cpory4yiaa at noon on Saturday, Feb 7th
We had a great meeting on Jan 10th where we invited in a number of new members and started working out some of the details of how we can make sure that the poles we create are accurate without making the site feel uninviting for new users. We also talked about how to better design a mostly user run forum in such a way as to let the small voice not get buried by popular up and down votes, while at the same time reducing non-relevant, repetitive or abusive comments, and eliminating spam.
For our next meeting, January 24th at noon (east coast time), we will be checking to see what progress has been made in making a working mock-up, seeing what the rest of the crew has done, and assessing what the current team is capable of in a reasonable amount of time. From there we will make a more realistic goal of what we can release when. We would like to test launch in Allentown,PA so that we can correct any major mistakes before we open it up to Philly, the whole state or go nationwide. We want to fail small instead of failing big, because you only have one chance to make a first impression.
If you haven't been to a meeting before, or if it's been awhile, I would encourage you to come to the meeting beforehand, so I can give you the 5 cent tour and an update on where we are. I will log on at 11am.
To attend, the google hang out is at https://plus.google.com/hangouts/_/gt47benngr7q3hcp3cpory4yiaa
We are having a meeting on January 10th. Anyone interested in coming, let me know. You can come in person or online.