Tuesday, July 26, 2005



Grassroots Worm

So, we have an election. An election means leaders debates, and leaders debates means the triennial controversy over "the worm". TV channels love it as a nifty little gimmock which gives their talking heads something to discuss afterwards, while politicians hate it as allowing them to be "unfairly" judged by the public (which is what elections are all about). The argument will go round and round, but there'll be one group left out of it entirely: us. You know, the voters who actually get to decide this thing. We disagree as well, of course, but the fact remains that some voters like the worm. And there's no reason why they shouldn't be able to have one - without affecting those who don't want to have a bar of it.

All the worm is is a plot of the average of a hundred or so dials, which the audiance wiggles between "low" and "high" depending on whether they like what is being said. It would be trivial to replicate the user end of this with a Java applet which tracks the mouse position from a central point. The applet could send its data to a server, which could combine the various inputs and present it as a running chart. In other words, people could tune in to a website during the debates (or interviews, for that matter) and register their opinion (in a crude "approval / disapproval" sense) while seeing that of others. And in true net fashion, those who don't like the worm don't have to see it.

My Java skills are somewhat limited, and I lack the server or resources to do this properly. I'm not even sure if I like the worm myself. But if someone else does, or simply enjoys making politicians uncomfortable, then feel free to take this idea and run with it.

3 comments:

I can see every party lining up all their members on computers to go strongly positive when their candiate is speaking and strongly negative when anyone else speaks. You would need a system to stop party hacks from participating if it is to be fair.

Posted by Phantasmagoric Political Junkie : 7/26/2005 10:05:00 AM

Great idea. Needs some work on anti-stacking measures.

Posted by t selwyn : 7/26/2005 11:32:00 AM

My objection to the worm on telly is that it reflects a self-selected audience of people willing to go on a TV show (in whatever city they hold the show in). Like any self-selected audience, they are going to be highly unrepresentative of the population as a whole.

This amounts to biased coverage - like phone and text polls, it asserts that the nation feels one way, when the actual balance of opinion might be very different.

And I don't think, in a nation where most people only get two channels with current affairs coverage, that TV *should* be biased.

Blogs of course are another matter - I don't believe anyone reads a political blog who hasn't already decided who to vote for. (I suppose some people might be wavering on Lab/Green/Alliance or Nat/ACT and I'm yet to find an NZ Firster who could work a computer).

Posted by Rich : 7/26/2005 01:03:00 PM