Daily Thoughts 68: Representing Data, Filters, and iCitizen

Author's selfie I never run out of things to do. It’s the opposite. I end up with more ideas than I have time to tackle. This morning, during my walk, I started thinking about creating a site dedicated to information about elected officials in my districts. Representatives at all levels, local, county, state, and federal. Not only information about them, but interviews, ongoing updates that focus on the issues that they support. A site that makes those connections, hopefully in an interesting way. Of course such an effort would take lots of time, support, and resources. A lot of the information is there, but not in ways that people can readily use without work, and not presented in ways that people can quickly absorb. It’s an interesting problem. I might tackle it at some point. In the meantime I’ll play with some concepts, test it out, and see if I have any ideas about how to make it feasible.

The Problem With Filters

This idea about political data highlights a problem people have with filters. A common filter in politics is theĀ party label. It’s used to quickly narrow down the list of people you’ll support. It divides the pool of potentials candidates for you. Many people talk about being more concerned about policies and issues than party, yet when it comes down to it that’s a difficult path to follow given how much the party system influences politics.

Not to get into a whole discussion about the party system in American politics (there are a number of books, articles, etc., to cover that discussion), or whether or not the party system is useful. People don’t necessarily agree with the party 100% of the time.

Gauge showing agreement with party

What if you had a personalized tool that showed you key metrics on how closely you agree with candidates at any level? Maybe you identify key issues that you care about and the tools shows how candidates compare to your view.

The tool could provide regular news and updates. For example, it shows that the outcome of local city council member votes on building a traffic circle and you can weigh in with your view. As the tool gathers and analyzes the data, it shows you an easily understood view of where candidates are, what issues are important to you at any level, and related news.

In providing rich civic data, the tool helps with making more informed decisions. It could also give you opportunities to increase your match with particular candidates or office holders. Maybe you agree with someone on several issues, but there is a greater degree of separation on another issue. The tool might offer options to communicate with that person, sending e-mails, or providing an address or phone number.

iCitizen

Of course I realize that ideas are rarely unique. A quick search for something like what I’m describing turned up iCitizen.

I hadn’t heard about iCitizen before starting this post. It takes a bit of a different approach, including polling users and providing data about results to elected officials. I’m going to check it out and see if it’s the sort of tool that might be useful. It may do things differently than I first imagined. It might be better.

Author: Ryan M. Williams

Writer and artist, Ryan M. Williams, author of more than twenty novels, writes across a range of genres including fantasy, science fiction, romance, paranormal, and mystery. He holds a Master of Arts from Seton Hill University in writing popular fiction. His short fiction has appeared in anthologies from Pocket Books, WMG Publishing, and in On Spec Magazine. He currently attends San Jose State University, pursuing a Master of Information and Library Science degree.

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