Fixing ordering bias of U.S. presidential election candidates on Wikipedia

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

Today, upon getting home from work, one of the first things I did was check the Main Page of the English Wikipedia. It always has interesting content on there, and today was no exception. For the first time ever, two articles were featured on the front page: those of John McCain and Barack Obama. Except there was one little niggling problem: John McCain was listed first. Granted, his last name does come first alphabetically … but still. This is the Internet. We don’t have the limitations of printed paper ballots; there’s no reason the candidates have to be displayed in a static order. And I happen to be an administrator on the English Wikipedia, so I can edit any page on the site, including the main page and the site-wide JavaScript. So I fixed the ordering, presumably much to the delight of all of the people who had been complaining about bias on the talk page.

I took some JavaScript that was previously used in the Wikimedia Foundation Board elections, where ordering of the several dozen candidates had proved to be a huge bias in previous elections, and added it to the English Wikipedia. Then I modified the main page slightly to use the JavaScript and, boom, the candidates now appear in a random order upon each page load. I figure if this solution was good enough for WMF Board elections then it ought to be good enough for the United States presidential election, right?

So if you go to the main page of Wikipedia now, you should see either Barack Obama or John McCain on top, with a 50% probability of each (if you’re not seeing this behavior, flush your browser’s cache). Considering how many people view Wikipedia each day, I like to think this will make some kind of difference.

Obama opens up 15 point lead over McCain

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

Hell yeah! Obama has opened up a 15 point lead over McCain. And hopefully, the lead will only grow larger over time. After eight disastrous years under George W. Bush, and now one candidate who represents a continuation of those policies versus one who does not, it’s pretty obvious what the American people prefer. We don’t want war against Iraq, we don’t want war against Iran, we don’t want continued violation of our civil liberties — we want change. Change that John McCain couldn’t possibly deliver.

Barack Obama, our Democratic nominee!

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

Whew, it’s finally official*. Even though it’s long been inevitable, it’s a relief to know that Barack Obama has finally secured the number of delegates necessary to clinch the Democratic nomination. I haven’t really made it a secret that I support Barack Obama, though I haven’t particularly talked about it on here often because political analysis isn’t exactly my thing. For political analysis, I would refer you to DailyKos.

So how am I feeling right now? Ecstatic! It’s time to take down John McCain now! On nearly every issue, he’s wrong when Obama is right. It’s a no-brainer to me, and to most of my peers as well. Of course, others will differ, and that’s their right, but I’m hoping there are more people who agree with me than agree with McCain, and so far that’s looking about right.

I also wouldn’t want to miss this opportunity to talk about how historical Barack Obama’s nomination is. No other western nation has ever had a minority as a nominee of a major political party for the top position (be it president, premier, prime minister, whatever). It’s historical. Many have beaten us in having women leaders, but we’ve beaten them to this. Only in America. It’s one of the few things that’s happened in the past eight years that makes me say I’m genuinely proud of my country.

*Technically it’s not finally official until the Democratic National Convention, of course.

Tracking candidate popularity by MySpace friend numbers

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

techPresident is having some fun with non-scientific methodologies: they’re comparing 2008 presidential candidates using the metric of how many friends their profiles have on MySpace. Here are the numbers:

Obama 52039
Clinton 25823
Edwards 12346
Kucinich 2565
Vilsack 1333
Richardson 658
Biden 583
Dodd 211
Paul 3061
Romney 1760
Tancredo 1085
Giuliani 817
Huckabee 490
Brownback 184
McCain 66

Notice how many more friends the Democratic candidates have versus the Republican candidates. It’s not even remotely close. The possible reasons include:

  1. Young people are generally more liberal/progressive than old farts and they get involved in social networking a lot more.
  2. Bush makes it embarrassing to be MySpace friends with any Republican.
  3. Republicans don’t know how to use computers.

I’m placing my bets on 1., but 2. might have something to do with it and 3. wouldn’t surprise me.