[EM] Amateur peer-reviewed "journal" for voting methods, criteria, and compliances?

Jameson Quinn jameson.quinn at gmail.com
Sat Sep 29 15:05:30 PDT 2012

2012/9/29 Richard Fobes <ElectionMethods at votefair.org>

> On the surface I like Jameson's idea of creating a peer-reviewed
> election-methods publication.  I certainly understand his frustration with
> Wikipedia, and a peer-reviewed election-methods publication is one way to
> deal with the problem that Wikipedia has been -- in my opinion -- taken
> over by editors to the exclusion of subject-matter experts.
> Ironically part of the problem may be that the Wikimedia Foundation (which
> runs Wikipedia) uses the Condorcet-Schultze method to elect not just the
> most popular candidate, but to also elect what they mistakenly believe to
> be the "second-most popular" candidate, and successively-most popular
> candidates.  In other words, they fail to understand that using a
> single-winner method to get multiple-winner results is wildly unfair.  Of
> course they need something like VoteFair representation ranking or
> Schulze-STV.

While I agree with you that they're doing it wrong, I don't see how that
impacts the content I care about very much.

> Getting back to Jameson's idea, I presume it is motivated by the fact that
> claims about Majority Judgment do not yet have adequate coverage in
> academic journals to meet Wikipedia's verifiability requirements.

I am the one who has done easily half the work on the criteria compliance
wikipedia that Adrian mentioned. As such, I know that the citations
there are pretty weak by wikipedia standards. There's no chance of this
article getting back up to featured article status unless this improves by
a lot. And yet there simply aren't citations for a lot of the entries in
that table, even though I bet if you got the people here on EM to fill in a
blank version of that table, they'd agree with over 90% of it, and if you
then confronted them with their disagreements, they'd see where they were

And I don't see that situation changing any time soon unless I do something
about it. Criteria and compliances are not fashionable enough to be
published in existing journals; and even if they were, I don't think any
scholar wants to meet the publish-or-perish imperative by plagiarizing or
reinventing old proofs from EM.

Why do I think that an amateur journal would be worth it? Well, just
imagine we've just won a major victory. Method X, your favorite practical
method, has just been adopted by state/country Y. Now, that happened
through either referendum or regular legislation. Do you really think that
they're going to make that huge change based on some so-called "fact" that
doesn't even meet Wikipedia's sourcing standards? In this sense, I'm using
wikipedia not just as itself, but as a proxy for the set of people and
institutions who don't have time or expertise to evaluate claims based on
merit, and so use credentials as a proxy. And to be honest, Democracy
Chronicles as it stands is very borderline as a Reliable Source for
wikipedia or for anyone else in that set.

So is this about MJ? Not really. I mean, sure, I care more about the
systems I like the most — which for me includes Approval, SODA, PAL, MJ,
CMJ, ICT, and a fairly long etc. But I think this is something that's worth
working on, as a step to more effective activism, whichever system(s) you

> Yet I also like the idea of working with Adrian at Democracy Chronicles to
> provide an online resource about various voting methods.  Fortunately this
> is easy to do.
> So, I suggest that we submit articles to Adrian for publication in the
> Democracy Chronicles in which we describe, one at a time, specific voting
> methods.  So far only approval voting has been described there. A new
> article is about to come out that describes, in an innovative way, pairwise
> counting.  That still leaves lots of methods unexplained, including
> Majority Judgment.
> My belief is that if we focus on educating more people about voting
> methods, and especially the fact that they exist, then it will become
> difficult for Wikipedia editors to win conflicts against subject-matter
> experts.

It's not so much about winning fights. There's not too much I'd add to the
wikipedia voting systems article, even if I were freed from the restraints
of (kinda sorta adhering to) the reliable sources policy. It's more about
getting credibility. Say you're the Rhode Island Voter Choice Study
Commission. You're more likely to trust that article if it's a Featured
Article; and you're also more likely to trust the individual sources if
they're the kind of sources that would pass muster for a Featured Article.
And so, I believe, making this journal would be a step to improving the
chances that places like Rhode Island will take meaningful reform (instead
of just buying the spoon-fed propaganda they're assuredly getting from

> Also, as Adrian suggests, someone should write a short article that
> introduces the Wikipedia comparison table, which I call the "battleground
> among election-method experts."  In addition we can write articles about
> specific voting-method criteria.  I believe that so far only Michael's
> favorite criteria (FB?) has been covered.
> Personally I would enjoy reading an article that explains Majority
> Judgment to a general audience.  I find that it is relatively challenging
> to understand without pictures, so I suggest that pictures or diagrams be
> included.  This ties in with Adrian's desire to move Democracy Chronicles
> beyond just text.
> In other words, I suggest that instead of creating an entirely new
> publication or wiki or whatever, we can write articles that Adrian will be
> happy to publish at Democracy Chronicles.  And we can take Adrian up on his
> offer to collect them in a special section of the website.  This collection
> would provide an accessible alternative to Wikipedia voting articles.

Yeah, sure. I'm all for that, as well. But I just imagine myself as a Rhode
Island commissioner, reading an article on DC, then asking myself "how do I
know I can trust this person", then googling the byline, and saying "I
don't think I can". Whereas if that same article has citations to an
academic-sounding journal, I'd never even know that that journal was run by
amateurs and hosted on the same site I'm reading, it would just be a signal
of credibility to me. But we can't just fake it, because then someone in
the comment thread (perhaps someone from FairVote) would point out the fake
and we'd end up looking worse. Which is why I proposed (well, sketched) a
process that I wouldn't consider to be faking it.

> To increase traffic to those articles, we can add "reference" links to the
> related Wikipedia articles.  And Adrian now knows about the need to name
> links according to words entered into a search engine (rather than using
> the link name "here"), and that will increase their visibility in search
> engines.
> To put this approach in context, there was a recent newspaper article
> about a well-known person (I forget who) who was not allowed to edit a
> Wikipedia statement about the source of inspiration for something he
> himself came up with (I forget the details).  Out of frustration he
> submitted an article to a newspaper, which published an article about the
> controversy, along with the correct information.  At that point the
> Wikipedia statement was changed -- because the claim became citable using
> an in-line citation to that publication.  I think we may be able to use
> Democracy Chronicles articles in a similar way.

Yes, but none of us is Philip Roth, and DC isn't the New Yorker. But DC
plus peer review is one step closer to being the New Yorker. Well... not
really, but you know what I mean.

> For perspective, at the end of an in-person presentation by Wikipedia's
> designer ("jorm") I talked to him and explained my frustration about
> Wikipedia editors wanting verifiability in situations such as software and
> TV shows where the actions of the software itself and the recording of the
> TV show itself, and a software's documentation, should be proof of
> verifiability, but he did not seem to think this was an issue.  I also
> mentioned the unfair voting approach used to elect Wikimedia officials, but
> of course all he could do was nod his head about the general concept.
>  Later online I participated in Wikipedia discussions about verifiability
> requirements, with a focus on articles about the American Idol TV show
> where a recording of the show should be considered adequate verifiability,
> but the high-level Wikipedia editors in that discussion failed to
> understand, and insisted that in-line citations were needed.
> So, in summary, I suggest that we do not depend on Wikipedia as the only,
> or best, way to educate people about voting methods.  And I suggest that we
> do not waste time trying to create a new entity mostly for the purpose of
> working around the problem of Wikipedia editors crowding out subject-matter
> experts.

I hope I've explained myself better. Wikipedia in this case is for me a
useful synechdoche.

> I agree that Democracy Chronicles is not as well known as Wikipedia, yet I
> believe it better targets the people who care about unfair election results.
> And after someone has written an article about the difficult-to-understand
> topic of multiple-winner vote-counting methods, then we could even write an
> article that calls attention to the unfair voting approach that the
> Wikimedia Foundation uses, which allows a majority of editors to outvote
> even a large minority of subject-matter experts.

Again, I support this idea, but don't think it would achieve what I'm
looking to do.


> Richard Fobes
> ----
> Election-Methods mailing list - see http://electorama.com/em for list info
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