Greedy Goblin

Monday, May 13, 2013

Keep it simple stupid! (or the CSM election fail)

There was a massive failure of having significantly less voters this year than the previous: 49702 vs 59109, breaking a long positive trend. While CSM7 wasn't something spectacular, it couldn't cause the loss of voters, it could only cause the loss of votes for the CSM7 members re-running. If I find the president horrible, it's more likely to show up for voting next time.

I saw two reasons for failure: one is the over-complicated voting process. The other is the PR of nullsec blocks which tried to make everyone turn away from voting to increase their power. Ironically they decreased their own voters, probably because a "highsec carebear" finds more fun in figuring out a complicated voting process than a "let's shoot stuff" guy. The null blocks meta-gamed since ever, so even the second cause is CCP fault: creating a system that could be communicated as over-complicated, obscure, simply because it was.

Now, before someone would comment: STV is better than first-pass-the-pole voting. It represents the wishes of the voters better and decreases the losses via votes on losers and overvotes. The PR they finally made up "42299 votes affected CSM8 while only 31801 affected CSM7" is true.

However STV needs serious, committed voters who fill up the ballot with well-thought candidates, and this was something they could surely not expect, considering the low voting tendencies. Even CSM7 votes were 15-25% of the total vote-able accounts. CCP tried to save partial votes when large majority of the votes were lost by never being cast. The same effort to publicize CSM, to give CSM in-game tools to communicate with people, to run opinion surveys, to send the CSM "tickets", questions and town-hall-ish requests would have caused much more votes, therefore much wider support.

But still, there is no reason to not optimize the voting system. However their own results shown that most exhausted voting happened on 1-3 long ballots, while almost 40% of the ballots had this short length. It is obvious (and was obvious) that serious amount of people don't have a long priority list. He might like one or two candidates but not more. Interestingly, the 1-long ballot-"winner" was Greene Lee, who did not get on the CSM8.

CCP should have kept it simple. "Simple" is not the opposite of "optimized", as we can have both. Most IT systems offer "simple" and "expert" modes. Even the sell and buy windows of EVE market have it. The CSM election screen should have been a simple mode one, having only one slot and the candidates alphabetically, allowing the casual voters to cast one vote. Besides the "cast vote" button, should have been the "expert mode" button that leads to the current STV screen.

Of course this would have created lot of 1-long ballots, and those had 52% exhaustion value. However such vote still has 48% power, compared to the zero of the uncast vote. Finally "simple mode" wouldn't have to create 1-long ballots. There are two ways to increase the power of simple votes. One is simple ballot copy: if I simple-vote for Mynnna, I express that I trust Mynnna alone. This case it's rightful to create a 14-long ballot for me: the exact copy of the ballot Mynnna casted. Remember, I gave all my trust to Mynnna with my simple-vote. If I'm not happy with that, I can custom-vote. This system would also save lot of time clicking for bloc-voters: "just simple-vote for X guys!". The other method is not processing 1-long ballots as ballots, but directly subtract their number from the quota of the candidate, allowing the longer ballots to exhaust less. This case a simple-vote is 100% used, unless a candidate is elected alone with simple-votes or not elected at all.

Having optimized systems is good. But having simple front-end when you deal with simple people is more important. I hope CSM9 elections will be better organized.


Anonymous said...

Simpler solution, do what we do here in Australia.

We have preferential voting for the house of representatives. Voting just 1 in your proposed manner would be considered an "informal" vote and not counted. Yet we have nearly 100% voter turn out. How? Compulsory voting.

You don't turn up to the ballot, you get fined. Simple as that.

Make the voting system work on the log on page and disallow log on after a certain date, following a warning, until after the ballot has been completed.

Gevlon said...

There is a problem with that: random voting. In a real election people have at least a preference for a political party. In EVE many of the players don't even know what CSM is. If you force them to vote, you get some totally random votes or votes that are created after name recognition or alphabetically or avatar picture beauty or whatever.

Such CSM wouldn't be more representative.

What could be made compulsory is getting informed about the CSM. There could be some video to watch and answer 1-2 trivial questions afterwards. This way all are forced to know about the election, the elected body and the candidates. Then he could choose to go voting if he wish.

Anonymous said...

Compulsory voting is just dumb. Forcing people who don't care into voting doesn't benefit anyone.

I had a short vote list. I liked only 3 candidates and voted for only those. I could have done more effort to fill out my ballot; but I didn't want to. Most of the talking points from the field were unobtainable, and that false pretense turned me away from the majority of the candidates.

Von Keigai said...

This whole post is conditioned on the idea that getting people who don't know anything to state an opinion about something will result in quality information. Well, it won't. At best, ignorant voters add noise to an election result. At worst, they will vote based on upon criteria that are actively negative, i.e., they vote on the basis of propaganda.

Any voting system must deal with the reality that most voters are rationally ignorant. Other things equal, more voting is not good. More voting is bad. Given how ignorant most EVE players are of EVE politics, I count this year's lack of turnout for CSM as a good thing. If we are lucky, next year's turnout will be even lower.

That stated, I like both of your ideas. Having a simple ballot as the default allows voters who have limited information to vote while encouraging them not to add noise. (But even with simple ballots, you cannot alphabetize -- really. Many voters, believing in the "you must vote" propaganda, will vote for whoever is first on the ballot.)

Simple-vote ballot proxying adds information to the election which comes from the candidates. The candidates are very likely to be much less ignorant about politics than the voters. In effect this is like putting a party line on the ballot, which is a common American form of simple voting. Except that the "party" in this case is the politician.

Anonymous said...

Should use the Aussie version again.
1 vote above line, or all votes below line.

Candidate fills out his "preferences", and if voter just votes 1 vote - its logged as the candiate preference.

otherwise the voter can do the full 14 place voting.

Anonymous said...

If CCP wanted to increase voting turn out, one of the things they could do is "bribe" the customers with some apparel in the game that one can't get otherwise. Red star t-shirts this anniversary. How about blue star ones next election?

I actually ran for election in the real world. Getting voters to care is hard. Getting the media to care is hard. Getting people to vote is hard. Getting voters and the media to care about issues is hard.

The office I ran for was a small state one. And this office was near the bottom of the ballot near the "should we re-elect Judge X?" part. Between President and my part of the ballot, 40% of the people stopped voting.

Even the partisan political offices had that "voter fatigue". So if 10 people voted for President, 9 voted for Senator, 8 voted for Representative and so on, down to 4 for "my" sad little office.

Try running for elected office. I'm sure there are some small part-time offices in your country that would be an educational experience for you. You don't need to spend a lot of money. I spent about $200 for my run, the guy who won spent 200x what I spent.

Anonymous said...

First off, your two suggestions are very good for the goal of simplifying the process for the average voter.

Another thing to note is that there is no reason the number of slots needs to be equal to the number of candidates who will be elected. It could just as easily be run with 3 slots or 31. More slots would lead to fewer exhausted ballots, less would lead to more, but there's no reason that the cutoff ought to be 14. I would actually prefer to be able to post a full ranking. This could e facilitated by making the interface "pick your top candidate", posting that candidate's full preference order, and then allowing "expert users" to edit their ballot as they see fit from there, preferably with a simple drag and drop interface

On the other hand, I don't agree that the lower voter turnout was necessarily entirely because the system was too complicated. Other possibilities include these candidates being less polarizing than last years, people being happy with the way the game is moving and so less interested in pushing for change, these candidates being less well known, fewer candidates running, etc etc etc

Moreover it was inevitable that at some point the turnout would decline, note that the turnout was still the second highest ever

Making the system simpler to participate in is undoubtably a good thing, but blaming the entire drop in turnout on the lack of simplicity with no evidence that other factors didn't play in is overly simplistic