Technology at work promoting Democracy

By Christopher Saleh – May 23, 2016
As we are in an election year to choose the next president of the United States, I started looking to see if technology has made any progress in providing simple, efficient and unbiased tools for the general population and average voters, or even first time voters to get the information they need to make a choice aligned with their core values.

As usual, there are polls all over the place which isn’t unusual, but I noticed a large increase in apps and sites. Mostly either poorly designed or somewhat biased.

Then I ran into a website (ISideWith.com) that seemed simple to understand and appeared to be very useful. After all, there are probably many voters among the population that are not aware of every candidates stance and political views, and this site addressed that in a very unique and effective way.

So, I did what has come naturally to me for decades, and that is to test and dig deeper to see how effective and accurate this web application was functioning. At first, I began with a sort of exploratory or Black Box testing. I didn’t look to see who made this website, or how it was designed on the back-end.

After a couple of runs on the quiz component, which is the core piece, I tried to test its limits of complexity. I wanted to see if it was a simple decision tree type program, or was there more to it? To my surprise, it seemed a lot more complex, designed intuitively via group of integrated workflows that would help the voter arrive at the ideal candidate based on their political values and views.

The quiz  was the main component, but the site included various polls about the current topics important to the voters. It was well designed to be able to look at the result of any poll based geographically, race, ethnic, level of education, and so on. I thought the design and delivery was excellent. There was also a News component, staying current with the political campaigns, and updated status of issues relevant. There is even a tax calculator where John Doe, the voter could calculate how any candidates tax policies would affect him/her individually. Overall, I think it is a combination very intuitive and effective tools.

You could even register and come back and login, where your results of your quiz was stored and see what has changed, and even change your stance in some areas. But, the best part was that you could use all these tools without registering, as that most likely would discourage some users to take part. People do not like to give out their email address, and rightly so, as it has been not a good idea historically.

This was all before I looked at who had built the website, and the programming behind it, that created all these functionalities. I was even more impressed seeing some of coding within the website and how it was designed to stay flexible and not give just out of the can choices of Yes or No. But, it had integrated choices of Yes, but…. And No, but…. extracted from previous users write-in choices, and re-offering those to the new users taking the quiz as an alternative. So, in a way it had become somewhat self evolving.

After finally looking at the About page, the site happens to be the handy work of two guys. Taylor Peck and Nick Boutelier, who have created an unbiased website, and are not affiliated or sponsoring any political party, or interest group. This is a paragraph directly from their site below:

ISideWith Website“iSideWith.com was started in March 2012 by two friends with two very different views of politics. We are constantly finding and building new ways to boost voter engagement and education using information, data, and breaking technologies.

 

That’s it! We are not affiliated with any investors, shareholders, political party or interest group.”*

This was the metaphorical cherry on top of a great tool designed and offered free of charge, and not ask for anything in return. Not even your email address! Fantastic. They do accept donations, and rightfully so, as they are continually expanding the site and even offering it for other countries and there elections.

I call that a Win for democracy and the democratic process.Good job guys!!

Other notable voters tool available via the web:

www.FactCheck.org

Ability to Fact check what candidates claim or say to determine its accuracy.


Some Testing Note about the Informal tests performed:

Exploratory Testing revolving  around functionality, usability, intuitive design, ad-hoc measuring  of the accuracy of the output relevant to user input, within the quiz component. Flexibility of the quiz part utilizing the past data input and use as alternative choices, besides the standard Yes, or No choices.

Did not discover any functionality, cosmetic or otherwise bugs throughout the entire testing, and if they are there I usually find them.

Some Mobile device friendly tests were performed on iOS (iPhone, iPad), Anrdoid. Browsers Safari, Firefox, Chrome, IE. all latest official versions at the time of testing.

Testing not performed:
Load/Stress testing was not performed. However, response time was measured several times,  various times of day, week days, and weekend.  No lag or delay was present and response time was very consistent.

Sources:
* www.isidewith.com

 

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