|Ken Novak's Weblog
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Monday, August 16, 2004
Voting machine flaw caught by paper trail:
"a Sequoia electronic voting machine suffered a very public failure
last week during a live demo. The machine worked fine with an English-language ballot, but failed to record votes with the Spanish-language ballot. The mistake was detected because the machine produced a voter-verifiable paper print-out:
"We did it again and the same thing happened," said Darren Chesin, a consultant to the state Senate elections and reapportionment committee. "The problem was not with the paper trail. The paper trail worked flawlessly, but it caught a mistake in the programming of the touch-screen machine itself. For some reason it would not record or display the votes on the Spanish ballot for these two ballot measures. The only reason we even caught it was because we were looking at the paper trail to verify it."
Not surprisingly, Sequoia is downplaying the incident, asserting that it was a ballot design issue, not a programming issue. "It was our fault for not proofing the Spanish language ballot before demonstrating it," said spokesman Alfie Charles. " Sorry, that's not reassuring... 8:13:00 PM
The Wisdom of Crowds
: A popular new book sheds light on the earlier post about Open Production. The publisher's notes provides an outline; the Amazon reader's comments are interesting, not least in noting examples (like intelligence failures -- reminding me of the movement to open source intelligence
). "While our culture generally trusts experts and distrusts the wisdom of the masses, Surowiecki argues that "under the right circumstances, groups are remarkably intelligent, and are often smarter than the smartest people in them." To support this almost counterintuitive proposition, Surowiecki explores problems involving cognition (we're all trying to identify a correct answer), coordination (we need to synchronize our individual activities with others) and cooperation (we have to act together despite our self-interest). His rubric, then, covers a range of problems, including driving in traffic, competing on TV game shows, maximizing stock market performance, voting for political candidates, navigating busy sidewalks, tracking SARS and designing Internet search engines like Google. If four basic conditions are met, a crowd's "collective intelligence" will produce better outcomes than a small group of experts, Surowiecki says, even if members of the crowd don't know all the facts or choose, individually, to act irrationally. "Wise crowds" need (1) diversity of opinion; (2) independence of members from one another; (3) decentralization; and (4) a good method for aggregating opinions. The diversity brings in different information; independence keeps people from being swayed by a single opinion leader; people's errors balance each other out; and including all opinions guarantees that the results are "smarter" than if a single expert had been in charge." 5:18:54 PM