Tuesday, 25 January 2011

An AV analogy

The claim that AV is too confusing, or isn't something people will understand or use always seems false to me. Millions of people every year vote in the X Factor, and this in itself is a form of alternative vote. It's not exactly comparable as people can join and exit the vote as they please, and people get more than one vote...

But the process of everyone positively voting for who they most like from a list, and eliminating the weakest before doing the process again and again until a winner is found is not so much a foreign and abstract idea, more an every day commercial reality in our entertainment industry.

This doesn't stop people from thinking it's unfair though, so I thought of this little analogy to help you understand that while it is not perfect, it is clearly a fair and inclusive system.

Miss Jones is an English teacher for 30 students, and she wants to get them to study with material that will enthuse them and encourage them to keep reading outside of class. Rather than picking a book thinking she knows exactly what the kids like, or doing a straw poll, she picks several genres out... adventure, horror, poetry, comedy or romance.

Each of the 30 students are asked to write down which type of genre they'd like and when everyone's done to hold it the card up with their choice.

The first time they all do this and the results are...

Adventure:10
Comedy: 8
Horror: 8
Poetry: 3
Romance: 1

Romance isn't very popular, it seems..but then they are a class of mostly boys, maybe that's not surprising. The student that voted for romance is asked to change their vote to one of the remaining four, Adventure, Comedy, Horror or Poetry.

The student decides if they can't read Romance in class, they'd prefer Adventure, leaving the result as...

Adventure: 11
Comedy: 8
Horror: 8
Poetry: 3

Those three students wanting poetry are a little disappointed, but know they can change their vote now. The genre's of Adventure, Comedy and Horror clearly have a lot of support in the class; the poetry students are happy to be able to say that if they can't have poetry, 2 of them would prefer comedy, and 1 would prefer horror.

Our results now stand as...

Adventure: 11
Comedy: 10
Horror: 9

With horror the least favourite now, those that voted for that have an opportunity to change their choice between Adventure and Comedy. 6 decide to go with comedy, 3 with Adventure...

Adventure: 14
Comedy: 16

Comedy wins it, the class has spoken and after having been focused on reallocating their choices based on the popularity of genres everyone else in the class gave, it's clear that the majority would prefer to read something funny. Unfortunately 14 people may feel that they've lost out. However if the teacher had only taken that first vote then 16 people, or more due to the nature of only one vote, would have felt they lost out.

So which is fairer? To me it's clear...the system that leaves less people feeling like they've lost out is king.