The last debate time analysis

A little out of the scope of this blog, but I wrote previously about how the previous two democratic presidential debates were proportioning out speaking time to the candidates based roughly (if not entirely) on their poll numbers. In the 10/30 MSNBC debate, the correlation between speaking time and poll numbers was near perfect (a, b), with the leading candidate holding the floor more than 3.5 times as long as one of the trailing candidates. The proportioning of time was clearly planned, and I say this is a bad thing because viewers have a right to know that the TV network is deliberately skewing our view of the election by putting some candidates in our face more than others. The 11/15 CNN debate had still a very high correlation between speaking time and poll numbers, though not as high as the first debate, but nevertheless one of the leading candidates held the floor three times longer than one of the trailing candidates (c).

The Des Moines Register held the final debate last night, and I am happy to see that someone decided the debates would be done responsibly. The candidates all held the floor for roughly an equal amount of time (as per usual, according to the New York Time’s debate analyzer widget). Bill Richardson held the floor the longest — not a leader in the polls by any means — and only 1.4 times longer than the least-speaking candidate (versus 3.5 and 3 times above). (Comparing the speaking times to a more recent Nov. 30 poll, there is still a small correlation (r=.3), but not enough to think it was pre-planned.)

By the numbers: The MSNBC debate gave 23 additional seconds to each candidate for each percentage point in their latest poll number, and this totally accounts for the speaking time of each candidate. In the CNN debate, candidates spoke around 12 seconds more per poll percentage point, and while this allocation of time seemed pre-planned, it perhaps was not based entirely/exactly on poll numbers. The Register appeared to allocate time evenly, and any influence of poll numbers on speaking time that there might have been was greatly overshadowed by other factors.

I’m finally tagging this post under “corruption.” Normally we think of corruption as big business influencing the policy of politicians, but here it’s party politics trying to control the media — except I would venture to say that while MSNBC (i.e. General Electric and Microsoft) and CNN (i.e. Time Warner) were happy to play along, The Register (owned by Gannett Co., a major owner of newspapers throughout the country) did things right.

Lieberman addresses putting Senate votes in XML

Following up on Ari’s post- At yesterday’s Senate HSGAC hearing, Senator Lieberman noted briefly:

Furthermore Senate votes, unlike House votes, are intentionally presented in a format that limits the public’s ability to examine Senators’ voting records.

I confirmed with HSGAC that Lieberman was indeed referring to making Senate votes available in XML format, like the House does. This is a really important sign, that a Senator has now understood and signed onto the idea of using structured data for something. As I blogged previously, putting Senate votes in XML means independent websites, like my GovTrack, the NYTimes, etc., can more easily create new transformative applications of the data, which helps make the public more informed.

I’m personally quite excited about this, and in no small part because I am pretty sure we can trace back Lieberman’s remark, at least in part, to the work of the Open House Project.

Eight Open Government Data Principles

This weekend an Open Government Working Group conference was held in Sebastopol, CA. It was very useful and productive. I didn’t think that I contributed as much as I should have, personally, but in any case… Sunlight’s Micah Sifry has a good write-up, so I won’t repeat all of those details. (It was great to (finally) meet a number of people- Greg (Palmer), Donny, Larry, Carl, Tom…)

Important links:

A new website came out of it, which has nice announcement text

as well as a wiki (which I’m hosting, so blame me for problems) for ongoing discussion on neutral turf.

There’s a Flickr tag with a bunch of photos. You can see that Tim O’Reilly’s big colored sticky note cards played an important role in many sessions.

One of the tangible results of the conference was a set of eight principles for how to determine whether some government data is “open”. It’s similar to how we use criteria elsewhere to determine whether software is open, and also the Open Knowledge Definition. And it was suggested that we develop some sort of branding that we all can make use of to support and point to the principles. The discussion pages linked from some of the terms in the principles are editable wiki pages and do need to be fleshed out with suggestions from anyone.

Also, Dan Newman started some discussion about how to mobilize citizens at large over transparency issues. I am eager to see how that discussion continues— I expect some organizing will happen on the (open) mail list created at the conference (and linked from; yes, yet another mail list…).