Almost a month ago I published a Drupal powered website: GradeBurr.com. Since then nearly 300 people have submitted an online "report card" for Senator Richard Burr and had a chance to share their opinion.
As you can guess, I have little love for Senator Burr myself. Sen. Burr followed President Bush's lead on nearly every issue, from dismantling Social Security to ignoring the suffering caused by Hurricane Katrina to undermining our national security with the failed war on Iraq.
More recently Sen. Burr:
- Attempted to block the appointment of Tammy Duckworth as Secretary of Veterans Affairs, angering veterans groups.
- Told his wife to withdraw all of their money from the bank while telling constituents that the financial system was secure.
- Promoted tobacco candy, claiming that "tobacco lollipops" would not be marketed to children.
That said, I felt it would be more effective to give people a platform where they can share their opinions than to list my own (extensive) criticisms. So far, the results have been mixed. I'd like to list some of the challenges and opportunities and encourage you to participate by submitting your own grade.
These are some of the problems I've experienced:
- Obviously the results will never be scientific. Hopefully visitors don't expect this.
- Giving an A or a D to Senator Burr, while quantitative, doesn't really tell a visitor why you approve or disapprove of Burr's performance; a libertarian and a progressive might both strongly object to Burr's handling of the economy, but for significantly different reasons.
- Over a third (but less than half) of graders give Burr either straight As or straight Fs. While this might be some people's real opinion, I doubt that many people 100% love or loathe Burr. Plus it doesn't really tell a visitor anything about the grader or the Senator.
- At first people were doing a pretty good job about not cheating, and I could be reasonably sure that most of the grades were from real people. At some point I'll probably need to come up with a better solution to protect the site from vandalism.
- The site completely lacks anything to help inform visitors about Burr's policies. I need to figure out how to do this in an objective manner.
These are a few of the features I'd like to add:
- Present visitors with a way to browse Senator Burr's record on the issues, perhaps using RSS feeds from other online media.
- Allow graders a way to validate their identity. While I think many folks have concerns about being transparent online, I'd like to at least present it as an option.
- Republicans are going to grade differently than Libertarians or Democrats. I'd like to give visitors a way to separate out those votes.
- Increase the opportunity for in-depth responses. While I don't want to throw a massive survey at casual visitors, I ought to come up with some kind of workflow that would allow people to say more about the issues they know more about. Done well, this could make the site a true resource for voters.
These are my thoughts. I hope to hear yours. Please submit a grade if you haven't already.
BlueNC is dedicated to making North Carolina a more progressive and prosperous state. If your intention is to disrupt this effort, please find somewhere else to express your opinions.