About / FAQ

What is BallotVox?

BallotVox is no longer an active project. It now stands as an archive of opinion about Campaign 08.

BallotVox features smart local perspectives on the 2008 US presidential campaign. It’s the place to find the best blog posts, videos, and pictures created by regular people — the best social media about the 08 candidates and issues based on close observations in towns and communities. It highlights the voices of interested citizens rather than professional journalists.

There’s an ever-expanding ocean of “user-generated content” on the web. BallotVox spotlights the breadth of online conversations about Campaign 2008 — and helps you navigate them.

Why does BallotVox focus on local perspectives?

The national-level experts and big-picture political bloggers get plenty of attention already. We wanted to animate the election debate with local angles. So this means we looked for, say, a border story from Arizona that speaks to immigration issues; or the opinion of an Iraq-war veteran on some aspect of the war that’s critical to the stay/withdraw decision. We also looked outside the US and hear how people in Nigeria or Thailand or Pakistan felt the election would affect their lives.

Why does BallotVox avoid professional media?

We wanted to know what regular people throughout the country and around the world thought about the election. They were out there writing and talking and filming, but it takes a lot of digging to find the good stuff. We did it for you. We saved you time.

We didn’t have a blanket embargo on pieces by journalists and other professionals, but if the pros covered politics or the campaign issues for a living, you’re unlikely to find them here.

How does this site work?

We used delicious.com to bookmark and tag everything we collected. Then we sorted it for you by medium: on the Words page, the Videos page, the Pictures page, and the Audio page. Then we blogged about some of the selections on the main page. Some of our posts were pegged to the news; others are simply features about candidates or issues.

What kind of content does BallotVox feature?

What we looked for:
We looked, obviously, for direct commentary on the campaign and candidates. We also looked for good stuff on campaign issues (e.g., Iraq or the economy) — even if it never mentioned the election.

We collected blog posts, videos, and pictures. We initially searched for podcasts as well but quickly found that it was very hard to find good, snappy amateur audio. So we bookmarked some audio but stopped looking for it several months into the project.

Examples of the kind of things we looked for: A blog post by a Minnesota high-school student on global warming; or one by a French farmer about one of the presidential candidates. A picture taken by a soldier in Afghanistan; or one taken by a supporter at a campaign rally. A video made by a mom with a strong opinion about American foreign policy; or one made by a dad with an interest in stem cells.

Where we looked for it:
We hunted it down on social media. On blogs, on video-sharing sites like YouTube, and on photo-sharing sites like Flickr.

Things we don’t feature:
Anything produced by any of the campaigns.

Anything from mainstream media.

Anything produced by large partisan or issue-based organizations.

Anything from a high-traffic or semi-pro site that explicitly solicits citizen journalism.

Anything that smacks of hatespeech or discrimination.

Anything that is unproductively or rudely partisan.

Blog posts written by journalists for their newspapers or magazines. Posts written by journalists on personal blogs in their areas of professional expertise. Posts written by high-profile political or issue bloggers. Posts on high-traffic blogs like Instapundit or Daily Kos.

Pictures taken by photojournalists or other professional photographers in their areas of professional expertise.

Videos made by professional videographers in their areas of professional expertise. Videos from mainstream media or high-visibility vloggers.

Podcast episodes of professional broadcasts. Podcast episodes made by journalists on their own time but still in their areas of professional expertise.

The gray area:
A post about a campaign rally written by a science reporter on her personal blog. (Probably OK; the topic falls outside her regular beat and she is writing as a citizen.) A picture of an immigration protest taken by a food photographer who happened to see the demonstration. (Probably OK.) A video by a neighborhood nonprofit working to prevent foreclosures. (Probably OK if the organization is very small.)

Sometimes we broke the rules:
Pro but cool: We occasionally flaunted our own rules when something semi-professional was too good to pass up. Especially if it was unlikely to have been seen by lots of people. In that case, we tagged it probutcool on delicious.com and on BallotVox. This video is a good example. It’s made by a semi-pro production company (against the rules), but it also has attributes we’re looking for: It’s a wry Sex And The City parody (humor). It delivers thoughtful vox pop from the streets of Beijing about the candidates, gender, and race (a local perspective). It’s also something that many Americans might not stumble across because it’s not in the MSM or on a popular US blog. We broke the rules most often for videos because it was most challenging to find good stuff in that medium.

Cool 4 pro: Our other rule-bending category is cool4pro. This is for content made by amateurs for a large site or organization requesting user-generated content. It breaks the BallotVox rule of avoiding media explicitly solicited by a (semi-)pro site. Like “probutcool” we used it sparingly and primarily for videos.

You can read more about the guidelines we used by scrolling to the bottom of this page.

How did you select the things you feature on BallotVox?

We looked for voices that express many of public media’s core values. Rich detail, honesty, and engagement in public life are key. A healthy dose of humor and generosity doesn’t hurt either. BallotVox is nonpartisan, and we did our best to highlight the full range of political opinions.

We tried as hard as we could to filter out content containing misinformation, but we didn’t have the staff to fact check as rigorously as The New Yorker. (In our own posts, we described bloggers, vloggers, etc. using the information they provided. This information may or may not be correct.)

What are “BallotVox regulars”?

We used a “ballotvoxregular” tag to highlight people who produced consistently good stuff.

How do you use photos on the BallotVox blog?

We used them in two ways. Some posts are about pictures that are part of the BallotVox collection. Those photos are also bookmarked on delicious.com and appear on the Pictures page. Other posts just use creative-commons pictures for extra color or a fun editorial comment — these pictures generally aren’t among the BallotVox “picks.”

Why did you only collect English-language media?

In a perfect world we’d have had triple the budget and translators on staff. Sadly, the world is not perfect.

Who came up with the BallotVox idea? And why?

BallotVox is the brainchild of the Public Radio Exchange (PRX). The project is part of a public media “election collaboration” funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

Who worked on BallotVox?

Jake Shapiro runs PRX and oversaw BallotVox. Katherine Bidwell was BallotVox’s curator. Sarolta Cump, Misa Dayson, James Mills, Ann Raber, Sue Salinger, and Genevieve Sponsler were co-curators. Larissa Zhou was a co-curator during her Spring 08 PRX internship. Roshan Abraham and Emmett O’Connell were volunteer curators. Jason Callina, Dan Choi, Robert DeBenedictis, Andrew Kuklewicz, Matt MacDonald, and Nathan Woodhull pitched in to solve our tech problems. John Barth and Charles Lane at BallotVox’s sister project (Campaign Audio) kept us in line.

Who is the BallotVox audience?

BallotVox is for anyone — you! — who’s interested in fresh angles on the 2008 election.

While the project was active, it also offered tools for public radio, public TV, and any blogger. These tools included feeds and widgets that could be put directly on station websites or used to inform election coverage. (They actually are still available, but we are no longer feeding new content to them.)

How can I help?

BallotVox is no longer an active project. But thanks for wanting to pitch in!

Can I comment on the blog?

Now that BallotVox has wrapped up, we no longer accept comments.

During the campaign, we warmly welcomed them. All comments were moderated. These were our guidelines: Please write with civility and respect. Hatespeech, insults, and the like won’t get through. If you comment obsessively on a topic in a way that smacks of rant, we’ll have to cut you off.

BallotVox’s WordPress theme was created by Bob.


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What follows is tips we offered the co-curators at the beginning of the project.

GUIDELINES FOR CO-CURATORS
Use your judgment – we’ll give you feedback on your picks as you go.

Sources We’re Looking For
Stuff made by regular people.
Not stuff in professional media.
Not stuff by professional journalists writing on their regular beat.
Not stuff by professional broadcasters or producers.
Not stuff on big blogs that already have big readerships.
Not stuff created by campaigns or advocacy groups or big organizations.
Not stuff created by celebrities who have ready platforms.
Not stuff from political/well-funded/high-visibility citizen-journalism sites.

Caveat: comments on any site — including mainstream media, etc. — are fair game for a couple of reasons: They’re generally just reactions by regular people. And even if they’re on high-visibility sites, they’re often overlooked.

Content We’re Looking For
Media relevant to the 2008 presidential election. We’re focusing primarily on current material rather than looking backwards at what’s already happened. But if you find great stuff from several months or years ago, by all means send it along — especially if it’s relevant to the current conversation (e.g., the photos in this post).

Mashups / remixes definitely count!

Issues (Feel free to include others.)
Healthcare
Global warming & Energy
Iraq & Afghanistan
Iran
Homeland Security
Immigration
Recession / Economy
Housing / Subprime
National debt & taxes
Campaign finance / electoral reform
Abortion
Gay Rights
Gun Rights
Social Security
Stem Cells
Education
Free Trade

Candidates (as of 13 March 08)
John McCain
Ron Paul
Ralph Nader
Barack Obama
Hillary Clinton

Qualities/Tone We’re Looking For
Remember that the whole point of BallotVox is to be a filter. Quality is much more important than quantity.

What We Want:
All sides of the political spectrum
Things that are engaging, smart, provocative, and advance the public conversation
Local voices from all over the country
Foreign voices from outside the US (commenting on how the election might affect them)
Stories about issues
Stories about the candidates
Stories that show a very local angle on issues/candidates
Stories that show how issues/candidates affect a particular community
Stories with rich detail
Honesty
Generosity
Engagement in public life
Humor

Big Plus But Not Strictly Necessary:
Good production values — not enough in itself, but definitely a bonus

What We Don’t Want:
Hate speech
Rudeness
Crassness
Meanspiritedness
Ad hominem attacks
Pointless rants
Boring stuff that otherwise meets the criteria

Specific Tips for Each Medium
Words:
At the start we’re focusing our attention on blogs, but if you want to get us going on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, the American Idol message boards, etc., by all means go for it. It would be a big help.

Videos:
YouTube requires a lot of digging. There’s lots of bad stuff out there, and lots of stuff from mainstream media – we want the gems from regular people. Good editing, music beds, etc. are all a plus. Short is ideal unless the video is riveting.

Pictures:
Aesthetic quality is key; so is interesting editorial quality. The best photos will have both.

Audio:
What we’re hoping for here is specific podcast episodes (rather than a whole podcast feed), though we’d consider entire podcasts if the episodes are consistently terrific. Looking for audio is time intensive.

General Search Tips
For searches, try using multiple specific key words to narrow down what you have to sort through.

Some basic places to look:
Google Blog Search (blog posts)
Technorati (blog posts) (Tip: you can plug a URL into the search box; Technorati will then show you all of the blogs that have linked to that URL. This is very handy if you’re researching reactions to, say, a news story.)
Voices Without Votes (for blog posts from foreign countries)
YouTube
Google Video
Vimeo (video)
Blip.tv (video)
Vodpod (video)
Dailymotion (video)
Qik (video)
Flickr (photos and video)
Facebook
MySpace
Twitter
Comment threads & message boards on just about any site (including MSM, big political blogs, YouTube, Flickr…)

How To Send Us Links
Please use delicious.com, not email. This will make it really easy for us to keep track of things. It also creates a record of everything you’ve submitted.

1. Sign up for your own delicious.com account. (If possible, please make your account name recognizably yours — it’ll make it easier for us to know who’s submitting what.)

2. Bookmark whatever you want to send us and make for:ballotvox one of your tags (this way we’ll see it in the BallotVox account). More detailed instructions here.

3. In the “Notes” box please describe what’s cool about what you’ve found and why you think it’s BallotVox-worthy.

4. We’ll check out your link and hopefully bookmark it in the BallotVox delicious.com account. If it’s a video, we’ll add it to the vodpod video collection. If it’s a Flickr photo, we’ll add it to the BallotVox Flickr favorites.

We Want To Credit You For Your Work!
1. We’ll ask each of you to write a post introducing yourself. It will appear under your own byline.

2. In the BallotVox delicious.com bookmarks, we’ll tag your submissions with your name. This will allow you or anyone else to search for everything you’ve submitted. We’ll also credit you in the “Notes” box of each delicious.com bookmark by saying something like “Found by XYZ.”

3. If we write a BallotVox post about something you’ve submitted, we’ll give you a big hat-tip in the post (linking your name to your introductory post).

4. If you write a BallotVox post featuring something you found, it will appear under your own byline.