In July 2011, PartyX launched the HST Debate App. This was our pilot project for using Facebook as a public consultation platform. Timed with the launch of the official referendum campaign on the Harmonized Sales Tax in British Columbia, the purpose of the HST App was to help British Columbians take a deliberative approach to their vote in the referendum, while using the full social network functionality of Facebook.
Accurate within 1%
The HST App proved itself a highly accurate public opinion prediction tool: its results were less than 1% different from the final referendum result, even though participants were self- selected. Moreover, although feedback made it clear that the interface could be improved, 78% of participants “liked” the App. The HST App received media coverage in the Vancouver Sun, the Georgia Straight, as well as CKNW radio.
You can take it for a test drive.
How It Worked
The HST Debate App allowed participants to see and contribute to arguments on both sides of the HST debate. They could vote on the issues and rate their importance, and then share their votes and views with others they knew on Facebook. From there, the HST App took visitors to a graphical ‘votemap’ that showed where they stood on the referendum question relative to their friends and others, as well as a searchable “clustermap” which indicated popular positions.
The HST App took each participant through a tour of five key issues polarizing the HST debate, drawing from the positions of the official proponents and opponents of the tax. Participants could vote their position on the issues, indicating how important each one was to them, and could share their votes with others they knew of Facebook. They could comments, and filter comments to see what people in their social networks were saying, as well as which comments were the most popular. Participants had full control over the privacy of their comments and voting decisions, and could choose to share them with their friends, friends of friends, or the public.
After completing the survey portion of the HST App, participants landed on a Final Results area where they could cast their final vote (yes or no) in response to the official Referendum Question. If they wished, the HST App could make a recommendation, based upon the survey information they had provided to that point. From there, the HST App took them to a graphical ‘votemap’ that showed where they stand on the issue relative to their friends and others. They could also choose to see a “clustermap” which indicated where people clustered around specific positions. People could find their friend on the map, and also click on a cluster to see who was in it and what general position it represented.