W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-w3process@w3.org > May 2014

Re: Voting again…

From: Charles McCathie Nevile <chaals@yandex-team.ru>
Date: Mon, 05 May 2014 13:22:35 +0200
To: "public-w3process@w3.org" <public-w3process@w3.org>, "Michael Champion (MS OPEN TECH)" <Michael.Champion@microsoft.com>
Message-ID: <op.xfdwjy0dy3oazb@chaals.local>
On Sun, 04 May 2014 21:38:13 +0200, Michael Champion (MS OPEN TECH)  
<Michael.Champion@microsoft.com> wrote:

> Hmmm...  The turnout in these elections is something like 20%. Most AC  
> reps have  barely enough information about the candidates to make binary  
> decisions about them, much less rank them.

Most AC reps either couldn't care less, or find it pointless to vote, or  
don't know enough to decide.

The first problem is best resolved by the AB and TAG *doing* things (which  
is not necessarily the same as having meetings). I believe that this was a  
huge problem a few years ago, but that it is being resolved.

The third problem is the one you address and I agree it is important.

> If one wants to ensure that their preferred candidate is elected, it  
> would be much more effective to help inform the AC about his/her  
> qualities  and turn out the vote of like-minded people than to cast a  
> single "strategic" vote that is statistically quite unlikely to change  
> the outcome.

There have been specific complaints about people sending "campaigning"  
emails to AC reps - which is against the terms of access to the list. I  
have always considered doing so inappropriate, and it appears I'm not  
alone. There has recently been a move toward people clarifying their  
positions in open discussion, which I think is a positive way to get more  
information on candidates, but I frankly don't support encouraging  
"election campaigns".

In any event, I disagree with your premise that it is a good idea. The  
"winner-take-all" optimisation of our current system effectively means  
that unless you have a strong chance of winning the entire thing (i.e. you  
have the largest bloc of votes even if it's a minority of 10%) means there  
is literally no point in wasting your effort against any such campaign. In  
other words, we have optimised the system to *discourage* people who don't  
have a strong campaign machine.

This is ludicrous. We should be encouraging people who have motivation,  
and we should aim to reflect the diversity of a global organisation.  
Instead we have an AB where I am the one person *elected* (as opposed to  
taking a seat unopposed) who isn't from a large US-headquartered  
multinational. Indeed, the last election, with a globally diverse set of  
candidates managed to come up with "Google, Mozilla, Microsoft and Yandex"  
- hardly a representative cross section of W3C members.

> I don't object to using a ranked voting system even if I  don't care  
> enough to invest any energy in making it happen.  I do care that  
> decisions in W3C are made by an informed consensus, which is why I keep  
> asking for solid information and analysis of why using a more complex  
> system would actually benefit W3C.
> Could you remind us (with links) about the various AB and AC discussions  
> of this topic over the last couple of years?

Sure. Given that AC discussion is confidential to W3C members, I will  
provide links to such discussion in that forum.

Meanwhile, is there any reason why the current system with its well-known  
biases should not have been replaced years ago?

> I vaguely recall there were a handful of people who care deeply about
> this and a much larger group who were open minded but wanted to see
> some research/analysis and consensus building on which of the various
> alternatives would work best for W3C.

> Wasn't someone going to start a CG or an AC task force to research
> this and bring back recommendations?

This *is* a CG. I am "someone".

At the end of the email you quote here there is a strawman proposal with  
rationales, links to Wikipedia where there are further explanations, and a  
call for comments prior to seeking formal consensus of the CG on a  

There is a mass of research into this topic online. People who care about  
having fair voting systems have been doing it since the early 19th  
century. I strongly encourage everyone, if you haven't done so, to read at  
least the content of the first two of those links:

> [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schulze_STV
> [2] http://www.modernballots.com/

Or at least look at the two pie charts with comments on the front page of  
http://www.modernballots.com - they sum up the problem we have remarkably  



> ________________________________________
> From: Charles McCathie Nevile <chaals@yandex-team.ru>
> Sent: Sunday, May 4, 2014 10:04 AM
> To: public-w3process@w3.org
> Subject: Voting again…
> TL;DR: AB (and TAG) elections are broken, if we find out exactly how
> broken it won't really affect the ability of each group to do their work,
> but it isn't hard to fix this and we should. A simiarly broken system is
> being proposed for Webizens, whereit is likely to be even more important
> to have a decent system.
> There is an election (for the Advisory Board), where there are a dozen
> candidates. As far as I can tell all of them are qualified for the
> position, although of course Ihave preferences for whom I would prefer to
> see on the AB.
> But the existing system for voting makes a total mess of this. Given
> candidates of roughly equal quality, more than half the votes cast will  
> be
> completely wasted. If we see (as we have in the last two TAG elections  
> and
> the last AB election) a campaign for a slate of voters, even if they are
> running on a single "party" platform and proposing exactly the same
> things, the system is likely to elect the entire slate, rather than a
> diverse group of people representing the diverse preferences of the whole
> AC.
> The only sensible way to vote, then, is to vote for one candidate. I  
> waste
> 80% of my right to vote, but increase the odds that my vote is actually
> useful in helping elect one of the people I *really* want on the AB. I do
> this repeatedly, but reluctantly, as the least-worst of a set of bad
> options in how to vote under the current system.
> This is why for the last few years (and more so since the beginning of
> last year when it started being an issue in practice as slates of
> candidates were run in elections) I have been trying to get some traction
> on a change in the voting procedures.
> There have been a number of arguments raised against such a change, and I
> would like to address them:
> == It ain't broke, why fix it?
> When a slate of candidates standing on a single position ("reform all the
> thingz") gets elected in each of the last 3 elections it may mean that we
> face only one important problem. I doubt that - and as a candidate (and
> someone many other candidates have turned to for advice) I understand the
> pressure to align oneself with that "platform". I think this is an
> anti-democratic result, and that we are seeing an artificial reduction in
> the diversity of the AB, and how representative they really are of the
> membership.
> In addition I *believe* that an increasing number of votes are  
> "strategic"
> - people voting for far fewer candidates than they could, in order to try
> and maximise the chances that their vote counts at all. Without an open
> count it is hard to know for certain, but the W3C team at least has those
> numbers.
> == Don't deligitimise the AB / TAG
> I find this argument illogical. The voting system we use effectively
> deligitimises the results as being representative of us, the AC. This is  
> a
> simple mathematical property of a choice made a decade or so ago, based  
> on
> a aprticular view of a century and a half of research into and deployment
> of voting systems designed to ensure fair outcomes (and also those
> designed to favour incumbents or other sectional interests).
> While running an experimental vote system that showed the results we get
> in our elections are not a very good reflection of the real intentions of
> the community would indeed suggest that we have "the wrong people" on the
> TAG or AB, I don't think this is a huge problem in practice. First,
> because while I believe the AC gets misrepresented by election results, I
> also believe that the candidates who are elected but would not have been
> under a fairer system are actually widey regarded as well-qualified for
> the task.
> In other words, what we have now is a somewhat random system for  
> selecting
> representatives, that doesn't actually choose what we want, but whose
> impact is balanced by the fact that at least most candidates are
> reasonable. In which case, why bother with the election instead of a
> random selection?
> == No voting system is perfect, so why swap?
> Arrow's theorem is one of those that demonstrates that it is effectively
> impossible to get a system that cannot be gamed (e.g. allowing a slate of
> candidates to effectively shut out diversity), and that entirely reliably
> represents the interests of the voters.
> However, it is one piece of a large body of work going back to at least
> the mid 19th century on how to provide *better* systems. And it is
> generally accepted that some systems are significantly better than others
> - and we happen to have on of the worst.
> == STV is really complicated…
> Well, it does require the ability to rank candidates in order of
> preference. Which in turn means being able to count perhaps as far as 12.
> I believe that all members of the AC can manage that task without getting
> terribly confused.
> Even the most complex voting systems could be hand-calculated for the AC  
> -
> but luckily we also have computers that can simplify this process,
> providing a result effectively instantaneously for an election the size  
> of
> those we run in W3C.
> == How do we select a new system?
> Obviously, unless you have a decent voting procedure in place, you're
> unlikely to get one by voting on it! However, while I think the level of
> candidates for W3C elections is generally high enough that it isn't a big
> deal whether we vote or pull names out of a hat, that isn't true of  
> voting
> systems.
> Pretty much any STV or ranked-pair voting system is so much better than
> the current one that it would be a big improvement.
> However, David Baron did some research a while ago. He expressed interest
> in approval voting[0], which unfortunately is still subject to most of  
> the
> problems of our current system. His eventual conclusion (which matches
> mine, unless I have misinterpreted him as merely proposing a strawman)  
> was
> that there are a couple of systems seriously worth further consideration.
> Of those David suggested were most worth further investigation, the
> "qualification" is that they are highly resistant to managed voting,
> ensuring that the best voting strategy is to say exactly what you want.
> And of them, the Shulze system[1] has a couple of very interesting
> properties:
>   - You can try it on the Web[2], where there is an explanation of how it
> is a big improvement, and
>   - there is open-source code[3] to implement the counting, which means  
> we
> would require a minimal effort to implement it in e.g. WBS (assuming we
> don't 'outsource' our voting to the open web).
> Since David's suggestion and subsequent discussion a year ago, I haven't
> seen *any* suggestion that we should not use the Schulze system in any
> discussion. I would like to know if there are any alternative candidates.
> == Conclusion
> There should be a call for consensus on whether we should adopt an STV
> system for voting. At this stage, I am thinking of simply an up/down vote
> on the Schulze system (primarily to help defuse the "but it's all so
> complicated - and which system would we choose" argument that is
> occasionally raised), but before I do anything I welcome further  
> thoughts,
> suggestions, ideas and opinions.
> [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schulze_STV
> [2] http://www.modernballots.com/
> [3]
> https://github.com/bradbeattie/python-vote-core/blob/master/pyvotecore/schulze_stv.py
> cheers
> Chaals
> --
> Charles McCathie Nevile - Consultant (web standards) CTO Office, Yandex
>        chaals@yandex-team.ru         Find more at http://yandex.com

Charles McCathie Nevile - Consultant (web standards) CTO Office, Yandex
       chaals@yandex-team.ru         Find more at http://yandex.com
Received on Monday, 5 May 2014 11:23:12 UTC

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