A while ago I bought the domain http://reviewmy.mp. I had an idea of some sort of reviewing system for politicians. A friend and I toyed with the idea of making some sort of automated Politifact style site but never really did anything with it.
The domain has sat there for a year or three and not done much other than show people a generic holding page. I had a few troubles along the way with the domain. Dot MP domains are run out of the Northern Mariana Islands. A small set of islands in the North Pacific with connections to the United States. As you can imagine for an island with a population of 52,344 there isn’t a booming tech sector and it can be hard to purchase domains or receive support. Basically I lost control of the domain while still owning it for a year or so but with the new get.mp site it’s way easier to manage!
Reviewmy.mp has sat in my mind for a while and any time I’m at an event and we start talking about project ideas or things to build in the future I always bring it up and say ~one day~ I’ll build something on there.
I originally tried to build a generic political news site in Rails but that wasn’t something I found I was interested in and there are so many good sites that do things like that now and for ABC, SBS and other media groups with much better teams than mine, it’s easier for them to work in the space.
I then got to thinking about what I could build on there that might be fun. I tossed some ideas around and thought about this a lot on my rides to and from work and eventually came up with an idea for a system where people could rate and rank politicians based on criteria that can often get skipped over by other media organisations. Organisations that are often more focused more on policy and party rhetoric.
I chose 4 criteria and an overall score for rating our politicians. The overall score is just a general ranking of how a user thinks they’re going across any available information they have. The other criteria are:
Honesty, whether or not a politician is honest in what they say. If an MP is often caught saying one thing and doing another then I would expect them to score lower on this criteria.
Authenticity is an important one that I think a lot of people understand on some level but don’t always verbalise. When you have a person who has obviously never spent time in any sort of manufacturing or trade environment coming in and pretending to be one of the old boys working in the factory it can come off as very inauthentic. I think politicians that are able to admit their lack of knowledge in areas and excel in areas they do know will score high here.
Some politicians truly take on their responsibility as community leaders and are active in their community beyond the self-serving campaign benefits. Many are not. I chose to add this as a criteria because I think it’s important that members of parliament are involved with their constituents in local issues to be able to represent them well. I expect a lot of MPs to score low on this criteria because many politicians will attend events that their constituents don’t see unless they’re in niche communities like small business groups.
Whether or not a member of parliament votes along party lines is important for a lot of people. Many people view voting as not voting for the individual but the party that individual represents. In recent times Australia has had several politicians go against party policy and some cross the bench entirely. I think it’s important that voters know whether or not they’re getting the policies put forward by the party or the individuals personal policies. There isn’t a right or wrong answer here but it’s important to be informed.
The last and perhaps most vague is Impartiality. I chose to include impartiality because for me as a person I like to think that government can be impartial and make the objectively ~good~ decision. This might not actually be possible and could be the idealist in me. I want to be able to rank my politicians on their impartiality on issues and whether or not they’re really biased because of idealogical theories, personal experience or religious ideals. As Joe Biden recently said “I’m a Catholic so I don’t agree with abortion but I don’t think that gives me the right to make your mind up for you.”
Reviewmy.mp might not be the most original, innovative or creative idea but I think it could provide some small change and motivation to a political system where a lot of things slip past the public eye. I think one of the best applications for it will be councillors, truly an area where we see favouritism, corruption and nepotism take control of people’s areas and impact their lives every day.
Reviewmy.mp started simply as a project that could help me learn Phoenix/Elixir and React. I’m still figuring out a lot of details and how to retain users over time. I don’t have any plans to monetise but I suspect there would be methods through analysis, consultancy and reporting to political parties, industry and community groups or the AEC/ABS.
The next steps to move the project along is first fixing bugs and user flow problems that were discovered when I first shared the project with my network. After that I want to work on some interface design to make the site more intuitive and better looking generally. I want to include graphs and better data visibility for users around politicians and reviews. I have the beginnings of this set up but haven’t progressed too far.
Last but certainly not least is to add HTTPS. It doesn’t need to be a complex system but users expect HTTPS these days and it’s only basic responsibility to accomodate this, especially with data around voting and politics.
I had some trouble getting the project to initial launch phase because of my choice to go with Phoenix and Elixir over something I’m more familiar with like Rails or Laravel. I had some fun using ES6 modules and React but that slowed me down. As this project started off as something that I just wanted to play with and give a go I’m not rushing anything and between a girlfriend, job and training jiu jitsu 6 days a week I don’t have a ton of time to dedicate.
I’m having fun with it and will continue to do so. If you’re thinking about starting a project but are unsure, just do it. Do it in something you don’t know and figure it out as you go. What’s the worst that could happen?