Conference on Rating, Voting, Annotation - Vienna 1997

Vienna, 21-22 April 1997


Voting and Rating -
Perspectives for information collection, decision making and collaborative rating using Web4Groups

Authors: Roland Alton-Scheidl, Rupert Schmutzer, Peter-Paul Sint, Gernot Tscherteu (Research Unit for Socio-Economics/Austria), May 1997


This report presents the findings of a study investigating the feasibility of voting and rating processes using the group communication service Web4Groups.

The scope of the study is to ask about relevant aspects of the implementation of voting and rating functionalities into Web4Groups and to provide first assumptions about its possible consequences.

The method applied combines the development of a theoretical framework for rating and voting processes with a scenario technique for the integration of user needs.

This specific study is part of an international project to establish a service for advanced group communication on the World Wide Web. The partners are software developers, researchers in the social sciences and various groups interested in the use of the service. The permanent exchange of knowledge between developers, researchers and users has been deliberately employed in the whole project to develop a system which starts from viable needs and goes through sound assessment to become a sustainable service.

The character of this study is marked by two intentions:

1) analysing the feasibility of transferring some well known activities of everyday life (voting and rating) into computer-mediated communication contexts as well as exploring completely new ways of those activities,

2) providing guidelines for the design of a voting and a rating tool in Web4Groups.

Imagining that the support of voting and rating could be an important requirement for future media the investigations focus on two aspects: on the one hand rating activities in decision making processes (`voting') and on the other hand the rating of content (`rating' of web pages, of contributions to a discussion, etc.) will be relevant.

In chapter 1 `A Basic Understanding of Voting and Rating' is developed as a starting point for further inquiries. It is argued that voting and rating are activities that show some basic similarities. The common characteristic of both activities is the evaluation of objects (e.g. a person, a topic or the content of a document). Differences result from specific procedures and there will be differences in what follows the outcomes. Therefore it is suggested that voting and rating can be best understood in terms of actions, conditions, and consequences.

In chapter 2 some of the numerous forms of `Rating in Everyday Life' are discovered and shortly discussed. People are used to participating in rating processes as well as to relying on their outcomes in daily information filtering and decision making. In many situations of everyday life people are likely to find themselves in at least one of three roles: to be the subject of a rating activity (e.g. telling a friend about the quality of a book), to be the object of a rating process (e.g. undergoing assessment in school or work), or to be a part of the audience of the outcomes of a rating process (e.g. watching the results of elections on TV). A close look on the broad variety of everyday rating activities and on their implications should help to imagine uses which may be supported through computer-mediated communication.

Chapter 3 deals with the question of `Voting and Telecommunications' on a large scale and on a small scale. First, efforts of tele-democracy and tele-voting are presented which try to democratise the participation of a population in political decision making through the use of telecommunications. Secondly, it is shown that there are also serious efforts underway to support decision making in small groups. In a concluding argument both cases of decision support on a large scale and on a small scale are brought together by dealing with the `mechanics of voting'. Relevant findings from social choice theory are reviewed and used in determining the necessary elements of a voting procedure.

In chapter 4 a side issue of any voting and rating process is discussed, namely how the preferences or opinions of people are investigated. A close look at `Surveying in the Social Sciences' is taken to reflect on the problems of conducting a poll or a survey under conditions of computer-mediated communication.

Finally, chapter 5 describes guidelines for the development of `Voting and Rating Agents for Web4Groups'. The technical architecture and the concept of the Web4Groups service are explained to understand the integration of voting and rating functionalities. The needs of the involved user groups are analysed in detail to specify the requirements. For the voting activity the necessary actions of the agent in all phases from the starting to the closing of a vote are defined. Different models of how individual preferences may be aggregated to achieve a collective choice are developed. On the basis of these voting models a syntax for a voting script is suggested. For the rating activity an agent with basic functionality is specified allowing for the development of more complex applications. A syntax is suggested which complies with ongoing standards development (PICS). Both for the voting and rating activities first mock-ups of the user interface are presented.

A comprehensive appendix includes an elaborated scenario on linking rating and the role organisation of a group, several concrete scenarios on voting and rating provided by the involved user groups, and a review of already available voting and rating services on the Internet.

Please find the detailed version of the study on our ftp-server:

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Last update: 13 05 1997