Since finally entering the LAB part of EteRNA, I have developed some issues and concerns with the voting system, and I know I’m not alone, the boards are filled with others voicing similar concerns.
Before jumping in, however I just want to insert a disclaimer: “None of the ideas below are things which I am even 100% certain I am in favor of. They are just a sampling of issues I’ve noted, and wanted to bring into the public conversation.”
I think there is a case to be made for a many alterations to the voting system, but I am going to bring up only two for the sake of this conversation: Namely, 1) Blind Tally" voting, and 2) “Blind Author” voting.
I might add right up front that I believe neither of these ideas will popular or well-received, however, I believe both could have an ultimately positive effect on the voting process itself, as well as on the results of that process - since both remove information that really has no value to add to the SIMPLE BASIC MERIT of the design submission itself.
“Blind Tally” voting (not showing the amount of votes any design had received until AFTER the voting was closed) would minimize, if not entirely eliminate, the (quite natural) “pile-on” effect; voting with the crowd. Currently it is too easy to make up your mind to cast a vote using this criteria alone, and it makes votes cast this way not have the same true value as a vote cast based on one’s own individual best-effort analysis.
“Blind Author” (not revealing the author of each design until AFTER the voting was closed) would be minimize or eliminate “guru-following;” voting for a design solely because it was composed by a top player. Newer players, or non-top scoring players, would then stand a much greater chance of having their design voted for or selected - assuming the design was good - since they would not be dismissed right away because they are new and unknown.
(Note: This might also necessitate a non-personal submission-naming scheme as well)
Both of these changes aim to necessitate honest personal evaluation of the design alone as criteria to cast a vote, by removing too-easy substitutes for more difficult and time-consuming analysis.
I want to stress that, even though I am advancing these ideas, even “I” myself, would miss this information being included; I LIKE seeing who did what design, and how many other have voted on it; it definitely enhances personal involvement and interest. But I keep catching myself beginning to make voting decisions BASED on these factors, before - (or even totally WITHOUT) - having taken the time to analyse each and every one, and then make my decision based on that analysis - (especially when time is running out), and I feel this pollutes the voting effort, and is bad for EteRNA and its goals.
Granted, these ideas would make the voting analysis effort MUCH more demanding of the players; it takes a lot of time and effort and thought to go through dozens of submissions, I know, and we naturally look for ways to narrow down the candidate base, so that we can concentrate our analysis efforts more profitably and economically. But shouldn’t this winnowing process be based on something like past high nature-score? …or from one’s own growing sense and intuition about chances for success derived from free energy and melting point value ranges? … or simply from how similar a design is to other successful designs? … (instead of how many others chose it, or what amount of esteem the author may command?)
Perhaps the search should be defined and promoted in earnest (among players and staff) - to come up with more appropriate and relevant, and valuable criteria for the design winnowing process, while simultaneously seeking for ways to keep these interesting and valuable - but peril-fraught - criteria like vote tally and author from affecting the voting results in unintended and perhaps even counter-productive ways.
Alternately, perhaps initial winnowing-down should even be conducted by the EteRNA staff rather than the players, as this could also reduce conflict-of-interest issues among players, as well as tap the most knowledgeable resource to influence the most likely successful starting pool of designs.
In closing I just want to say that I am not necessarily lobbying for any of these changes; rather I am just wanting to share my perceptions and concerns, and looking to advance this conversation in all the players interests, and in the interests of the goals of EteRNA itself.