VFM Mania

Mark Latham, who initiated and personally financed the first two Voter Funded Media (VFM) contests at UBC in 2007 and 2008, is back, cementing his place as the patron saint of UBC independent media. Yesterday he unveiled a second VFM contest to be run around the same time as the AMS elections time, with an extra $2,000 of his own money thrown into the pot.

The full details can be found here:

Vote here:

There are a lot of differences between the new contest and the currently existing one. We caught up with Mark Latham yesterday and discussed the new contest and some of the ways it differs from the existing contest.

No Entry Fee – This is meant to help more people get on board. The $150 entry fee in the regular contest might be enough to scare off some competitors who are unsure of whether they’d like to fully commit to the competition or are unsure of how well they’ll do. Ideally, a budding media outlet will be able to enter the continuous VFM and earn some funding which can go towards the entry fee for the bigger competition. If not, they are able to give it a shot without putting themselves in the hole.

Voting Structure Voting in the one-time contest means you get only one vote. While some may weigh their decision on the culmination of coverage throughout the whole contest period, it’s also possible that it reflects a person’s feelings only at that particular point in time.

With continuous VFM, you can vote as often as you like, with the caveat that the new votes replace your previous ones. At the same time, voting repeatedly is encouraged, because the older the vote is, the less weight it is given. By voting regularly, your recorded opinion of the VFM candidates is up-to-date, and counts fully. With that said, voting every half an hour is probably counter-productive. Mark envisions that the ideal voting frequency would be about once a week.

Voting is also open to anyone, anywhere, which is meant to acknowledge that people not within the sphere of having voting privileges in AMS elections may also take an interest in what is happening at UBC and the coverage provided by the VFM entrants (for all the UBC admin out there, please vote for us). It’s not meant so that you can simply get as many people as possible on facebook to vote for you.

Why the new VFM? Apparently impressionable young university students are a good way to test drive new ideas (who’da thunk?) While the new continuous VFM works on the same basic premise as the one-time VFM, that media is rewarded based on voters’ preferences, as evidenced in the voting discussion above the mechanics of the continuous VFM are completely new. There needs to be a trial of these new ideas.

While politics is the most obvious example of where people vote en masse, Mark’s work with VFM is not the only place it might be applicable. In fact, the whole idea around VFM arose out of a different area altogether: corporations. The big idea has to do with finding new, better ways to keep investors informed and for shareholders to be better educated when making proxy voting decisions with their shares. Mark even sits on the SEC Investor Advisory Committee, as a representative for individual investors (as opposed to large institutional ones. In short: the AMS is a little place where he can test his ideas and see them at work, though he has much, much bigger ideas in mind.

One of the things continuous VFM aims to address is having media that are active all the time. This is something we wholeheartedly support. One needs only look back one month to be able to count on one hand the number of active media sources on campus. The #amsUNfail brought a number of dormant blogs back to life, but in the absence of such an event, it’s likely they would have remained that way until the VFM contest started once again.

A heartfelt thanks to Mark for setting up this new contest, and to all readers, please vote for us! While we blog because we are genuinely interested in what’s going on at UBC, a little extra spending money certainly helps.


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