my idea: wheresthebias.com

Here’s an idea I had about a week ago while lying in bed, severely jet-lagged. I’m pretty sure that this is at least better than the “shower idea”.

Today, everyone is going crazy about Obama’s healthcare proposal. If you haven’t heard about it, I recommend that you not go to any town hall meetings. Anyways, I noticed there are a lot of statistics being thrown out there from both sides, including anything from the length of Canadian transplant waitlists to the estimated cost of insuring everyone, from the total number of uninsured Americans to the how much of a liar Obama is. Statistics are great to use because they sound official and concrete. Unfortunately, statistics can be misleading, or even downright lies. At best, quoted statistics are used with some bias.

What I propose is a website where one could get references and context for statistics. For example, let’s say that a commercial says “40% of all Americans will fake washing their hands if they think someone is watching” (I just made that up). Questioning this, they can go to wheresthebias.com and search for it. They can find the statistic (40%) and see who said this (commercial on public health), and what the apparent source is (Kevin Leung’s butt). Additionally, there would be a meter for the left and right bias of the speaker (neutral) and the original source (very left). Also, there would be a meter for the reliability of the quote, from the truth to maybe misleading, to a downright lie (in this case, a lie). I guess, then, that the stat, quoter, and quotee would all be judged on 2 axes, being political bias and reliability. Below that, they could see other statistics for comparison (70% of people will fake washing their hands if no one is watching) and comments from various users.

Of course, like any knowledge-based service, this depends on there being good, informed people who could give their opinions on the subject. All of the data would be user-driven, and I guess we could probably use the same 2 axes for each of the users. Thus, reliable, fairly moderate people would have more weight in evaluating new statistics. This, of course, leads to a bad chicken-egg problem between users and stats, but this is just an idea.

So, my disclaimer: I know nothing of this area. I don’t know if this has been done before. I don’t know anything about statistics or politics. I don’t know how well political forums online work, or if everyone out there just becomes a troll. Just an idea. Opinions?

2 thoughts on “my idea: wheresthebias.com”

  1. Hi Kevin. It’s good to see that you’ve suddenly developed an interest in politics, and I admire your desire to bring stats and facts to people. Out of curiosity, I searched on the web and I found 2 websites that specialize in political fact checking. Here are the following websites:

    1) http://www.factcheck.org/
    This website is actually a project by the University of Pennsylvania. Basically, it fact checks politicians’ speeches. It takes a statement or speech made by a politician and analyzes it for accuracy. The website also cites its sources for the information that they posted. Moreover, you get to ask factcheck.org your question about what some politician said, and factcheck.org can fact check what the politician said.

    2) http://www.politifact.com/
    This is the website that I find the most interesting and very intriguing, because it very much mirrors your idea/vision for political fact checking! It is sponsored by St. Petersburg Times. Ok, so on the website, there are 3 “meters” that you can view: the truth-o-meter, the obameter, and the flip-o-meter. The truth-o-meter ranks each political statement based on the following scale: true, mostly true, half-true, barely true, false, or pants on fire! For each political statement on the website, there’s a truth-o-meter beside it which gauges the truthfullness of the statement. The obameter keeps track of all the campaign promises that Obama made and tells us whether Obama broke his promises. It also analyzes the truthfullness of Obama’s statements.
    The flop-o-meter tells us how consistent a politician is on an issue.

    If you want facts that may or may not be related to politics, here are other websites that may be of interest to you:
    1. http://stats.org
    Affiliated with George Mason university. They correct misinformation that’s in the media and politics. You can go to http://thestatsblog.wordpress.com/ to see the articles.

    2. http://www.lib.umich.edu/government-documents-center/explore/browse/statistics/260/search/

    3. http://www.fedstats.gov/

    4. http://www.nationmaster.com/

  2. And, if you want to create your own website where everyone can put in stats and stuff, then by all means do so. It will be like a “Wikipedia for Stats”, but if anyone can contribute to the website, then there are bound to be errors and inaccuracies. The websites that I mentioned above are sponsored by/affiliated with professional organizations in which only qualified people (such as journalists) can do fact checking.

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