Tag Archives: features

The #bigppcquiz enables voters to match to candidates directly online for the first time

A5 candidate match

So far 300 pioneering General Election 2015 candidates from all parties, and several independents, have done the #bigppcquiz which in turn enables voters to match directly to candidates.

If you are a candidate, you just need to get your unique quiz link directly from us at PositionDial to take part. Please email mariam@positiondial.com for details.

We are directly inviting all PPCs (Prospective Parliamentary Candidates) via email and Twitter with thanks to the contact details provided on yournextmp.com but there are some we do not have, so please get in touch if you haven’t got your quiz link yet.

As a voter, you can see your candidate matches on your Election 2015 results page. And filter to your constituency to see how you match to candidates you can actually vote for:


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Is ‘regulatory’ a better label (Position descriptor) than ‘authoritarian’ on PositionDial?

We often have a slightly different understanding of different terms.

Although Google, and it’s crowd-powered, trusted (by most) often top result, Wikipedia. … provides the see I told you or aha, you were wrong… oh yeah, moments. Removing much of the room for doubt…

But yet still certain words provoke responses. Differences of understanding, and positive or negative connotations.

Like “authoritarian”.

An example PositionDial including the ‘authoritarian’ Position descriptor


As outlined in our ‘axis ethos’ – on PositionDial, our aim is ‘labels’ or Position descriptors which are the clearest to understand, and at the same time the least offensive to those whose Positions fall into that ‘side.’

We have also been clear, that Position descriptors are up for questioning, debate, improvement when needed.

Not least because, as the late great Ciborra said- in categories, and particularly – between categories – there is suffering (yes, in relation to information systems).

So as we’ve had a few tweets on this particular axis / label lately. And it has been one I’ve wondered about previously, anyway, and have been surprised we haven’t had more feedback on. It seems well worth delving into at this juncture. (Not least as, with the general election fast approaching, avoiding discomfort to our users, political parties and indeed political candidates at this crucial time is high priority).


Bearing in mind, first of all, we never label a side as ‘good‘. But neither, do we want to label a side, or have a label that is seen to be, ‘bad‘.

So, to explore these comments and challenges, and the alternative proposed. I will ask here three questions:

  1. Does authoritarian mean control? (The semantic question)
  2. Is authoritarian pejorative / offensive? (The palatability question)
  3. Is the alternative proposed (regulatory) better?


1 Does authoritarian mean control?

First of all, semantically, historically, does the word authoritarian mean control? Are we using it correctly?

According to dictionary.com – the word dates back to 1862 – meaning “favoring imposed order over freedom.”

According to the “The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles” (which my late Grandad once conveniently (kindly) gave to me – (unsolicited!) … (and don’t be fooled by the ‘Shorter’ – it’s in two massive chunky hardback tomes).


Authoritarian means:


And authority means:



So in answer to the first question. Authoritarian does mean control and regulation. It is correct and accurate, semantically, logically, to use authoritarian in the way we are using it on the PositionDial.


2 Is authoritarian pejorative / offensive? (The palatability question)

Does the word authoritarian provoke offense? When labelled so? To some, yes. As shown above. Which is of course something we seek to avoid.

It is important here, now, with this, and any other similar such problems with labels we might have in future, to consider very carefully. Even, especially, if only a minority are affected. Because to have all the different shades of grey of positions and views brought together and explored, genuinely, differing perspectives must not be excluded, irritated or offended wherever possible.


3 Is the alternative proposed (regulatory) better?

The alternative proposed is ‘regulatory’.

  • So instead of using authoritarian / libertarian as our axis.
  • We would use regulatory / libertarian instead.

(Keeping libertarian as, as yet, people understand it, and no one has yet been offended by it, and non-regulatory sounds more convoluted- we try to avoid double-barrels where possible).


How do we define better?

For axis labels / position descriptors, we define better as follows:

a) Just as accurate, if not more so,

b) Less offensive (we have already seen that regulatory is less offensive to some, above – so won’t go into this again)

c) Just as understandable, if not more so


a) Context by context accuracy

To explore this, it’s necessary to delve into whether it makes sense to describe all possible positions, in context, as regulatory instead of authoritarian.

For economic contexts.

If we set financial or other penalties on industrial activity deemed environmentally harmful.

This is regulation.

It is controlling of behaviour by industry.

It is therefore authoritarian.

It is also regulatory.


For social contexts.

We set financial or other penalties on drug related activity, eg the possession of drugs for personal use.

This is legislation.

It is controlling of behaviour by individuals.

It is therefore authoritarian.

It is also regulatory.


A broader civil liberties example – we believe as a society (or at least our government) that we should not speak “hateful speech.” To be specific (getting more fictional here for the sake of clarity, please bear with) … if you call me anything in the animal kingdom (dog, pig, rabbit) this is hate.

The government sets financial or other penalties on calling each other animals.

This is regulation / legislation.

It is controlling of behaviour by individuals.

It is therefore authoritarian.

It is also regulatory.


And finally, to give another example, which becomes more and more important in this online age – some believe that the government should not be monitoring us.

The government monitors what we write, say, (think..? ;)) in order to protect us.

When we are free. No one is watching or listening to us.

When we are controlled. It is that there is regulation, determining we should be watched, and monitored. So that extremism can be identified before it harms our society or system.

It is therefore authoritarian.

It is also regulatory (underpinned by government rules and powers to watch us).

So for all applicable contexts explored here ‘regulatory’ does work as a label. Semantically.

What about a Position on having more police on the streets? Can we use ‘regulatory’ then?

Well, at a push. It doesn’t read as neat as authoritarian, but the police are there to enforce legislation and regulation after all, so it does sort of work.

c) Is ‘regulatory’ just as understandable, if not more so?

When someone uses PositionDial. Especially for the first time. Will they ‘get’ what regulatory means?

Will seeing that word, as their ‘Position descriptor’ or label, be any less understandable than seeing the word authoritarian?

Arguably, the word authoritarian is in more common use. It is used in political discourse more. It appears more commonly on political science tests and quizzes and cool stuff like the Political Compass.

Getting it wrong on get-ability

This regulatory vs authoritarian question reminds me of similar wranglings around the eco-friendly / eco- sceptic axis.

Vs the more accurate in some cases – manmade vs natural axis.

In case this isn’t obvious, this came about due to people (well, one of our trusted advisers) saying that eco-friendly vs eco-sceptic isn’t a fair label. That it doesn’t work for him.

That he cares about the environment – about conservation for example, but just doesn’t believe in manmade climate change.

So we started using manmade vs natural as an axis instead for the climate change topic.

Trouble is. No one “got it.”

“What is manmade?” We’ve added the answer to the FAQ. The least ideal ‘resolution!’

Is authoritarian to regulatory as big a leap? Is the understandability factor as problematic?

Probably not.

But still.


Understandabilty is a very important factor.

Because with PositionDial we seek to engage not just political animals, but the politically curious: those who are not sure where they stand, and even less sure where politicians, who want their vote, stand.

So we must not make decisions / change Position descriptors based around semantic sensitivities at a highly intellectual level, at the expense of appealing to, and being used, and understood by, and empowering, those who are not yet as politically engaged and studied.


In summary

So to round up –

  1. “Regulatory” is just as appropriate / accurate as authoritarian to be used as a position descriptor
  2. Regulatory can be less offensive to some than using authoritarian
  3. The only remaining concern is, is it as understandable to PositionDial users, new and existing


Tell us your view: what works better. For you, and everyone?

There can be no better judge than you, the crowd, on this.

  • Do you understand regulatory as well as you understand authoritarian? Even as a label seen quickly / out of context? On a PositionDial?

Here’s a qualitative poll (yup, it’s a thing, or it is now). Please comment below and on Twitter whether we should update authoritarian / libertarian to regulatory / libertarian.

We’re listening. And will act accordingly. And keep this question open to feedback ad infinitum. Look forward to hearing from you.

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Match to MP PositionDial dissolved until after the election


Parliament officially dissolved on Monday, and we’re taking down our match to MP feature until after the election.

It’s been one of our most popular features, and our first ‘match’ experience, with great thanks to My Society’s theyworkforyou – for allowing us to Position their vote summary data from MP’s real votes in parliament.

We’ve had a range of reactions to ‘Match to MP.’ Some people are of course keen on scrutinising the record of their own MP.

Most are fascinated by their top matches, even going as far as to say “I’m Hyell Williams, never heard of him.”

So we’re introducing you to an MP, from miles away, who is best representing where you stand.

I’ve been asked, what’s the point of knowing this?

We’ve all heard the dire voting stats and polls about a lack of trust in politicians, and how little there is to choose between them.


What ‘Match to MP PositionDial’ has done is show that there is real diversity in parliament, and that you can find genuine matches on many issues.

Even though you might not agree on everything all the time, it’s well worth knowing that your perspective is actually being put forward at the highest level, and who by.

And not just to know. We introduced a ‘tweet your top match’ a little while ago – giving you an opportunity to publicly thank the representative(s) best standing up for what you believe in. So even if you don’t live near them, and can’t vote for them, you can give some public support.

Everyone’s a critic. And MPs get a lot of that. By showing who matches, there’s a chance to balance that by sending some positive vibes towards those who line up with you. That’s got to be win:win.

Match to MP will relaunch after the UK General Election on May 7th 2015.

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Your PositionDial: deconstructed

We get quite a few people having loads of fun playing around with their PositionDial but not quite understanding what the inner versus the outer circles mean. Awkward.

And what’s in the middle, you ask?

So sorry it’s not been super-clear.

Here especially for you is a diagram to explain how it all breaks out. We’re also throwing it up on the about page.

dial deconstructed

It’s not the most beautiful infograph you’ve ever seen (mostly because I made it) … but hopefully it does the job for now…


Seeing the different sides on PositionDial


We’ve made an update today to make it easier to keep track of reading / watching the different sides of the story via PositionDial.


You’ve told us seeing different perspectives in one place is what you want most. From today you will be able to see how many you’ve seen, easily, via a tick top left on the media window of items you’ve visited.

PositionDial.com   Workers in Scotland forced to turn to foodbanks

For registered, logged in users, this will carry with you from visit to visit.  (We’re also planning to provide you with a full article history, like your statement history, soon.)


We have also introduced a new red arrow icon to show when a media item is viewable offsite, rather than on PositionDial.


The red arrow appears top right on the media window. You can find out more about why items are shown on or offsite in our FAQ. And as always do keep your feedback, media and blog suggestions coming!

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PositionDial LSE Launch: time for action

Last Wednesday we held PositionDial‘s LSE Launch party in association with Polis.  It was a triple-decker launch –

  1. To LSE students
  2. Of our new responsive site
  3. And lastly, most excitingly, of our new action matches feature

As it’s our first post – I’ll summarize PositionDial super-quick..

See the different sides of the story

positiondial UK in Europe Independence or Union

Seen a trending issue, news story or blog post? Want to see a different perspective? Think there’s a different side you’re not being shown? Check PositionDial – whether left, right, traditional, progressive, pro-independence or pro-union – we show you the different sides of the story in one place so you’re not left wondering.

Get your PositionDial

Get your PositionDial

React to Position statements to get your PositionDial – a dynamic, living representation of  where you stand on the issues you care about.

Explore your action matches

MP action dial example Action matches show you which brands, organisations and MPs line up with your position. We’ve started with an initial spread of companies and UK politicians – and are building up. If there’s a politician or (independent) company data source you’d urgently like us to add, just let us know. Our MP action matches are powered by data positioned (by us) from TheyWorkForYou.com

Why oh why

During the event I spoke on the deep problems our research at PositionDial has uncovered: from a lack of trust in centers of power, to the decline in participation at elections, to difficulty seeing and navigating different perspectives (aka the filter bubble), to the huge and growing demand from people, institutions, politicians and businesses alike, to know, understand and make better decisions in relation to the issues that matter.

I also touched on ‘agonistic pluralism’ – a core concept which underpins PositionDial – essentially it supports providing space for difference, not striving for consensus. And having a deep respect and concern for ‘the other.’

And how

Organising everything by position and perspective makes it easy to see, compare and find everything in an entirely new way.

David, our super-full-stack CTO, who quite heroically rebuilt PositionDial’s whole (big data) platform in a matter of weeks single-handedly – gave a quick tour of the pd magic…

He’ll be sharing more of how he’s making it all happen here when some feeling returns to the end of his fingers.

Never a word wasted

It was a great crowd in the room – we heard a raft of sharp and insightful feedback.  If you were there..  be assured not a word was wasted and we will be discussing your ideas in the pages of this blog and more importantly (in keeping with the pd spirit) turning them into action.

Two sides: Austerity

Richard Seymour cllr Harry Phibbs

We were also super-stoked to host a fascinating debate on austerity between Richard Seymour (writer at Leninology and The Guardian) and Harry Phibbs (Conservative Councillor and regular at Conservative Home).

Their totally different perspectives on austerity, the UK economy, and the global financial system more broadly – powerfully brought to life the value of hearing both sides of the story.

You can listen to their debate here (Dropbox audio download) and react to Position statements from both on PositionDial.

Give in to us

For PositionDial to work it needs to be powered by everyone. You can add media and opinion right now by clicking on the ‘Position empty’ sign and we will be adding more ways to contribute as the weeks roll on.

In the meantime, we are very open to suggestions via email, Twitter or comments on:

  • Topics to cover
  • Authors / bloggers
  • Action data sources
  • Position statements
  • Blog posts / articles / videos
  • Anything you think should be positioned differently

(We are still bug fixing from the big change over so please excuse any hiccups.)

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