Global competitions

I’ve blogged recently about projects like TalkToUS that try to bring voices from around the world into the conversation around the upcoming US elections. Betavote takes a much blunter approach to the issue – they let anyone on the Internet cast a vote in the US presidential elections. Obviously, the vote’s hardly a fair reflection of actual global opinion – there’s only limited attempts to prevent people from voting dozens of times, no way to tell whether people are actually from the countries they claim to represent, and no guarantee that the people who find the site don’t have one overwhelming political bias or another.

So while the results aren’t statistically “clean”, they are interesting. Kerry currently leads Bush 84% to 15%. What’s interesting to me are the countries where Bush is tied with or leading Kerry (where there are more than a vote or two cast.) The two most noticeable are Iraq and Afghanistan, where the candidates run neck and neck with hundreds of votes cast – I’m tempted to conclude that these are the result of interested US Republicans intervening to argue the point that these nations are better off due to Bush’s actions. (It seems unlikely that more people have voted from Afghanistan, with its poor connectivity, than from Japan.) But I’m interested to see Bush with a strong showing in Jamaica, Azerbaijan and Viet Nam – any thoughts on reasons for these countries bucking the global trend?

While on the subject of sites that encourage global participation and comparison, let me share my favorite procrastination site of the week: the Geography Olympics. It’s pretty simple – you choose the country you represent, and then you have 200 seconds to find ten randomly selected countries on a world map. Given how much of my work involves coloring in world maps, I’d expect to be pretty good at this… but I’m not good enough to get perfect scores on this test, which includes all UN-recognized nations, tripping me up as I try to remember which of those small islands in the South Pacific is Samoa and which is Tonga. Still, my personal average is higher than the Irish, who current share the lead with the Taiwanese, the Lithanians and the Nicaraguans. The US is over 20% behind the leaders, despite my efforts to help, and seems to fall behind every time I check the leaderboard. C’mon, folks, a little more geographic knowledge and we can beat the Canucks and leap into 56th place!

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