Wednesday, November 08, 2006

human factors in election news coverage

As most of you know by now, I am a big advocate of understanding what users want before designing a system so you can best meet their needs and expectations. The news coverage of this critical election sucked in this regard.

What most people wanted to know in this situation, besides the results of a particular race, is what the democrats' chances of taking the House and/or Senate were. So what we would have liked to know during the coverage is "of the races that are still too close to call, the dems need 4 out of 5 in the Senate and 3 out of 10 in the House" or something to that effect. That would help us to estimate they have a 70% chance of taking the House and a 20% chance of taking the Senate.

Instead, the news said "The democrats need to take 3 more seats from Senate Republicans and 20 more from House Republicans." But this is totally not helpful because some of those races could be easy to call (for either party), and some of the democrat encumbents could also be in close races. And we don't know how many close races are left. From this information, it is impossible to even estimate the odds. There is too much missing information.

So news guys, listen up. Think about what the viewers need and present information in a way that helps!!!

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