Hillary Clinton's State Department is trying it's hand at the sort of online social networking savvy that served her boss so well during his campaign.
Their new site, Opinion Space, is a sort of left wing/right wing map that visually illustrates "which ideas result in the most discussion and which are judged most insightful by the community of participants," based on 5 "central" issues that Ms. Clinton, it seems, has chosen to focus on.
The software was created by the Berkeley Center for New Media and uses Principal Component Analysis from advanced mathematics to plot your overall opinion as a point (or star) in the constellation of other viewpoints.
"Opinion Space is designed to 'depolarize' discussions by including all participants on a level playing field," says BCNM director Ken Goldberg.
SF Gate's Tech Blog has a more extensive post highlighting the experimental version of about a year ago. One concept that seems missing from this version is the idea of "landmarks" (blue dots) that represent the opinions of public figures… for obvious reasons, given the host.
The largest problem I see with this is the standard limitation with polls - the questions define the debate. I had trouble with the first question, as I think nuclear proliferation is a serious international issue, but that a nuclear armed terrorist is an extremely unlikely occurrence. Remember, the last try involved an underwear bomb. We are not talking rocket scientists here, as yet.
However, the social rating/Ranking aspect is vastly interesting - I am wondering how this map is going to look in a month - mostly to the left is my guess. Unless Fox does a piece on it, of course.
I guess my favorite thing about this is that the State Dept. is leveraging the intellectual property of academic research and development in the real world.