PoliTree Dev Update: March 2021

The following is part of a larger series discussing the ongoing development of PoliTree, an attempted political-compass killer which has been way too long in the making. To find out more, visit the introduction.

First update of 2021, here’s a list of minor stuff to report.

  • Proprietarian has been renamed to Libertarian following my discovery that the former term has a very specific meaning within anarcho-capitalist circles.
  • Some of the references in the results pages have been redone, I won’t list them all here, look if you want.
  • The Regenerate cluster has been renamed to “Restore”, which I think gets across the general idea better.
  • It was brought to my attention that someone went ahead and made a test which uses an approach identical to that of my original model from the May 2018 section. While this approach has been long abandoned by me for numerous reasons, if you’re curious to see what it may have turned out like, check it out here.

The big thing is that I went ahead and overhauled the branch questions format (pictured below) as per the aforementioned plans. I have now completed 14 out of 32 of the pages in the new style. Below is the one I completed as part of an Assimilation versus Liberation question.

Some stuff I added which weren’t mentioned in the last post:

  • A slider is being used for the user input. The slider can be moved into one of five positions, depending on what you agree with more. The CSS is a pain to work with, so I’ll add stuff like notches and labels later.
  • Passages are paraphrased in order to ensure they’re both of an equivalent reading level and also for the sake of keeping things concise.
  • The overarching question is explicit, rather than implicit with the hopes of making the activity more accessible.

Overall, I’m very satisfied with the change. This method strikes at the core of the distinctions between each branch while also providing the end-user the necessary information to make a choice.

Concurrent to this, I’m doing some light brainstorming regarding how to rework the canopy questions and also how to deal with an issue I’ve anticipated for a long time but constantly kicked down the road.

Starting with the issue, it’s the fact that there exists branches which can completely spill into different leaves/clusters if the test-taker approaches the questions from a different angle. The two most obvious offenders to me are Utopian and Anarcho-capitalist, but there is something to be said about how the Populist leaf overlaps with the Nationalist leaf.

Starting with Utopian, the lines between it and something like Technocracy/Meritocracy, while existing, are blurred. Spitballing for a second here, I guess it could be argued that Technocrats begin from the present and progress from there, while utopian socialists start from an ideal and work backward. Issue is that this distinction has to be resolved at the canopy, not in filter questions.

Same applies with anarcho-capitalism, ancaps’ rhetorical focus on stuff like coercion and statism could lead them to fall into the “Political” focus on the triangle, either placing them as left-anarchists or even worse, Internationalist assuming they don’t fall in the Abolish cluster. And that speaks to something else about right-anarchists/libertarians. It occupies this level of ambiguity between Abolish and Advance; normally this’d warrant it being placed in between the two on the triangle, but that position is already occupied by Progressive, which IMO is a better fit. In addition, within the same branch ARE reformist libertarians, so it’s not like I can exactly take it out either.

To me, I can justify the placement in Advance (even for ancaps), in that they operate on what are fundamentally classical conceptions of property rights and political power. However, it’s not just sufficient to consider my perspective, I have to also ensure the test-taker’s perspective is accounted for in designing this test. I don’t have a solution to this yet, but I figured it was worth acknowledging so I can begin figuring out one.

As far as the actual design of the canopy goes, the current design I feel has to be overhauled. The sorting into base/superstructure and hegemony assumes way too much self-awareness on part of the test-taker, and a test for those who already know the answer is pointless. As a matter of fact, during the course of making this test, I think I’ve developed a law: there is an inverse relationship between the burden on the test-taker and the burden on the test-maker when designing stuff like this.

An idea I had was to use a series of word clouds, have the test-taker select words which represent concepts in their world-view. Because these concepts are more concrete, it’ll take the burden off of the test-taker. Here’s a quick barebones sketch of what it may look like:

Perhaps it’d help if I ran key ideological texts or archives of online communities through a wordcloud generator for inspiration. Here’s a wordcloud of a chapter ripped from The Communist Manifesto:

Regardless, the main priority right now is getting these filter questions done. I’ve begun periodically streaming my progress of it on Twitch, which has definitely helped to motivate me, since the process is generally tedious as all hell.

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