So where am I going with Malark-O-Meter? I've lost an unhealthy amount of sleep working on it when I should have been resting after a day of interviews and dissertation data management. My heart flutters when I'm about to finish a Malark-O-Meter analysis, again when I'm about to share it, and again when I get some feedback. Wait a second. That must mean I'm passionate about it!
I'm passionate enough about Malark-O-Meter (M.O.M.) to think seriously about its future. I'm also passionate (almost to a fault) about doing things transparently. So I'm going to write my business plan in public view, using Google Docs. Every journey starts with one (almost) blank page (as of this writing).
Before I type another word in that document, I'll lay out what I've been thinking about so far. I'll warn you. It's too big for M.O.M.'s current britches. But I think if I play my cards right and meet the right people, all of this will one day be feasible.
I envision a non-profit organization that adheres to and extends M.O.M.'s core mission: to statistically analyze fact checker rulings to make judgments about the factuality of politicians, and to measure our uncertainty in those judgments.
M.O.M. would continue to calculate and statistically compare intuitive measures of factuality. It would mine data sufficient to calculate malarkey scores for entire political parties, and for the complex web of politicians, PACs, SuperPACs, supporters, and surrogates that surround a political campaign. As data amasses over its existence, we would be able to study changes in factuality over time, and for a larger sample of individuals, groups, and localities.
We'd extend M.O.M.'s core mission by doing our own, in-house fact check rulings. This would increase the sample size of fact checker report cards that we use to generate malarkey scores. I see a transparent fact checking system employing at least two competent fact checkers, preferably at varying points within the political spectra, who make rulings comparable to the Truth-O-Meter and The Fact Checker. By getting into the business of fact-checking, we would also be in a position to do longitudinal malarkey research with historical scope as wide and deep as our archives of political claims.
That's right. One of the projects I'd like to do is to, within reason, make a fact check report card for every American president, alive or dead. Maybe every vice president, too. American politics has a rich historical record. Let's find a new use for it! We could ask and answer questions like, "Have presidential candidates become more brazen as the power of the presidency has increased?" Of course, to fact check history properly, we'd need to consult with at least one able historian.
Another way to extend M.O.M.'s mission is to make outreach a key component. How do we make the technical machinery of M.O.M., and its equally technical output, understandable to the broadest audience possible? To fulfill this mission, we need to blur the lines between political science and journalism. This has already happened with projects like fivethirtyeight.com, and the Princeton Election Consortium (and I'll put in a plug for the less well-known but equally awesome Darryl Holman at horsesass.org, whose voting simulations you should take seriously despite the website's hilarious name). Fact checking itself is a hybrid of journalism and scholarship. M.O.M. would add to and innovate within this new information ecology.
M.O.M.'s revenues could come from several sources. Of course, there are grants, there's crowd-funding, there's "please give us money" buttons. But we could also gain revenue by doing commissioned studies for the media, for think tanks, and, yes, even for political campaigns. I'm thinking the funding will come mostly from grants, then commissioned studies, then begging for money from the crowd.
So, yeah. These ideas are big. I am serious about this project. It is not a toy or a gimmick or a game. I want to follow through with this to end. I hope you'll follow along. And for some of you, I hope some day you will participate.
For now, stay tuned for my next analysis update, in which I'll examine all four debates, and all four candidates.