Votesters social network

VOTESTERS

  • Date: May-Sept 2004
  • Roles played: Information architect, Web and database developer
  • Development language: PHP
  • Key technologies used: HTML, JavaScript, CSS, PHP, MySQL
  • Screenshot: See screenshot below

Problem: Many voters were disaffected and apathetic leading in to the 2004 election. We wanted to find a way to energize these voters (mostly 18-30 year-olds in swing states), to help them see how powerful their vote and voice were, and to ultimately influence the Presidential election.

Solution: Use the power of social networks and connections. Build a social networking Web site in which people could actively encourage young voters in swing states to join the network, promise to vote, and to encourage others to do the same.

The Web site was an all-volunteer effort, and wound up containing a large number of features common to much larger social networking sites:

  • Complete user registration system with email validation (to prevent robots from subscribing and spamming).
  • Dynamic Flash content that showed, in real time, the users in the system (by state)
  • Simple registration and sign up process that tried to illustrate benefits and address any privacy concerns
  • Scalable information architecture designed to support hundreds of thousands of users
  • Search system
  • Abuse reporting system
  • Dynamic content to highlight active users in the system

Development challenges: We had no idea how large the system needed to be. If we had rapid, viral adoption, we could easily run into the same scalability problems that other social networking sites like Friendster faced. We had to design a lightweight system that would meet these challenges, without spending a huge amount of money. We also needed to address potential abuse of the system, given that it would contain a lot of user-generated content.