A few weeks ago, I took an online test to determine whether I should support Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders for the Democratic party nomination. It asked a series of 10 agree/disagree questions based on what issues are important to you (example: education, health care, foreign policy, etc.). It then computes for your compatibility with either candidate, based on their own positions on those issues. It thought it would be great if someone would come up with a similar test for our upcoming presidential elections. Lord knows we need something to filter out all bullsh*t that has become an even more prominent feature of our elections. Little did I know that we already had our own version of BernievsHillary.org.
PiPOLL made the rounds on my Facebook feed, appropriately enough, on the night of the 2nd Presidential Debates. It asks you where you stand on important socio-political issues and based on your answers, matches you with the candidate you agree with the most. It forces you to leave your biases and preconceptions about each candidate at the door, leaving you with an objective match.
Imagine my surprise and pride when I find out that former elementary school classmates were behind the site, and one of them was one of my best friends. PiPOLL is a partnership between Ethel Francisco, who handles the research for the site, and Ish Gagno, who takes care of the technical side of things. And, naturally, I used my friendship card to get them to chat with me about PiPOLL for the blog.
How did you come up with the idea for PiPOLL?
Ethel Francisco: “So I’m a nerd and the selection matrix that was used as basic framework for the app, I created that using Excel and used it back in 2010 when I voted for Gibo. In the run-up to the 2016 elections, I really don’t want the wrong person (ed’s note: wrong person’s name redacted) to get elected and I couldn’t live with myself if I wouldn’t even try to do anything to stop that. Thus, a voter education site. I bunked with Ish back in Feb when I visited Singapore and thought that hey, she can help me make this happen.”
What do you want to achieve with PiPOLL?
EF: “I want people to THINK about their choices. With social media and all the information just popping up everyday, it’s so easy to get swept up by the noise and the drama. So hopefully the app is able to help people sift through the whole heap, challenge people to make a stand and help them choose.”
How did you go about choosing which issues/topics to include?
EF: “I just did a simple crowdsourcing on Facebook and social messaging to get to the 20-point list.”
Some people would prefer to have an “undecided” option, but you decided against having one, why is that?
EF: “If there’s an undecided option, and some people end up just hitting it on all the 20 questions, then what value would that bring about? We wanted to challenge people to make a stand on the issues. If you don’t know the topic, we’ve put references you can read up on. Just make a stand. You can decide that the issue is not important for you, and that affects the weight in the final tabulation. But be informed and make your stand.”
Ish Gagno: “Keeping the answers to only ‘Agree’ and ‘Disagree’ was a conscious decision. Our goal was to help as many Filipinos scrutinize their prospective choice, to go past choosing just based on high-level likeability and onto actually digging deeper to discover what they stand for and intend to do as President. We expect our President to make hard decisions; as voters, we should expect the same of ourselves.”
What was the hardest part about the entire process, from conceptualizing to finally launching PiPOLL?
EF: “Ish and I are actually overseas, away from the Philippines and are in two separate countries. We also have day jobs and would just be able to squeeze in the research and the coding when we get to smuggle in free time. That’s not entirely hard or difficult, just challenging. What was difficult was when we launched the app, and it seemed to go viral with more than 5,000 unique clicks in less than 48 hours after launch and we realized we didn’t exactly prepare for virality. Haha.”
Speaking of going viral, were you surprised by the reaction to the site?
EF: “We find it a blessing that the launch coincided with the 2nd Presidential Debates. It was not planned at all. We just wanted to launch before the Holy Week break. So we cleared the features, launch at around 6PM 10 March, the debates happened on 20 March then boom. We’re really happy with the response. Very glad to see people find the value of what we’ve created. Ish thought of turning it into a Buzzfeed-like quiz and I think that allowed people to suppose this was just a fun thing online but while they’re on it, they realize that, hey, they’re being challenged to THINK.”
IG: “Ethel and I are both overwhelmed and overjoyed by all the feedback. We’re happy to have been a force that made it possible for thousands of Filipinos to be more invested in thinking critically about the coming elections. It was definitely worth all the effort.”
What else can people look forward to with the site?
EF: “Immediately after we soft-launched the app, there was a lot of clamor to come up with a Tagalog version, and it is in the works. To me, this shows how people see the app as a useful tool for education and they want a larger audience to be able to understand it. That something very encouraging for me. Pero ang bobo ko sa Tagalog, hahahaha!”
Personally, have you answered the questions? Were you surprised by the results?
EF: “I have taken the test a couple of times. And I still do flip flop on the issues. My last try was a shocker. I haven’t taken the test since because I didn’t like the result, hahahaha!”
IG: “Yes, I’ve taken the quiz several times, and I also do flip-flop in picking answers and the degree of importance. I think the important part though is not the end compatibility result, but the actual process of going through each issue and realizing where I stand. As a wise friend of ours said, you don’t actually HAVE to vote for whom the quiz tells you you’re compatible with. At the end of the day, when you’ve gone through all the thinking, researching, and evaluating, you’d know in your gut or in your heart whom you’d want to vote.”