New toy cuts campaign spin
Cutting through the spin of political campaigns can make one's head spin, but thanks to Albemarle resident Dan Doernberg, founder of Fairness.com, voters across the country will have a new tool just in time for the final head-spinning stretch of the presidential race.
Dubbed "CriTweak"–- a combination of critique and tweak–- the tool is a computer program that Doernberg hopes will revolutionize the way people read and comment on online articles and documents. Instead of the typical commenting format, in which readers post comments at the bottom of the page, CriTweak allows users to comment on specific passages simply by mousing over them, and to see what other commenters have posted on those same passages without leaving the page.
"If someone lays out an idea or something in a speech, a reader might think, 'That's a really good idea, and I'd add this implication,' or say, 'don't forget about this aspect," says Doernberg. "It's meant to both be critiquing things you don't agree with and amplifying and expanding ideas that you do like."
The program is already up and running at electiondocs.com and features 400 searchable documents– speech transcripts and news articles relating to the election. Doernberg says the full transcript of the first presidential debate will be online at the site in the near future and ready for commenters.
The program already has at least one adoring fan.
"I think it's a brilliant idea, totally new concept," says Waldo Jaquith, who hopes to license the application for some of his own websites including Richmondsunlight.org and cvillenews.com. "I'm jealous I didn't think of it first," he laughs.
It's been nine years since Doernberg founded Fairness.com, a database of articles and resources relating to fairness, but CriTweak is his first big project. Fairness.com is for profit, but it's never made a profit– it's been funded entirely out of Doernberg's own pocket, thanks to the 1997 sale of the Silicon Valley-based chain Computer Literacy Bookshops he and his wife founded in 1983. Doernberg says he rushed the release of CriTweak because he believes voters deserve support to help them make an informed choice in this election. After November 4, however, he plans to add a few bells and whistles and then look into commercial applications for the program.
"It's really functional, but there's lots of things we want to do to make it faster and better," says Doernberg. "We're a month or two away from this being a really nice finished product. I'm hoping it won't be too hard to convince a few people to chip in and make it happen."
–Last updated Tuesday, September 30 at 4:08pm.