Repurposing a ’90s hot-or-not app to prioritize community needs

I’ve spent a lot of time in communities interviewing people, a lot of time looking at 990 tax forms, a lot of time scrolling through Census records, and even more time searching on Google. The goal has always been to identify critical community needs, assets, and the gulf between them. While there are universal themes, each community is different.

Recently, I’ve been trying to come up with a way to more accurately prioritize local issues by engaging more people but without adding a significant amount of time. There’s got to be a way to quantitatively and systematically get more and better input. (Without losing or replacing the subjective humanity of conversations, of course.)

About a month ago, I read an entirely unrelated FiveThirtyEight article ranking the historic Oscar winners for best original song. The methodology struck me. The author, Walt Hickey, solicited his readers to use a simple head-to-head random matchup generator. Songs were ranked by their win-rates; the overall winner being that which won the most head-to-head matchups. Pretty simple.

After a month or so of unsuccessful tinkering around, I contacted Walt to see how he’d done it. He pointed me to an unexpectedly easy solution, a WordPress plug-in called ShowDown (version 1.2.1). Turns out, it’s a reformed ’90s era hot-or-not app, lol.

I’ll continue to update this post as I work through it. But for now, I’m testing its most basic form (below), loaded with a handful of top-of-mind, inconsistently formatted community issues. Try it out!