Goodbye Dotmocracy. Hello idea rating sheets.
As of today, September 9, 2014, I am renaming my Dotmocracy sheets as “idea rating sheets”. I’m making this change so that the idea rating technique will no longer be confused with (sticker) dot voting, which has been a point of frustration since I first created Dotmocracy sheets over 10 years ago (see story below).
As part of this name change I have created a new website: IdeaRatingSheets.org
It has renamed versions of the simple instructions, the facilitator’s handbook, and of course, the idea rating sheets themselves. I'll be adding lots more useful resources to the site in the near future.
What’s the big difference between dot voting and idea rating sheets?
In short, dot voting is like a multiple choice survey with only one question. The options you can vote on are restricted and the results are overly simplistic and often unreliable.
Idea rating is more like collaborative ‘crowdsourcing’ software with features that allow for unlimited ideas to be proposed, rated and commented on. Results can be nuanced and are validated with signatures.
For a great comparison, view the slide show: dot voting vs. idea rating sheets
Why the name change? Here’s the long story...
The original idea rating sheet format, which I created in 2004 (for use in Karma Food Co-op in Toronto) used dot stickers on a rating scale. I considered it as a modest upgrade on the traditional sticker dot-voting technique, which I heard some experienced facilitators describe as “dot-mocracy”. I liked the name, and decided to call my forms “Dotmocracy Sheets”.
With the publication of my first version of the Dotmocracy Handbook in 2006, the sheets no longer used stickers, and included areas for signatures and commenting. With the handbook also came more formal rules and guidelines, helping the process to produce more reliable and useful results - significant advantages over sticker voting.
I arrogantly thought that I could persuade the world to adopt my definition of “Dotmocracy” and forget about sticker dot voting, which I tried to differentiate as “multi-voting”. While I did have some success with most of Google search results for “dotmocracy” going to my Dotmocracy.org resources, as well as Wikipedia agreeing with me, the fact was there were still many people that would always consider “dotmocracy” to be voting with dot stickers.
I always felt this confusion between dot-voting and my rating sheets was a drag on adoption of the sheets. People would flip through my handbook and web pages and say “Dotmocracy, oh yeah I’ve done that for years” and never actually use the rating sheets.
In 2013, I conceded to the momentum of history and started a consultation process with my 3,700 Dotmocracy.org email list subscribers, asking what alternative names they preferred for the paper rating forms. Over 220 people participated (see results of surveys 1 & 2). After considering some 200 different name ideas and variations, we whittled them down and landed on “idea rating sheets” as the most widely acceptable name option.
I like “idea rating sheets” because it’s unique, descriptive, and easy to translate into other languages. It’s a benign term that works for all sorts of groups: from corporate to activists, elementary school to post doctorates, amateurs to professionals. While it may not be as catchy as “Dotmocracy” or as nifty as “WEvaluate” “Participaper” “Crowdpinion” “CollaboRater” or other combination words that were considered, I do think it will stand up to the test of time.
My goal is to have idea rating sheets to become as common to see in meetings as flip-charts or sticky-notes, which also have pretty boring and utilitarian names. In the end, it’s what you do with the tool, not what you call it.
Thank you, to the many folks who continue to use these sheets, whatever you call them. I look forward to seeing you at IdeaRatingSheets.org