Billy Buntin loves gadgets, football, and studying the merge of technology and politics — though not necessarily in that order. Our pundit of the week discusses what he enjoys about PolicyMic's community, and the importance of ongoing discussion on all things tech.
As part of the "pundit of the week" blog, we spotlight one exceptional PolicyMic-er to share personal experiences with our community, and pose one never-been-asked question to a staff member. This week's question is for lead developer Anthony Sessa.
Check out last week's Q&A with Jessie Bullock!
About Billy: Billy is a French Caribbean native, and proud technology nerd with a penchant for politics. Raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., Billy was captain of both his high school and college football teams. His political interests led him to Washington D.C., where he worked in Congress as a legislative assistant. Billy loves hip hop music, rum, and still watches Martin reruns.
Caira Conner (CC): Talk about when and why you decided to get involved with PolicyMic.
Billy Buntin (BB): In March, I stumbled upon a PolicyMic piece and I remember it being informative and fun to read, and included a small picture and profile of the writer. The article was well-written, with youthful energy, and the conversation underneath was actually insightful and added value to what I'd read in the piece. I browsed the rest of the site and instantly loved PolicyMic's goals and culture. I applied to become a writer and it's been a great experience ever since.
CC: You're actively involved in the intersection of art, technology and society. What drives that hybrid of interests? How does using PolicyMic as your platform work in your favor?
BB: I work as a visual effects artist, and I'm kind of a web/technology and gadget nerd. I've always had a passion for politics and social justice issues, so the merging of these interests comes naturally to me. Current and future technologies have the potential to enrich our lives, but they also present new moral and political challenges. Whether it's online privacy, cloning, genetically modified foods or the coming robot apocalypse (*laughs), millennials are the group that will have to grapple with and overcome these challenges in the coming years. PolicyMic is written by and for millenials, so it's a perfect fit.
CC: What's one thing you wish you could change about your user experience with PolicyMic? Why?
BB: The PolicyMic experience is pretty tight, actually. If I had to pick one thing it would be to remove or expand the character limit in the comments section. The culture on PolicyMic is amazing and the comments are usually helpful and eye-opening. As a writer, I've struggled at times to give a thoughtful reply with the character limitations. It can force too concise of an answer. Removing or expanding the cap might enhance the conversations further.
CC: Do you see any advantages to being based in a city (Washington D.C.) with a large offline PolicyMic contingency? Any advice for community members who live outside PolicyMic "hot spots"?
BB: I grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., so city environments are comfortable for me. Since D.C. is one of the hot spots for PolicyMic, I had the privilege of attending a recent PolicyMic happy hour. It's one of the perks! I met face to face with staff that I'd interacted with weekly, and with some pundits that I've read and discussed with online. I'd say if you live in a place that hasn't yet reached PolicyMic critical mass, then you've gotta tell people about it. Share articles from your social network profiles, or become a pundit and write about things relevant to your area.
CC: Let's go offline. What do you like to do when you're not PolicyMic-in'?
BB: When I'm not PolicyMic-in' I'm playing around with the newest VFX software, or planning and creating effects for different projects. I love that stuff so it's both work and play for me. I'm always watching football, playing football, or eating football snack food. I try to work out thrice weekly, read daily, take naps often, and update my blog as the internet's most animated animator.
CC: Your turn. What's one question you have for a member of our staff?
BB: My question is for Anthony Sessa. I've only been a pundit for a short while but I've seen many changes and improvements to the PolicyMic site. The user experience is always improving and features are being added. What is the process for prioritizing site improvements for pundits and/or readers? Any hints about what we can expect in the coming year?
Anthony Sessa: Most of our prioritization is goal driven. For example, one of our top goals is to make the publishing process easy but powerful so that our editors and pundits can create more high-quality articles. There are usually are a few dozen publishing-centric improvements that we are able to make at any given time. Generally, we try to identify low hanging, high-impact improvements and lump in those in with a related, new feature we are working on. A quick example would be when we re-developed and re-designed our search engine, and it made a lot of sense to incorporate the search bar autocomplete for finding users. Lastly, we have a bug system for keeping feedback from anyone and everyone. If we see a lot of users are running into a particular issue, we are able to put that issue in perspective of all the other issues in this system and decide where it sits in the to-fix queue.
As for updates in the coming year, somewhere around the end of August we will be putting out a brand new mic system accompanied by a full-fledged redesign. Very exciting stuff. Thanks for the question!
CC: Thank you, Billy! We look forward to your engagement with PolicyMic as we continue to improve our platform and build our community.
For more news on Billy, follow him on Twitter: @billybdigital