Loomio
December 2nd, 2014 23:12

Political use for Loomio

João Marcello Ortega
João Marcello Ortega Public Seen by 591

Hi everybody.
First of all, congratulations on the 1.0 version. Really great tool you've developed here.

I've been watching the development interested in its possibilities to political use. As far as I see, Loomio will allow us to do this:

http://www.ted.com/talks/pia_mancini_how_to_upgrade_democracy_for_the_internet_era

We can increase society participation in government decisions and/or poltical parties.
What do you think about it?

Richard D. Bartlett

Richard D. Bartlett December 2nd, 2014 23:17

I love that TED talk, one of my favourites!

@joaomarcelloortega you'll be happy to hear we're in a partnership with Pia and the Democracy OS people, exploring ways that our platforms can integrate.

Loomio is really focussed on relatively small groups of people that want to organise democratically, whereas Democracy OS has much larger groups in mind. So some kind of integration would be nice, so each project can keep focussed on their own specific part of the problem, but users can move smoothly from one scale to the next.

João Marcello Ortega

João Marcello Ortega December 2nd, 2014 23:25

Great!
Here in Brazil we also have something like that, but not being used as DemocracyOS. Graphic interface is really nice and some benchmarking is always positive. Check it out: www.votenaweb.com.br

;)

Greg Cassel

Greg Cassel December 2nd, 2014 23:30

That's one of my favorite TED talks too; thanks for reminding me of it. Very good to know that Loomio and Democracy OS are trying to coordinate their efforts. :)

CD

Clark Davison December 2nd, 2014 23:54

@joaomarcelloortega Thanks for providing the link, a very well delivered talk in plain language, something all "modern citizens" should watch.

I followed the links through to Pia's webpage, the Democracy.OS and Partio de la Red websites. Pia has her sights set on the "Big Table" and a quick look at the DOS beta gives me hope that she will get there.

What we should all be doing is forming or joining groups to engage with our communities and demand this form of "representation through consultation" from our local councils (smaller groups) and pushing this from grassroots all the way to National government.

Greg Cassel

Greg Cassel December 2nd, 2014 23:59

I don't personally think that direct democracy is always preferable to representative government-- not yet, anyway. Pia mentions the incomprehensibility of government in her TED talk: a system designed "for lawyers, by lawyers." There are few things I want more than to reduce the complexities within which inefficiencies and corruption breed.

One of my main personal focuses is the fundamental difference between voluntary membership and citizenship. Loomio, of course, is generally oriented towards the free association of peers of whatever sort. Groups with voluntary membership. Government, by contrast, defines people as members of a group regardless of whether they want it or not. Membership involves varying degrees of personal agency, depending on the scale of government-- it's much easier to move to a new town than a new country-- and one's social and material resources.

Government therefore, in my view, suggests a different approach than that of voluntary organizations. For one thing, it practically demands minority rights as well as human rights. Additionally, the existence of the "Block" sentiment must be at least somewhat tolerated in a citizenry, especially for larger scales of organization.

I do passionately feel that government can and should be driven towards consensus-based process, and that it should seek supermajority agreement instead of unstable alliances of simple majority sentiment among currently elected officials. In many places, perhaps especially the US, polarized parties play unsustainable majoritarian games, based on coercive desires instead of the general will of the people.

CD

Clark Davison December 3rd, 2014 00:10

@gregorycassel Perhaps we have been looking at different material. I don't think anybody is advocating direct democracy but representation through consultation. Every day the UK government passes new bills and laws that affect it's citizens. Unless like Pia states - you devote your life to politics or are prepared to travel several hours to physically attend meetings these decisions and processes are beyond the reach of the general populace.

What I am saying is that we should make a start and by doing so support and test the software and ecosystems that I believe will form the political engagement tools of the future.

If only 1% of the decisions made are via engaging with citizens who will be directly affected by those decisions then even that it better than doing nothing.

Greg Cassel

Greg Cassel December 3rd, 2014 00:27

@alandavison , I think I started my last comment in an excessively vague and generic way. I didn't mean to imply that many people advocate direct voting by citizens on most issues. In the video, Pia does mention that some people ran for office in Buenos Aires with a promise to always vote according to Democracy OS results. That was a very cool idea to explore, but I don't think the world's ready for its universal application.

As far as I know, Democracy OS intends to provide a flexible tool which can be used in varied ways by citizens and officials. I think that's a fantastic idea.

CD

Clark Davison December 3rd, 2014 00:44

@joaomarcelloortega I also really liked the look and feel of the other link provided earlier in this discussion

http://www.votenaweb.com.br/

The pie-chart and regional infographics are a great feature when combined with the soundbyte topic and posterboard style home page.

Without Loomio and it's members I wouldn't be aware of any of these tools or developments.

Roslyn

Roslyn December 3rd, 2014 11:41

@gregorycasell @alandavison Why settle for "consultative representation" when you can take the lot?
I also watched the TED Talk and was amused at the "by lawyers for lawyers remark" since I am a lawyer, and yes, of course, we write everything with other lawyers in mind. You'd be mad not to.
And as a lawyer, I will tell you this: if there is a black & white decision-making process with clear consequences, such as clear internet majority-rules voting, it's harder to game that system, because there's not as much wiggle room. But give me "consultative representation" and I will have no problem paying lip service to that while doing whatever I wanted to do in the first place and convincing you that actually you wanted me to do it.

RE: supermajority - it's minority rule by another name. Just blocking motions can be so effective. In fact, I am willing to bet that I could easily rule any decision-making process that depended on supermajorities being achieved, because all I would need to do would be to cobble together a minority to vote as I desire. Fear, uncertainty and doubt will easily do the trick here. So I would effectively be in charge without it looking like I am in charge. From a lawyer point of view, that's as good as it gets.

I don't know about everyone else, but I AM advocating direct democracy to the point that I am planning to run as an Independent in the next Irish general election and hold at least one vote a month via internet voting for my constituents. Then I vote as they want whether I agree with them or not. I would like to do more, but am not sure if the logistics of the situation would permit enough time for me to get the issue up for discussion in time more often than that, given as I am only one person. However, I will figure this out as I go along. One's chances of being elected the first time around are not extraordinarily high, but there is a first time for everything.
I find that being 'ready' is a relative thing - I learned to swim when my parents started chucking me into a pool with a pair of water-wings on. Life's been much the same since then.

P.S. I am glad that Loomio and DemocracyOS are working together - I think that's a really good idea. Also, that so many people around the world have independently come up with the idea of internet voting shows how natural of a thought it is.

Roslyn

Roslyn December 3rd, 2014 12:03

To clarify my point of view - there's nothing wrong with using Loomio/DemocracyOS locally or within organizations - I think that is great. I just wouldn't settle (not even mentally) for the consultative role nationally for the reasons outlined above.

Greg Cassel

Greg Cassel December 3rd, 2014 15:48

Your perspective is really powerful @roslyn . I doubt we would have time to engage in an extended political theory discussion here, although that is kind of the thread topic!

You seem to be arguing for simple majority rule above because you perceive supermajority to be highly subject to obstructionism. To me, that seems roughly equivalent to saying that consensus process itself is highly subject to obstructionism. My general answer is that yes, both processes are quite vulnerable to obstructionism if they aren't used skillfully, and if they don't have resilient tools and strategies for dealing with dissent.

It might help me if you could explain how you feel about consensus decision-making per se, because that's the general philosophy of Loomio.

João Marcello Ortega

João Marcello Ortega December 3rd, 2014 16:24

@roslyn I think “consultative representation” would work for now, once there are plenty of decisions to be discussed by the law-makers/government that a common person doesn't understand and or doesn't have time to deal with all of them. That's why we still need politicians, people that will dedicate themselves to deal with lesser importance discussions to keep the group (city, state or country) running. BUT these elected must give the option to society to decide about the most important topics. That's where these tools would fit perfectly: to give this access IF the society wants to participate.
As you, I also intend to run for elections in 2016 and using this tools is part of my project.

@alandavison 'Vote na web' brings something good when its brief text "translate" the law being discussed from lawyers language to something ordinary people can understand. This stimulate more people to participate. But it's very important to keep this writing neutral.
I'm talking to the 'Vote na web' team to find ways to explore the tool the way I mentioned above, once they have infrastructure costs that must be considered.

Roslyn

Roslyn December 3rd, 2014 17:46

@gregorycassel Yes, well sometimes, due to my background, I do feel like I hail from the Dungeon Dimensions where everything is a bit more rough and ready. I have seen obstructionism skillfully deployed to great effect more than once in my life, so it is certainly something that occurs to me as a potential problem.

I do think that it is good to try to achieve consensus and the deliberation is certainly useful for this. However, I don't think it's a very good idea to hold out on it or on supermajority rule as a requirement for decision-making, because it can be so easily abused (although I would be very interested in hearing any possibilities for effectively dealing with this situation...so please share).
I think someone earlier (maybe it was you) kind of hit on this, when they pointed out that Loomio is obviously completely voluntary. I think therefore, it probably attracts people who are mainly nice people and willing to genuinely engage with others. So as long as that is the case, consensus is probably A-OK. But if you were to roll it out to a wider audience...well...the world is not in the state it is because everyone is a perfectly nice person.

Also, quite apart from that, I would say, in the corner against consensus as a feasible outcome here, that there are often real pros and cons to any issue, therefore - why would everyone agree? There is often no one right answer, if you get my drift. Plus there are just different types of people in the world - maybe A is more important to you, but B is more important to me. Both A and B are reasonable things to want and (for whatever reason) it isn't possible to have both at the same time.
I would think that it would be better for sound decision-making to agree to disagree quite a lot of the time, without, however, hamstringing your ability to take action during that time (since often doing anything at all is preferable do doing nothing).
Personally, I would feel more comfortable being on the losing side of a debate, able to cast my vote in good faith against whatever is being voted on, and knowing that I've been able to have my say without holding everyone else up. If I knew that I was genuinely the only hold-out and everyone else wanted to do something else, I would probably cave in for the sake of keeping the peace. But is that best for long-term decision-making? After all, maybe time will tell that I was right, or maybe the society wasn't ready for my favoured proposal at the time, but will be someday. I think that if consensus is enforced (as opposed to just being a general goal), it actually puts everyone under unnecessary social pressure.

Greg Cassel

Greg Cassel December 4th, 2014 00:19

Thanks so much for your thoughtful and detailed feedback @roslyn ! I tried to write a reasonably concise reply, but this subject feels complex to me, so I ended up with an essay I was planning to write anyway. (Though it's pretty rough for now.) You can check it out here if you'd like.

The upshot of the essay, basically, is this: I think that both simple majority and supermajority processes provide excellent opportunities for both progress and obstruction. To me, it's mainly a matter of how issues are chosen and framed, and who's doing the choosing.

CD

Clark Davison December 4th, 2014 01:09

@roslyn Thanks for the insightful comment ..

Also, quite apart from that, I would say, in the corner against consensus as a feasible outcome here, that there are often real pros and cons to any issue, therefore - why would everyone agree? There is often no one right answer

This is something that not only affects voting for a proposal but also during the discussion phase. I have been discussing this in another post Agree with statements instead of adding New.

Rather than simply a chronological list of comments (posts) we are discussing different views of said posts. Thanks do @dnephin for the following..

My idea for solving this problem (of being able to scale discussion making) was:

  • keep the discussion and the “decision” together, not as separate things. Every comment had to have some “position” (support, agree, challenge, disagree, flag), which is very similar to the proposal portion of loomio.

  • all posts would be responses to a specific piece of data or sentence in the proposal. Allowing people to disagree with some portion of a proposal and agree with other portions of it.

  • handle some of the complexity by exposing all of the posts as more of a graph instead of a linear list of posts. So every post could have comments on it, forming a directred graph.

The idea with the user interface is that instead of seeing a chronological list of posts, or something like reddit where you can see the nesting, you would instead look at posts in the context they belong. So if you clicked on a proposal, you’d start by seeing some posts for each position, and if you click on one of those you’d see the parent context, and all responses to the post, and so on down the graph.

CD

Clark Davison December 4th, 2014 02:18

@gregorycassel I followed the link and read your essay. I see from your blog that you dislike "groupthink" and "blocking" which has also been evident in your posts on Loomio.

You raise some interesting points. I am not a student of politics with a small "p" or capital "P" but like you I did spend some time "evaluating myself" reading about philosophy, religion, psychology and cognitive processes to name but a few.

I don't think your objection to a "block" facility should cloud your judgement of Loomio. Right now it is "horses for courses" as they say. You wouldn't have a racehorse pull a plough (unless you had no other option) and Loomio isn't currently designed for "large scale political organisations"

As a group process much of the "Storming" has been done and the "Forming" and "Norming" stages are under way. This is our opportunity to beta test the new 1.0 platform to see how well it performs for us as individuals, members of groups or group coordinators. The testing and feedback we provide will lead to an improved user experience.

I am interested in the points raised in this discussion topic and spend a lot of time following up on posted links, articles, web sites and theories floated in these groups. I try to keep my posts short partly due to time constraints, partly due to my view that short, succinct posts make for a more engaging, easier to follow and less off putting discussion for new members to the group. And, lastly because I am posting in several groups to provide Interface / Useability and Feature Ideas and feedback.

I think it would be useful if the essay prone were to work on a collaborative document discussing the "political implications of online voting systems" or "supermajority - it's minority rule by another name".

The real benefit of Loomio was it's departure from the Forum style commenting with huge swathes of text to read and disseminate. Perhaps use Loomio to discuss a particular issue or component of a problem and test it that way?

Greg Cassel

Greg Cassel December 4th, 2014 03:04

@alandavison I'm sorry I don't know where a misunderstanding may have arisen-- I'm quite fond of the fact that Loomio has a block mechanism.

In that essay, I wrote "For that reason, I tend to think that an Agree/Disagree/Abstain system (like Democracy OS) is more suitable than Loomio for large scales of political organization right now." That statement is not meant in any way to criticize Loomio. In fact, I can hardly imagine being more fond of Loomio.

As far as I know, Loomio was developed for decision-making in general, of whatever sort. It has mainly been used by groups of voluntary members. (Political parties, for instance, are voluntary associations.)

I think that the agree/abstain/disagree/block concept is not only appropriate for voluntary associations, but may well prove necessary for our survival in general.

CD

Clark Davison December 4th, 2014 03:08

@gregorycassel perhaps I was mistaken, and confused your "block" stance with somebody else. I have been reading and posting a lot. If I did I appologise, and will have to re-read some of the discussions I have been part of.

MS

Michael Soth December 5th, 2014 01:20

I also watched that TED talk some time ago, and I agree that some more thought needs to go into balancing direct democracy, consultative processes and representative democracy - the term I have been using for the last 30 years (coming from Germany and grassroots politics there in the 1970s and 80s) is 'basis democracy'. The problem, of course, with internet voting is that it might degenerate into X-factor style mob rule, gravitating to lowest common denominators, if we were to implement it today. So whilst we want to enhance consultative processes, and develop internet-based technological tools that will enhance this, alongside that, it seems to me, we need a consciousness revolution. If we were to scale up Loomio beyond the association of like-minded groups who share a common mission statement and values, and wanted it to become a political tool that encourages engagement, we would have to maximise decision-making stages before it even comes to voting on proposals. People tend to vote in knee jerks, before considering the various lived realities of all the stakeholders, especially emotionally/psychologically. When I was involved in grassroots politics, I reformulated existing steps of consensus decision-making, in order to maximise the phase of mutual understanding, and even more importantly: mutual exploration of inner worlds underpinning any possible decision, before even brainstorming possible solutions. I am wondering what you all think about this kind of exploratory stage, which in larger and diverse communities tend to easily polarise and fragment, which usually leads to quickly entrenched positions?

Joum

Joum December 5th, 2014 06:52

The question I would ask is - how much difference would there be in the decisions made by a set of people that consists of elected politicians, and a set of people consisting of the eligible voters of a country? I am not convinced that a set of politicians is better than the citizens.

I am a member of an Australian political party intent on creating a hybrid of representative and direct democracy.

Just like the intentions of Pia's - El Partido de la Red, or the Net Party, in the city of Buenos Aires, we intend to encourage our country's people to elect politicians from our party, who promise to obey the outcomes of internet decisions, and take them as our vote into the representative system of Australia's Parliament.

I would imagine we will not get many people elected so it won't be any more dangerous to our political system then the one or two crazy people we have elected now. But it could possibly give our government the shake up it needs.

Hypothetical - Lets assume we get one politician elected and that after the election Australians realise that they can control this politician, and so we find that a great percentage of the population start to interact and have an input. Would the decisions made by the people be respected by other politicians? Would the other politicians see that Australia is telling them what they really want and listen, or would they try to write it off as a flawed method?

I have heard many arguments about the possible consequences of this idea, but none as well written as the ones you all post here.

I am in favour of the idea, obviously. I don't know if it will benefit or degrade the decisions made in the Australian Parliament. We will only truly know after we have tried the experiment. But remember, this idea will not dramatically change our current system unless it proves popular and people choose to vote in enough e-politicians to hold a relevant balance of power.

Let me leave you with a much deeper philosophical question. Would the decisions made by the total population reflect the nature of humanity and if so... is that nature a good thing? Do you have faith in humanity? I have chosen to trust us, while realising that if I am wrong then there is not much point anyway.

CD

Clark Davison December 5th, 2014 07:09

@michaelsoth Really good points raised here...

The problem, of course, with internet voting is that it might degenerate into X-factor style mob rule, gravitating to lowest common denominators, if we were to implement it today.

This is something that also worries me. At least now voters have to make some effort. Physically going to ballot boxes, or ticking a box and dropping a card in a post box.

For very simple (almost trivial*), clearly defined decisions that is not a big problem. But giving large volumes of people the ability to affect an outcome without even reading a discussion or adding something to the debate is worrying.

  • see X-Factor
CD

Clark Davison December 5th, 2014 09:48

@lbjoum

I would imagine we will not get many people elected so it won’t be any more dangerous to our political system then the one or two crazy people we have elected now. But it could possibly give our government the shake up it needs.

This is what I was thinking when I commented earlier in this discussion but didn't articulate. I don't see "representation through consultation" as a replacement for the current system (at least not until the sorts of issues outlined here can be discussed, ratified and implemented which is going to take time and collaborative development by groups such as Loomio and Democracy.os) but like you say it is something that needs to be tested in a live political environment.

"Collaborative representatives" in government; translating policy decisions into plain, accessible language that can be discussed and voted on by a distributed population is the first step. As I have said before doing something is better than doing nothing and hoping that things will change.

Roslyn

Roslyn December 5th, 2014 12:00

@joum @michaelsoth @alandavison

I'd like to point out here that a look at the last 2000 years of civilisation might put the dangers of 'mob rule' into perspective. Also, X-Factor - while hair-raising - is not exactly a reliable measure of how the people in a society would behave, because a) who 'participates' there is self-selecting and b) participants and viewers KNOW they are operating in a consequence-free environment that encourages excess .
And the total damage that X-Factor has wreaked on the world pales into insignificance when compared with what elected politicians do every day.
The vast majority of elected representatives get their seats through loyalty to the party and always vote the party line. They also do not read, much less understand, the vast majority of motions that they vote on.
Also, as a bona fide expert, I will say that there is nothing mysterious out there that 'the people' are incapable of understanding. Most stuff just isn't really that complicated. You don't need to understand every line of a legal code to decide that eg. tax loopholes should be closed. These things are not getting done because it is really hard or complicated to do so - it's not. They are not getting done because parties are, quite literally, being paid not to. They are already well aware of what their constituents want. That they fail to fulfil that is not due to a lack of communication.

To return to mob rule: there are, I think, a few things you'd have to do to keep people as decent as they come: no anonymity in commenting and decision-making (I think the way Loomio gets people to open accounts is a really good step in this direction); force people to participate in a debate in order to be allowed to vote. That way they can't make a 'knee-jerk' decision. And then as soon as possible try to break up the cartel that is mass media. THAT is the real problem - that people are subjected to 24/7 misinformation. This takes its toll. In fact, considering what people are exposed to, I am amazed that they are as reasonable as they are.

But despite all of that, I absolutely agree with @joum - I've decided to trust in humanity, too. There actually aren't any other options.
After all, trusting in a few self-selecting, born-and-raised elite individuals hasn't, oddly enough, worked out very well for most of us.

Roslyn

Roslyn December 5th, 2014 12:07

@joum @joaomarcelloortega @alandavison @gregorycassel

Also - since a lot of us are campaigning on a Loomio-aided platform or similar, should we open a group for this, where we can keep in touch and discuss these things/try to help each other out?
The first thing the media industry will try to do is make us all look like a bunch of fringe loonies and 'dreamers', so I think having some sort of cooperation that 'normalises' this movement would be really helpful, even if we have slightly different ideas of the exact modalities of our operations. Also, if successful, how could we support Loomio financially/what would the operators feel is an appropriate contribution?

CD

Clark Davison December 5th, 2014 12:30

@roslyn
As always, so much to consider when reading your posts. My reference to X-Factor was more to highlight "trivial" decisions, and as you say the people who vote on these things are self-selecting.

Most stuff just isn't really that complicated. You don't need to understand every line of a legal code to decide that eg. tax loopholes should be closed. These things are not getting done because it is really hard or complicated to do so - it's not. They are not getting done because parties are, quite literally, being paid not to.

Now we are starting to highlight the real crux of the issue. As you say, large numbers of elected officials don't read or understand what they vote on and are simply following the party line. Some may have a personal agenda or focus and pay attention to certain types of legislation but again this is not representative of the people who elected them or necessarily in the best interest of the wider population.

Also - since a lot of us are campaigning on a Loomio-aided platform or similar, should we open a group for this, where we can keep in touch and discuss these things/try to help each other out?

Agreed, and since we are on this platform perhaps we should include the Loomio team and decide where is the best place to create this proposal in order to attract the attention of as many community members and Loomio users as possible.

My suggestion would be to try and "tag" comments within the discussion posts somehow to indicate the nature or focus of the information on a post, comment, paragraph or statement basis (if this is not clear please let me know and I will try to explain it better).

So many of the points you raised are not only highly relevant but should form the basis of an informed discussion.

João Marcello Ortega

João Marcello Ortega December 5th, 2014 14:26

@lbjoum I agree with you. We must give option to society to decide. We cannot elect some guys and let them decide for us. We don't know what influences are taking part in their decisions. There is a need to change something here.
When I hire a gardener, I count on his know-how to do his job based on what I want. I listen to what he has to say about the job to be done, because I don't have the technical information to do that. But the final decision is up to me. Why can't the same be valid for public management? I don't want to deal with burocracy, laws, financial control, but I want the most important things (at least) being presented to me, explained in a plain text with its benefits and consequences in a way I can vote for it. I also intend to run for elections in 2016 using this model of 'consultative representation' as a test. I'm very curious to see how will people react once I give them information and the power to decide. My responsability will be inform them, through technical analysis of my team, what their decisions will affect them. I have no right to decide something for them, unless they abdicate their decision and let that for me.

@roslyn I think that's a very good idea. We have people from different countries, cultures and scenarios here and each of us can add to an idea that can help us to improve possibilities.

Greg Cassel

Greg Cassel December 5th, 2014 16:51

When we consider the presentation of issues to be directly decided by popular vote, we must ask ourselves: who is framing the questions, how, and why?

In theory, we can have a system in which 'collective wisdom' is used to generate yes/no proposals for public voting. Perhaps it would reflect principles similar to Loomio's coming 'Ideas' feature. I'm really interested in this.

I have to say, for clarity's sake, that I'm deeply opposed to the concept of simple majority rule with respect to most decisions which coerce anyone, either through the direct discipline of behaviors (via laws) or by conscripting taxation towards purposes approved by a simple majority. My views are always subject to new information, inter-action and reflection, but it's hard to imagine how I would be convinced that a simple majority ought to be able to force up to almost 50% of a non-voluntary (citizenship) group to bend to its will.

I qualified with the word most above, because I do think that simple majority can make sense when choosing between alternatives which have been mutually agreed to be reasonably comparable. For instance, when people are choosing between two plans which strive to achieve the same results. That's kind of a tricky subject though: alternate strategies often have significantly different side effects.

I do agree entirely that there is nothing mysterious out there that ‘the people’ are incapable of understanding-- especially if we reform government towards reasonably simplicity, clarity and efficiency.

I'm very interested in these types of discussions, and I think that a related group is a great idea @roslyn . Thanks everyone for your powerful ideas here.

João Marcello Ortega

João Marcello Ortega December 5th, 2014 17:31

Why do we have to set "majority" as 50%? Why can't we set other values according to the subject? For example: 80% approval required to go on in controversial decisions or that involves lots of people. or even defining 1.5x or 2x values to votes that are directly affected by something being voted (this one may be dangerous). We don't need to follow a rule like majority = 50%+1.

CD

Clark Davison December 5th, 2014 19:05

@joaomarcelloortega This is something I was looking at previously and how I ended up finding Loomio.

I tested and evaluated various systems (a software engineer from a technical viewpoint looking at features, and from a UI/UX [User Interface / User Experience] point of view).

Generally I was looking at open source software because it can be forked and modified to suit a particular groups needs. One such product that ceased active development over 2 years ago was called OpenMind. Users could post an idea, suggestion, proposal or whatever and others could vote. It had a simple interface, was fairly intuitive but what set it apart was a "weighted voting system" users had 10 votes which they could use individually or as a block (there may have been a maximum number of votes for a single proposal I don't remember).

What I am trying to get at is there are a number of different ways the actual vote can be structured depending on the nature of the item being voted on. Different voting methods could be handled via plug-ins.

CD

Clark Davison December 5th, 2014 19:39

I have included a link for some OpenMind screenshots and also attached a couple which should display in Loomio Beta.

CD

Clark Davison December 5th, 2014 19:41

I was going to mockup some similar screens for Loomio and see what I could come up with for a Feature suggestion in another discussion.

Joum

Joum December 6th, 2014 03:42

@roslyn re-

Also - since a lot of us are campaigning on a Loomio-aided platform or similar, should we open a group for this, where we can keep in touch and discuss these things/try to help each other out?

It would be a delight to participate in a loomio group for this subject.

@alandavison said -

Agreed, and since we are on this platform perhaps we should include the Loomio team and decide where is the best place to create this proposal in order to attract the attention of as many community members and Loomio users as possible.

Will we wait for someone from loomio or shall one of us create it? @richarddbartlett can I trouble you to help us move forward on this?

Joum

Joum December 6th, 2014 04:40

In the meantime, I should let you know we have a loomio group that is a public area for our party. It has been silent for a while now. https://www.loomio.org/g/GRQl4yUT/sol-online-direct-democracy-australia

Our active party members use another loomio group where we isolate ourselves to focus on the work we need to do. It is open to read but not join. Some of the sub-groups are open to out side members but they are dedicated to specific task groups. https://www.loomio.org/g/nzVv8a6F/odd-core-staff-delegates

I am sorry about the number of sub-groups. We do not have this many active subgroups. Long story. We are having trouble deleting some of them.

Roslyn

Roslyn December 6th, 2014 13:17

@alandavison @joaomarcelloortega This weighted voting is also sometimes called 'cumulative voting' - it's even been used in some regional parliaments in the past. It is supposed to be a good way to help minorities push through points that are important to them while still preserving majority rule, because the idea is that minorities can choose to put all or most of their votes on points important to them and could only be overturned if others cared to do the same to them (usually harder to coordinate due to larger numbers and fractures within the 'majority'). That's the theory, anyway. It's one of my favourite ideas, also because it gives the voter more flexibility about where they want to place their votes, but caps everyone at the same level of 'vote value'. I think it keeps it more objective than say preferenda.

@lbjoum About forming a group - I feel like having made the suggestion now I should do something about it. It's not something I looked at previously, and up until now I've just been observing the goings-on at Loomio without really partaking in the activities, ie. I'm still getting used to this all. Also, I am not sure if I would be the best facilitator, because due to work commitments, I often just drop off the radar for weeks at a time. So if anyone else here would like to organize the group or if @richarddbartlett is willing to do so, that is fantastic. But if no one else wants to, I will look into it and try to get things going.

CD

Clark Davison December 6th, 2014 13:35

@roslyn I have @ mentioned @richarddbartlett and have also noticed that @matthewbartlett likes one or two posts here. I know they are both very busy working on developing the platform and may not have much time for participating in non-feature / bug / development ideas but I would be interested to get some feedback from the loomio folks.

I am planning to run as an Independent in the next Irish general election and hold at least one vote a month via internet voting for my constituents.

I can see a lot of the discussion would be politics-centric but also think we need somewhere for people like yourself who plan on running for election in order to promote the use of internet voting to share your thoughts, problems and requirements.

I am no political expert by any means but I do believe that lack of participation is not simply due to apathy on the part of the voters.

I have recently contacted a local (to me) group in the city of Durham pointing them towards this discussion after reading the Open Letter to Ed Milliband in the Local Politics section of their web site.

I have raised the weighted voting mechanism with the Loomio developers in the past and it is something they are aware of and looking at some stage in the future.

Roslyn

Roslyn December 6th, 2014 13:48

@alandavison
Cool, so maybe let's see what @richarddbartlett and @matthewbartlett come back with and maybe go from there?

Rome wasn't built in a day - what Loomio has now is great, and I am sure it will continue to develop and adjust as our experiences grow.

But yes, I think it would be great to have a group to discuss campaigns, the feedback the tool is getting, etc. in different parts of the world in specific relation to political use.

Matthew Bartlett

Matthew Bartlett December 6th, 2014 18:36

Hi folks! This is a fascinating and rich discussion. I've just caught up on the whole thing. Great to have practitioners involved who are trying things out in the real world.

Pia's talk was also wonderful. What a sparkling character! One thing that stood out for me was her comment:

we believe that democracy is not just a matter of stacking up preferences, one on top of each other, but that our healthy and robust public debate should be, once again, one of its fundamental values.

That highlights one of the important things to me about Loomio – it's not just voting; it's deliberating — talking over things together and only then deciding. I hope Loomio will encourage better democracy partly by helping people learn to deliberate together.

But on the voting side some of you might be interested to read a couple of older conversations about vote delegation, or 'liquid democracy': here and here

Starting a new sub-group: I think it's a great idea. My own time is quite limited though. Within my 'Loomio hours' I'm presently focused on testing ways of letting people & groups support Loomio financially, and I can't commit to facilitating a new group. I could commit to support @roslyn or someone else to facilitate it though, if that would be of help. Whoever takes that on might like to check out these ideas & tips on group facilitation first.

G

Gray December 6th, 2014 19:19

@alandavison Yes, thank you for that. A little while ago, a few of us here enrolled in a MOOC on Voting Methods. Not sure any actually finished it as it quickly became quite info dense & complex.

It was also a little worrying to see how, even with small sample sizes, different vote count systems could produce entirely different outcomes. Each giving the 'right' answer, though often very different. How could a simple problem of collective choosing of a few possible options become so complex? The devious mathematics of opinion.

One notion we discussed was 'cumulative voting' (though didn't know it had a name, thanks). Especially where there were multiple options, distributing a pack of 10 tokens against preferred options provided a qualitative element of 'like' beyond just a binary, yes/no.

Presumably there would be some kind of relationship between number of options (& divisibility?) and the number of 'tokens'. eg.distributing 12 tokens between 3 options cf. 100 tokens between 10 options. A 120 tokens among 3 options probably unnecessary etc.

Also perhaps allows for the idea mentioned where those more directly affected by an issue are allocated a higher number of tokens to distribute. Still chewing that one over, though.

Thank you for raising this idea again.

G

Gray December 6th, 2014 19:27

Re @roslyn et al suggestion of a forum for such discussions. I'd also humbly go one further and suggest some form of wiki.

These discussions do terrible things to my browser tab count, as I rapidly accumulate many more open tabs, exploring the various ideas and links mentioned here. Inevitable, I end up with 100-200 tabs, which at some stage crash & get lost again. (Yeah, I know, Twingl/Trailblazer, working on that.)

It would be wonderful, with the access to the talent and experience of our respondents, to be able to capture the content of these discussions with an enriched form of cross-referenced archive, such as a wiki. So much great content being presented in these threads.

Matthew Bartlett

Matthew Bartlett December 6th, 2014 19:55

@jgrey fwiw I find instapaper effective for saving things to read later

CD

Clark Davison December 6th, 2014 21:41

@jgrey - Welcome to the discussion, I know what you mean about lots of tabs as I am another "open link in new tab" kind of person and have about 50 open tabs as I write this 8 of which are Loomio tabs.... throwing 8Gb RAM and a 32" monitor at it really helps :-)

Funny also how many of the things I have been looking at as a result of getting more involved in the community discussions since the release of 1.0 are interconnecting.

Watching the TED talks linked at the beginning of the post a couple of days after getting a "Chromecast" and testing that with TED as a feed channel to XBMC.

Finding out about MOOC courses, some of which may be of interest to people in this discussion. I will have a look for one on Voting Methods as well now ...

Looking into "collaborative documentation" in particular one that includes version control to highlight which changes were made, when and by whom. I will take a look at Wikis again but there was a reason I discounted them last time I was researching this I just can't remember why.

One thing I think would be useful would be a flowchart for those interested in running for election as well as boilerplate resources that could be modified and reused by different candidates, flyers, posters, html email templates ....

Another thing may be a "Technical Group" who could facilitate a candidates Internet presence. An online election campaign could be launched quickly with multiple social media, web and print resources. I mention this because I am working on this idea for a SocEnt project I want to launch.

Thanks to @matthewbartlett (the @ mention auto-complete is still not working) for offering to support whoever chooses to facilitate a new group, I will read the link you provided - I may even open it in another tab :-)

I have lots more ideas but don't want to side-track the current focus.

G

Gray December 6th, 2014 21:54

@alandavison MOOC was called Making Better Group Decisions: Voting, Judgement Aggregation and Fair Division

https://www.coursera.org/course/votingfairdiv

Great content, just quite dense, requiring more time than indicated on course guide.

Daniel Nephin

Daniel Nephin December 6th, 2014 21:58

Looking into “collaborative documentation” in particular one that includes version control to highlight which changes were made, when and by whom

@alandavison it sounds like we are thinking along the very same lines. This was also a goal of the project I was telling you about in the other thread.

A wiki is a good start, but my problem with any wiki that I've used (or looked into):

  1. the "diff view" is almost never a primary concern, and is difficult to use, or doesn't expose the details you want easily
  2. the comments/discussion are somewhat divorced from the final document. There's rarely a good way to link to the section under discussion. So if a person wants to answer the question "what is the discussion that lead to this paragraph?", they have to scan the entire discussion history.

I made a second attempt at something like this using git as the versioning system and sphinx for documentation. The project is unfortunately also not complete. The piece that is missing is again the frontend for commenting. Although I did at least start working on mockups

CD

Clark Davison December 6th, 2014 22:03

@jgrey - thanks I will look into that, my to-do list is rapidly expanding...

@dnephin - we do seem to have similar goals and research interests, thanks for the links I will check them out - more to-dos :-)

It was the git and github MOOC I started a couple of nights ago to see how techie the content was and how useful it would be for "collaborative documentation"

CD

Clark Davison December 6th, 2014 22:16

@dnephin - have you looked at any of the tools mentioned here

Daniel Nephin

Daniel Nephin December 6th, 2014 22:44

@alandavison I've used a couple of them (google docs and etherpad), and I'm familiar with some of the others.

I should mention that personally I feel that it must be open source (but it doesn't have to be free). I think that excludes almost that entire list from consideration (etherpad being the exception).

Without getting into all the details of why, I think it being open source is especially important when it comes to political use. Public organizations should not be restricted by proprietary software licenses. The public also needs to be able to audit these tools both for security and correctness.

I'll have to take another look at etherpad, it's been a while since I've used it.

I think most of these are geared toward word processing more than decision making. While these are potentially similar, I think the lack of focus on viewing diff history and commenting tends to show (they have similar issues to wikis).

I've used google docs a lot. I really like that you get to highlight the context and respond to a specific item. However, the commenting system is quite limited. You can't do much with formatting, and there is a pretty restrictive character limit. Once a comment is resolved it basically disappears, so it still doesn't solve the problem of being able to figure out why a paragraph is the way it is.

CD

Clark Davison December 6th, 2014 23:24

@dnephin +1 for an open source solution. I tend to look there first but also try to evaluate or check feature lists of proprietary stuff for comparison.

Difficult to check out collaborative tools without collaborating, how do you feel about "collaborative testing" Etherpad looks promising and also seems to have some interesting plugins such as live chat which could be useful. Perhaps we could test it together?

MS

Michael Soth December 7th, 2014 01:33

This discussion so far, since I made my one little contribution above, seems to me a good example of how confusing public discussions can get. Multiple issues and multiple threads going in different directions - and this is with most of us assuming that we have a shared underlying value system. And even though I can clearly recognize the goodwill of all contributions, I still find myself having emotionally charged reactions which influence and complicate my response. And am I If really understanding where everybody is coming from and am I just responding rationally and clearly to everybody’s point? Or is my response influenced by feeling misunderstood, misrepresented, dismissed, even if ever so slightly?
Why am I wanting to make certain points - is it really just for the benefit of the discussion or am I defending a position within myself?
We know how much of public internet discussion can get out of hand and become offputting at the drop of a hat - in community decision-making we cannot afford that; we need people to stick at it and stick it out even if it gets uncomfortable. And I want to be able and I want others to be able to not incite or escalate discussions, but to stay oriented towards the benefit of the larger whole.
to me this seems a pretty tall order, even in a group of like-minded people with a shared underlying value system. If on top of that entrenched or economically motivated polarised positions were to come into play, all kinds of spanners could be thrown into the works, to the point that the majority of members would just get fed up and get turned off.

If you read reflections on the Occupy movement after its decline (having experimented with basis democracy decision-making), the gist of it is that people were completely getting fed up with ‘process, process, process’ which was going nowhere.

My involvement with consensus decision-making started in 1970s grassroots politics and campaign and affinity groups in nonviolent direct action (peace movement, anti-nuclear, environmental, squatting, autonomous youth centres etc). I was involved for many years in a yearly European antimilitarist camp, where for two weeks in the summer we were trying to live basis democracy with between 500 and 1000 people. One of the things I learned and concluded profoundly disagrees with something that Roslyn said above:
"Also, as a bona fide expert, I will say that there is nothing mysterious out there that ‘the people’ are incapable of understanding. Most stuff just isn’t really that complicated."
Whilst I really understand where you're coming from in saying that, Roslyn, in practice the most simple decisions got completely mangled by a confusing and disenchanting group process, that left people feeling frustrated, and going off and doing their own thing. Up to a point this kind of 'anarcho-syndicalist' (as they called it in the olden days) attitude of everybody autonomously doing what they want as long as it doesn't interfere with and harm others is fine - not everything has to be decided together and we can delegate and let people get on with things. But in some ways that just avoids the issue of cooperation and the very real difficulties in making decisions that motivate people and engage people in a community building and consciousness raising process, where we learn to ENJOY basis democracy.

There is a tendency for software developers to get lost in software technicalities, and for lawyers to get lost in legal technicalities, when at some point we need to design for and take into account difficulties of human communication - and in my experience and in my opinion that really does get complicated (even if in logical principle it shouldn’t).

A sophisticated culture of engaged citizens in a future basis democracy would not tackle all decisions with the same procedure or same structure. Not all decisions are the same, and they do not all require the same levels or degrees of agreement.
What we came to 30-odd years ago was a distinction of three levels of decisions involved in EVERY decision-making process:

1) a rational task/goal level, underpinned by:
2) an emotional-relational level, and both of those framed by:
3) a procedural-structural level
One of the difficulties in many approaches to decision-making is the assumption (also very common in economics) that we are all functioning like rational computers evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of a particular proposal. This ignores the problem that each and any decision we can think of means different things to different people, and has diverse emotional significances.

When somebody above talked about the 'deliberating' part of decision-making (which is where we understand each other ever more deeply through decision-making in the context of the community), that speaks to me of the emotional-relation level that can and usually does get triggered in the decision-making process (where being understood by others within the decision-making process is just as important as the final decision we end up with).

As soon as we take those first two levels of every decision into account (what is usually called the content and the process aspects), we realise that people have very divergent assumptions as to how these aspects should be managed procedurally: one of the simplest polarisations that arises is between one faction who try to restrict the discussion only to rational considerations as valid contributions versus another faction who insist on the emotional dimensions which usually complicate things (sometimes this faction just withdraws because they feel dominated and structurally excluded by the rational faction). Immediately, you lose the engagement of about half the community.
So if I don't want that to happen, it seems to me that the discussion needs to be supported and facilitated. It needs to be supported on the rational level by facilitative awareness of the different topics and threads and side arguments - a group function which in a forum such as this might be called 'moderating the discussion' (although I don't like the word ‘moderate’). But secondly, it needs to be facilitated on the emotional level, and thirdly it needs to be facilitated in terms of balancing the rational and the emotional level.
All of this becomes so much more important when there are pre-existing factions entering the discussion, where things are heated already, and different value systems operate, with little empathy or patience for others.

Ultimately, it seems to me, for basis democracy to work, we need a cultural revolution in facilitative awareness, in each of us and in the community and communities as a whole.

Closing tax loopholes, as Roslyn was suggesting as an example, seems a straightforward no-brainer and a simple, legal rational decision, if only a rational majority can get behind it. But it is not just that people's minds are brainwashed or that people are paid to vote against it that stops this no-brainer from being adopted as a majority vote.

If we have these three levels of decision-making (rational, emotional, procedural), power-over and domination occurs on ALL three of them, but in some ways the procedural is the most significant. Who gets to structure and facilitate the decision-making process?
As somebody commented above: there is decisive power inherent in who gets to FRAME the decisions and the decision-making process?

In my opinion, we do not just want to democratise the rational level of decision-making, but ALL three levels.
What typically happens in representative democracy is that the procedural level of decision-making gets dominated by people least suited to that job: they are psychologically programmed to be incapable of consultation. It seems to me, in basis democracy we want a system where EVERYBODY in the community becomes procedurally and emotionally competent, not just rationally informed to then participate in the practical voting.

One conclusion from all this to me is that different decisions require an organic emergence of procedures suited to each particular decision (as extreme examples off the top of my head: a decision about abortion requires a very different procedure from traffic planning).

Yes, whatever the topic, we can involve and consult experts in the relevant field to contribute, but ultimately everybody's rational, moral, emotional and procedural intelligences need to continue developing and contributing. I think we do not want a one-size-fits-all legal or software structure, which will be perfectly suited for some decisions, and completely inappropriate for others. We want an adaptable, nimble and organically emergent structure and procedure, where everybody in the community can make contributions on all three levels: rational, emotional and procedural. But in order for this not to become a quagmire of confusion, we need to distinguish not only different rational topics and threads of each contribution, but also these three levels. It needs some of us to keep an eye on all these procedural issues, as separate from the content of the discussion.
In the discussion above, for example, the idea to start a new group to be separated out from this discussion would fall into the category of a procedural intervention.
Roslyn's highly relevant point about people obstructing, distracting and blocking in my view is not just relevant to the question of 50-50 versus other percentages, but is a much wider and deeper issue about procedural confusions, driven by emotional agendas, disguised as rational interventions - which is something that doesn't just have happen in rotten political systems, but also happened in basic democratic groups of 500 people who shared a fairly similar value system (as in the antimilitarist camps I mentioned above).

And none of the above even begins to address the additional difficulty, that most politically or socially relevant decisions consist of a whole complex web of hierarchically nested sub-decisions, which interlink and are interdependent. Each level of such a complex hierarchy of decisions might require different procedures and different levels of agreement: some might require consensus, some of them might be OK to be voted upon, and some of them we can just let autonomous groups get on with.

But for such complex decision-making processes not to become a swamp of interminable aggravating polarised and exhausting 'process process process' and endless squabbling, it seems to me, we need to develop a basis democratic intelligence - a whole new skill set of making 'power-with' decisions, instead of 'power-over' decisions.
Unless we take those complications into account NOW (which - in reference to an earlier question - are not based on mistrust in humanity, but on a passion for and trust in humanity's potential which, however, is not idealistic and unrealistic in terms of our current starting point), it will be much more difficult later, once we try to scale up these systems to include larger communities and more people. Why not learn from and build on these experiences that I am referring to (which were like utopian experiments in basis democracy)?

CD

Clark Davison December 7th, 2014 01:51

@michaelsoth - very impressive piece of writing and certainly food for a lot of thought.

Ultimately, it seems to me, for basis democracy to work, we need a cultural revolution in facilitative awareness, in each of us and in the community and communities as a whole.

This is something I was about to start looking at in more detail. Have you read the link provided by @matthewbartlett

Whoever takes that on might like to check out these ideas & tips on group facilitation first.

I must admit I haven't yet but will push that up my to-do list having read your post. On the subject of your post I will have to read it a few times and try and follow up on some of the points you have raised.

@matthewbartlett - copying quote text that includes links looses the link information I had to edit the post and recreate the link.

MS

Michael Soth December 7th, 2014 02:11

@lbjoum @roslyn
“Let me leave you with a much deeper philosophical question. Would the decisions made by the total population reflect the nature of humanity and if so… is that nature a good thing? Do you have faith in humanity? I have chosen to trust us, while realising that if I am wrong then there is not much point anyway.”
“But despite all of that, I absolutely agree with @joum - I’ve decided to trust in humanity, too. There actually aren’t any other options. 
After all, trusting in a few self-selecting, born-and-raised elite individuals hasn’t, oddly enough, worked out very well for most of us.”

Dear Joum & Roslyn,
I think this point is profound and deserves a proper answer. On a straightforward, common sense level I would say: like in a relationship with one person, I think it is unhelpful to think of trust as an on-off switch. It’s not either there or not there at all. It is not an all-or-nothing binary. It's a complex, shifting, dynamic process - it's not a given - it's something to be grown and developed through commitment.

I’ve spent the last 30 years of my life working as a psychologist and psychotherapist, really trying to understand the inner world of human that reflects the – what shall I say? - outer fuck-up of Western civilisation. When I was referring to mob rule, I wasn’t using that expression lightly. There are very different levels of consciousness operating on the planet and not everybody is subscribing to a tolerant, democratic value system. Remember, in 1933 Hitler got elected democratically.
In the world of psychotherapy your profound philosophical question is reflected in a polarisation between what’s called Freud’s psychoanalytic pessimism (one of the main books expressing this being “Civilisation and its Discontents”) versus post-1960’s humanistic optimism. I am very much a child of humanistic ideals, and so in principle both my heart and my head are with you in having faith in the goodness of humanity. But this idealism has been tempered with experience by realism about the shadow aspects of human behaviour, which is also deeply entrenched and which am trying to tackle in myself and in the people I work with every day. And one of the fundamental questions is: how amenable are these shadow aspects to change and transformation? You can take that question all the way down into modern neuroscience where they talk about ingrained pattern versus neuro-plasticity: once developmentally established, can human patterns of perceiving/ thinking/feeling/behaving/relating change through the life cycle? And is this change superficial and cosmetic, or deep and structural?
Personally, I think in the field of psychology (a field which in many respects is fairly self-absorbed, individualistic and plugged into a normative and addictive consumerism, a faddish worship of narcissistic self-improvement - aspects which run counter to any kind of basis democracy idealism), I’m at the socio-politically-ecologically engaged cutting edge, and if anybody is interested, I am more than happy to give further pointers and references.
In summary: it is precisely because I continue to have faith and trust in the human potential for cooperation and community that I want to be realistic in tackling the real shadow aspects which in my experience are likely to scupper that potential manifesting. To me that’s not a question of an ideological position - like a categorical trust versus a categorical cynicism. It’s a question of being psychologically smart in recognising the very real established forces and power structures which are standing in our way and will oppose us, both externally/outside but also within/inside the ‘people’ (what the Occupy movement calls “us, the 99%”).

CD

Clark Davison December 7th, 2014 02:12

@michaelsoth you said

Multiple issues and multiple threads going in different directions - and this is with most of us assuming that we have a shared underlying value system.

This is why I have been involved in some other group discussions about Loomio feature ideas. This discussion topic is a prime example of what shouldn't be happening on Loomio, or how the platform needs to adapt to address the issues we are highlighting.

I think that is what I was trying to get at in an earlier post

I don't see "representation through consultation" as a replacement for the current system (at least not until the sorts of issues outlined here can be discussed, ratified and implemented which is going to take time and collaborative development by groups such as Loomio and Democracy.os)

At present we need to either adapt the way we post or test something different in order to address the issues you highlighted.

CD

Clark Davison December 7th, 2014 02:32

@michaelsoth you said

And even though I can clearly recognize the goodwill of all contributions, I still find myself having emotionally charged reactions which influence and complicate my response.

I think we are all guilty of "emotionally charged reactions" and certainly for the reasons you go on to detail. To me that seems to be a natural or human response to the conditions you highlighted.

Or is my response influenced by feeling misunderstood, misrepresented, dismissed, even if ever so slightly.

I know one of my responses earlier in the post was based on a misunderstanding, I had been jumping backwards and forwards across posts and discussions, I was tired and to a certain extent getting carried away with the influx of activity following the 1.0 release. Fortunately @gregorycassel didn't escalate the misunderstanding but clarified his position and lead to my apology and self-analysis of why I made the mistake in the first place.

@michaelsoth - Tiredness and lack of focus lead to my response, but I also think that the inability to correctly read emotion / meaning / intent in a text based exchange is partly responsible.

Ben Burton

Ben Burton December 7th, 2014 02:40

I still see Loomio as a tool more geared towards discussion than consensus. It will have to be adapted or developed to be more acceptable for political purposes.

Someone, I think @michaelsoth mentioned different parts of a decision that included goals. It's something I would love to see included in the decision making process here with Loomio. It's got the potential but currently reminds me more of an Occupy GA than a tool that can help us refine that process.

CD

Clark Davison December 7th, 2014 02:47

@BenBurton I don't think the tool you are looking for exists (yet) if I does I certainly haven't found it.

Did you see the OpenMind screenshots with the "weighted voting" or "cumulative voting" that I posted earlier?

Can you suggest what needs to be added to Loomio or changed? What can we do in the meantime until the tool you want does exist?

Ben Burton

Ben Burton December 7th, 2014 02:58

I did @alandavison . Not sure how they relate in all honesty as I don't know the context of what it is.

As for suggestions, I started a discussion on Loomio's definition of a decision. I know what a decision is to ME, but it would be nice to get a group discussion on that. If we come to consensus on what that is, we can generate requirements for this (or any other) tool.

MS

Michael Soth December 7th, 2014 03:06

@matthewbartlett regarding your reference to: https://www.loomio.org/d/Jg6uoZmT/tips-for-loomio-coordinators

I think this is a good start for coordinators/moderators/facilitators. But when I have a bit more headspace, I think I might apply my experience of actual group facilitation over the last 35 years to develop this further. In my opinion, this is one of the main areas that will need a lot of further development and thinking once we start scaling up Loomio for bigger groups and communities. As I have proposed in other comments, my hunch is that this is one of the main stumbling blocks and linchpins as to how effective and efficient the collective process can become.

CD

Clark Davison December 7th, 2014 03:15

@BenBurton the way Loomio currently works is that a discussion, often containing very lengthy posts that as @michaelsoth pointed out contain

Multiple issues and multiple threads going in different directions

If it were possible to split the content of a post, by sentence or paragraph into something that could be "categorized" by the person posting or other group members in some way as to indicate how they feel it relates to the discussion.

  • supports / adds to / positive ...
  • detracts / takes away from / negative ..
  • confuses / not helpful / misleading / ...
  • other ...

At the moment "liking" a post, especially if it is a long one doesn't really highlight the parts of the post I feel are most important (to the discussion) or (to me personally).

There is no way to see which points lead to a proposal or decision and which argued against it or lead to other discussion topics being spawned.

The OpenMind example was one where there may be multiple ideas, or opinions or points that could be voted on as separate entities and each member could split say 10 votes, 4,3,2,1 or 3,3,2,1,1 for example using a "block" to indicate which is most important to them.

The item with the most votes would float to the top of the list.

Ideally this would be in a different topic and I have mentioned it elsewhere but include it here so others are aware why I have raised it.

MS

Michael Soth December 7th, 2014 03:21

@alandavison

Multiple issues and multiple threads going in different directions - and this is with most of us assuming that we have a shared underlying value system.
This is why I have been involved in some other group discussions about Loomio feature ideas. This discussion topic is a prime example of what shouldn’t be happening on Loomio, or how the platform needs to adapt to address the issues we are highlighting.

I have no idea how to tackle these things that "shouldn't be happening" in terms of the software systems. But I can think about the equivalent in actual group meetings: there is a famous feminist paper from the 1980s, I think, called “The tyranny of structurelessness”. The upshot of that is: in the pursuit of equality and the avoidance of any kind of thing resembling ‘bad’ authority, leaderless groups create a kind of free-for-all atmosphere, which becomes dominated by confusion and emotional distress. In order for the leadership vacuum not to degenerate into this atmosphere, I think the paper suggests ‘rotating facilitation’, i.e. different people taking facilitative responsibilities at different times, so as to avoid concentrating the facilitative position in one person and thus being monopolised. So the paper argues for a kind of deliberate and sensitive and collectively agreed delegation of facilitative functions which people take in turn (or what in online discussion we might call ‘moderation’).
One side issue relevant to this is the recognition that different people have special expertise in different kinds of such leadership: there are skilled technical facilitators, emotional facilitators, procedural facilitators, and many others (the seminal book from decades ago was called “Six category Intervention” by John Heron; he later wrote one of the best books available on group facilitation: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Complete-Facilitators-Handbook-1/dp/0749427981/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1417920691&sr=8-2&keywords=john+heron+facilitation).

A comprehensive decision-making process needs many kinds of contributions in order to have a wholesome inclusive atmosphere, but in order to avoid confusion, there needs to be AWARENESS of the different levels and logical orders of those contributions. There needs to be self-reflective awareness of how and on what level I am making a contribution. And if I lack that self-reflectiveness, I might need somebody else to take such a facilitative position to help me with that, and make my intention explicit, so my contribution becomes validated and is received by the community. As I mentioned in my earlier comment: if by default we assume that ALL contributions are only on the rational factual content level of proposals (furthering the decision-making process only on the level of ideas and opinions), we invalidate the diversity of possible contributions and their validity and most of them will be ignored, fall by the wayside and then later come back surreptitiously to block and interfere.

So in the same way that there is a structure for agree, abstain, disagree, block, we might want to structure into the whole system a recognition of the different kinds and levels of contributions, on the most basic level (following my earlier comment) based on a distinction between rational, emotional and procedural contributions.

But my guess is that on top of that (i.e. the self-awareness of each contributor as to what kind of contribution they are making at any point in time), we really do need experienced moderators/facilitators who are skilled at helping people sift out and differentiate those different aspects of their comments. In the same way that groups meeting face-to-face require facilitation in order to not degenerate into the tyranny of structurelessness, I think online discussions and decision-making processes need the same thing (at least as a function that gets temporarily delegated, ideally to someone who is actually skilled at fulfilling that function).

So we need a facilitative function to keep track of the rational level, by following the flow of ideas, opinions, proposals and how they link and relate to each other. But we also need a facilitative function attending to the flow of emotional exchange, even if not explicit (what in the olden days used to be called a ‘vibes watcher’). And we need a facilitative function on the procedural level, too ( and I could write a whole paper just on that topic).
But I guess you get the general gist of what I’m trying to say for now.

Ben Burton

Ben Burton December 7th, 2014 03:23

What you're getting at @alandavison is fairly critical. Isolating issues that are of a manageable size so an effective discussion is even possible. I think Loomio can get there.

You mention "Multiple issues and multiple threads going in different directions".

That could be a very useful and telling discussion thread here on Loomio. To me, the solution lies in Loomio enabling users to isolate an issue (like we have) and turn that into its own discussion working towards consensus on the solution.

CD

Clark Davison December 7th, 2014 03:37

@BenBurton , @michaelsoth I think some very pertinent points have been raised that are not directly related to "Political use for Loomio" but are contributing factors for any distributed collaborative decision making process or tool.

  • Group structure and Dynamics
  • Facilitation and Moderation
  • Decision Making

All of which are important and unfortunately inter-related. So my question is this :

How do we define boundaries and prevent the "Discussion Goal" becoming fragmented and disjointed?

MS

Michael Soth December 7th, 2014 03:41

@alandavison

And even though I can clearly recognize the goodwill of all contributions, I still find myself having emotionally charged reactions which influence and complicate my response.

I think we are all guilty of “emotionally charged reactions” and certainly for the reasons you go on to detail. To me that seems to be a natural or human response to the conditions you highlighted.

The attitude and recognition I am trying to get to is one that does, of course, accept such “natural human responses”, but goes beyond the sense that we are “guilty” of “emotionally charged reactions” - building on the recognition that the ‘personal is political’ ( and vice versa), what I’m proposing is that it is essential to any collective decision-making process that works sustainably well that we actively validate and integrate the emotional level as a necessary ingredient in the process. So rather than any of us feeling guilty about disturbing the otherwise rational decision-making process with extraneous emotionally charged reactions, I am proposing we find an attitude that doesn’t segregate out the emotional component, but makes it foundational. Whether we emphasise the deliberating (Matthew’s term) aspects, the consultative or actual voting aspects of decision-making, to me they ALL have an emotional foundation, which can be pro-actively integrated ( that is what I do when I facilitate groups face-to-face). As I mentioned earlier, when we think about the deliberating aspect of any kind of discussion that Loomio tries to provide a platform for, it’s essentially about people learning to understand each other, and what each of the discussed topics actually means to them and how they are significant. It’s the mutual recognition not just of your rational opinion or proposal, but of who you are and why it matters to you. Otherwise, we might as well have AI talking to each other.

So rather than seeing emotional contributions as an interference or distraction from the discussion, I’m trying to integrate the emotional-relational, as long as it is recognized as such. What is confusing is if people parade an emotional investment as an opinion; or if they dig their heels in without making their emotional investment explicit; or if they thrall procedurals spanners in the works because they feel misunderstood or triggered by somebody. It is that confusion of levels which wreaks additional havoc (on top of the difficulty that people have opposing feelings, beliefs and investments). So rather than pretending that we can all monitor and regulate that internally, each of us individually being responsible for filtering out any emotional response so it doesn’t disturb the discussion, I’d rather make an explicit space for it, so it can be validated and acknowledged for what it is without being hidden or dominating.

CD

Clark Davison December 7th, 2014 03:41

@michaelsoth you said

leaderless groups create a kind of free-for-all atmosphere

Is that what is happening here or are we still in the group "Storming stage"?

MS

Michael Soth December 7th, 2014 03:47

@alandavison

leaderless groups create a kind of free-for-all atmosphere
Is that what is happening here or are we still in the group “Storming stage”?

I'm not sure, you see - I'm mainly having a discussion with you - I've lost awareness of the group. I hope people find it relevant, but I think I need facilitating (quite apart from the fact that here it's 3:40 in the morning and somebody needs to send me to bed!). Good night for now ....

CD

Clark Davison December 7th, 2014 03:48

@michaelsoth - well at least we are in the same timezone, goodnight and thanks for your enlightening input this evening/early morning.

Ben Burton

Ben Burton December 7th, 2014 03:59

How do we define boundaries and prevent the “Discussion Goal” becoming fragmented and disjointed?

@alandavison Consensus on the goal has to be reached before a targeted discussion can take place. And in order to reach consensus on a goal, a community needs to reach consensus on the problem that exists and needs to be fixed.

CD

Clark Davison December 7th, 2014 04:18

@BenBurton the original discussion heading includes

I’ve been watching the development interested in its possibilities to political use. As far as I see, Loomio will allow us to do this:

http://www.ted.com/talks/pia_mancini_how_to_upgrade_democracy_for_the_internet_era

We can increase society participation in government decisions and/or poltical parties.
What do you think about it?

I had to go back and read it again, having done so I don't think the majority of points raised are off-topic. The posts after all reflect the groups thoughts - the things we think are important when considering scaling up to deal with non-trivial decision making and voting.

@roslyn and @joaomarcelloortega want to run for election in order to give their constituents a say in the way she/he votes (on their behalf) as their representative. Or that is how I understand it currently. Their job (and that of their team of supporters / aids / etc.) will be to communicate the legislation or proposal in language that is accessible to everybody and then rely on a secure, distributed, mobile accessible platform to promote and collect constituent opinion.

Would this be a fair summary of the first part of the posted requirement?

increase society participation in government decisions

CD

Clark Davison December 7th, 2014 04:25

So one goal is :

increase society participation in government decisions

And Loomio is one possible solution, Democracy.os or www.votenaweb.com.br / other voting platform would be others?

Ben Burton

Ben Burton December 7th, 2014 04:33

@alandavison A discussion could easily be started on that topic. It would probably be fruitful.

Joum

Joum December 7th, 2014 05:43

@BenBurton

I still see Loomio as a tool more geared towards discussion than consensus.

Me too. A great place for this discussion.

Joum

Joum December 7th, 2014 06:16

increase society participation in government decisions
I like that. But the group would be discussing methods and implications so why not:

Methods and Implications of increasing societal participation in government decisions.

Joum

Joum December 7th, 2014 06:29

@michaelsoth Your thought on the choice to trust is most interesting and a pleasure to read. I love philosophical thoughts and conversations.
I have not investigated the depths of the mechanisms of human trust, and you point out that there is a lot to think about there.

Let me leave you with a much deeper philosophical question. Would the decisions made by the total population reflect the nature of humanity and if so… is that nature a good thing? Do you have faith in humanity? I have chosen to trust us, while realising that if I am wrong then there is not much point anyway.

I agree, I used trust in a digital manner in my question/statement. I have never really thought of trust as a spectrum. To me it is: do I trust?, don't I trust?, or not sure if I trust. In relation to my choice to trust humanity, I did weight my feelings about the different aspects of human nature. The result was a newly formed internal feeling about what the spirit of humanity is. Previous to asking myself the 'faith in humanity' question, my held feeling was that I thought we are destined to destroy ourselves. I still think that this is possible, and it is largely because I know there are 'shadow aspects' that need to be brought to light and recognised as something we need to change.

I want to be realistic in tackling the real shadow aspects which in my experience are likely to scupper that potential manifesting.

I had to look up the word "scupper" and found references to boat deck drain holes, sinking a ship deliberately, and thwarting.

We have the potential to evolve. I have evolved in my life time. I have grown to understand that I am part of a species that must learn, fast, to understand the power our species has over the destiny of Earth. We have never had as much reason to monitor our impact and reduce it greatly before we destroy the place that has nurtured our evolution.

Deeply, Philosophically, I realise that nature / the universe / reality, does not have an opinion on what the outcome is. Within the boundaries of our ability we are free to create and destroy - and I love that this is so. Sometimes when we create, we also destroy, without realising. What a challenging world!

the shadow aspects of human behaviour
how amenable are these shadow aspects to change and transformation?

I pin a lot of hope on the possibility that when a person realises their actions will lead to the end of our success as a species, I believe that the human/person will change to avoid that happening. I hope this is true, because this is, to me, the driving reason that I have faith in us recognising and adjusting our shadows, and evolving our society.

It’s a question of being psychologically smart in recognising the very real established forces and power structures which are standing in our way and will oppose us

The systems of society are established by those who have the power to write them. In western democracies 99% of the population have a very limited ability to influence the writing of the rule books of the systems that we are compelled to operate within. I don't think that the people who do have this ability are evil, but I think it is not in their interest to make the rules equal; which is not a fair game.

Because we are forced to play by the rules it is only reasonable that we should have a say in the process. Having this ability will be a responsibility that most of us have not experienced before.

Global Direct Democracy will become a reality - The means has been identified, and the mechanisms are being built. It is a matter of when not if. I believe that giving every person a say in their governance will show our true nature and ability. Time will not show what our one true nature is because we are free to be many things. Time will show what we chose to be.

MS

Michael Soth December 7th, 2014 09:08

@lbjoum

Global Direct Democracy will become a reality - The means has been identified, and the mechanisms are being built. It is a matter of when not if. I believe that giving every person a say in their governance will show our true nature and ability. Time will not show what our one true nature is because we are free to be many things. Time will show what we chose to be.

Yes, yes, yes - and if we want to make that happen, let's learn from the history of those events and movements that had the same ideals (and for me that includes how they were naive, how they failed, how they were sabotaged and how they were 'scuppered' - that word again!). I am thinking of the French Revolution, the German 'Räterepublik' in 1918, the Spanish Revolution in the civil war, Nicaragua, Cuba, the kind of utopian experiments I was talking about as part of the grassroots politics in the 1980's, the Occupy movement, etc etc.

giving every person a say in their governance will show our true nature and ability
I think there is some truth in that, but even your formulation: "giving" them a say is problematic. They need to 'have' their say by 'taking' it, not being 'given' it. it is precisely the implicit issues of power and leadership, (and people like us assuming that the rest of the population will perceive, operate and behave just like us in terms of sharing and contributing), which have historically scuppered things. It's people like us being psychologically naive, and not being prepared, skilled and ready when they do get into a position of leadership, that will sabotage things.
Those people who will want to use Loomio to stand for election, in my view, will not just be faced with the task of translating the legal and political issues into accessible language and opening them up for consultation. That will be the least of it is - anybody with a brain and a commitment to community can do that. And as @roslyn said: none of these issues are that complicated and we need to trust the people.
To me those ideas and sentiments are naive, I'm sorry to say.
From being involved in consensus decision-making in grassroots politics and in group facilitation and depth psychology and in teaching facilitators and organisational consultants for the last 30 years, it seems to me that a whole range of other skills will become much more important: the people who stand for election, in wanting to consult the people they will get elected to represent, in order to make that work will need to function like facilitators to their community - they will need the psychological, emotional, and other leadership skills including systemic awareness to address the underlying relationship and group dynamic issues, which are at the root of why rational decision-making goes wrong.
As soon as you get elected as a leader, people will transfer power to you, in very irrational and emotionally immature ways. The same thing happens in therapy, and is called transference. People project things onto you, which means they start to misread your good intentions. Dealing wisely and compassionately with such projection is one of the key leadership skills, that goes way beyond translating the political issues into accessible language. That is the kind of thing I'm talking about which we need to prepare ourselves for.
In my experience, when you 'give' people power and let them or encourage them to have their say, all kinds of past distress comes up, from all their previous life experience where they have been oppressed, imposed upon and disempowered. In that moment, all your best intentions and ideals as a leader/ facilitator run into some very real emotional difficulties. That is another kind of thing I'm talking about which we need to prepare ourselves for.
Does that make any sense?

rory tb

rory tb December 7th, 2014 10:33

Love reading through this discussion, so many interesting perspectives.

I'm a member of Senator Online (senatoronline.org.au). We're an Australian based political party founded upon the concept of direct democracy. I'm currently working on creating a support network for pro-direct democracy organizations, whether they be web developers, advocacy groups or political parties.

If anyone is a part of an organization or knows one please '@' mention me.

I'm currently just organizing the list from google docs but Loomio might make a good platfrom when the network is up and running.

CD

Clark Davison December 7th, 2014 11:05

@michaelsoth - the "markdown" takes a little getting used to but if you place a space after the ">" symbol the text you are quoting will be formatted as a quote.

I mention this because when re-reading this topic the posts with quotes stand out more than those without and highlight points or phrases other members feel are important to the discussion.

Daniel Nephin

Daniel Nephin December 7th, 2014 17:15

Etherpad looks promising ... Perhaps we could test it together?

@alandavison sounds good, I'd be up for that

CD

Clark Davison December 7th, 2014 20:44

@michaelsoth you wrote :

when we think about the deliberating aspect of any kind of discussion that Loomio tries to provide a platform for, it’s essentially about people learning to understand each other, and what each of the discussed topics actually means to them and how they are significant.

I have argued a similar point in discussions about the "User Profile" being extended to include contact information and activity feeds interluding posts, proposals and current positions.

Rather than direct you all to another discussion (I would if I could link to the comment directly but right now I can only link to the whole topic) I will include a mobile screen mockup here.

Richard D. Bartlett

Richard D. Bartlett December 7th, 2014 21:25

Thanks for tagging me in here - phewf what a lot of rich discussion!

For what it's worth, the only politics I'm really interested in is the local, personal, affective, voluntary collaboration of small groups of people in pursuit of tangible, immediate gains for the common good and against private interest. So that's the bias I bring to the design of Loomio, but I'm just one voice of many.

CD

Clark Davison December 7th, 2014 21:25

Having referenced the point @michaelsoth made about understanding each other I would now suggest that perhaps a bio section for each user (non compulsory) might also be useful.

In forum based discussions many users include a "signature" that is supposed to tell you a little bit about that person, a funny quote, play on words or piece of "shared wisdom".

Perhaps when joining a discussion group it would be good to add a short "information slug" to fill in some of details about other members. A summary of :

  • what the discussed topics actually means to them
  • how the topic is significant or important to them.

This wouldn't appear in the discussion like a forum signature but could be quickly referenced by clicking on the members initials or photo avatar, leading to a screen similar to the one above. Perhaps this information could replace the "Comments" section with some other heading (to be decided) and an extra tab for "Posts" could be added.

CD

Clark Davison December 7th, 2014 21:32

@richarddbartlett you wrote :

For what it’s worth, the only politics I’m really interested in is the local, personal, affective, voluntary collaboration of small groups of people in pursuit of tangible, immediate gains for the common good and against private interest. So that’s the bias I bring to the design of Loomio, but I’m just one voice of many.

That in itself would be a good example of what I was referring to in relation to the points I raised in the post above this one.

PS - The reasons you stated are very close to the motivations I had for looking for something like Loomio in the first place. I'm not sure I am against private interest I would have to learn more about what you mean by that.

Richard D. Bartlett

Richard D. Bartlett December 7th, 2014 21:51

The 'private interest' bit is just me being a dirty radical, more of a hunch than a manifesto: I think we're fancy monkeys born in to an abundant commonwealth as interconnected equals with infinite potential, and we get ourselves into a lot of trouble when we pretend that one monkey can own a bit of it to the exclusion of all the other monkeys.

We should get a beverage sometime and talk about this at length, but right now I've got work to do for the commons :)

CD

Clark Davison December 7th, 2014 22:00

@dnephin - this discussion is growing faster than any other with some very important concepts being raised. I propose we create a discussion group to discuss "Towards a Collaborative Toolkit" including but not limited to Etherpad, rather than dilute this topic.

I have some ideas for addressing some of the things we have previously highlighted and some concerns about the limitations of the mobile platform.

CD

Clark Davison December 7th, 2014 23:00

@rorytb I had a quick look at your Loomio groups for SOL having read the earlier post by @lbjoum highlighting the difficulty you are having trying to delete unused sub-groups on Loomio. I scanned some of the group content but haven't had the time to look very closely yet.

I have also taken a look at the SOL web site and will look at it in greater detail this week.

I have a slight concern about Stage 2 of your technology plan :

Wiki for the public to collaboratively develop and vote on Bills for submission to Parliament

I would replace the word "wiki" with something more open like "online tool" or "online workspace" there will be more to follow on this subject.

CD

Clark Davison December 7th, 2014 23:38

@michaelsoth - you said ..

Those people who will want to use Loomio to stand for election, in my view, will not just be faced with the task of translating the legal and political issues into accessible language and opening them up for consultation. That will be the least of it is - anybody with a brain and a commitment to community can do that.

I think that is the initial point being made at the beginning of this discussion. A starting point, you might say, for reducing the barriers to participation for the majority of the people they represent.

We are all pretty much in agreement that "large group collaboration and decision making" is a very complex issue when looking at it in it's entirety.

Breaking it down into manageable, deliverable pieces whilst developing strategies to encourage engagement and participation is the best way I can see to tackle the problem.

As has already been highlighted not everybody will adopt the "new tools of democracy" but we still need to drop that pebble in the pond to observe the ripples...

You said in an earlier post

If you read reflections on the Occupy movement after its decline (having experimented with basis democracy decision-making), the gist of it is that people were completely getting fed up with ‘process, process, process’ which was going nowhere.

I guess that is what we are trying to address now...

There are already several comments about the depth and richness of this discussion, as it gets longer it becomes more daunting to new participants who have to set aside a fair amount of time to read and digest before being able to add to the debate.

During the course of discussion I would like to see members highlight topics that are of particular importance. I made an attempt earlier but that is only my perspective, floated to introduce the question posted earlier.

How do we define boundaries and prevent the “Discussion Goal” becoming fragmented and disjointed?

MS

Michael Soth December 8th, 2014 00:15

@alandavison

How do we define boundaries and prevent the “Discussion Goal” becoming fragmented and disjointed?

As it's late again, I'm sorry I haven't got time for one of my long-winded answers ...
The short and simple answer from my side is (as per earlier comments I made here and there): moderation and facilitation.
A moderator, in this kind of context, would in my view fulfil some of the functions that you are taking care of implicitly and in some ways are volunteering for: on the rational ideas and opinion level, somebody who has read the whole lengthy discussion can be delegated to summarise the main points, the pros and cons, and suggests subdividing the discussion, creating further lines of enquiry to be separated out - that kind of thing. the whole discussion is still there for anybody to go over and check whether the moderator has done their job in an inclusive and representative way. But most people would not want to wade through the whole thing - it is visible how and when the moderator is acting in the best interests of furthering the discussion and keeping it creative and productive.
What I was suggesting earlier is that in parallel to the flow of rational interaction, there is a flow of emotional interaction, which could be included explicitly, validly, which might require also facilitation of a different kind.

Some of these facilitative tasks and functions you have taken on in this discussion.I would happily leave it at the moderators discretion to make proposals how to support and further the discussion, and to decide what is confusing fragmentation and what is still creative brainstorming and diversity - but all we are talking about on that level is really a clustering or subdividing of topics, which are still all accessible to everybody.
Earlier on, you proposed the following subdivision:

Group structure and Dynamics
Facilitation and Moderation
Decision Making

Separating out those three topics from the current discussion makes some sense to me, although we would have to define more clearly the third point.
We could then get much more deeply into each of those points.
In this particular discussion, I would prefer to define one-sub-topic more precisely:
What can we learn from the tradition of actual face-to-face group facilitation, and what of that and be usefully applied to Loomio ( or more specifically: to Loomio in a political context)?
I could then contribute and summarise key learning points, references and books from my particular area of expertise without boring everybody to death in this wider discussion. And you could all have a go at cherry-picking and extracting from that what you want to use for Loomio, or for other software platforms that are maybe more suited to scaled-up political decision-making processes (taking into account what Richard said above re his focus for Loomio: "local, personal, affective, voluntary collaboration of small groups of people in pursuit of tangible, immediate gains for the common good and against private interest").

Gotta go horizontal - goodnight ...

CD

Clark Davison December 8th, 2014 00:22

@michaelsoth - thanks as always for your insight and goodnight...

Ben Burton

Ben Burton December 8th, 2014 00:48

@alan

We are all pretty much in agreement that “large group collaboration and decision making” is a very complex issue when looking at it in it’s entirety.

Breaking it down into manageable, deliverable pieces whilst developing strategies to encourage engagement and participation is the best way I can see to tackle the problem.

For a point of reference, Wikipedia excels at this.

CD

Clark Davison December 8th, 2014 00:49

@BenBurton - funny you should mention that, as I type I am on the Wikipedia Loomio page :-)

Ben Burton

Ben Burton December 8th, 2014 00:50

^ @alandavison

CD

Clark Davison December 8th, 2014 00:53

@BenBurton - they are running their fundraising banner and I am planning on donating the £3 they are asking for.

Daniel Nephin

Daniel Nephin December 8th, 2014 01:04

The short and simple answer from my side is moderation and facilitation.

I am a bit sceptical that this can really scale.

While wikipedia is an excellent example of this working at scale, the nature of wiki pages are quite different. At any give time some percentage of the pages on wikipedia will be wrong. In the case of wikipedia this is fine because (hopefully) no one is making critical decisions based solely on a wikipedia article, and eventually those pages will be corrected.

There are other types of discussions that can't change as quickly (simply because they may take years to carry out), and are more constrained to a fixed timeframe.

Not to mention that wikipedia has had it's own share of scandals with moderators being paid for content. This type of bribery would likely be more common in a system tasked with important decisions.

Even a moderator acting with good intentions has bias, which can bias the overall discussion. I think we should be aiming to avoid these types of centralized human intervention.

My feeling is that the software tool should handle these concerns. I think that can be accomplished by moving away from a single chronologically ordered list of responses, to a tree structure.

Discussions can branch freely without requiring extra effort on the participants. As a participant you can subscribe/unsubscribe from the branches you're interested in. A new participant joining the discussion only needs to follow the branches they're interested in, which would be a small fraction of the entire discussion. This makes auditing a lot easier as well (for the same reason, it's easier to find the related posts).

CD

Clark Davison December 8th, 2014 01:12

@dnephin - I like nested structures but without a good search function they can hide a lot of important information don't you think. Also it would be important to be able to link between trees to avoid duplicating and diluting comments.

I see real problems for a mobile centric interface.

PS - Just started testing etherpad tonight

Ben Burton

Ben Burton December 8th, 2014 01:13

Wikipedia fixes itself though. And the key analogy isn't if Wikipedia is perfect or not. The key is that the site narrows down a discussion to individual, digestible pieces to prevent completely off topic and out of range pages.

@daniel-nephin

CD

Clark Davison December 8th, 2014 01:16

@BenBurton - I don't think that @ mention is going to work try @denephin (which by the way doesn't auto-fill in 1.0. I will go over and test that using Beta next time.

CD

Clark Davison December 8th, 2014 01:49

@BenBurton - yes the auto-fill still works in Beta.

@dnephin & @BenBurton - here is a link to the collaborative tools testing sign up form

Greg Cassel

Greg Cassel December 8th, 2014 04:17

Even a moderator acting with good intentions has bias, which can bias the overall discussion. I think we should be aiming to avoid these types of centralized human intervention.

I agree very much @dnephin . It's such a difficult problem, and also a crucially important problem IMO.

I like the idea of a facilitator who has a certain amount of responsibility, based on community trust, but as little personal authority as possible.

Just 'pinning a post' is a way of shaping a group's interactions. I don't mean that it's wrong. I do mean that it's a concentration of personal power.

I would personally prefer groups in which facilitators/coordinators/admins have the authority to make time-sensitive decisions as needed, but always subject to community review.
(Which is awkward when it comes to deleted content!)

CD

Clark Davison December 8th, 2014 04:28

@gregorycassel I am going to try and test out some of the theories and suggestions presented here with respect to "facilitating" this discussion based on the suggestions made so far by @michaelsoth who has so much real-world experience in this field that the points he is raising can't be ignored.

I will try and select some of the "important" points raised so far in order to create a summary. Something we can focus on whilst keeping the general debate going in it's current format which feels a bit like brainstorming.

Initially these will be listed simply in chronological order as I work down the discussion trying to highlight specific things that have caused concern, highlighted issues or indicate topics that deserve better understanding through focused discussion.

I don't want to create or force that focus simply try to give us something we can move towards a proposal, whatever that might be (currently I have no idea)

Joum

Joum December 8th, 2014 05:13

Back to the topic of creating a group where we can continue to explore this topic. I think it would be best to have a parent group for general discussions and subgroups for more specific conversations. Like a sub-group to discuss the various existing platforms and their pro's and cons.

Because our SOL - Online Direct Democracy Australia has been dormant I have asked that group of people if they would mind us moving in there.
I will see what they say, and if no one objects I will change its name, but we still need to decide what to call it.

  1. increase society participation in government decisions

  2. Methods and Implications of increasing societal participation in government decisions.

  3. Global working group.

More????

CD

Clark Davison December 8th, 2014 05:22

@lbjoum
It seems like this discussion is currently our "Global working group" or at least a good starting point. Global in more than one sense :

  • Geographically : Australia, South America, Ireland (as far as candidates)
  • Topically : Members with vastly different skills and experience
  • Perspective : Looking at the whole picture
Greg Cassel

Greg Cassel December 8th, 2014 05:37

@alandavison, creating a summary is a very admirable intention. I guess that relates ideas behind having the ability to edit the Title and Context of an ongoing discussion. I don't know the Loomio cooperative's views on these things yet, though.

As someone who has often written minutes, public statements and summaries, I view it as a powerfully creative and influential process. I think it's generally good practice to get more at least a couple of people involved in gathering points and reviewing whatever is written, even if it's written by a sole author.

I don't necessarily support the shaping of an extended brainstorming session into some definite form, even if that occurs collaboratively. In the case of this particular discussion, I kind of viewed it as open-ended dialogue from the beginning, without any particular drive to create a proposal. However, I don't mean that worthwhile proposals couldn't come out of this talk. Like you, I currently have no idea what they might be.

CD

Clark Davison December 8th, 2014 06:00

@gregorycassel
I am not planning on writing anything in isolation. This is merely a starting point. The document will form the basis for testing various collaborative writing platforms so we can do a number of things at once.

I am trying to link (and document) as many of the ideas posted in this discussion as I feasibly can. Currently Loomio doesn't have the feature set to allow me to do this so my approach is to try open source tools and see how well they fit.