Saturday, October 22, 2011

Scalable online debate/discussion software

The World is on the cusp of change.
We have witnessed the revolutions in the Middle East and now, with the Wall Street Protests, there are murmurings for fundamental change in the US. Much of these sweeping changes can be directly attributable to technological advances in communications: The cell phone, the computer and the Web.

What we have now are huge groups of peoples who have effected an overthrow of an old system, but are unable to gather en masse to hammer out important decisions, such as the distribution of resources, human rights, etc. In short a a striving for a government of equals. What has typically happened in the past is that post revolution vacuums allow for strongmen and despots to fill the void. After that, it's the same old song.

The solution is, there needs to be an effective scalable software for very large groups of online people to get together, voice their opinions, discuss, debate - and most important - formulate solutions and agreements. Think of it as an online "Robert's Rules of Order" process. Imagine it working something like Wikipedia, being self-correcting, where the no group with an agenda can wrest control.
If successfully formulated, one possibility is that it could initially be an effective shadow government, paralleling problems governmental institutions face and proposing possible alternative solutions. I imagine folks involved in Occupy Wall Street would love to get their hands on something like that. The media would start paying close attention to the such an online process, because the results would be propagated by a mass of individuals, rather than talking heads and politicians.

Rough outline:
OK, imagine this decision making software is up and running and you want to participate in a particular issue. Let's say it is a new issue and people are just starting to log in to debate. First, the issue needs to be defined, and that is the first page you come to. The issue page is dynamic and subject to change, much like a Wikipedia entry.
Next, you go into discussion. This works very much on the lines of Google Circles: Let's say each circle consists of thirteen individuals, no tie vote, who are randomly thrown together. The volume of circles is scalable, so you may have thousands of individuals discussing the same issue, although each circle contains the same amount of individuals. The Circles have a 'circulating chairman' built in, so no individual, or group of individuals can dominate the direction of the circle discussion/debate.

If an individual simply has to leave feels alienated, they can opt out and return, joining into a new circle. When that happens, a joining member has the option of dropping in, thus retaining the quorum. The text of the discussion can be reviewed by the newcomer, bringing them up to date. Trolls and flamers can be bounced by 3/4 majority vote. That account will be penalized in some form or other, at least removing them from the subject of discussion as a whole.

The end result is a specific proposition or a set of propositions that is hammered out and voted on, the results appearing much like that of an online poll. If you are the first circle to make the proposal(s) and decision(s), the wording and polling results become available for all the proceeding circles to see, plus the procedure of the debate/discussion. They can also see how many circles there are at any given moment. This allows for continuity, in that successive circles can use the same polling wording if they choose, so as the circles report in, their polls are combined together, producing the final result.

Finally, a participant coming into the server can at any time skip to the chase: They can observe the debates, the polls, and vote without going through the debate and discussion.

I realize that this sketch may not look anything like a finalized end-result, I just wanted to whet everyone's imaginations.