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That's what Armando argued last week in a diary at My Left Wing titled "Community Owned Blogging Is a Fantasy."  The diary was based on a comment I made at Booman Tribune in a diary titled "Banned from MyDD."

Let's see, counting Armando, frontpager at Dkos, that's four major liberal blogs mixed together in this.  All play valuable roles, but none of them functions as a democracy. And Armando argued that none could be. Needless to say, it boggled my mind that a citizen of democracy could say such a thing. And it delights me no end that here we are, in a so-called impossible place.  It reminds me of one of my favorite slogans from the 1960s, from the Paris Uprising of 1968: "Be realistic. Demand the impossible!"

This strange conversation actually began with an earlier comment I made in the same diary.  That diary was a bit hard for me to make sense of, since there didn't seem to actually be any banning.  But there was a deeper problem I discerned:
[W]hile the blogosphere is far more democratic than the old media, it is hardly a world apart, and it is hardly free from the hierarchical structures that impede a truly democratic discourse.

This isn't anything new.  The ultimate absurdity came for me when I was the chief contributor to the LA Indymedia site.  Indymedia's politics are expressly anarchist, supposedly non-hierarchical.  But that just means that the hierarchies are informal.  The rich kids who can afford to spend days on end hanging out together, jetting around to the demonstration hot spots worked and networked for months on end on getting the rules they wanted, while I, like a poor peon, actually spent my time putting up content on the front page--my own and other peoples--starting a media criticism project and trying to recruit new participants. I wanted to radically democratize the site governance and presentation, so that there wasn't just one front page, but people could customize it to fit their primary interest(s).  I finally gave up when I realized I no longer believed it was a good thing to be trying to recruit others to join. Instead, I left myself.

The main problem was the people.  But the main issue was site design structure and who it served to empower in what ways.  I have nothing against the idea of highlighting certain stories for special attention.  I think that's a very valuable option.

What bothers me is the lack of flexibility in providing for alternate views, which should include the options of (1) letting people create their own parameters for selecting highlighted content and (2) providing means for people to do this collectively, both intentionally and algorithmically (as Soapblox does--see My Left Wing for how this works--by letting you check out other diaries recommended by those who recommend a particular diary.)

This is a much more fundamental problem, IMHO.  It's not just about DKos and MyDD, it's about the entire blogosphere and then some.  We need to be engaged in a serious ongoing project of finding ways to reshape our discussion spaces to make them more democratic, more immediately responsive to our needs and desires--and, of course, to make them more directly relevant to taking effective action in the real world.

The discussion unfolded in a few other comments in the original Booman diary, the diary Armando posted at My Left Wing, and in a diary I posted in response, "Community-Owned Blogging & Beyond." In it, I wrote:

There are four major points I have to make in response to the discussion

  *  The Issue is Community Control, Not Ownership.
  *  The Problems Armando Cites Are Not Dramatically Difficult In Themselves
  *  We Have Models From Centuries of Democratic Struggle
  *  There's An Underlying Issue of Liberal vs. Radical Vision-And Both Have Value

And there are two additional subjects that I'd like to expand on:

  *  The Significance of Heterarchical Structure And Phil Agre's Concept of "Issue Entrepreneurship"
  *  Community Control, Scaling And Mobilization

Bottom line: I don't think Armando has any real reason to reject the notion of community-controlled blogging. It's simply something that's not been seriously attempted yet.  It would be a pleasant surprise if it succeeded wildly on the first attempt.  And it would be really a pity if it people didn't work on brining it about, just because it hasn't been done before.

Well, seeing who's involved in this first attempt, it's already a pleasant surprise.

Most of the issues I discussed were somewhat tangential to what Politcal Cortex is about, at least initially.  (Click the links and go read about it, if you're so inclined.) And that's a good thing.  I was talking about a grand vision of a democratically-run megasite.  I see a profound need for that if progressive politics is truly to achieve its goals.

But to get there, we need to cultivate a more democratic culture.  We need to nurture and spread the norms and values that will make a democratic megasite work.  We can't build cathedrals until we know how to build foundations.

Whether Political Cortex becomes such a megasite in the future, or whether it simply helps to develop the community foundations on which such a site is built, I believe that what is happening here is profoundly important.  It is building the foundations of a democratic blogosphere.  It is building the foundations by learning how to build the foundations.

The objections that Armando raised had primarily to do with control:

With all due respect to Paul, whose comment is very intelligent, and to Pyrrho, who has expressed similar thoughts, it simply won't work.

The problem is who gets to determine citizenship in the community. The problem is who gets to decide what's appropriate. The problem is control....

No single blog can hold the consensus Paul seems to believe it can....

But Paul's idea strikes me as not to the point and not workable. Just won't.

But I could be wrong. Love to see someone try it and see how it turns out.

Well, now it seems that someone is trying. And I, of course, say, "Count me in!"

To my mind, Armando's focus was on boundary-drawing, which is perhaps the whole reason why he thought that community-controlled blogging could not exist.  While boundary-drawing is certainly important, it is really a secondary concern.  The primary concern is with building the core of the community.  By building the core, you create the context in which boundary-drawing needs to be understood.  It's the core that defines the community, not its boundaries.  The boundaries make sense in terms of the core, not the other way around.  And it seems that the founders of Political Cortex have given a lot of thought to the core.  Everything else follows from that.

The impossible is now the self-evident. The American Revolution continues to unfold.


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First of all, I've been wishing someone would do this in the booming lefty political blogosphere for quite a while, so congrats and best of luck on being the one to do it.

Second, please don't ignore the history of this very sort of endeavor. I get worried when I see things like:

I don't think Armando has any real reason to reject the notion of community-controlled blogging. It's simply something that's not been seriously attempted yet.  It would be a pleasant surprise if it succeeded wildly on the first attempt.  And it would be really a pity if it people didn't work on brining it about, just because it hasn't been done before.
It's not (primarily) about politics, but Kuro5hin has been doing exactly this for damn near five years now. And it's not exactly like that should be a big surprise, considering the software that runs this site and enables all this nifty voting stuff was written for Kuro5hin originally, and has been in continuous development toward this end for the same five years.

So, I have to point out, this isn't the first serious attempt and it has been done before. :-) The good news is, it did actually succeed pretty wildly the first time, and it's sort of bizarre that there has been this long five year lag before anyone else really caught up to the idea.

I'm not posting this to cut you down at all -- just to suggest that maybe it would be better to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Kuro5hin has had some real problems maintaining the balance between open community control and publishing worthwhile content. It would be a shame if you repeated all of my mistakes because you didn't know that someone had already tried this. You have a great wealth of information about open community dynamics that I didn't have available, if you wanted to go and look for it.

So, if you'll forgive me stroking my 29-year-old gray beard and muttering in my soup about kids today, please don't overlook your forebears because the community you save might be your own. :-)

And really, I will be watching this site with great interest.

by rusty on 11/01/2005 10:35:57 PM EST

I was actually speaking intentionally in the more narrow context--I don't consider Indymedia in this context, either.  But you're absolutely right that Kuro5hin's example should be considered.

I've passed through there a couple of times over the last two years or so.  Always found myself thinking, "Gosh, I wish I had the time just to just stop and relax here for a while."  But didn't know anything at all about its history or way of functioning. Just saw some neat stories.

Perhaps you could post a mini-history of sorts?

"Be realistic. Demand the impossible!" --Wall poster from the 1968 Paris Uprising

by Paul Rosenberg on 11/01/2005 10:50:01 PM EST

Parent
I'm so glad you stopped by and gave us the background.

I have a question for you. You say:

Kuro5hin has had some real problems maintaining the balance between open community control and publishing worthwhile content.

I'd love if you could expand in detail on that -- either in an article or as a diary -- to give us a heads up about some of the pitfalls we could avoid.

And thanks so very much for contributing ... you've created the platform that is really driving democracy to new inclusiveness.

by SusanG on 11/01/2005 10:59:20 PM EST

Parent
well, the "mistakes of kuro5hin" or its inapplicable nature for creating a strong voice on the FP for political advocacy, are quoted as why you can't have a community driven blog. Tacitus.org is another, now that it uses community promotion.

I'd like to see some election of people to play the autocratic rules... "Presidents" are a method to keep the flair of individualism alive in the bureaucracy.

However, I think the addition of the keyword systems (ok "tags", whatever) does promise to help community promotion not be just the averaging of the community, with tags you can tune into the demographic segments of the community in a selective manner, and considering that it counts as a proven collaboration technology.

pyrrho

by pyrrho on 11/02/2005 04:08:05 AM EST

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Elect the autocrats?

What a spectacle that will be.

And I think it is the fundamental flaw - elections would be a disaster.

I would like to have the idea of elections explored so that it becomes apparent that this idea is a nonstarter.

The SCOTUS is Extraordinary

by Armando on 11/02/2005 08:13:27 AM EST

Parent
that discussion by explaining why an election would be a disaster? I don't see any a priori reason why it would be so at a small site just starting out. I grant that if you dropped it without any planning on a large, entrenched site like dKos it would be a disaster. (Remind you of anything?) But that doesn't have very much bearing on this.

Pointless, incessant barking since 10/31/2005 03:16:11 PM MST

by Blue the Wild Dog on 11/02/2005 12:08:30 PM EST

Parent
There's a comment down thread about "gaming the system". Whats to prevemt several thousand freepers from coming over here, signing up, waiting the appropriate period, writing a diary on which they uprate each other to acheieve TU status, making themselves eligible to vote, and taking over the site.

by roysol on 11/02/2005 03:34:16 PM EST

Parent
You have to qualify who is eligible to vote by requiring that they invest in the site, both in time and in money. Require a minimum ownership as well as, say, six months waiting time, before eligibility to vote. Clearly just TU status is not enough.

Pointless, incessant barking since 10/31/2005 03:16:11 PM MST

by Blue the Wild Dog on 11/02/2005 03:44:28 PM EST

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People should not be allowed to purchase a stake in the site at will. The NYC cooperative model would be better - a person who wished to become a shareholder would have to meet approval from the community, after their 6 months (or whatever period) of participation.

There are successful structures with communal ownership of property managed by democratically elected representatives. So arguments from axiomatic principles about the impossibility of such in this instance don't have much weight.

Pointless, incessant barking since 10/31/2005 03:16:11 PM MST

by Blue the Wild Dog on 11/02/2005 04:00:29 PM EST

Parent
Your reference to realworld models is just the sort of thing I've been trying to emphasize.  And I think you have a very good point about the higher levels of responsibility, such as those that could pull the plug on an attempted takeover, or that could step in to mediate disputes that would threaten to polarize the community.

But I also feel that TU status should be enough for a lot of other things.  I really like the idea of bootstrapping responsibility, so as to maximize the community's powers of self-regulation.

"Be realistic. Demand the impossible!" --Wall poster from the 1968 Paris Uprising

by Paul Rosenberg on 11/02/2005 04:10:19 PM EST

Parent
Do you want a small, tightly-focused community with fairly explicit standards, or a looser, wider community with greater readership but more noise to signal?  

If the first, then examples of communal ownership like housing cooperatives and HOAs, that are necessarily limited in numbers, are a good model to think about when starting out, I'm guessing. For the second, perhaps start by looking at, say, food co-ops where you have more tiers of buy-in and less limits on numbers of participants.

Pointless, incessant barking since 10/31/2005 03:16:11 PM MST

by Blue the Wild Dog on 11/02/2005 04:23:13 PM EST

Parent
My interest in the technology is very much about how it can maximize the benefits of different models simultaneously.  

That's why I think that filters are so important--with maximal control in the hands of the user.  Let them--as much as possible--set the signal-noise ratio for themselves.  

But not just that. Let them choose how broad an issue area they want to see on their default front page.  Let them be able to personally adjust the aging rate on the recommended diaries as they display.  Give them as much control as possible. If we reach a point where too much choice results in community fragmentation, then we can scale back.  But I'm not convinced that will ever happen.  OTOH, we've all seen how too much centralization dulls things down.  

I'm 100% certain there is more interesting stuff on DKos than there was 18 months ago.  But I don't see it at a glance, and I don't feel motivated to go looking for it, because (1) the structure doesn't support it and (2) other folks are doing more interesting stuff in other places, where the growing edge seems much more interesting to me.

I don't think this has to happen as a site grows exponentially.  But you have to think a lot about how to avoid it.  

"Be realistic. Demand the impossible!" --Wall poster from the 1968 Paris Uprising

by Paul Rosenberg on 11/02/2005 06:04:34 PM EST

Parent
I think you might have to consider two types of users -

  • Power users - frequent visitors and contributors to the site, who will make maximal use of the features you mention
  • Casual users - who visit infrequently and won't make use of sophisticated filtering features, but just want to find interesting material easily

If you want to draw people in and increase participation, you might have to cater to the casual users as well as the power users.

Pointless, incessant barking since 10/31/2005 03:16:11 PM MST

by Blue the Wild Dog on 11/02/2005 06:15:58 PM EST

Parent
I agree with your basic.  The site should be set up so that there's a pure vanilla version that's as easy and accessible as possible.  

But rather than a two-tiered setup, I'm thinking more along the lines of the pizza parlour model. You can have your regular cheese pizza if that's all you want.  Or you can start adding toppings, one at a time, as a simple way to ramp up in complexity.  

But then there are the house specialties, where you can just jump into a time-tested medly, and you can order a pizza that's half one specialty and half another. And so forth.

"Be realistic. Demand the impossible!" --Wall poster from the 1968 Paris Uprising

by Paul Rosenberg on 11/02/2005 06:21:52 PM EST

Parent
At some point, we're going to need a brainstorm of Machiavellis to think of all the nefarious things that could be done, and then devise protections against them.  And you can have the place of honor among them.

But we shouldn't start by thinking of these sorts of defensive needs.  We should first accentuate the positive, get very clear on what it is we want.  The defense should then be as congruent with that as possible, IMHO.

BTW, one idea I have that's directly is a fail-safe mechanism, which has no day-to-day authority, but would step in to reboot the system in case of some sort of planned takeover, such as you describe.  This could take the form of an offline board of overseers. Or it could be a provision allowing for a veto procedure.  

This really gets back to why separation of powers is so central to liberal democracies.  We need our own form of separation of powers, which will guard against tyranny from within, as well as takeover from without.

"Be realistic. Demand the impossible!" --Wall poster from the 1968 Paris Uprising

by Paul Rosenberg on 11/02/2005 04:03:44 PM EST

Parent
or the patience or the smarts. I am referring to this original statement:

"Whats to prevent several thousand freepers from coming over here, signing up, waiting the appropriate period, writing a diary on which they uprate each other to acheieve TU status, making themselves eligible to vote, and taking over the site."

What would they be saying in the meantime? If they start posting their typical Hitler Jugend tripe you downrate them. In general these guys are not smart enough to be covering their tracks in the way they would have to to pull that off.

Clear thinking, clear writing, clear linking casts bright lights under the bridges where trolls go to hide. I don't spend a lot of time at dKos any more, like Yogi Berra once said "Nobody goes there anymore, it is too crowded". But I put up four comments there since Nov 3 and (blush) got 25 4.0s out of 25 ratings.

Now a good part of that is because I was posting from what is perceived as the correct position for a dKos audience, we can even say politically correct position. But there is still a component that says speaking Truth to Power and carrying a big Hyperlink works.

We are winning the war of ideas because we are outthinking, and out writing the other guys. The Right grew to power by guys calling into Rush and saying "ditto", it's all talking points, all the time. But whereas five years ago they could distribute those points via talk radio and LTEs for days before the Left had a chance to respond, these days we can and do get right in their faces in real time.

We're Correct, they're Right and slowly but surely people are getting the difference.

Social Security: Don't Get Played - Flash by Rock the Vote

by Bruce Webb on 11/06/2005 02:19:55 PM EST

Parent
I agree that the election is problematic... because the talent is not robust enough to face election loss.

Perhaps the FPers should not be elected, merely the officer that appoints them... so that talent doesn't get it's feelings hurt.

I'm left wondering why you think democracy can work at all... why does it work in a nation?

or does it in your view?

pyrrho

by pyrrho on 11/02/2005 04:56:08 PM EST

Parent
As I've explained elsewhere, the model that interests me most--though by no means the only possible one--is one that's suited for large-scale and massive scalability, with customized main pages for every node in the heterarchy, and the potential for democratically self-organizing governance of subcommunities at every node.  

On this model, the main responsibility is that of editing the page--and perhaps, as here, line-editing in an editing que.  There is no single front page, though there is a top main page--with the multiple option format we see here.  Thus, "front pagers" are simply those people whose contributions are featured most regularly, and there is no clear dividing line.

This is, btw, somewhat close to the way that My Left Wing works.  There's about a dozen or more of us with front page privileges, which also allows us to promote diaries.  While most of us put some of our work on the front page, and leave other work in the diaries, we also tend to chime in with a lot of diary promotion.  Sometimes one of us puts another front-pagers diary on the front page.

I'm not sure how others see this, but I do see it as primarily an editing privilege, since I don't diary obsessively--at least not right now. (You might not see me promote very often, either. But that's usually because someone else beats me to it.  We're supposed to try and pace FP posts, and you wouldn't believe how often someone jumps the gun on me!) This seems like a good model to think about as a departure point.  You can still have some very visible presences without the official FP status, as a result of a much more organic process.

"Be realistic. Demand the impossible!" --Wall poster from the 1968 Paris Uprising

by Paul Rosenberg on 11/02/2005 05:35:24 PM EST

Parent
well, the need for officers exists more in banning... but the issue for the FP is that the FP is a publishing mechanism... while a diary in general is part of a dialogue.

As a publishing mechanism an individual posting to the front page is inconsistent... even things that the community does not promote will make it to the front page.

This is individual character, however, and it may be that later on the community comes to appreciate this contribution which would not have been appreciated at the time.

So a person with the FP priv for a term as the result of an election gives a narrative, an individuals voice, can challenge the community to think differently, and also, apply some of the magic of individual taste to promotions of other diaries.

Basically, individuals can pick out things the community might be missing... an individual can provide a way to knock communities out of ruts they tend to get stuck in.

The Common Widsdom and Community Standard can be a heavy and stupid thing... rafts of people will memorize the status quo and enforce it with peer pressure and their votes... individuals are a way to cut through that, to make bold decisions.

pyrrho

by pyrrho on 11/02/2005 06:21:53 PM EST

Parent
I look for a community standard that welcomes and protects questioning of the conventional wisdom. In that case, community standards are preferable to lack of standards.

Pointless, incessant barking since 10/31/2005 03:16:11 PM MST

by Blue the Wild Dog on 11/02/2005 07:21:31 PM EST

Parent
I'm simply saying that there is a balance... one of the weaknesses of communal decisions is the community standards become dogma...

Much of what we are discussing is how to establish and maintain standards in an open society.

pyrrho

by pyrrho on 11/02/2005 07:34:12 PM EST

Parent
You write about individuals and the community. But what I see as primary is neither--it's the small group.  The editing collectives at each of the nodes, for example.  

Small groups have the capacity to draw out the best of individualism and the best of community as well.  My ideal structure is that of multiple small groups with fluid memberships.

"Be realistic. Demand the impossible!" --Wall poster from the 1968 Paris Uprising

by Paul Rosenberg on 11/02/2005 08:36:57 PM EST

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why do you think small groups are good at that.

at the small group scale you have alpha-behavior, subtle dominations and submissions...

I'm hoping to draw a voice out of large groups.

pyrrho

by pyrrho on 11/03/2005 03:26:11 AM EST

Parent
There's a long history of non-hierarchical organizing with small groups as the basic unit. Much of this centers around non-violent direct action, which the American Friends Service Committee has provided training for since at least the 1960s.  But this also involves models for conducting meetings and siginificant decision-making processes, all on a non-coercive, consensus-based foundation.

On a less formal plane, think of the way a jazz combo works, with different people taking turns soloing, and sometimes engaged in duets, but everyone always listening and responding to each other.

One of the ideas of a heterarchical structure is that every node creates a space where an editing collective can function. Recommended diaries can be generated automatically, but the editing collective can manage the central column.  They can, if they chose, select a roster of regular "front pagers" or they can be wildly diverse in their selections, or anything in between.

I'm not sure what you mean, precisely by "draw[ing] a voice out of large groups."  Could you explain?

"Be realistic. Demand the impossible!" --Wall poster from the 1968 Paris Uprising

by Paul Rosenberg on 11/03/2005 08:18:25 AM EST

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well, the soviet system right after the revolution was supposed to be a heterarchy of local groups controlling local production.  Failed immediately, not because there was a problem with the idea, but because such a system still has concentrations of power that become centralization.

In other words... do people have it in them to be millions of jazz musicians?  What if the improvisational musician is a permanent rarity? (mind you, I like improvisational music and I agree with a dream where we have a population of improvisational-artists-at- heart)

As for the drawing a voice... I think that groups of living things are also living things. I think software can evoke a common voice out of a group... distinct from the other valuable service of sorting individual contribution so that it bubbles to the top.

For example, a wiki page... these are not the work of an individual simply promoted through peer recognition, but actual collaborative creations.

pyrrho

by pyrrho on 11/03/2005 04:29:06 PM EST

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One reason I'm not particularly zealous about imposing my ideas is that I realize democracy develops out of practice. Trying to impose idealized forms on it just won't work. People have to get there out of their own struggle.  And this applies to the Soviet example in spades. Chances are that almost any system would have failed, for the simple reason that Russians had so little experience in democratic culture.

This was in stark contrast to America, which had all sorts of cultural examples to draw on, which were centuries old when our country was founded, even if some features were much newer, and others were invented on the spot.

So, naturally, I don't think that the history of the Soviets has much bearing on us.  It's an historical warning, like many others out there, but not particularly compelling.

As for how common is the improvisational musician, that's very much a function of how early they learn. Everyone is born with that potential, though not at equal levels, obviously.  My solution: allow a maximum diversity of opportunity levels.

Okay, a wiki page is a good example of group voice. But I very much doubt that many pages (percentage wise) are the product of more than a small group of people. And those that are the products of large groups are the ones there have been wars over, I would wager.

So, how does that translate into group blogs?

Of course, a wiki as a whole could be said to express a group voice. But, then, so could any group blog.

"Be realistic. Demand the impossible!" --Wall poster from the 1968 Paris Uprising

by Paul Rosenberg on 11/03/2005 05:25:14 PM EST

Parent
good point about that still being a small group, but my point is seeking software to use for virtual communities to break that small group limitation and evoke it from larger and larger groups.

I think I see groups HAVE such system, have values... but they mostly go unspoken... people can deduce for themselves but the group has trouble just speaking them out.

It's playing with fire, I might not like what I hear from the groups... but I think we can have groups speak their mind... and we need software and virtual community to accomplish it.

As for group blogs... just a step along the road, I think the software I'm thinking of will INCLUDE something akin to a group blog system, but it will also have features we havn't seen yet.

All I'm really sure of is that it will come by giving the power of moderation, etc., to the community. When it's difficult to do so (e.g. Armando's complaints, so far as they go)... that's just a difficult problem to solve and we have a great reason to solve it.

pyrrho

by pyrrho on 11/04/2005 09:16:36 PM EST

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Maybe it's best for you to think this over and put it into a new diary.  Because I seem to be unable to get a clear idea of what you're talking about.

The metaphor of a jazz group is fairly concrete, and translates well to model of group moderation by a small group, which is supported by the model of affinity group organizing.  I think this is clear to others, not just myself.  I'm looking for something equally clear from you.

When you say this:

I think I see groups HAVE such system, have values... but they mostly go unspoken... people can deduce for themselves but the group has trouble just speaking them out.
it comes across to me as a jumble of different things, rather than something clear.  Of course groups have values. Pollsters have discovered quite a bit about this. Recommended diaries reflect the share values of a blog community. And America has millions of groups--incorporated non-profits, and many more less formal groups--brought together by a mission that is basically value-defined.  In the last two examples, those values don't go unspoken.  So I'm not really sure what you're talking about.

I should point out, that my vision of small group control is based on the idea of very permeable and fluid small groups.  I'd like to see as many people as possible involved.  It's just that there are real, practicable limits to how many people can easily interact in a non-hierarchical manner. So I say, let these groups be very fluid, and let there be many of them.  There will still be recommended diaries, where everyone who's a registered user has a voice.

"Be realistic. Demand the impossible!" --Wall poster from the 1968 Paris Uprising

by Paul Rosenberg on 11/04/2005 11:42:10 PM EST

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sorting this out for now.

first, I agree that small group dynamics have value, but they do not save the day or go to what I'm talking about.

Firstly... I have a believe that with computer networks, humans can combine into a larger mind... not figuratively... literally.  That's a bit too sci-fi for many, but whatever, I'm just honestly telling you, knowing it may be folly (but I don't think so).

Secondly... the recommendation process expresses a communal review... that's not the same thing as the community expressing itself through a voice... that is a community chosing an individual's voice and marking it with approval, to a degree... because it doesn't have a voice of it's own.

It is an approximation in the direction of a community voice... but not quite the same thing.

Basically... I don't long for a system that selects the best individuals and promotes them to an elite... I long for a system that combines the skills and value everyone has -some- of.

pyrrho

by pyrrho on 11/07/2005 06:29:23 PM EST

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at dkos it's "Democracy is the worst form of government there is, except for all the others that have neen tried." So democracy has serious flaws, which is why we continue to debate structural issues like what kind of mechanical process we use to record and count votes, term limits, campaign finance oversight, lobbying controls, who gets to vote( yes, don't forget about the disenfranchised, like felons, or people who have bungled their registration in some technical manner),advertising restrictions, and so on. I'm very hopeful that this site or some other will come up with the right formula for success, but I'll admit to being a skeptic, and having some concerns.
You have to qualify who is eligible to vote by requiring that they invest in the site, both in time and in money
That sounds like a poll tax, not a pretty history there.
People should not be allowed to purchase a stake in the site at will. The NYC cooperative model would be better - a person who wished to become a shareholder would have to meet approval from the community,
That's a gated commmunity, hardly the model of democracy in action.
And I think you have a very good point about the higher levels of responsibility, such as those that could pull the plug on an attempted takeover,
This is dictatorship, one person decides who the "bad" people are who are trying a "takeover" As for relying on "community standards", that runs the risk of becoming the equvalent of a loyalty oath. You know the type, like what Bush makes you sign if you want to listen to him lie to you about social security. And to the extent that's effective, then why bother? It will develop the echo chamber where there are no dissenting opinions.

by roysol on 11/03/2005 02:58:35 PM EST

Parent
I think none of the above are ideal solutions, and all of the above may serve a useful function in their place.

It's not my concern here to talk about the ideal democratic online community.  Such an animal may well not exist.  Rather, I'm interested in stirring discussion of the varieties of possible online communities, and the varying ways they can become more democratic.  

I agree with your points about dangers and drawbacks that the different suggestions pose--I tend to want as broad a spread of power as possible--but I think that the use of those mechanisms can still be compatible with a functioning online democracy.  Probably not my ideal one, but one I would certainly tolerate and defend as a useful advance over where we are today.

My notion of an empowered group that could pull the plug on a takeover is a purely defensive one, a negative veto power that, in my mind, should never have to be exercised.  I would never consider the creation and empowering of such a group absent a whole lot of other separation-of-powers type structures that should make it almost unthinkable for it ever to be needed.

OTOH, I have written elsewhere about mediators, who I think would play a much more active and important function--that of keeping the community together when disputes arise that threaten to degenerate, polarize and divide.  This group should not do anything else. When you're a member of this group, you can write diaries, and comment, but you should step down from any editing or other group functions.  

That's part of my concept of separation of powers.  Have clearly defined roles for necessary functions that make the site work in a dynamic, but harmonious fasion.  They do all the heavy lifting that's not done by general members at large. And then have some tripwires, just in case we're targeted for a hostile takeover.  You can grant extraordinary power to the trip-wire mechanisms, but only because they would rarely if ever come into play.

"Be realistic. Demand the impossible!" --Wall poster from the 1968 Paris Uprising

by Paul Rosenberg on 11/03/2005 03:58:16 PM EST

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I may come across as a naysayer, but I'd be thrilled to see this concept work. I'm not in the Armando camp of "this can't work", more in line of pitfalls I would point out. This is probably not entirely productive, so I will stifle myself for now, although I would be glad to make myself available to poke things with a sharp stick, if you so desire.

Some are contending you do not go far enough, or you go too far, with the model as currently proposed. In the category of not far enough, one of the biggest blow-outs at dkos was over pie wars, and I haven't seen the role of advertising addressed. As a disclaimer, from my point of view, I do not have huge disatisfaction with any of the blogs as they are currently structured.

I have read most of what you have written so eloquently, and argued honestly, even when you have been baited. Thanks for the heavy lifting, in the true spirit of community efforts.

by roysol on 11/04/2005 01:18:28 PM EST

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Tags are great. But they have limitations. One is that they are non-hierarchical.  For many purposes, this is a good thing. But in this case, not so much.  Plus, being non-hierarchical also means being non-heing non-heterarchical, which is even worse.  Let me explain.

Suppose your primary focus is the environment. In a hierarchical system, all you would have to do is select a filter on "environment" and you'd automatically get everything you were interested in.  With tags, that's not a given.  Someone might write a diary about global warming and the reinsurance companies, and tag it with "global warming" and "finance".  You'd miss that one.

Yes, someone else can add the tag "environment" but you would miss it until and unless someone did.  It's not a given. Problems are even greater with people using different labels to describe the same thing, perhaps not even realizing it's the same thing, or that other people use a different label for it.  "Micro-credit" and "micro-lending" for example.

In a hierarchical system, anything given a keyword is automatically included in some higher-level category as well.  In a heterarchical system, it's usually included in two or more such categories.  Having such a system makes it very easy to get what you want, the way the Dewey Decimal System does for books in a library.  You can navigate up and down heterarchies. And, like the Dewey Decimal System, it's best left to expert design--though suggestions should certainly come from everyone.  It allows for the ready development of subcommunities, which helps handle some problems of cohesion when the site grows beyond a certain size.

I'm not saying that a heterarchical system is necessarily better.  Just that it has certain advantages.  The best system would probably have both.  (We're talking uncharted territory here, but it seems a good bet.)  Tags are more serendipitous, and that seems like a cardinal virtue to me, not to be lightly discarded.  It's just that I'd like to have both--a more disciplined structure and a more serendipitous one.  

Call me greedy, but cyberspace is or ought to be a plenum, a place of abundance.

"Be realistic. Demand the impossible!" --Wall poster from the 1968 Paris Uprising

by Paul Rosenberg on 11/02/2005 08:41:06 AM EST

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firstly, I don't make the same distinction people seem to make about tags... it doesn't strike me as some new distinct thing, personally.  We can now attach keywords.

I would suggest that what needs to happen is as tags are greated, they are fit into a heirarchy as well, on the side... and this maps back to essays in a very simple way... if you put "globalwarming" and "superfund" under "environment"... then the "superfund" tag implies environment.

That is a straightforward addition.

pyrrho

by pyrrho on 11/02/2005 05:03:39 PM EST

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I plead ignorance.

Some have suggested wonderous properties from the use of tags (understood as ~keywords structured solely by community usage).  

I don't know enough to know if there's anything to it, but it does seem quite possible that a more amorphous structure would provide different sorts of information than a hierarchically organized structure (even one cross-linked, with multiple inheritance--that is a heterarchy).  So, to keep options open, I'm quite willing to do both.  If collapsing them into one structure--as you suggest--doesn't really lose anything, then I'm fine with that as well.  

And if collapsing them doesn't lose anything but it upsets people because it feels like too much centralized control, then I don't mind accomodating those feelings, groundless though they might be from an information-engineering perspective.

In other words, I'm a hopeless agnostic at this point.  As I said, I plead ignorance.

"Be realistic. Demand the impossible!" --Wall poster from the 1968 Paris Uprising

by Paul Rosenberg on 11/02/2005 05:20:32 PM EST

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I have not idea what this philosophical idea of tags is because my knowledge of such metadata is pretty complete so tags just seem to fall in there somewhere, and I've not studied the idea as unique new thing.

However, what would be ideal is to have a flat system, like tags as we have them.

But also have a data structure that describes the heterarchical relationships... and indeed, this would mean you could have more than one such relationship defined... as a programmer, I know for a fact it can be tricky defining one category as belonging to another, that it is arbitrary.  So allowing multiple trees would solve that issue by avoiding making absolute decisions...

Such relational trees between the keywords can be edited by the community as well, though the interface might be tricky...

pyrrho

by pyrrho on 11/02/2005 06:26:01 PM EST

Parent

I think the key is offering users flexibility, and that's one thing I love about developing on Scoop. I've worked on sites which were able to offer four or five different ways of getting around, based entirely on your own preferred means of finding things, and Scoop makes this ridiculously easy.

by ubernostrum on 11/03/2005 05:07:49 AM EST

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Flexibility that's intuitive and easy-to-use.  I particularly like the idea of allowing people to create their own customized views of the site, and to store different options which they can access via pull-down menus.

Say, for example, I like seeing what's been written recently about the media, the environment, civil rights, Central America and California state politics.  I can create filters for each of these separately, and/or I can create a filter that's the union of all of them. and/or I can create filters for various intersections--media and the environment, civil rights and the enviroment, Central America and the media, etc.  And all these can be available in a pull-down menu, with sub-menus, which generates automatically, but which I can organize myself if I choose.

I can also create menus to track the interests of groups.  Essentially, the recommended diaries does this for the site as a whole. And the heterarchical node structure does this for the site as a whole filtered through the node structure.  But My Left Wing has a feature that allows you to see  the diaries recommended by eveyone who has recommended a particular diary.  This is a very useful sort of feature to have. If I can track the tastes of people who like the same things I like, this is another way to organize things that's less directly specified, but still likely to make a good deal of sense to me.

Finally, I really like the idea of letting the user calibrate their own parameters. DKos has long had this in a relatively primitive form--choosing how many recent diaries display. But this should be standard for virtually everything. User selects how many recent diaries display, how many recommendeds, what the threashold is to display recommendeds, etc.

"Be realistic. Demand the impossible!" --Wall poster from the 1968 Paris Uprising

by Paul Rosenberg on 11/03/2005 08:39:20 AM EST

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Due respect to the brilliant Rusty, but even talking about balance refutes the point of this diary.

The SCOTUS is Extraordinary

by Armando on 11/02/2005 08:06:25 AM EST

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why does Democracy work in a nation, then we can address these issues of control and at least see why you are quite so pessimistic.

right now I only understand a mystical idea... that somehow the democracy will be lifeless... but benevolent dictatorship is UNSTABLE and unsatisfying, and has a great big bottleneck against scaling.

You don't seem to realize it's the community features in scoop that helped dkos scale this big, you think it's the autocratic aspect... but no.

Autocracy scales terribly... and also creates unhealthy/sick social structures.

pyrrho

by pyrrho on 11/02/2005 05:05:45 PM EST

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This is also why I keep bringing up the issue of heterarchic structures.  

This really helps with scaling, since the number of subcommunities can grow indefinitely, with an ever-richer texture of interconnections with other subcommunities.

And, yes, it works MUCH better with democratic control throughout than it would with a plethora of middle-managers.

"Be realistic. Demand the impossible!" --Wall poster from the 1968 Paris Uprising

by Paul Rosenberg on 11/02/2005 05:39:13 PM EST

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Indeed, Kuro5hin was one of the inspirations of this site! In particular, it inspired us to take Scoop to a new level in the political blogosphere.

As I'm sure you've noticed, most of the Scoop sites and virtually all the political Scoop sites decide against using the full frontal functionality your pioneering software has to offer -- particularly strange because of the Democratic nature of the functionality.

Anyway, thanks for everything.

You Rock!

Political Cortex -- Brain Food for the Body Politic

by Tom Ball on 11/02/2005 03:45:31 PM EST

Parent

Some of us hiding behind the scenes and playing with the code have been tooling around k5 since these "blogging" kids were in their Internet diapers.

Also, wasn't there supposed to be some sort of organization which would provide a foundation for collaborative media at some point?

;)

by ubernostrum on 11/03/2005 05:03:57 AM EST

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as well as Armando's, with real interest knowing that we had this experiment in the works. I think what we're doing here is quite interesting, and I can't wait to see how it works.

But I've got some, well, not really reservations, but skepticism. Particularly if the site grows to the numbers that dKos sees. I think the regular features of Internet communities--personality conflicts, cliques, cabals, etc.--will lead to gaming of the system.

And I'd also say that this isn't entirely a community-owned and operated blog. There are quite a few of us admins who can intervene, if necessary.

by mcjoan on 11/01/2005 08:31:00 PM EST

I know this falls short of the grandiose vision I painted. But my point in talking with Armando is that much of what he says is impossible already exists. And this blog only makes that more obvious.

Will there be growing pains in the offing?  Almost certainly.  Can they be dealt with?  Yes, if we are ready and willing to grapple with them, rather than go into denial, or accept them as inevitable.

This article doesn't go into the details I talked about precisely because that gets into the issues particular to a large-scale site.  I think that those ideas will help deal with some of the issues you raise.

For example, some cliquishness is not necessarily bad.  It hard to be on a "first-name" basis with 10,000 people. But if you can customize the blog so that for you it reflects a very particular slice of concerns--the discussions re your state, county or city, and the issues you care most about in great quantity and detail, the rest in a more general background mode--then the tendencies toward cliquishness can conform more readily to the natural shaping of conversations around shared interest in content, and this takes some of the juice away from the more destructive tendencies involved in cliquishness.

As for the intervention of admins, there is nothing inherently anti-democratic in this. In fact, I think some sort of role like this is a virtual necessity.  I simply suggested that such posts should be elective, which they clearly could become here, once people have had time to get to know one another.  

"Be realistic. Demand the impossible!" --Wall poster from the 1968 Paris Uprising

by Paul Rosenberg on 11/01/2005 09:35:59 PM EST

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does not exist and will not exist.

Complete community ownership.

The SCOTUS is Extraordinary

by Armando on 11/02/2005 08:07:49 AM EST

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This is an absolutist argument about existence. The sort of argument that entails logical impossibilities. But logical argument proving non-existence is beside the point when there is already contradictory evidence.   Community-owned entities already exist in the real world. What can't they exist in cyberspace???  

This can't be your argument, Armando.  It's just too silly for a sensible person like yourself.  (And, yes, I think you're sensible, even if you are passionate, vehement, adversarial, etc.  There's no contradiction there.)

"Be realistic. Demand the impossible!" --Wall poster from the 1968 Paris Uprising

by Paul Rosenberg on 11/02/2005 11:03:51 AM EST

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well, again... now you qualify... I personally do not think anything is "complete"... so what do you mean?

And can a community in the real world have autonomy and own/control itself... or is it impossible in general?

pyrrho

by pyrrho on 11/02/2005 05:07:07 PM EST

Parent
this user friendlier site, Political Cortex proves much of what Paul talked about as in elevating discussion.  It offers a way to weed out the noise, for users to tune in sharply to to what their interests are and have longer discussions on particular topics.  I love the 'nerve center'.  Just perfect.

But, I don't think it gets at completely the arguments Armando has made about fully being owned and run by the community.  There may be more content on the front page, but there's still going to be administrative control over unwelcome behavior or topics that don't necessarily have the entire weight of the community behind the decisions as to whether it's good or bad and unwelcome.

I don't mind belevonent control.  I really don't, so maybe that's why I don't reject the models that are in place for controlling troll infestation and unwelcome nonsense.  Those models have suffiecient  infulence of the community to me, but even if improved, a utopia of every community member feeling like they had an equal voice in a decision about banning, rating, elevating to positions of prominence, broad acceptance of varied views, etc.

All these words and what I'm really saying, is the results will be the same.  The same as with the combination of adminstrative/community control somebody is bound to feel like someone was banned improperly, someone's views were dismissed improperly, dissent was still stifled, etc.

I don't see the purity of community control achieving a satisfactory result.

by Cathy on 11/02/2005 03:10:12 PM EST

I think that part of the problem is people having very different definitions and expectations in their heads.  Which is one reason why I think that lived experience is an invaluable part of the process in moving toward new forms we can't accurately envision yet.

While Armando takes the view of 19th Century European aristocrats that no democracy is possible, I take the modern view of comparative political science, that a vast array of different forms are possible, each with a different constellation of strengths and weaknesses.

For example, on a more nuts-and-bolts level, I don't think it's necessary or even desireable to give everyone an equal voice.  Someone who comes by once every month should not be equal to someone who contributes every day.  The key is that no one is forced to be marginal.  People can choose how involved they want to be.  The only exception to this should be something along the lines of term limits, ensuring a certain degree of turnover so that new people have a chance for meaningful involvement, not just coming onboard as yes-men to those who retain control by virtue of senority.  

Anything that fell within these parameters could probably produce a reasonably good democratic community--and some that didn't probably could as well.  I have some ideas that are far more particular, but I don't insist that they are necessary, merely desireable.  And others may well come up with ideas that would be better than them.

One last point: I don't take the view that banning individuals is a central issue.  Some people are disruptive, narcissistic or just plain outright trolls.  It's not the communities responsibility to provide daycare for them.  They can go elsewhere and create their own community--if they can. I AM concerned about the suppression of ideas, viewpoints, and discussions.  I think it is far more fruitful for us to focus on how we handle this, and not get distracted on how to deal with trolls and their kin.

"Be realistic. Demand the impossible!" --Wall poster from the 1968 Paris Uprising

by Paul Rosenberg on 11/02/2005 03:49:58 PM EST

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I think as I understand you your are saying individually across the board equality was never what you had in mind.

An improvement on respecting varied views is much desired and probably more achievable through the community input having more weight. But, I could see it going the other way too, where a minority opinion isn't really offensive its just fails a collective purity test of the community.

A lot of what Armando has zeroed in on is issues like banning, particular topics that are widely viewed as embarrassing to the site, but when you seek the more achievable improvement vs. guaranteed satisfaction for everyone, by giving more weight to community input rather than eliminate adminstrative implementation, it doesn't seem so kooky or unachievable.

Anyway, thanks Paul.  You write so intelligently on this issue in particular.  I feel dopey and inadequate.  But, I have opinions, always...

by Cathy on 11/02/2005 04:22:50 PM EST

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We may disagree sometimes, but you're NEVER dopey or inadequate.  I've just thought about this (and suffered, too!) a lot over the years. (And I still have the scars from 1970s food coops to prove it!)

Besides, dopey questions are often extremely valuable.  It's often so easy for folks to get a sophisticated dialogue going that skates right over some really fundamental problems which have inadvertantly been defined out of awareness.

One the greatest mathematicians of all time, David Hilbert was famous for asking what might be called "dopey" questions. He would often blurt out stuff like, "This is all too complicated. I don't understand.  Are you sure it isn't much simpler than that?"  

Needless to say, supergeniuses aren't supposed to say things like that. But it was his insistence on not being dazzled that had a profound effect on the entire field of mathematics, much more significant than if he had simply been another dazzling talent himself.

"Be realistic. Demand the impossible!" --Wall poster from the 1968 Paris Uprising

by Paul Rosenberg on 11/02/2005 05:51:19 PM EST

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Our paths cross again.

Well argued.

We are not "compassionate conservatives." We are fighting liberals. And we'll kick your ass.

by Pachacutec on 11/01/2005 04:57:23 PM EST

We've been "beyond the looking glass" for five years, now.

Who's to say what's impossible? (Besides Armanda, of course.) ~snark

by QueenB on 11/01/2005 07:59:59 PM EST

The benevolent dictator creates a site, fancies it a community. He invests time and money in his baby. What are his motivations? Does he seek advertising money? Is he looking for fame? Truth be told, he probably doesn't know what drives him.

But he is not entirely selfless, now is he? In the early days of his site, he must be a strong leader. He must inspire others to contribute to his site. He must build a community. The benevolent dictator will surround himself with a well-intentioned Junta. In exchange for special administrative powers, these founding members generously give time and money to the site.

The site has grown, and the benevolent dictator reaps the benefits; ad money, political influence and a powerful mouthpiece. The founding members bask in this newfound glory.

Then comes a call for democracy. After spending thousands of hours on building a community, the benevolent dictator is asked to give it away, for great justice. He finds himself all-powerful, ruling by decree as stated in the disclaimer: "reserve the right [...] including, but not limited to [...] action may be taken as is necessary".

Community ownership? Why would he share his newfound fame and glory? Is he truly selfless?
----

Fundamentalism is a plague upon the mind.
No Rights Reserved.

by Down With Fundamentalism on 11/01/2005 08:08:10 PM EST

What is a site? Content: stories, comments, diaries. Who owns it?

"[...] you grant Political Cortex non-exclusive serial rights [...] it will always and only be here on the Cortex, and we have no intention of ever reusing, reprinting, or recreating your comment anywhere else [...]"

Who retains copyright and ownership? on PoliticalCortex.com

The english language is crude - freedom is a very, very vague word. In the french language, there are two words for free. The first is gratuit, which means free as in free beer. The second is libre, which means free as in free speech, or as in Open Source.

Here, you retain rights to the content, but the community owns nothing. The content is free as in free beer; it is gratis. But it is not free as in free speech - it is not libre.

If the content is merely gratis and not libre, it cannot be reused elsewhere; it cannot be syndicated at will; the content lives and dies with this site. The community is held hostage. All that the community has contributed, all the content that it has created, it remains bound to a this site. The community cannot share freely what it has created.

Your comments are not libre. Isn't that sad?

Fundamentalism is a plague upon the mind.
No Rights Reserved.

by Down With Fundamentalism on 11/01/2005 08:46:09 PM EST

The statement you point to is quite clear, and does not restrict freedom in the least:
Who retains copyright and ownership?

We have no desire to own your comments. So, when you post a comment here, we take that to grant Political Cortex the right to display your comment on the page on which you posted it. It may also be displayed on other pages within the site, or reachable through searches or other means, but it will always and only be here on the Cortex, and we have no intention of ever reusing, reprinting, or recreating your comment anywhere else. By posting here, you also grant us the right to remove your comment if we choose not to want it here. We do not edit comments, except in extreme cases of comments which include html or other characters that damage the usability of the site. We do remove comments that are inappropriate or offensive to the administrators.

You lose no copyright control over your words, and are not beholden to us in any way, shape, or form. Political Cortex claims no liability for the accuracy of user's comments, and reserves no ownership of them whatsoever.

This is a very standard sort of arrangement, commonplace in pre-internet days, when any self-syndicating writer would sell their work on a similar basis. In effect, it means is that the site has the right to keep anything posted here. And you have the right to use it anywhere else.  This is simply spelling out the basic unspoken assumption that everyone has when they post on a blog.

Of course, you are free (libre) to misunderstand this as you wish. But the cost of doing so is not free (gratis).  You gain an unfortunate reputation.

Sad. But avoidable.

"Be realistic. Demand the impossible!" --Wall poster from the 1968 Paris Uprising

by Paul Rosenberg on 11/01/2005 09:21:00 PM EST

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I stand by my original comment. The posted licensing policy does restrict community freedom. It places ownership in the hands of the powerless individuals, who have little use for it, and in the hands of PoliticalCortex.com, that profits from it. The community only has gratis access to the content.

The licensing could easily be much freer - it could be a libre license, that would let the community reuse the contributed content elsewhere. For example, if the benevolent dictator of PoliticalCortex.com decided to do something unfortunate, the community could regroup elsewhere without losing the right to use the content that the community has created.

This sort of freedom is embraced by the Open Source movement, by the Creative Commons and by sites such as Wikipedia. It places the freedom in the hands of the community rather than in the hands of the individuals. I agree that it is a rather new licensing model, and it has been around for no more than a few decades.

I like your talk about community ownership and democratic communities. I believe that truly libre licensing is essential to such communities. However, it does require the leaders of the community to be selfless - under such an open licensing model, they have less opportunities to profit from the content produced by the community.

"[...] very standard sort of arrangement, commonplace in pre-internet days [...] basic unspoken assumption that everyone has [...]"

Your argument seems to rest upon an appeal to tradition and popularity. I call for progress. To build a a democratic community with real power and ownership, we must consider new ideas, new licensing models.

"You're confused [...]"
"You gain an unfortunate reputation."

I have not attacked you or this site. I feel that your intention was to have the reader gain an unfortunate opinion of me.

I feel that such statements add absolutely nothing to your argument, and constitute an unjustified personal attack.

Sad. But avoidable. Let's keep the debate civilized. Let's not attack each other. Let's have a debate based on facts - there is no need for us to fight. We both believe in nearly the same things.

Fundamentalism is a plague upon the mind.
No Rights Reserved.

by Down With Fundamentalism on 11/01/2005 10:02:36 PM EST

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The whole libre/gratis thing was not just unnecessary, but confusing and distracting.  This followup is slightly less so.  

What you're saying is that this should be a copyleft site. So why didn't you just say it?

"Be realistic. Demand the impossible!" --Wall poster from the 1968 Paris Uprising

by Paul Rosenberg on 11/01/2005 10:40:14 PM EST

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Because there are shades of gray.

Because not everybody is familiar with information freedom theory.

Because jumping to the conclusion doesn't explain the reasoning behind it.

Because I'm not saying that PoliticalCortex.Com should be copyleft.

I'm saying that a truly democratic information community must be copyleft. If you read my other comments, you'll see that, for various reasons, I don't think that all information communities can or should be copyleft. This one isn't, and that's alright. It's a great site, and I like it very much.

I was talking about my ideals. It's not about this site. It's about democracy, progress, communities, the voice of the people and the freedom of information.

I'm realistic. I don't demand the impossible; I talk about my values, and I share them freely.

Fundamentalism is a plague upon the mind.
No Rights Reserved.

by Down With Fundamentalism on 11/01/2005 10:52:26 PM EST

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Like mcjoan, I read your diaries and Armando's responses with great interest since I knew some of the democratic aspects of this site that were brewing.

I'm glad to see you made it over here as we watch this experiment unfold together as a community. I'm sure there will be hitches and glitches, but I think with the input of everyone, we can explore this frontier together and see where the journey leads. One small step yada yada yada.

It's an exciting time, isn't it?

by SusanG on 11/01/2005 09:58:33 PM EST

/Intesting time, that's the Chinese curse, isn't it?

When I look back on history, though, I can't help but think how fortunate I am.  If I'd been born in most any other time, I would have been hanged or burned at the stake for the way I think.

"Be realistic. Demand the impossible!" --Wall poster from the 1968 Paris Uprising

by Paul Rosenberg on 11/01/2005 10:59:36 PM EST

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at any other time in history would pretty much have left me voiceless.

Sometimes in the urge to get where we want to be, we can forget in many ways how very far we HAVE come.

by SusanG on 11/01/2005 11:01:24 PM EST

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Someone like Trent Lott is only living 50-60 years in the past.  But he comes off like a couple of centuries at least.

"Be realistic. Demand the impossible!" --Wall poster from the 1968 Paris Uprising

by Paul Rosenberg on 11/01/2005 11:22:58 PM EST

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An information community, such as a blog, creates wealth. That wealth is the content produced by the members of the community. In a truly democratic information community, the wealth belongs neither to the individual members, nor to the leaders of the community.

The wealth, the content, must belong to the community itself. The community must own the content that it produces. This means that the content must be licensed under terms that allow the community to use the content as they so desire, without requiring approval or action by the leaders of the community.

Such truly democratic communities do exist - Wikipedia fits the bill pretty well - and they are gaining in popularity. However, they are the exception rather than the rule. Such communities require leaders that do not see themselves as owners, but rather as stewarts. Unfortunately, this level of selflessness is still rare.

With modern information technology, we have the ability to duplicate and distribute content and information at a very low cost. When we use licenses that restrict the duplication of content, we fail to harness the full potential of information technology. What we gain is the ability to profit from the content, what we lose is freedom.

Armando may be right. A truly democratic and open community is very difficult to build, because so few individuals are so selfless that they will build a community without the ability to profit from it.

Profit and power is what drives our society. It is the basis of capitalism, it is the basis for the marketplace of ideas. Today, we are not ready to embrace true information freedom and democracy.

Armando says: "The problem is who gets to determine citizenship in the community. The problem is who gets to decide what's appropriate. The problem is control."
Source: myleftwing.com

Building a community requires such a massive investment of time and ressources that people will only do it if they can control it. And that's the way it is.

Let us enjoy these communities. While they are not truly free, they are great, and they give each of us much more freedom than we had under traditional media.

Let's keep dreaming of a better future.

Fundamentalism is a plague upon the mind.
No Rights Reserved.

by Down With Fundamentalism on 11/01/2005 10:38:10 PM EST

As I've pointed out several times in different threads on different blogs, in different galaxies, this is not an either/or thing.  I'm an idealist, but also a pragmatist. So, I point to the fact that privately-owned coffeehouses have long been great centers of community, intimately involved in the growth of democracy.  I realize that this site is not the cathedral.  It is, however, a significant step forward in laying the foundations.  These things take time, effort, reflection, imagination.

I am far more optimistic than you, in part because I am more realistic, I think.  I expect that most people will crawl before they walk, walk before they run, and run before they fly.  I do not think that any one stage means that there will not be another.

"Be realistic. Demand the impossible!" --Wall poster from the 1968 Paris Uprising

by Paul Rosenberg on 11/01/2005 10:56:53 PM EST

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I agree with you, and I share your optimism.

Capitalism and private ownership are the most efficient engines of progress.

Fundamentalism is a plague upon the mind.
No Rights Reserved.

by Down With Fundamentalism on 11/01/2005 11:20:09 PM EST

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Capitalism and private ownership were virtually insurmountable barriers to the abolition of slavery. The Civil War was hardly what I'd efficient, but it was the only solution they left open.

If you scale back your claim and say they're valuable engines of progress, you not only put yourself on much firmer ground, but you also sound less like a fundamentalist yourself.

"Be realistic. Demand the impossible!" --Wall poster from the 1968 Paris Uprising

by Paul Rosenberg on 11/02/2005 08:50:20 AM EST

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But you are pretty much conceding that there can be no community owned blogs.

The SCOTUS is Extraordinary

by Armando on 11/02/2005 08:11:14 AM EST

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As I said back on My Left Wing, community ownership is trivial to accomplish. Make purchase of one share of preferred stock part of the package in becoming a trusted user.  

The real challenges revolve around community control.  Which is why privately owned sites that advance the practices of community control are so significant.  It makes perfect sense to me that communities will continue to develop in privately-owned spaces for an indefinite period of time, just as it makes perfect sense that community-owned spaces will begin to emerge as people grow more accustomed to online community-building, more appreciative of it, and more profoundly committed to it.

"Be realistic. Demand the impossible!" --Wall poster from the 1968 Paris Uprising

by Paul Rosenberg on 11/02/2005 08:58:30 AM EST

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equals control.

Ownnership means ULTIMATE control.

And that is what you concede.

The SCOTUS is Extraordinary

by Armando on 11/02/2005 10:15:19 AM EST

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equal control. I own a part of General Electric, but I have no control - direct or ultimate, whatever that means - over General Electric.

Pointless, incessant barking since 10/31/2005 03:16:11 PM MST

by Blue the Wild Dog on 11/02/2005 10:47:38 AM EST

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You own SHARES in GE.

Very different.

The SCOTUS is Extraordinary

by Armando on 11/02/2005 11:00:33 AM EST

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And that doesn't prevent it from being controlled. Corporations are routinely controlled by people who comprise a body holding a majority of proxies (very far from owning) or else by top management (which is even farther).

So your careful parsing does NOTHING to undermine the underlying point.

"Be realistic. Demand the impossible!" --Wall poster from the 1968 Paris Uprising

by Paul Rosenberg on 11/02/2005 11:10:48 AM EST

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If I don't own part of GE, then no one owns GE. The difference only comes if you want to circularly redefine ownership to exclude my part-ownership of GE as not being "ownership" because it doesn't have control. Then your statement is a useless tautology.

We could get into battles about definitions, but to what end? Maybe if you explained the substance behind your brief statement, that would be more useful.

Pointless, incessant barking since 10/31/2005 03:16:11 PM MST

by Blue the Wild Dog on 11/02/2005 11:27:06 AM EST

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ownership does not equal control.

personally, I don't think that attempts to control dkos, for example... are truly controlling dkos.

dkos the community still manages personal autonomy... for example by having NO IDEA that there was control exherted, for example.

What was clear to us... such as the crack down on fraud diaries... still misses a huge part of the community.

You say what you say because Ownership is SUPPOSED to mean "control"... that's the principle of private property... but communities are not private property.  A community or tent village on your private property is not under your control.

Basically... that property ownership gives you certain ways to affect the community.  E.g. you can evict it... that's not actually the same as control.

If you really think kos "controls" dkos even now... then be ready to take responsibility for a lot of very un-kos-like crap there, as well as the kos-like aspects as well.

namely... you don't get to pretend we are comparing democracy to another system proven to work.

autocracy scales terribly, it's not a proven winner...

pyrrho

by pyrrho on 11/02/2005 05:12:08 PM EST

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So when is the vote on featured writers? Design? Profanity? Posting rules? Taking advertising? etc.

This is community ownership?

And this is different from dailykos how exactly?

Ripped from context is your post.

Ask pyrrho if this is a Community owned blog.

The SCOTUS is Extraordinary

by Armando on 11/02/2005 08:04:58 AM EST

As I say above, "The Issue is Community Control, Not Ownership."  Ownership is a trivial issue in terms of possibility. It's already been handled in the real world.  Community-owned enterprises are nothing new.  You yourself said:
The problem is who gets to determine citizenship in the community. The problem is who gets to decide what's appropriate. The problem is control.
All these are issues of management, not ownership.

And your claim is basically that DKos is as good as it gets.  But this site is significantly more community-determined, in ways that I had not even written about. And that's precisely how democracy has in fact advanced in the past--in diverse and unexpected ways.

I expect the unexpected.  Just as I demand the impossible.

"Be realistic. Demand the impossible!" --Wall poster from the 1968 Paris Uprising

by Paul Rosenberg on 11/02/2005 09:13:26 AM EST

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Er, not to start the down spiral in civil discourse, but WTF?

Why call it that?

If I am wrong, say I am wrong. Why that label?

And frankly, your ownership is mot management is a weak dodge. Ownership is control of management.

The SCOTUS is Extraordinary

by Armando on 11/02/2005 10:17:08 AM EST

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are classically reactionary, Armando.

And the equivocation--sometimes agreeing, but then snapping back to the previous position--is also something seen in a lot of reactionary writers dating back centuries.  It frequently takes the form of making concessions in the details, but then denying that these concessions really amount to anything new.  The details are swept aside, when the discussion, for progressives, is all about the details.

You fall into this pattern again when you write:

And frankly, your ownership is mot management is a weak dodge. Ownership is control of management.
This sort of argument by definition--also a reactionary favorite, going all the way back to Plato--is devised to avoid dealing with the details that are precisely what's at issue.  A corporation, for-profit, or non-profit, can be community-owned.  (Ever heard of the Green Bay Packers?)  But that doesn't say anything about how it is run.  This involves its corporate charter, it's bylaws, the composition of its board of directors, its management team, management structure, work rules, unionization of workers, corporate culture, etc., etc., etc.  And these sorts of messy details and how they interact is what the discussion is all about.

As I've already explained numerous times:

  1. Community ownership is a trivial challenge. It has already been done in the real world for centuries. (Thus, to pretend it poses any sort of necessary challenge is simply too silly for words. You are not silly.  This can't be your argument.)
  2. The issue has to be management--as you yourself have said several times over. (And when you engage in this argument, you tend to become more open and progressive--acknowledging that solutions may exist, even expressing interest in seeing someone make the attempt--only to later snap back.)

So that's why I say that you're engaged in classically reactionary arguments. It seems strange to hear them coming from you.  I think that if you come across this discussion six months from now, you may well feel the same way.

"Be realistic. Demand the impossible!" --Wall poster from the 1968 Paris Uprising

by Paul Rosenberg on 11/02/2005 10:52:56 AM EST

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Realistic? Reactionary?

It'd a pejoprative and in poor spirit.

I frankly resent it.

The SCOTUS is Extraordinary

by Armando on 11/02/2005 11:01:26 AM EST

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When you get this way, Armando, you just turn people off.  You stop convincing people when you stop engaging with the arguments presented.  I was trying to elucidate how I see this happening.

It was fair enough for you to take this as a pejorative attack when I first put it forward, since I didn't really explain it.  That's why I took the time to explain myself. I felt that I owed it to you.  (And to the community.)

But when you respond to a spelled-out explanation this way, you simply confirm people's worst impressions of you--and blind them to your considerable gifts. (Gifts in both senses--your talents and what you have to contribute to others.)

"Be realistic. Demand the impossible!" --Wall poster from the 1968 Paris Uprising

by Paul Rosenberg on 11/02/2005 11:21:18 AM EST

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How commuity control works on Pie ads? Conspiracy theories? Who gets on the FP? The design of the site?

Please explain it.

pyrrho at least agrees that you need REPRESENTATION, which means elections.

And explain to me how these elections will work.

And explain to me how they are not going to be disastrous.

Frankly, I don;t much like your attitude on this and find your attitude to me very off putting and a complete abdication of a discussion of the real issues here.

You use pretty words but don't discuss the real issues.

Thi has become an unsatisfying and unpleasant discussion for me.

Carry on without me.

The SCOTUS is Extraordinary

by Armando on 11/02/2005 11:04:40 AM EST

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Congratulations, Armando.  You've just proved that the United States cannot exist.

Which is another reason I've called your arguments reactionary.

These are difficult problems, no doubt about it. They had convinced all the aristocracy of Europe that democracy was impossible.

But we don't solve all these problems directly. Or all at once beforehand.  We solve them through a process that creates possibilities we could not imagine when we first started out.

"Be realistic. Demand the impossible!" --Wall poster from the 1968 Paris Uprising

by Paul Rosenberg on 11/02/2005 11:29:26 AM EST

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if you could explain why you think elections must necessarily be disastrous. Then it would be possible to either admit your reasons are good, or think of how to structure things to avoid those problems.

Pointless, incessant barking since 10/31/2005 03:16:11 PM MST

by Blue the Wild Dog on 11/02/2005 11:31:28 AM EST

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"And explain to me how these elections will work.

And explain to me how they are not going to be disastrous."

what are we starting from.

Elections can be disasters... but they can also be successes.  You are claiming these will HAVE to be disasters... could you say what sort of disaster?

pyrrho

by pyrrho on 11/02/2005 05:19:08 PM EST

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is this just about defending the dkos model?

that model ensures that dkos is a publishing house... which is not a bad thing.

but it is a private enterprise that makes it non-communal, a business.

Its success becomes a business success, it can of course be a great tool, which it is, and which I expect it to remain... but it also cannot address the need for a community which is autonomous and controls itself, and combines in a community collaboration.

Basically, without community rights and good-enough autonomy... what dkos has is a lot of volunteers helping a private business succeed in a business mission, which may include politics.  Indeed, it's also labor that is proven to help kos start other non-political projects... a lot of unpaid labor.

That model doesn't sit to well with me as an end point... as one way among many, sure, I like it, but as the way "netroots" comes together and expresses the will of the people?

kos is not "the people"... his will is not able to "control" something that is supposed to represent direct voice from the people.  Private heirarchy and businesses are not even in the running, they are not even trying to do what needs to be done, really, they can only help lead the way forward and be left behind as well.

All the "problems" we discuss are either mechanical or also issues of "would a site with such systems be able to be popular... will it attract good writers"... technical details.

pyrrho

by pyrrho on 11/02/2005 05:17:50 PM EST

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I actually think it's broader that what is discussed. I think community is the internet itself and how various places interact with each other - mostly via hyperlinks.

One of the big problems i think we need to overcome is knowing who is out there and what they are writing/doing.

when i look at community models, I look at what leftyblogs.com is doing by aggregating all the state blogs together as a place people can meet - and then converse across their own blogs.

If we could harness that distributive model it would be truly powerful.

to the issue of how you build a single blog community - i have no idea. I think there is perhaps a critical mass where it becomes unwieldy - and i am sure there is some math to prove it. As you get more and more members more extreme members become significant in numbers and disruptive - and undoubtedly talent is overlooked - as it is in large public schools with large class sizes for example.

It is interesting seeing it all develop - and cortex looks like a next step.

Blogging the 2006 Ohio Senate Race

by Pounder on 11/02/2005 09:52:52 PM EST

need further development.

In particular, looking at the political movement from a state level perspective first (or even municipal) is critically important (as we've seen so graphically in Ohio).

Dr. Dean has done well in that respect


Political Cortex -- Brain Food for the Body Politic

by Tom Ball on 11/02/2005 10:50:05 PM EST

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I've written about this several times before. What's best is a structure that allows for breakdowns that can go into any media market or political division at the very least.  

Thus, you'd want to be able to cover the Chicago media market across state lines, just as you would the NYC media market. And you'd want to be able to break down into state legislative districts as well as CDs, municipal seats, etc.

Finally, it really makes sense to bundle together all the CDs represented in a given Congressional committee, but that's a pretty fur piece down the road.

"Be realistic. Demand the impossible!" --Wall poster from the 1968 Paris Uprising

by Paul Rosenberg on 11/02/2005 11:24:48 PM EST

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Is some kind of meta tag to describe how or where a blog is, both geographically and politically and have a data mining aggrigator to filter on those tags - and from that be able to pull relevant blogs together.

Leftyblogs is a good start but its a manual opt in system - if we could invent a metatag system people would populate in a blog data field it could all be done automatically and help bring people together.

Blogging the 2006 Ohio Senate Race

by Pounder on 11/03/2005 10:16:33 PM EST

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My fantasy is for us to eventually have a democratically run superblog that's structured heterarchically as I've described.

With some sort of standardized metatagging for location and major interest, it would be easy to produce customized blogrolls for every node in the heterarchy.  

This, in turn would provide some encouragement for those whose blogs were listed to contribute or at least check in to the nodes where they were listed.

"Be realistic. Demand the impossible!" --Wall poster from the 1968 Paris Uprising

by Paul Rosenberg on 11/03/2005 10:44:23 PM EST

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But it seems to be digressing a little too much towards the kind of talk we heard at the Student Union at Cal or even the Student Co-op Board. Okay I agree Rusty's a God, Scoop allows you to keep control over discussions, Political Cortex is an extraordinarily promising site, but my God get a grip. It's a big wide blogosphere out there. You have individual voices, you have collective platforms, but anyone who has time to spend hours a day working out the operational details of a single blog needs to be doing a little more battling and a little less organizing.

Do I hear a second? Do we have a quorum? Maybe I could raise this as a Point of Personal Privilege?

Social Security: Don't Get Played - Flash by Rock the Vote

by Bruce Webb on 11/06/2005 02:37:08 PM EST

the number one problem for progressives is making a coalition and actually going forward with it.

without solving that, our "just act" action will be inefficient... we will not win.

We need to also figure out our common philosophy, given we don't have a traditional religion to hang ourself on.

These both go to the question of how do we form communities when we form them... and our belief in or lack of faith in democratic mechanisms, etc.

I have spent significant time on activist politics and even the Democratic party in my life, and what robs me of my motivation more than anything else is these issues... who am I helping, what are they going to do?

It would be easier to keep on board for Democrats if I thought they would solve problems when in power... but ALL I can really hope is they don't CAUSE the problems that Republicans do.

I don't think Democrats really care that much about progressive issues... and in this case, we are talking about the progressive idea that the people rule, regardless of "more expert" elites to rule things for them.

Or is that progressive idea at all?

pyrrho

by pyrrho on 11/07/2005 06:33:26 PM EST

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Judean People's Liberation Front vs the People's Judean Liberation Front.

We have a common philosophy. It's called the New Deal, followed by the Fair Deal, followed by the New Frontier, followed in large parts (because not evey part of the Fair Deal or this one was a success) by the Great Society. We were proud to be called Liberals then, what is not to love? Unleash your Inner FDR.

Social Security: Don't Get Played - Flash by Rock the Vote

by Bruce Webb on 11/10/2005 02:38:23 AM EST

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