phpBB as a starting point for an open source democracy?

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Lumpy Burgertushie
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Re: phpBB as a starting point for an open source democracy?

Post by Lumpy Burgertushie »

One reason why a guess at there being a college course available is because this type of proposal is something that more liberal thinkers would come up with. Most colleges ( staff, faculty and students ) are more liberal than the population in general. Young liberal thinking people with not much real world experience are always coming up with this type of thing.
A true democracy on any kind of a large scale, can never work, it never has. There has to be an ultimate decision maker that has the final say about things.

I am not knocking your ideas here, I just don't believe it could work for very long, if at all.

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Re: phpBB as a starting point for an open source democracy?

Post by Mills »

A true democracy on any kind of a large scale, can never work, it never has. There has to be an ultimate decision maker that has the final say about things.
I disagree with your post, on a number of levels...

First off, I can't imagine how you would even attempt something like this without the internet and the world wide web, and how long have they been around? If you think you can predict what the human race will ultimately make of something like these, based on a decade or two's experience, then you have a very different understanding of human history to mine.

Secondly, what do you mean by "true democracy"? That is not a term I would use, as I understand it it means everybody having a say about everything, and that doesn't appeal to me.

I'll say again that what I'm interested in is producing a place where people can collaborate on solutions to social problems. Some of these problems (e.g. climate change) are inherently global, so if you were to produce a "solution" to this problem and implement it, it would affect every human being on the planet.

To take another example, the "global financial crisis", leaders from 20 of the world's richest countries (apparently controlling 90% of global wealth) met a week or so ago to discuss reforming the rules of global trade... again decisions being made which will affect every human being, and they're being made by a group of maybe 40/50 people. In my opinion, if we could engineer a way for 40/50,000 people to collaborate on such a plan efficiently, the solution they generated would be much more detailed and comprehensive. In fact the more people who wanted to contribute the better, if you had millions of people making their opinion known on the issue, then you could start to have faith that the solutions being promoted to salience were those of intrinsic appeal to human beings.

At the same time, there are many decisions which don't need to be taken at a global level, and I think that the majority of people would wish to have as much local and individual-level decision-making power as possible. If this is true then the solutions generated in this kind of web space would over time become more about reducing the number of decisions which need to be made this way.

Maybe I should have avoided using the term "Open Source Democracy", since that's not really what I'm trying to create. I did use this term though, because its the closest thing I can find on the internet to what I'm talking about; and I wanted the people who read this and are interested to have a term they could search for and read about from a variety of sources other than me...

I think I have more of a short-to-medium term and practical outlook though. I'm interested in what I can do now, moreso than the potential that approach has to develop over time; and while I think there are many reasons why it would be good for people to have something like this, the thing which motivates me is that there are reasons why we need something like this.
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Re: phpBB as a starting point for an open source democracy?

Post by SamG »

Mills wrote:I'll say again that what I'm interested in is producing a place where people can collaborate on solutions to social problems. Some of these problems (e.g. climate change) are inherently global, so if you were to produce a "solution" to this problem and implement it, it would affect every human being on the planet.
I think you may be confusing critique of the method with critique of the desired end.

My point certainly is to the effect that "a place where people can collaborate on solutions to social problems" already exists, is in active use, and has been for some time. What may be lacking is a single place for various collaborations to pool conclusions, but there is no obvious need to swim upstream or to reinvent the wheel to supply whatever might lack in current system usage. The ability to aggregate information is already in the box (and part of the W3C agenda and reason enough to work with that agenda, though I would seriously derail this discussion if I pressed that point very far).

I'm supposing you think that using phpBB and phpBB.com as a basis for concrete discussion points is beside the point. You may be right. On the other hand, it's axiomatic that we learn from the known to the unknown. If you drop into the phpBB Discussion forum with the intent of helping people see why we need what you want to offer and a role for phpBB in it, you're going to have to consider being willing to meet us where we are.
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Re: phpBB as a starting point for an open source democracy?

Post by Mills »

My point certainly is to the effect that "a place where people can collaborate on solutions to social problems" already exists, is in active use, and has been for some time.
I agree.
What may be lacking is a single place for various collaborations to pool conclusions,
Yes, this is in a sense the crux of what I'm saying.
but there is no obvious need to swim upstream or to reinvent the wheel to supply whatever might lack in current system usage.
This is not how I see it, I have no desire to re-invent the wheel. What I see is a lot of potential in making relatively minor alterations to an existing discussion platform (like phpBB), and then using this alterered platform for a specific purpose.
The ability to aggregate information is already in the box (and part of the W3C agenda and reason enough to work with that agenda, though I would seriously derail this discussion if I pressed that point very far).


Here we're moving outside the domain of things I know anything about unfortunately; but if you think there's something particularly relevant to what I'm talking about in it, and you can explain it to someone who's brand new to web development, feel free... :)
I'm supposing you think that using phpBB and phpBB.com as a basis for concrete discussion points is beside the point.
Its more that I probably don't know enough about the development of phpBB itself to partake in that kind of discussion effectively.
If you drop into the phpBB Discussion forum with the intent of helping people see why we need what you want to offer
That wasn't my intention in coming to the phpBB Discussion forum, I don't imagine many people will see the need (or even use) for what I want to offer until it actually exists. I came here to find out what people think of my project idea, and to see if anyone wanted to help me.
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Re: phpBB as a starting point for an open source democracy?

Post by SamG »

Mills wrote:Its more that I probably don't know enough about the development of phpBB itself to partake in that kind of discussion effectively.
The idea was to see how phpBB and phpBB.com handle problems and solutions undemocratically (and in an open source environment). We have a problem -- infrastructure for orderly, many-to-many electronic communication. We have a proposed software solution -- phpBB. We have ongoing interaction, evaluation, and maintenance for the proposed solution -- phpBB.com and others. And we have all the elements which are considered key strengths of Open Source -- freedom and collaboration involving phpBB.com and others. And all without democracy.
Mills wrote:Here we're moving outside the domain of things I know anything about unfortunately; but if you think there's something particularly relevant to what I'm talking about in it, and you can explain it to someone who's brand new to web development, feel free...
Suppose you were able, over time, to build a pool of social scientists from around the globe who were willing to host or sponsor regional bulletin boards. Suppose there were no strings attached; that is, the discussion could be fuuly localized in terms of participants, language, and culture. Suppose that these regional bulletin boards were regularly tasked with timed, fruitful discussion about global issues. Suppose that the social scientist hosting or sponsoring the bulletin board had a blog for the express purpose of summarizing the work of her regional discussion and permitting interaction over that summary. Suppose that all the social scientists had just such a blog and that all of them were connected via traditional blogging tools and that all offered RSS feeds. Suppose finally that on a rotating basis, one such blog was selected to present a global consensus on a given global issue.

That's a lot of supposing, I confess, and even at that incomplete, but my point is only this: All of that could happen without a single modification to a single line of code in, say, phpBB (the bulletin board solution) and WordPress (the blog solution). We have collaboration, localization, freedom, distributed computing, information aggregation, and whatever else, all with the added benefit of operating under stock software maintenance procedures -- no building and rebuilding custom solutions. I like it already. :)
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Re: phpBB as a starting point for an open source democracy?

Post by Mills »

Suppose you were able, over time, to build a pool of social scientists from around the globe who were willing to host or sponsor regional bulletin boards. Suppose there were no strings attached; that is, the discussion could be fuuly localized in terms of participants, language, and culture. Suppose that these regional bulletin boards were regularly tasked with timed, fruitful discussion about global issues. Suppose that the social scientist hosting or sponsoring the bulletin board had a blog for the express purpose of summarizing the work of her regional discussion and permitting interaction over that summary. Suppose that all the social scientists had just such a blog and that all of them were connected via traditional blogging tools and that all offered RSS feeds. Suppose finally that on a rotating basis, one such blog was selected to present a global consensus on a given global issue.
Sounds cool, but it doesn't really interest me (it sounds hard!)... I'm not interested in just having social scientists or scientists/experts from any other discipline disscussing things amongst themselves, that happens enough already through peer-reviewed journals, at academic conferences, etc. . What I'm interested in is making a place where people from different backgrounds and disciplines can discuss the things which effect them all (and whatever else they like); and for this interaction to be fully accessible to anyone who is interested.

It would begin developing in complexity once it went live as users added new boards/forums/sub-forums along various criteria (e.g. subjects, regions) and it could eventually develop whole sub-sites or affiliate sites. I definately only envisage one fairly simple starting point though, whether other people started similar things elsewhere would be up to them I guess.
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Re: phpBB as a starting point for an open source democracy?

Post by SamG »

Mills wrote:What I'm interested in is making a place where people from different backgrounds and disciplines can discuss the things which effect them all (and whatever else they like); and for this interaction to be fully accessible to anyone who is interested.
That's what I said. :)

My point with the social scientists was simply that somebody has to shephard a localized popular discussion into a precision presentation to a wider audience. The alternative is to have ongoing discussion without resolution among the masses, and I'm afraid we already have that all over the world, and have had at least since the first ham radio operators took to the air, or at least since the first electronic bulletin boards started swapping content at night (when phone rates were lower) at least at the continental level. I don't see the benefit of adding another complex phpBB installation to that well established effort.

I suppose I have more than exhausted my own point of view about this. Since phpBB.com isn't a place to recruit help even for the noblest of causes, I've treated this as an abstract problem and considered phpBB's potential for a contribution as a solution, saying much more than I know in the process. Good luck!
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Re: phpBB as a starting point for an open source democracy?

Post by Mills »

I guess part of my background is that I'm really interested in what adding all of the quantitative elements could do for interaction on the bulletin board platform.

Cheers for the discussion points sam.
Since phpBB.com isn't a place to recruit help even for the noblest of causes
lol, I was unaware of that! I figured phpbb.com would have the people using it for whom this task would be easiest, so it was worth a shot; one person with experience of coding phpBB could make a huge difference in the length of time it'll take me to get to grips with it and start producing the mods I'm after.
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Re: phpBB as a starting point for an open source democracy?

Post by Lumpy Burgertushie »

I believe that if you got what you are describing, that you would never come up with any workable solutions.

There would be nobody in charge to make a decision about if a solution was valid , how to implement it, who would implement it, etc. etc.

What you are describing sounds to me like just what we already have, thousands of bulletin boards, blogs, etc. around the world with everyone espousing their opinions and ideas about how to save the world.
Some of them might even be good ideas, but without some type of structure and control and leadership, those ideas will never come to fruition.


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Re: phpBB as a starting point for an open source democracy?

Post by drathbun »

I get what the original poster was going for, at least I think I do. The concept isn't so much to make decisions or take actions but to arrive at the consensus of what those actions should be. This isn't a new concept; group psychology concepts have been around for a long time. What I think he was suggesting was modifying phpBB so as to encourage or facilitate the use of the "group mind" to arrive at a plan of action.

He mentioned the current financial crisis, so I'll continue with that example.

Imagine if all over the world people could go to a single site (SamG, I will ignore the language issue for this example and assume we're all speaking Esperanto ;-) ) and voice their opinions on the situation. Imagine that at the same time there was a way for people to recognize and award good ideas while at the same time punishing bad ideas. Imagine that this process is done without bias or ulterior motives. At some point in the process the "collective" will be able to look at what they've created and say, "Yeah, that's the ticket."

One theory is that the group mind is stronger than the individual mind because the group can see things from different perspectives and do a better job of getting the big picture. Others will oppose that idea by saying the collective would suppress the truly brilliant individuals by bringing them down to the common level. If you want to take an optimistic viewpoint, I would suggest that the recognition / award / demotion process from the prior paragraph would be good enough to recognize stellar individual contributions and include more of them within the final gestalt. (I'm not even sure I'm using that term correctly, but it feels right. :) )

Years ago John Brunner published a novel named "The Shockwave Rider" that included something called the "delphi oracle". Obviously that wasn't an original name. :) But it was the label for a system that involved computer terminals around the world where people could go voice their opinions on various subjects. The central system collected and analyzed those voices and created a consensus estimate or guess as to when something would happen, or how something could be fixed. It wasn't a central plot point for the book, but it sounds very similar to what I think is being proposed here. By the way the book, while dated, is still quite good in my opinion. The hero of the book has a striking similarity to Jarod from the TV series "The Pretender" in my opinion. But I digress. :)

phpBB is at it's core a system for capturing discussions. That is one of the core features required to implement this vision. What's missing is the recognition process and the way to manage the tremendous amount of information.
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Re: phpBB as a starting point for an open source democracy?

Post by Mills »

I get what the original poster was going for, at least I think I do.
I think so too, well put drathbun!
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Re: phpBB as a starting point for an open source democracy?

Post by SamG »

drathbun wrote:I will ignore the language issue...
And to do so, I think, is to ignore one of the more serious problems. The assumption that clearly thinking people from diverse backgrounds and languages and educational backgrounds can climb into one big homogenous pot where the best ideas will rise to the top is an enormous assumption that outweighs, I think, all the supposes in my "why are we not even willing to consider what's already out there" scenario.

Hence my desire to put feet on the argument and use phpBB as a model. We can't even have reasonable discussion over quick reply. Imagine how the thumbs up/thumbs down process would work on such a recurring yet trivial issue. What view would rise to the top, and why (the "why" part of the question is significant to this discussion -- don't read past it too quickly)?

Or what about opening links in new windows? We have people with clearly different priorities doing battle over a conceptual problem of real significance to the Web as a whole, yet the thumbs up idea here undoubtedly is that the convenience of the majority outweighs accessibility. Is that a good thing? And even the effort required to answer an "Is that desirable?" question simply relives the problem: The ideas which have risen to the top at the W3C are at odds with the ideas that have risen to the top at phpBB.com, to the end that nobody wins -- or at least, somebody truly loses.

Or consider phpBB's experiments with a karma system. Bright, thoughtful people have turned the theoretical side of a karma system over at area51. Building fairness into the system is not as easy as it sounds; conceptually it's difficult, even before we try to replicate the thought process in software.

So while I understand what the OP is saying, I think, and what the OP is after, I continue to think the discussion clearly weighted in favor not of the central idea of pooling people to solve problems but the OP's conception of what pooling people to solve problems ought to look like. That's fine, but it confines our potential contribution here to help with implementing the vision rather than discussing it; hence it's at heart a support or MOD discussion and not phpBB discussion as such. IMHO, of course.
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Re: phpBB as a starting point for an open source democracy?

Post by Mills »

Regarding the "language issue"; yes, it is one of the more serious problems with the idea, and I don't imagine it would be fully solved until such times as the site had a massive international user-base. But how's this for the basis of an initial work-around... users can submit translations of each others' posts, these translations are rate-able like everything else, the most highly-rated translation of each post is substituted into the thread view of any user who choses to have the content they view displayed in that language.
The assumption that clearly thinking people from diverse backgrounds and languages and educational backgrounds can climb into one big homogenous pot where the best ideas will rise to the top is an enormous assumption that outweighs, I think, all the supposes in my "why are we not even willing to consider what's already out there" scenario.
This is not an assumption I have made. I believe something like this is possible, but I don't believe it would be easy to achieve. I wish I could explain to you why I believe it is possible, but it is years and years of thinking about these issues which have allowed me to reach a point where I can see a way around the many problems which I can foresee. For me to explain this logic to you in full on this thread is almost impossible, I imagine its a task as difficult as you explaining to me exactly how I'd code the thing I've described.
Hence my desire to put feet on the argument and use phpBB as a model. We can't even have reasonable discussion over quick reply. Imagine how the thumbs up/thumbs down process would work on such a recurring yet trivial issue. What view would rise to the top, and why (the "why" part of the question is significant to this discussion -- don't read past it too quickly)?
I think trivial is the key word here... since I don't spend my time thinking about how users would decide particular trivial issues I haven't a clue which view would rise to the top. I do think though that if you have this kind of discussion taking place in the context of the kind of site I'm talking about (i.e. dedicated to the discussion of social problems) then its more likely to seem trivial to the user-base as a whole; so I suspect they'd be more inclined to leave it be and move on (than they would be on other sites with a different context, where maybe issues like this would seem more important).
Or consider phpBB's experiments with a karma system. Bright, thoughtful people have turned the theoretical side of a karma system over at area51. Building fairness into the system is not as easy as it sounds; conceptually it's difficult, even before we try to replicate the thought process in software.
Would it be easier if everyone who was going to use this karma system was also a member of the Area51 board, and able to give their yes/no opinion to any detail of the proposals being discussed with the click of a button? I think it would.

I think this discussion would be a lot more useful to me if I was also getting some kind of feedback from people who read it but didn't want to post. I came here to get as broad a range of thoughts and observations as possible on the subject, and I'm not sure whether the discussion is being side-tracked by SamG (and myself) or whether he represents the mass of phpBB-board opinion.

Or what about opening links in new windows? We have people with clearly different priorities doing battle over a conceptual problem of real significance to the Web as a whole, yet the thumbs up idea here undoubtedly is that the convenience of the majority outweighs accessibility. Is that a good thing? And even the effort required to answer an "Is that desirable?" question simply relives the problem: The ideas which have risen to the top at the W3C are at odds with the ideas that have risen to the top at phpBB.com, to the end that nobody wins -- or at least, somebody truly loses.
It seems to me like you're a bit hung up on the web development end of things, this is a site which would be overwhelmingly about "real life"; the user-regulation and democratic modification I'm talking about are essentially just work-arounds to get us past what I see as the problems with using existing discussion platforms for this purpose.


So while I understand what the OP is saying, I think, and what the OP is after, I continue to think the discussion clearly weighted in favor not of the central idea of pooling people to solve problems but the OP's conception of what pooling people to solve problems ought to look like. That's fine, but it confines our potential contribution here to help with implementing the vision rather than discussing it; hence it's at heart a support or MOD discussion and not phpBB discussion as such. IMHO, of course.
I don't really understand this point of view, it seems like discussing it is all we've been doing! If you want to discuss the same kind of thing with a broader focus can't you start another thread?

I do think that maybe this discussion has come close to running its course though; and while I could happily spend a lot longer discussing this kind of thing maybe it would be more productive if I got back to trying to code it myself.

If anyone wants to discuss this further, or thinks they could help me in some way, I'd be delighted if you were to pm/e-mail me.

Cheers all.
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Re: phpBB as a starting point for an open source democracy?

Post by 3Di »

SamG wrote:That's fine, but it confines our potential contribution here to help with implementing the vision rather than discussing it; hence it's at heart a support or MOD discussion and not phpBB discussion as such. IMHO, of course
First off i have to say I subscribed to this topic and I'm watching it accurately because I'm very interested about the discussion value itself gives out.

Also as a MOD author myself I can say I downloaded that package linked somewhere here in this topic (not phpBB code) in order to read it at some point. ;)

All of this being said I do disagree with your above statement I quoted because of the reasons you could get reading my introduction to this post.

Say it is a phpBB discussion because of the big audience phpBB itself have being the most popular open-source BB Sytem available at today. So that audience can express its opinion and so on, MOD writers forum does not have a such mass of people reading it, you know.

Say it could be also a MOD Writers discussion once the OP or someone else will produce some beginning code that realises some kind of result related to this great idea. See a DEV Topic and on and on..

It is not Support topic though I can say, support of what?
We here are not having any issue with the phpBB code here but discussing a new way a discussion board could work instead. I think.
Mills wrote:I do think that maybe this discussion has come close to running its course though; and while I could happily spend a lot longer discussing this kind of thing maybe it would be more productive if I got back to trying to code it myself.
Don't you are just curious to see further opinions?


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Re: phpBB as a starting point for an open source democracy?

Post by Mills »

Also as a MOD author myself I can say I downloaded that package linked somewhere here in this topic (not phpBB code) in order to read it at some point. ;)
Nice one, if the only thing this topic achieved was to pique the interest of some people who are skilled in writing phpBB mods, I'd be happy with that for now :).
Say it could be also a MOD Writers discussion once the OP or someone else will produce some beginning code that realises some kind of result related to this great idea. See a DEV Topic and on and on..
Yes, I definately envisage a lot more discussion once the development process is off the ground! Unfortunately this probably won't be for some time, I'm still struggling to get to grips with how the code for phpBB itself is working, never-mind actually writing mods.

Don't you are just curious to see further opinions?
Yes, absolutely! I'll continue to check the board out, but until I make some progress with coding I don't think I'll have any more questions to ask... also the next few weeks will be a busier period for me, so I can't afford to spend as much time writing lengthy replies to the issues raised by one or two people (particularly when I don't really see these as serious problems).
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