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.