Way too many categories
This forum was conceived as a replacement for a forum that the Center for Election Science had been operating and that they said they would shut down (and indeed eventually they did shut it down). The individuals conceiving it, and those originally did not include me, met as an "interim council". This interim council eventually formed the real council for overseeing the implementation and operation of this forum. So that is the history that explains why there is a "council" relative to this forum and why I feel some obligation to honor its dictates.
I am still trying to get the forum council to make a decision about the categories and some other questions. There are four members, including me. If we meet, it is my intention to resign from the council effective at the end of the meeting. One member seems to have a really busy schedule. Another has expressed willingness to meet. From another, I have not heard lately. I don't recall if the council ever decided a rule for itself about requiring a quorum to make a decision.
Not sure based on what criteria/constraints stakeholders should consider giving up on the current council and forming a new regime for running this forum. I do not want to participate in deciding that (because of what has been said about my posts being inappropriate). But I have the keys to the domain registration, so some action by me would be necessary to put any revolution in power.
Even as I plan to reduce my arguing in this forum and withdraw from decisionmaking processes, I plan to continue to offer technical consulting for free for what it may be worth. I have some rudimentary understanding about at least one technique for hosting, that being the technique currently in effect. I wrote the archive code and plan to respond about any defects in it about which I may happen to receive reports.
rob Banned last edited by
I think the solution to the "council is too busy" issue is that people on this forum, in a thread rather than a video chat meeting, fully discuss and hopefully come to a sort of consensus on forum organization and site design issues. This should make it a lot easier on council members who are too busy to schedule a meeting.
BTW, @Jack-Waugh we do appreciate all you've done to get this forum/site running and keep it running, and understand if you want to step back a bit. The board is running great, almost no real technical issues and we've got a lot more embedding capabilities than Reddit or election methods email list. We should talk about ways we might lighten the load on you. For instance, I would be glad to do some simple mockups for tweaked/reworked site navigation, and help deploy it if approved.
NOTE: This thread all happened when I was in Canada last fall taking care of family business. Upon getting back in September I promptly found out that my household received a no-cause eviction and had to find a place for my whole household to move short notice in the midst of a housing crisis. I've just completed that move, launched a statewide ballot initiative, published a paper, our lawsuit for voter disenfranchisement regarding the Eugene Ballot initiative for 2020 was escalated to federal court, as well as a few personal things as well. Life is not usually this busy, but sometimes it is. While considering updates to the categories list is interesting, I think it might be helpful for Forum users to recognize that people who don't check the forum every day might have more urgent priorities and that that doesn't mean they don't care. I didn't lead the charge to schedule a meeting right then (which requires a fair bit of time to organize and host) because I didn't have time to do so. I put it on the to do list and here we are.
Post: A lot of thought and input from way more people than are here on this thread went into the current categories so I'm hesitant to change them, but am open minded and would support simplifying them somewhat. There are good pros and cons in the thread above. The intention to have them as they are was that the forum can scale to include and welcome other reform advocates beyond voting "theorists". I still see that as very possible and as a personal priority for what I'd like to see in this forum.
We did have consensus that we wanted the "Recent" page to be the default when we launched and I think I tried to do at one point but we didn't figure out how, so we can absolutely do that now.
@rob It was a post and discussion on the old forum. I just tried digging it up in the archives but didn't find it. Pretty sure that was back when you were still involved. My memory is that we got feedback from 10-15 people and that everyone had opinions and reasoning to share, but it was a long time ago.
If you are wondering why people who used to post more don't right now, I encourage you to reach out to them. Many are still active in other spaces and might have insight to share.
[edited since it was harsh]
A lot of thought and input from way more people than are here on this thread went into the current categories so I'm hesitant to change them, but am open minded and would support simplifying them somewhat. There are good pros and cons in the thread above. The intention to have them as they are was that the forum can scale to include and welcome other reform advocates beyond voting "theorists". I still see that as very possible and as a personal priority for what I'd like to see in this forum.
I definitely agree that there should be room more more than just theory-based posts. But I think I've said before that we probably only need one category for the theory (no need for separate single/multi-winner I'd say), especially as people will likely sort by recency and use the search anyway. And then you can have forum business, off-topic, and another one for things like projects and advocacy.
As it is, you'd never look for a thread by going through the subforums because there are, as the thread title suggests, way too many categories.
I think I suggested above that we don't even need as many as five but I definitely think it would be overkill to be in double figures. There's about 25 at the moment, and I think it will put people off if anything.
@andy-dienes said in Way too many categories:
- Single Winner
- Proportional Representation
- Other Reform Discussion
- News / Advocacy / Projects
- Meta / Forum Business
And with no subcategories. Just those 5 as top-level.
Just to come back to this - I think this was a good early suggestion. But I wouldn't split single winner and PR (it would have to be multi-winner rather than PR anyway to cover all bases) because I think there's just no need really and some methods might cut across both.
I'm also not entirely sure on the difference between other reform discussion and news/advocacy/projects. So that would put us down to three. But I might add one more for off-topic discussion for whatever people want to chat about. That would leave four.
So in other terms: Theory / non-theory / forum stuff / chat about anything.
But your saying "way more people" is rather dismissive of the people at this forum who spent time coming up with something that would work now, for the forum we actually now have.
I already said I'm open minded about simplifying the category list and you asked directly "Who?" was involved in creating them. I took some time to try and look it up and then answered you, so why does your post sound like you're mad at me in particular or targeting me in particular about this? Again, this is the recurring base level hostility that makes me and others less likely to want to comment or volunteer and more likely to sit back and watch. In my opinion. Nobody has time for that.
We never did get given the final section of the archive from CES right before they shut down their forum, so I imagine the discussion was in there. Some things got lost.
rob Banned last edited by
@sarawolk I'd love for you to participate rather than sit back and watch. I think you should start by coming to the forum and posting and being a part of it, rather than just coming in and acting like you own it.
You say you've put 2 years of work into the forum. How? By drafting the by-laws or something? I've seen that Jack actually did the hard work of putting the forum up, something I had originally signed on to do so I was well aware of the size of the task.
The fact of the matter is, you are claiming good things are going to happen at the forum, because you have people ready to come in and do these things. And I don't believe that. I have not seen these people, I honestly don't think they exist. And if they happen to exist, I don't trust their motives, since it doesn't make sense to want to dedicate time to improve a forum you don't participate in, unless you have some other agenda. Mostly, I don't trust that any such individuals will stay motivated, given that they haven't been interested in the forum to date.
What I've seen is the forum floundering because we can't make it better because a group that has no involvement with it, and is often unresponsive for months, has undue control. The forum is almost dead. You claim to have technical people, but when push comes to shove (such as when you've got a singular tech admin with a serious case of Tourettes), where are they?
I will retract my offer and let you run the show as you wish. While I don't think you have the motivated dev and mod teams you describe, please prove me wrong and do great things.
@Toby-Pereira @BTernaryTau @Andy-Dienes
[EDITED] Many conversations encompass both single and multi-winner, so I think we should combine those as well as getting rid of the "Research and Projects" and "Advocacy and Current Events" categories. Those posts can go in with their respective subjects. The "Election Policy and Reform" and "Voting Method" categories could be combined into the former, and a number of the sub categories could be deleted, as well as all the sub-sub-categories. I'm going though the posts and there are ton that are not properly nested, so I think there is a real need to simplify and reduce the number of levels, but it's a feature we have, so using it where it's helpful makes sense to me.
Here's my suggestion.: (I'll keep updating it as I incorporate feedback and new ideas).
** Introductions and Announcements
** Forum Policy and Resources
** Action Items
Policy and Reform:
** Voting Methods
** New Voting Methods
** Districting and the Electoral College
** Campaign Finance
** Election Integrity
** Forms of Government
** Meta Discussion
** Issue Reports and Feature Requests
** Meetings and Agendas
** Council, Mods, and Tech Team (private)
[EDITED] One category we were missing (but that I've now created) is a subcategory for public discussion on how we run the forum. There are a number of posts that were under the Welcome > Forum Policy subsection. That is just for posting READ ME type materials like the code of conduct, etc so I've moved them under Meta. To not add more categories, I combined the welcome subcategories Resources and Forum Policy, added a pinned post about with council leadership and key council decisions, and pinned our code of conduct and other resource posts that were buried.
To be honest, I've been pretty checked out of basically everything election-related for a while (besides following a couple economics / polisci profs on twitter), but having received a whole bunch of pings recently --- and now emails, apparently --- from this forum I don't mind responding.
I don't think there are even 13 active users here so I don't see the value in having 13 categories. Why do
New Voting Methodshave to be separate? Why are
Election Integrityseparate? anything more than 4 or 5 categories imo is just clutter.
As a more general note, not to be too much of a pessimist, but I think the idea of growing this forum beyond what it is seems unlikely. People just don't really use this format of social media much anymore. Even the endfptp subreddit is barren.
The "kids these days" use Discord for this kind of purpose, so if you really want to cultivate discussion / activity I would spin up a server there.
Lastly, these sort of dedicated spaces for "reformers" tend to attract a lot of.... cranky bickering, for lack of a better word. I would strongly recommend firmer moderation unless you want more people to be turned away by acrid comments like those from Jack or RBJ, both of whom I would have banned if it were in my power quite some time ago.
I don't mean to sound too critical. Just speaking bluntly as I don't have much emotionally invested in these spaces anymore.
Why do Voting Methods and New Voting Methods have to be separate?
I think it's important to separate out "New Voting Methods" from "Voting Methods" because new systems and variations can be derailing and off-putting for people trying to be productive in the real world or trying to discuss and compare realistic proposals that are actually on the table currently.
When lay people see those debates and discussions it can actually really hurt reform efforts because it can make it seem like there is less support for existing proposals than there actual is. It can also take attention away from serious vetted counterproposals. Debating new systems is a fascinating puzzle and a fun hobby for many, and it can sometimes be the cutting edge, but it adds a lot of complexity to a conversation that is already too complex for 99% of the population. Many people don't have the background to know which conversations are relevant to what they are trying to do and which aren't. That's why I think new system innovation should be done in a dedicated subcategory, or better yet in a private committee space, at least until the team has a proposal ready to be considered.
Why are Campaign Finance and Election Integrity separate?
Campaign Finance (CFR) and Election Integrity (EI) are two totally separate fields that involve totally different and separate reforms. Each has a massive electoral reform community working on it, and both have different policies to compare and barriers to overcome. CFR includes proposals like public campaign funding, donation limits, donation transparency and reporting laws, etc, and none of those will solve the problem until we overturn Citizen's United because independent expenditures are protected by the Supreme Court. CFR is a lot sexier than voting method reform, but it's more of a long game when better voting can actually massively decrease the impact of money in politics by eliminating vote-splitting and mitigating the impact of electability bias. Voting reform has a lot to gain by recruiting CFR advocates, and I'd love to offer them a space to connect and cross-pollinate. That would also increase our pool of potential volunteers, tech folks, and mods.
EI includes things like e-voting v paper ballots, auditing and RLAs, local tabulation requirements, accessibility provisions, vote by mail, chain of custody, independent observers, block-chain, etc. EI is a massive field in it's own right, but after the election officiation fails in NYC and now Alameda County, CA this year, not to mention January 6th and that movement, this is where the on ground energy in electoral reform is. Helping get people who care about election officiation and security up to speed is super important to voting method reform and ignoring or underestimating this branch of the movement is a mistake.
I think the idea of growing this forum beyond what it is seems unlikely.
I think it can grow if we make the space more welcoming and help create a more constructive experience for people, and if we accomplish that, I think it has huge value as a place to send people who want an outlet for these types of questions and discussions or who want to achieve a higher level of education and fluency in the field. I also think this forum has potentially more to offer than r/EndFPTP because it allows for better organization and deeper conversations, searchability, and a lot of features that aren't available in other places that might have more users, but less depth. If conversations start in Twitter, on FB, on Reddit, or within other orgs and then come here when they need to take it up a notch that's a huge win. If people come here and have a positive experience then they'll invite others.
A big part of what makes people feel like time spent was constructive is if they feel like they learned something they didn't know, found something they were looking for, or actually made a difference. That's why I think we need a category for posting "Action Items and Events", reposting posts from other platforms that need attention, sharing events, and especially sharing opportunities to submit public testimony on reform bills. The election science community here is deeply disconnected from both the academic community and also from real world activism and that's a deficit for all three parties. We can bridge those divides if we try.
@sarawolk I still think that most people would navigate by recency anyway, so the subtleties of the subforums will be wasted on most people. Plus I think people might go into them as a quick way of finding a particular topic, but they might have to go into several because they can't remember which of them it went in.
Campaign Finance and Election Integrity may be different concepts, but for a forum of this type, I don't see the need for a whole separate subforum each. I don't see too much traffic for each individual subforum, and lumping these in together would be fine.
I suppose it all comes down to lumpers and splitters. I'm definitely a lumper when it comes to subforums.
@andy-dienes Hey Andy glad to see you make an appearance! Still have hope you'll come back more regularly.
I agree with most that you say, and while as Discord server may make sense, I think there is still a lot of value in forums. This one, potentially, will get better as we add voting widgets and other gizmos, which I don't see working on Discord. Forums tend to have more permanence, if there is a great conversation, it can be linked to in the future. It seems better for readers not just writers. This forum has yet to live up to a lot of this stuff, but it can. I don't think Discord can, really. Discord seems like it might be good for "lively conversations," which may be entertaining but seem less likely to, I dunno, make the world better?
I do have a feeling this whole topic can take off in a wider way, to a mass audience, if approached well. If a random person comes to this forum, I'm not sure they will immediately see a reason they should care about this stuff. Ok, political polarization messed up their Thanksgiving dinner or something, but beyond that.... why do we need this stuff? If it is "I don't feel represented" or "I want to fully express myself at the ballot box" or even "we could improve the average happiness of voters regarding which candidate won the election", I'd argue they are kinda missing the point.
The main problem we are trying to solve, to me, is the politically-based polarization that is tearing apart society and preventing us from working together for a common goal.
And while others here don't seem to have made this connection (yet?), to me the problem has gotten 100 times more urgent very recently, given that we're suddenly in an AI arms race, which a divided society is especially not ready for. It's sort of like nuclear weapons, except that generative AI spins gold right up until it destroys us all. And one nice thing about nuclear weapons is we can be pretty sure that the weapons themselves aren't going to decide on their own to wipe us out. Another nice thing about nuclear weapons is that the people who build them actually know how they work. (generative AI such as GPT-4 is essentially an enormous matrix of floating point numbers that no one on the planet truly understands why it works the way it does)
(hey I've been accused of being alarmist before. Usually I don't think I am. Here, yeah, I'm pretty freaking alarmist.)
So I'd hope we can make something that draws people in and demonstrates the value of these tools. And if we were able to use our tools to work out our own differences, we'd be demonstrating a model of how to find consensus to the rest of the world.
Ambitious? Yes. Necessary? Most absolutely yes.
Got three and a half hours to watch something fascinating? And scary AF? Enjoy.
"the problem is that we do not get 50 years to try and try again and observe that we were wrong and come up with a different theory and realize that the entire thing is going to be like way more difficult than realized at the start, because the first time you fail at aligning something much smarter than you are, you die."
this one is equally good but Sam Altman is obviously not as pessimistic (but he does admit he is scared)
@toby-pereira I don't feel that strongly about it. We can always add more divisions later when we actually have more traffic.
The main problem we are trying to solve, to me, is the politically-based polarization that is tearing apart society and preventing us from working together for a common goal."
I am a late-comer to this conversation, but will offer that how the forum frames itself to new registrants (and current registrants) can make a significant difference in encouraging posting "tone". Clear introductions re our expectations, both prior to official registration and perhaps as a prominent sticky to regularly remind posters might help.
Being personally active in both Campaign Finance Reform and Voting Theory communities, I do recommend separating those quite different topics. My estimate is that posters will rarely confuse them, and moderators can move the few exceptions. That guidance will encourage us all to take both topics seriously.
If we want to build this site as a go-to priority for people who appreciate serious, respectful, objective discourse for our chosen topic arenas, we can encourage our members to promote us to relevant communities in which they are already involved.
@toby-pereira thanks for the "lumpers vs. splitters" description, made me chuckle. It'd be nice if there was an interface that both lumpers and splitters could appreciate, like something that kept the tags and categories collapsed or expanded based on how you last set it.
In the context of this forum, maybe it could make sense to keep the most "general" categories and move everything else to tags? People would still need to agree on what counts as general though.
Some issues with tags though: they have a length limit, and the interface for browsing them and adding them isn't as organized or alluring (colorful) as the category browser.