Welcome to Discussions at govdis.org
Late Note (September 20, 2011)
What is below was written at a time when I thought there could
possible be enough interest to justify this project. The
minimal response to this and the apparently weak response to the much,
much better funded Americans Elect, has convinced me that at least for
the time being my efforts would be better directed at my mathematical
You can think of this site as either a supplement to Americans Elect, or as a
competitor. The person behind this
site started working on this on August 1, 2011, because of the
lack of transparency at Americans Elect, and because it appeared to be
controlled too strongly from the top.
If you think that discussion where everybody posts their comments, and
every once in a while votes on things is going to lead to some kind
influence, then this site is probably not of interest. So what
is different here?
- People here really will control the site, including the hoped for
replacement of the founder of the site.
- All income and expenses will be reported on the site, with the
exclusion of items of $100 dollars or less that wish to remain
- All decisions will be public, guided by comments from those on
the site, but made by a governing board, selected by those involved
on the site.
- People will be encouraged to evaluate comments by others without
adding additional commentary to reduce the site content.
We firmly believe that if there is too much repetitious talk on
the site it attracts too many who like to talk and not enough
willing to listen. Opinions change only by listening.
- You may comment on anything, or suggest anything. Others
will evaluate what you post. Automatic algorithms on the
site will track what you and others have done in order to assign
an initial weight to what you post, and what weight to assign to
your evaluations of others. This is meant to make most
visible to others the things that others on the site find of
most value. More technical detail is below.
- It will be possible to easily link to other things on the site
and to determine what sort of things will generate email to you,
- It will be possible to contact others who have posted through an
anonymous email system.
- You will need to register on the site in order to post comments
or to evaluate others.
We are Just Getting Started
As you already know we have a domain name govdis.org (or
www.govdis.org). I have started by hosting this site using a
virtual host on a DSL connection. Keep this in mind, as an
asymmetric DSL connection does not have a lot of bandwidth. If
we manage to get a web site set up that really seems to be working,
I'm willing to buy a new server and lease a T1 line in order to allow
this thing to scale up a little. Anything bigger is going to
need others to step in. It will need more money than I can
afford to commit to use a larger connection with more bandwidth, and
to handle more traffic. I am not qualified to do this sort of
work, and either someone needs to step up (sooner is better than later
so we know where we are going), or money needs to be there to hire
someone who knows what they are doing.
I could use help in the following areas:
- Security -- I know close to nothing in this area. I do
know enough not to pass raw user input to the database queries
and to scan for <xxxx> type html elements and to only allow a subset.
- Design -- If I'm responsible for the design of the web site, it
will be functional and clean, but ugly.
- Business -- Anybody out there want to be a CEO? I know my
qualifications here, and they suck. This is not currently
a non-profit. Does anyone out there want to set it up
that way? If this is successful, I expect to my expenses
to be paid back, and my time spent to be covered at a rate
decided on the site by preference voting.
- Coding -- At 75, I'm not as quick as I once was. I'm
planning to write the code for the site in C, using postgresql
for the database. There would probably be good things
them. Learning to setup and use postgresql, and writing the
basic C code for the site is more than enough on my
plate. Coding help would also be welcome.
The immediate goal is just to provide a place for discussion that we
hope will be useful. With moderate success, we may be able to
get those running for office to give clear unambiguous answers to
questions that concern us. If this gets really big, it might
track legislation (federal, state, local?) and give people a chance to
comment on legislation prior to passage. People on the site
will determine the direction taken so I don't want to preclude
anything including a possible third political party. However, I
do believe that such talk is premature, and not likely to lead
anywhere useful soon.
General Layout There will be several type of entries.
(On Aug 17, 2011, I've added a few things here -- still no plans to
actually do this.) The goal here is to get discussion that is more
focused and reduce the number of comments that add little to the
For those technically inclined, here is a
very rough idea of the database structures that would be used to
- Headers -- Nothing to comment or rate here; these just help
guide one to the area of interest, see Example Headings
- Comments -- These are what you can add, comment on, rate, etc.
- Topics -- These are meant to make it easier to find things.
They will consist only of a brief header and no other
text. Users will be able to gather together a group of
comments, or just introduce a topic. A topic will look a
lot like a header. Comments under a topic will tend to be
more visible to those interested in a specific issue.
Suppose you want to comment on an issue local to Portland,
OR. If not already there you might introduce a topic
"States", then under that a topic "Oregon", under that a topic
"Cities", Under that a topic "Portland", and under that you
might introduce your comment on say a zoning issue. After
more comments come up under "Portland" a new topic "Zoning
Issue" might be introduced to gather comments on that issue to
separate that topic from other things like for example who ought
to be the next mayor.
- Summaries -- Users will be able to moderate a topic. The
moderation will look a bit like the PRO and CON lists on this site. The idea is
to get all the common arguments for and against some view in one
place. The moderator of a summary will be replaced if
there are sufficient complaints and there is someone else
willing to take the job. The moderator is expected to
include all reasonable (to some people) views in the summary,
but to make the point as succinctly as possible. The
points listed in the summary can be rated and voted on in a way
similar to comments. It is expected that most of the
action will take place under the summaries. A summary can
be created without any preceding comments, or can be introduced
after comments that are being summarized have already
exist. There will a mechanism in place to move comments
under the points elaborated on in a summary, as is also the case
- Evidence -- These should point to one or more places that offer
substantial evidence in support of a view. People will be
able to rate what they think of the quality of the
evidence. Text that is given as part of the evidence
should give a brief summary of what the link describes.
- Polls -- A poll can only be an immediate descendant of a
summary. Anyone can suggest a poll, but I'm unclear at
this point whether any user should be able to actually create
- Votes -- Like Polls, but use preference voting.
- Misc. -- For things like registration, searching, previews of
comments you are submitting, etc. A possible
user page. On this page you can update/change your
information, and others can view what you have made public.
Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. A link to
the contents of the messages will be posted at feedback. If you want your comment
posted please indicate the part of the comment you wish to have
posted. You may also vote with a simple email message with a
subject line containing
I'll accept suggestions for other categories.
Note that the feedback link is only
updated manually, so don't expect immediate feedback as you would get
with the final site.
That's all there is after a day and a half + 1 hour on this.
Others will decide if this goes forward.
Added on May 5, 2014: Here is a link likely
to be of interest to anyone interested in the subject here.
Last modified: Wed May 5 18:40:54 PDT 2014