Alternatives to the CES Forum

Some of the tests @Keith_Edmonds made for the Wolf Committee might be helpful for that as well.

Also: there are a couple of features that I recently added to my own Yee plot generator that I don’t know if they have (mostly ways to reduce noise without increasing the number of voters). How might I go about suggesting them to the project?

The code is here. I have not had time to look at it in a while but others have contributed.

But lets not get ahead of ourselves. We need a forum more than we need this.

I also prefer this type of forum over mailing lists, Google Groups, or Reddit, and am sad that this resource is being lost.

We will retain encrypted backups, but will not be publishing them as they may contain private information of users.

There’s no way to remove the private information so it can be migrated to another Discourse host?

This looks like a cheaper option for self-hosted Discourse:
https://www.literatecomputing.com/discourse-installation-packages/ $150 once to set it up and then $5 per month to host it.

Another alternative is groups.io, where everyone fled when Yahoo Groups shut down. That looks more like a mailing list than a forum, though. I think this interface is probably better.

There are also forum-like interfaces for mailing lists, but still pretty crude compared to Discourse, and it still means your email address getting published to the whole list, using ASCII for math, etc.:
http://election-methods.5485.n7.nabble.com/EM-Linear-summability-td35377.html

This change reflects CES’s gradual evolution from an academic organization to an advocacy organization.

I also saw your poll in my email today. (‘Do you think that the name “The Center for Election Science” is an accurate representation of our organization?’) Are you considering changing it to Center for Approval Voting or something like that?

1 Like

Do you have a link to the poll? They could just split the efforts. STAR.vote and equal.vote are the advocacy and research wings. Why not split off an advocacy group from the CES like that?

2 Likes

Equal Vote is definitely willing to step up to ensure that this important community resource lives on. It fits squarely in line with our mission statement and vision for Equal Vote.

"The Equal Vote Coalition’s mission is to promote true equality in the vote. The Equal Vote Coalition mandate is top-notch research, community education, and coalition building.

Our five core criteria for electoral reform are: Equality, Honesty, Accuracy, Expressiveness, and Simplicity. These criteria form the basis by which we evaluate and advance proposals for reform."

We’ve reached out to CES to talk over collaborative options and we have a reddit up as well at: https://www.reddit.com/r/ElectionScience/comments/hggqlz/welcome_to_the_equal_vote_coalitions_election/

For us, we have been careful to differentiate between the Equal Vote Coalition, which is not an advocacy organization and which strives to remain an unbiased source on voting reform in general, and STAR Voting Action, which promotes STAR Voting specifically. Updating our websites has been an ongoing process, and more updates to Equal.Vote are planned. This differentiation will become more and more distinct as we grow as an organization and as our bandwidth increases.

We and others had hoped that CES would do the same, with the Center For Election Science as a neutral scientific source, and with something appropriately named “Approval Voting Advocacy” 501c4 focused on Approval, or “Cardinal Voting Advocacy” for supporting the full score family.

8 Likes

I would be willing to get involved in providing a really, really high quality forum as an alternative, especially if it can be seen as an official forum that is “shared” by EqualVote and CES.

In theory I could host a domain (maybe we could vote on the domain name?), with a high quality forum on Heroku. I already pay for a plan on Heroku, and the traffic of a board like this shouldn’t cost me more than I’m already paying.

I would probably choose something like NodeBB, since I am an experienced Javascript developer (20 plus years), am experienced with nodejs as well as front-end Javascript. That means if we wanted the forum to have some feature (such as fancy approval voting or STAR voting polls built in), it is totally doable. (not necessarily immediately, but down the road)

If I were to have a big role in this, I would want to have the forum actively moderated for diplomacy/respectfulness, as well as to help guide the discussion in positive directions. I’d want to have regular “eat your own dogfood” type web polls. A few times a year we could have a vote (maybe alternating voting methods?) for chief moderator of the forums.

I’d probably encourage people to use their real names as their user names.

If people wanted to put up voting widgets or demos that they build, I could provide a place for that, even possibly providing back end support. (obviously, if it requires Javascript code, that code would have to be carefully screened, which I can do)

Although I’m kind of new in this forum, I’ve participated (on and off) in the EM list going back to 2003, have been to at least one in-person CES event, have developed various voting related Javascript widgets going back to the early 2000s, have posted dozens of voting related things to Quora going back to 2012 (where I have about 4000 followers and have been awarded Top Writer two different years).

I’ve known @robla since way back (and we live near one another and have periodically met up in person, at least pre-lockdown). If he’d be willing to work with me on this in any capacity, I would welcome it. His credentials as a long time maintainer of Electowiki/Electorama/EM mailing list count for a lot, of course.

I am a big believer that both STAR and Approval voting are huge improvements over the status quo, and that, while IRV is not nearly as good as those two, it is way better than plurality. I would hope that the forums would approach things with that overriding philosophy.

You can see some of my work including some of my Quora voting content here: https://pianop.ly/portfolio/with-voting-links.html

5 Likes

Will the Google Group at least stay up though? It’s a got a lot of stuff of interest that I (and presumably others) refer back to.

I know @Keith_Edmonds said about making wiki articles, but it’s these small insights here and there rather than something big enough for an article that can potentially be lost.

2 Likes

Heya, @RobBrown, thanks for the offer! Like I’ve said offline, I’m eager to work together on something with you, but I’m not sure that designing a new discussion system is the best thing. One of my other friends has a lot of ideas about discussion systems, so maybe I can introduce the two of you.

I’ve started a couple of other Electorama-branded forums in other venues:

Quora and Medium are a lot more mainstream. MeWe has been my focus of late because I want to disentangle myself from Facebook, and a lot of my friends are also trying to do so as well. But I’m not optimistic about building something new from scratch.

1 Like

Oh I’m not talking about building anything from scratch, just hosting one that is open source. (specifically I was talking about NodeBB: https://community.nodebb.org/ )

It’s slightly more effort than using something that is already hosted (e.g. reddit, MeWe, etc), but not a lot more effort. But I don’t think it would cost anything (since I already pay for a Heroku plan and I’d expect that the additional bandwidth/processing is probably pretty trivial for something like this), no one would see ads, no one would be hassled to upgrade to premium or anything like that. And of course no one would be forced to sign up for something like Facebook or Quora or Reddit if they don’t want to.

And yeah, I’d like the fact that I (or “we,” whoever is involved) would be running something that is in theory infinitely customizable, just in case anyone wants to add a feature, especially advanced voting-related features which seem a natural fit for a forum that is about voting. That’s one reason I thought of you, since you have done the Electowidget thing.

Far more important to me than the actual technology, though, is how it is presented and moderated. I really like the idea of having a chief moderator that is elected by the users at regular intervals, since it is so in the spirit of “eat your own dogfood.” (i.e. we are a group dedicated to voting, so we should hold regular votes for something that is actually meaningful) I’m less into the “benevolent dictator for life” idea, while also realizing that good moderation is the difference between places I want to spend my time, and places I don’t.

I think @fsargent and @ClayShentrup and others at CES did a pretty good job of stepping in and saying “please be civil” etc at this forum, but it’s a shame that they otherwise don’t seem to have spent a huge amount of time here.

Regardless, if you aren’t into participating (even in the sense of helping direct people there), that’s totally fine. But I’ll only do it if it feels like there is some support, such as from CES and EqualVote people, or from the people that currently spend time on this forum.

5 Likes

The RobBrown plan sounds really good to me and I’m thinking that if somehow it doesn’t work, a fallback could be to start a new forum on Google. We would have to be really careful about picking the name for it.

1 Like

Are you talking about hosting your own copy, or is does nodebb.org offer professional hosting for their software? I suppose we could try hosting something like that on Heroku or something like that (like you said earlier), and it’d be a good opportunity to learn Heroku. I haven’t really tried using Heroku since I was part of a team standing up the website for http://www.everydayonething.org. I don’t have a screencap from the Seattle Startup Weekend when we first set it up, but I think it looked pretty good. The Wordpress site still looks fairly close to the original. blog.everydayonething.org/about-us We cranked out a pretty good website (by 2010 standards; maybe even by today’s standards).

I know that from hosting my own copy of MediaWiki that keeping software up-to-date on a generic hosting service is a lot of work for software that’s under active development. That’s why I’ve been happy to work with Miraheze on MediaWiki hosting. I’m not sure I want stay on top of upgrades for Node-based software. From what I understand, doing security audits on Node-based software is quite challenging.

It seems to me we should be going with an existing forum that has a trust-and-safety team already that we can escalate to. If we host our own thing, we’re on our own, and I’m not too keen on that.

1 Like

They do offer professional hosting, but of course then you have to pay for it. The reason I would choose NodeBB is because it is something I can host on a plan I already have. (Heroku also offers $6 a month plans that would probably do the trick for the kind of traffic we’d expect for something like this) And it seems to have a fairly similar polished look and feel to this Discourse forum.

Regardless, if you wanted to be involved in any way, you certainly wouldn’t have to do anything having to do with the hassles of hosting it vs. having it hosted. The bigger issue to me is building and nurturing a community.

Hi All, Lot’s of good discussion and options! @RobBrown and @robla, thanks for the offers to step up. What do you all say we do a zoom call this week to talk over the options. Equal Vote is willing to host and take this project on, and the idea would be to maintain the content and archives, to keep the spirit alive, and to keep a space available where people can get into the weeds, get feedback on innovation, and/or get educated on election science and involved in the community.

How about Wednesday July 8th at 7:30 pm PST? I’ve created a zoom meeting for that and if needed can change the time or date. Does that work for you? Do you have an alternate time you’d prefer?

ZOOM MEETING ON THE FUTURE OF THE CES FORUM
Hosted by Equal Vote and Sara Wolk
Wednesday July 8th at 7:30 pm PST

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82767887822?pwd=MEtOQ1JXSHBablp6OEZHVE1TS0Vmdz09

Meeting ID: 827 6788 7822
Password: 059198
One tap mobile
+13462487799,82767887822#,0#,059198# US (Houston)
+16699006833,82767887822#,0#,059198# US (San Jose)

Dial by your location
+1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)
+1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)
+1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)
+1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
+1 929 205 6099 US (New York)
+1 301 715 8592 US (Germantown)
Meeting ID: 827 6788 7822
Password: 059198
Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kbFQLc60eU

Agenda: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82767887822?pwd=MEtOQ1JXSHBablp6OEZHVE1TS0Vmdz09

5 Likes

Great I will be there. (Just to be clear, that is a week from wednesday, so not technically this week).

Voter eligibility will need to be addressed as well as method, then.

I’ll be there too. Thank you for setting this up Sara.

2 Likes

True, I will write something up about my suggestions for voting prior to the zoom call. Not that any of that has to be worked out ahead of time… it is something that can be more-or-less “played by ear” as the community congeals. However, the essence of it is that any voting should feel “straw pollish” in that it isn’t necessarily binding, and we request people only vote if they are active participants. (and those in charge can make the call if there is any question about it, rather than using hard numbers like how many posts a month or how many likes they’ve received or anything like that)

Thanks for setting this up Sara, and thanks for setting this up for next week! I have some other responsibilities (e.g. to my family) this week, so I’m really glad the cancellation date for this forum is July 30th (not June 30th). I’m not sure why they picked July 30th rather than July 31st (since that would have been much less ambiguous).

I’m glad they’re giving us a month to wind things down. Given that we haven’t ruled out the possibility of hosting our own software (or at least, @RobBrown hasn’t given up hope on that), it’s going to take us a while to decide a lot of things.

Sara, I assume you’ll be leading the meeting next week. I’m optimistic about this meeting, thoguh I think a few of us should plan on having an email prep discussion prior to meeting (or a Discord meeting). Given the number of things we need to settle before July 30th, and given the number of people that seem interested in this, and given that video calls with either @RobBrown or with me tend to go long if you let either of us speak, we’re going to need to have a really efficient conversation. Someone is going to need to write an agenda, and we should discuss the agenda on this forum. I’d encourage anyone who plans to attend to at least skim this: https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Good_meetings

I’m looking forward to talking to you about this at the July 8th meeting!

1 Like

Here’s an agenda for the July 8th 7:30pm pst Zoom:
Feel free to comment or make suggestions. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1IYPoPOE00Uwt0rtWs-rWnaY_S-gZ8vNxPTOmxv5vdcA/edit?usp=sharing

ZOOM MEETING ON THE FUTURE OF THE CES FORUM
Hosted by Equal Vote and Sara Wolk
Wednesday July 8th at 7:30 pm PST

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82767887822?pwd=MEtOQ1JXSHBablp6OEZHVE1TS0Vmdz09

Meeting ID: 827 6788 7822
Password: 059198
One tap mobile
+13462487799,82767887822#,0#,059198# US (Houston)
+16699006833,82767887822#,0#,059198# US (San Jose)

Dial by your location
+1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)
+1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)
+1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)
+1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
+1 929 205 6099 US (New York)
+1 301 715 8592 US (Germantown)
Meeting ID: 827 6788 7822
Password: 059198
Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kbFQLc60eU

I’ll be leading the meeting to the extent needed and I made an agenda, but my plan is to allow others to step up. All my meetings have a chair/host, facilitator, and note-taker. Generally the chair is whoever organized the meeting and made the agenda. Since this meeting represents Equal Vote volunteering to lead I’ll chair this one, and that can can hopefully go to another volunteer for the next meeting.

I would like to second your link’s emphasis on consensus for meetings. Voting is great for huge groups which can’t discuss. Equal Vote does almost everything (struggling to think of an exception) by consensus and that hasn’t been an issue so far. When people are aligned in intention consensus is usually easy. Leadership is for leadership, not dictatorship. :slight_smile:

Agenda: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1IYPoPOE00Uwt0rtWs-rWnaY_S-gZ8vNxPTOmxv5vdcA/edit?usp=sharing

1 Like