Categories at the new forum

I thought it might be a good idea, while @waugh is hard at work getting our new forum up with lots of help from Jay Cincotta, to start a discussion of some of the things we’d like to see, especially things that should probably be there from the start. Categories is an important one. I think categories are underutilized in the current forum.

Here are my off-the-top-of-my-head suggestions as to what the categories might be. I’d encourage others to suggest their own ideas. I don’t know who will make the final decision (other than knowing that it isn’t me!) but hopefully if anyone has thoughts or ideas on it, they can express them here rather than wait till they are written in stone by the powers that be. :slight_smile:

There is of course going to be some overlap, and things that seem to belong in one category will obviously come up within topics in a different category. No big deal.

Voting methods:

where we discuss different methods, propose new ones, and debate their merits

Pure theory:

where we can discuss things like game theoretical foundations, utilitarian vs immunity to strategy, etc. It’s ok to stray from voting systems per se, as long as it has at least some relevance

Dev:

where we can talk about development of tools that we can share. CodePens are my own current big emphasis because of how they enable frictionless collaborating and sharing. Eventually we would hopefully move on to developing plugins for our own forum, and then sharing those with the wider internet. I have tons of ideas for this but I’ll save them for the new forum. While this category might mostly attract coders, we’d encourage non-coders to come in and offer ideas, suggest improvements, etc.

Education:

where we can post topics intended to be educational to newcomers to the field, or otherwise useful as foundational material. These might eventually lead to making static pages we can have hosted on the votingtheory domain, but it makes sense to discuss them here first.

Advocacy and outreach:

This can include such things as posting links to relevant topics elsewhere on the web (Reddit, Quora, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc) where members of our community may want to weigh in. This can help us grow our own community as well as just having a wider influence on public thought on better ways of voting.

Meta:

where we can talk about the forum itself, including suggesting ideas for new features, discussing how it can be moderated, discussing how we can keep things on topic while still encouraging ongoing discussion. This being a prime example of a “meta post”!

Cat pictures:

j/k dogs rule.

My hope is that most of the important decisions with the new forum will be discussed here, in the open. The committee or council or whatever obviously has a purpose, but there are a ton of things that can be discussed within the forum itself, with everyone welcome to weigh in (regardless of what time zone they are in, etc).

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Politics - where we can discuss what’s going on in the wider world.

Off topic - To discuss anything we want.

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Maybe a Projects category?

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Projects might be a more generalized name for what I called “Dev” (a.k.a. “tools development”). Although in some senses it could encompass Education (which I saw mostly as trying to produce somewhat polished documents, videos, etc for a wider audience than just our forum), and in a lesser sense outreach. Is there any kind of project you can envision that doesn’t fall under one of those?

I for one love the idea of the community having a heavy emphasis on projects rather than just debating.

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A philosophy section might be nice. But maybe that falls under “pure theory.” I think we should also have a section perhaps about behavioral economics, sociology and social experiments.

Oh and also maybe a history/current events section, as long as it’s relevant.

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Aren’t there enough places on the internet to discuss this already?

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The wider political landscape can be relevant to voting reform anyway. Plus a forum is a community and it makes sense to want to discuss stuff with the same people that you discuss other stuff with.

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I have mixed feelings on this. My interest in voting theory and methods has a lot to do with my frustration with the current situation on US politics. But I generally try to avoid discussing, for instance, my feelings regarding the incumbent president in a voting theory context. I think it can put people in opposition when they otherwise wouldn’t be.

If I do make a reference to current politics because it helps visualize the problem and/or potential solution, I will often say “a person on the left might prefer X” or “a person on the right might want to vote Y”, rather than stating my own preferences.

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Should these be broken down into single winner and multi-winner like on this forum?

Also can topics show up in multiple categories? If so, can you refine your search by searching through all topics that are in both categories x and y? x or y? x and y and not z?

I personally don’t think that adds a lot of value. In theory you can break them down in different ways too, such as cardinal vs ordinal, etc. But I don’t feel particularly strongly on that.

I don’t know for sure, some things tend to stick to strict hierarchical categories, other things treat it more as tags, hashtags being a prime example. Both have advantages. We’ll be using NodeBB, you can learn more here: https://community.nodebb.org/ (which of course is a nodeBB forum that you can play around with)

Oh and I have one more suggestion for topics. We should perhaps also talk about general election security, including practical implementations for voting systems and cryptography/cybersecurity.

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To me it adds a lot of value. I find single winner and multi-winner voting theory to be two very different areas of voting theory. There was also a time on this forum (when all of the active users on the forum were all from the Equal Vote 0-5 PR Research Committee) where among the most recent threads the multi-winner voting theory threads would frequently outnumber the other threads by something like 5-1. Because of this, I’d go even further and after divide multi-winner theory into optimal multi-winner theory and sequential multi-winner theory (and do the same for methods).

I think maybe “current affairs” would be a more neutral term, and no-one is forced to give away where they stand politically anyway!

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It seems to me most of the posts on this forum assume a US-style-context and experiences and preferences from that context. But there are are many other countries / regions and cities with very different contexts, it might be helpfull for everybody to make this national-US and the local and non-US more explicit by making seperate categories for it.

I generally don’t even assume it is a political election. I tend to be a purist on this, in that while political elections are important practical uses, I’d rather generalize the concepts to anything where you might want to vote. There are places where you want to differentiate, but most of the time we can speak in general terms. Notice that almost every voting method in wikipedia uses the “Tennessee state capital” example which is intentionally separated from typical political elections because it makes it easier to visualize the concepts, as well as to avoid allowing political biases to creep into our views on voting methods.
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So, while there is a place for differentiating, I’d still advise not to make too many assumptions, such as that it is political at all. I certainly don’t want to have to pick as to whether I am talking about US vs. elsewhere. I guess this comes from my perspective that voting theory is more of a subset of game theory and math, than it is a subset of political science. (Also of my desire to get people on the internet using better voting methods for all kinds of practical or just-for-fun uses)

Again, just my opinion, but I’d generally recommend not getting too carried away with all the subcategories.

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Agreed. I would suggest actively discouraging discussions of real-world politics, actually. I don’t know what any of your leanings are, and I don’t want to know, and I don’t want to reveal my own, either.

Another reason this is bad is because it affects the perception of voting reform initiatives. (“I won’t support that reform, it’s just a power grab by Party X! Look at all of them gathering on their forum!”)

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Might also get some inspiration from Electowiki’s top-level categories:

  • Voting methods (i.e. electoral systems) are the main focus of this wiki. Articles in this category describe specific methods for selecting between various choices, their implementation details and features.
    • Voting theory deals with the properties of voting methods and the criteria they can meet, scenarios in which they fail, etc.
  • Advocacy is for descriptions about real-world reform: organizations, legislation, lobbying, and arguments for choosing one reform over another.
  • Elections is for articles that analyze real or hypothetical elections under different methods, and examine their properties and outcomes.
  • Forms of government is the level “above” election methods: Representative vs direct democracy, government structure and formation, etc.
  • Voting mechanics deals with real-world implementation details, such as paper ballots and electronic voting machines.
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