The Decision Website
The Decision Website is a citizen website,
designed and administered by the people.
Because citizens control this website,
we set all of the rules,
and so can trust the information.
P.S. This (decisionwebsite.org) is not the Decision Website.
This is a website about the concept.
The Decision Website is where all of us can…
debate the ideas,
consolidate our thinking,
and vote to determine our nation’s direction.
Because everyone’s point of view is heard,
the information becomes comprehensive.
Because the website is designed to move our thinking forward,
and because we get to up/down-vote along the way,
the process moves towards a solution.
The Decision Website can bring about Direct Democracy,
as well as revolutionize our thinking.
Here is what’s laid out below…
- Administration of the website
- Submitting ideas
- Consensus and Majority Rule
- More Detail
--- Concept ---
This concept doesn’t seem revolutionary at first.
It’s just a website after all.
Yet it is pivotal in giving us a source of solid information,
and letting us all participate.
It is only unique in two areas.
One is the scope of allowing millions of people
to participate in a discussion.
And second is the use of consensus principles
to push debates towards solutions
that are acceptable to all of us.
See also: What is consensus?
It’s important to note what we want to accomplish.
We want all of our various opinions heard.
All of these opinions need to be evaluated,
appreciating the pros and recognizing the cons.
Opinions need to be fact checked and scrutinized.
We want to dig deep to discover solutions
that include as many of the pros as we can,
and remove as many of the cons as possible.
In the end, the results will be clearly written,
letting citizens understand the issues.
The final vote should not be difficult,
even for the full spectrum of American people.
It will not take millions of us writing our opinions.
The task of debating, compromising, and exploring solutions
can be done with relatively few but diverse people.
So we know, practically speaking,
that we can accomplish this process.
But we also know that everyone has the right to participate.
Below, you will see how all of us will be empowered
to participate in the discussion,
and guarantee that our voice is heard.
To give you a preview of ways to participate,
you can write opinions,
force viewpoints to be dealt with,
flag opinions for inaccuracies and personal bias,
and push for the clearest writing.
Then, you can vote on the final national opinion,
as well as laws that spring forth from those opinions.
The Decision Website is not about everyone writing comments.
Your voice gets heard by your opinion being part of the debate.
The result becomes a discussion that is purely of ideas.
Our historic problem of following personalities has been avoided.
It’s all logic from now on.
We will put a substantial amount of work into a debate.
But once it is finished, that work is never lost.
It can be updated and re-voted upon,
but we won’t have to continually rehash the same information.
--- Administration of the Website ---
This is important.
We need to trust this Decision Website.
It cannot be controlled by the government,
or someone, or some organization.
It must be controlled by all of us.
It has to be a democratically controlled website.
Now here’s what’s interesting.
The decision-making concepts in the Decision Website
make it a fit for other purposes.
It is a tool for that can be used to analyze and discuss.
Everyone can participate, be a watchdog, and vote.
The decision website concept can be used
to administer the Decision Website itself,
and make it a democratic website.
Interestingly circular, huh?
Let’s call this the Administrative Website.
See also: What are other uses of a Decision Website?
Want a new feature in the Decision Website?
Submit it to the Administrative Website.
Watch it be debated, alternatives suggested, and voted upon.
The exciting thing is that with substantially more input,
the paltry ideas presented here will explode
into a tremendously innovative website.
Wonder what’s going on internally in the Decision Website?
All of the programming code is available online.
Don’t know what that means?
There are plenty of people who do,
and who want to be that watchdog.
Still don’t trust the employees running the Decision Website?
All meetings, decisions, and documents
are transparent and available online
in the Administrative Website.
See something amiss?
Fire those employees… online… with a vote.
It is a democratic website!
--- Security ---
Computers – we know they can be hacked.
We cannot allow our votes to be used by anyone else.
We cannot allow anyone to tamper with our results.
There is a new technology called blockchain.
It was invented for the digital crypto currency, Bitcoin.
It has spawned a new way of thinking in computers.
It replicates the system across multiple computers,
in many locations, and in the hands of virtually any individuals.
No one can make a change
unless effectively all of the computers agree.
It forces the rules to be followed.
Voting and participation will be protected.
We don’t have to trust someone in charge of security.
Blockchain is a process that is secure in and of itself.
Content must be protected as well.
We could use sophisticated computer checksums,
that are stored in a blockchain.
And this is just a single idea as to what could be done.
So, how does the system know it is you voting?
There has to be a connection to the real you.
This problem is seen throughout the Internet.
You typically submit a password.
Then you might get a secondary security question like,
“What was the name of your elementary school?”
You could get validated by a phone text or email with a secret code,
or some other strengthening step.
Whatever we use,
it must be secure.
Beyond the typical steps above,
we have additional ways to validate our identity.
Maybe we use biometric methods
like fingerprints, retina scan, facial scan,
hand geometry, voice recognition, or brain signals.
All of these are weird, but security is necessary.
Right now, your phone’s camera and microphone
could do many of these detections.
And “who” gets to participate?
It has to be citizens of the USA.
At least for now.
We can decide later if non-citizens can participate.
We have to register our citizens for the website.
The government has databases of citizen information.
Once we have implemented Direct Democracy,
then we the people will have control of this information.
A lot of people do not trust the government
to track our personal information,
and identifying data (e.g. fingerprints).
With the current secrecy of government,
this distrust has merit.
Direct Democracy unravels this government labyrinth,
shakes out the hidden scoundrels,
reveals any trickery,
and puts us in control.
Our only problem is a cart before the horse situation.
We need registration for the Decision Website
as we move forward towards Direct Democracy.
This is before we are in control and have the trust of the citizens.
Registration in this phase will be different.
The “More on Registration” article explores this problem.
See also: More on Registration
As to the question of everybody having Internet access,
this is so easily solved.
First, your cell phone is a computer and can be used for voting.
Your cell signal is essentially Internet access.
And then, we simply take an ultra-thin slice
of the Pentagon’s 600 billion dollar annual budget,
and ensure that everyone has Internet access.
A small price to pay for real democracy.
--- Submitting Ideas ---
If it helps in understanding the Decision Website,
imagine that our subject is gun control.
The more controversial the issue,
the more helpful this website will be.
We all can submit ideas to the Decision Website.
Surprisingly though, this is not a place for you to be heard.
I know, that sounds contradictory.
Telling the world how smart you are,
how strong your opinions are,
seeing yourself in print…
that’s what Facebook and other social media are for.
The Decision Website is about ideas, not about people.
The emphasis for each of us will be to ensure
that our opinions are included in the debate.
Once a subject is started,
there will be many people ready to participate.
These people might be:
experts in a field,
people with broad experience,
people with personal experiences,
bright people, people who write well,
contemplative people, visionary people,
people with insight on peripheral side issues,
people who have researched the subject,
you and me.
An initial step will be to organize the subject.
How big is the scope?
What are the subtopics?
What do we want to accomplish?
What else is interrelated?
How shall we approach the debate?
A variety of outlines and graphical maps will be constructed.
It’s the first step in our citizen collaboration.
Reference material will be added to a separate layer in the system.
Research results, statistics, white papers, verified facts, history, etc.
These can be referenced within the debate,
but also can be challenged and themselves be debated.
Ideas and submissions will occur rapidly.
One of our biggest challenges will be to process this large quantity.
The goal will be to consolidate duplicate opinions,
and sort out the array of differing ideas.
Computerized Artificial Intelligence (AI)
will be used in a variety of ways.
AI will create visual graphs of our subject’s organization,
to help us get a handle on the debate.
AI can display statistics on activity,
detect if our submission sounds like a duplicate,
display the highest ranked similar submission,
and offer suggestions on where to go next.
One goal will be for proponents of an opinion (ex: gun registration)
to collaborate and write their best, strongest,
and clearest position statement.
At the same time, opponents will be challenging the accuracy,
proofs, logic, consequences, costs, legality, etc.
The proponents are required
to address these concerns and rewrite their position.
In most cases, all of our opinions will begin to soften.
Every position has flaws and hidden consequences.
We will find that compromise, working together,
and alternative ideas are our only solution.
--- Debating ---
Before we can finalize our opinion position statement,
serious, aggressive debate must take place.
It requires strong contemplative and analytical thinking.
It is a process to turn over every stone,
inspect the underside of each seemingly good idea,
find out the costs and the consequences,
think outside of the box for alternatives,
back away and look at the big picture,
bring in who we are and how we want to live.
It is exciting.
But debates get messy.
And so they should be accomplished in a separate layer.
That is, hard-nosed debate occurs in its own area of the website.
There are many ways to conduct a productive debate.
The “Debate Details” article lays out some possibilities.
See also: Debate Details
The debate section of the website has big challenges.
The website itself has to have techniques to facilitate progress.
Some examples are:
Up-voting of comments so the best rise to the surface;
Down-voting so crude trollish comments sink to the bottom;
Pin-pointed voting to spotlight content, writing, or accuracy;
Robust voting like: Strongly Approve or Disapprove;
Breaking apart topics to debate smaller bite sizes;
All of this will help in the consolidation process.
The biggest impact on cooperative consensus
will be the use of “position statements”.
These are stated opinions based on the results of the debate.
These will force people to restructure their ideas,
to accommodate as many people as possible,
so as to win the final vote.
The article “Debate Details” explains more on this.
We might join advocacy groups,
that help us participate on a topic.
Consider a “Gun Control” advocacy group.
As the debate unfolds, the advocacy group can…
notify you of progress,
explain some issues,
point out areas they are concerned about,
and give you links to specific up/down-votes.
There is a timing mechanism in the decision process,
and they can assist us to make the process simpler.
The Decision Website itself can also have a notification mechanism,
to inform us of our areas of interest.
Moderators will be used to encourage collaboration,
point out where attention is required,
and where opposing ideas are not being addressed.
Artificial Intelligence will be used to:
show statistics on how up/down-voting is going,
point to discussions needing help or more voting,
and a general progress of the debate.
Is AI a dark unknown part of the website,
that could be a security risk,
or move our debate without our consent?
You bet it is!
And we have to solve that issue.
All AI computer code must be transparent,
and be available to anyone to inspect.
All programmers must heavily document each segment of code.
All AI code must be testable,
to ensure it does what documentation specifies.
And we will watch it!
See also: AI in the Decision Website
Over time, participants can eventually learn to self-moderate,
as we devise tools to assist collaboration.
The good news is that seeing well debated issues,
will open our eyes to a better process,
and improve everyone’s thinking.
Collaboration will become the norm,
as we work together in the Decision Website.
Some participants will be writing and suggesting edits.
Others will be using the up/down-vote to support their opinions.
Most will be content to watch the process unfold.
The important element will be for you to ensure
that your opinions are included in the debate,
and that they are being sufficiently addressed.
The end result of our debate will be a more robust position statement.
It will also spawn hybrid position statements,
or new alternatives,
as we seek to find consensus among ourselves.
In the end, we will vote on these related position statements.
This is how we can determine our national opinion.
See also: Details on Debating
--- Consensus thinking & Majority rule ---
Consensus is the goal.
Consensus is the process of seeking solutions,
that everyone can agree to.
It usually means compromise,
or at least addressing all of the opposing views.
Consensus forces us to acknowledge that our opinions,
are often not taking everything into account.
Consensus recognizes the complexity of the life,
and our diversity of how we want to live.
See also: More on Consensus
Virtually every position or opinion has merit.
Each position recognizes a problem or sees a benefit.
The website seeks to prevent us from…
shuffling aside opposing opinions,
letting the majority overpower the minority,
and leaving ideas unheard.
See also: Problem of Majority Rule
There will be methods built in to stall a topic,
until all issues have been addressed.
There will be ways for a minority position,
to demand attention,
and ensure that they are heard.
If opposing views are strong enough,
it will likely force a supermajority vote (like 75%)
to overcome the opposition.
We can also consider giving special voting privileges.
If the nation wants to put a nuclear waste site in your back yard,
your vote should probably hold more weight.
It shouldn’t result in an obstruction of progress,
but it could trigger more compensation,
reviews of other alternatives,
or force a harder analysis of the issue.
At least it won’t be a government agency using “authority”
to force a solution on us.
In the end, we should see a solid effort to take our varied positions,
and construct compromised or hybrid or innovative solutions,
that are better than any of our previously isolated opinions.
--- Watching ---
Most of us will let others do the debating.
Maybe we periodically checked in on topics,
ensure that our point-of-view is represented,
watch statistics to see how people are leaning
and notice the tough spots.
Eventually, we will all want to see the positions that have formed.
We can read them in the Decision Website,
starting with summaries followed by any detail we want.
The writing has to be in terms we all understand.
There will be a continual push for clarity,
forcing scientists and experts to eliminate jargon,
and long-winded people to be more concise.
We could also produce videos for TV and the web,
to discuss how each opinion developed throughout the debate,
how trouble spots were resolved,
how consensus brought the varying sides together,
and what the final outcome reveals.
The videos will be produced in our democratically run media,
to assure us that we are getting a balanced view.
The really nice thing is that we can look up a topic,
see well-written and well-rounded summaries,
and become educated.
We could become a very smart citizenry,
in a short period of time.
--- Voting ---
So now we have debated, wrestled with solutions,
and polished off our position statements.
Now the Decision Website and our advocacy group will notify us
when a final vote is coming.
We are first voting on a national opinion.
It displays our thinking on an issue and how we want to approach it.
It’s not a law, but it is binding.
All subsequent laws must follow our national opinion.
There will be a broader number of options available.
The consensus process has encouraged new possibilities.
Ranked voting is a possibility (i.e. vote your 1st, 2nd, 3rd choice).
After the national opinion is voted upon,
very precise laws can be created.
These too can be debated
in the context of how well they follow our national opinions,
and in their effectiveness and consequences.
Because laws must be precise and need specific language,
they are usually complex and hard to understand.
But there will be a host of people who can decipher legalese
to ensure the law’s compliance with our national opinion,
and explain any special considerations.
Then we will vote on each law itself.
We are initially putting a good amount of work and energy
into building national opinions and laws.
But the work is not repeated for each subsequent law,
like we do now when majority power shifts
back and forth between Republicans and Democrats.
We do not have to re-debate each time.
As we improve our thinking and grow confident
in our Direct Democracy system,
we will have more time to spend making ourselves happy.
And if we do a good job at creating laws that promote our happiness,
we should succeed.
--- More Detail ---
The article Debate Details covers more ideas
on how the Decision Website might function.
It not only covers the gloves-off debating,
but also techniques to help us move forward,
encouraging consensus and compromise.
This is just the tip of the iceberg,
as many thoughtful people will add more ideas.
Once again, thank you for taking the time
to consider Direct Democracy.
Thank you for recognizing that you have a role
in our democracy.
See also: Debate Details