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Democratic Tool for Massive Networks

Social media platform for ONLY suggestions--a way to help huge networks express their desires clearly.

Photo of Ezra Weller

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Right now, we're terrible at understanding what big groups of people want. And in a culture that prizes democracy, we can't be democratic unless we get better at understanding that.


What tools do leaders have now for understanding what groups want? Social media like Twitter or Reddit, surveys, and, of course, good old votes. But social media is mostly boasts and insults, nobody wants to take surveys (and we distrust survey results anyway), and meaningful votes or elections are infrequent and inconvenient.


The idea here is to create a social media platform that restricts users to only making suggestions, making counter-suggestions, and liking their favorite ideas. This platform would have the benefits of traditional social media--convenience, speed, accessibility--but apply them in a productive way. The goal is to create a constantly updating list of a given community's favorite ideas, ordered by their popularity, which leaders can use to directly develop new policies and projects.

Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine higher education to support the needs of tomorrow?

This idea is designed for any and all big democratic communities. Any group committed to democratic ideals could make use of it, including universities and university classes. This idea helps with the ivory tower problem. Universities often don't confront the biggest issues faced by their communities (students, cities, countries, etc.). Say what you will about Reddit, but it forces you to confront the most popular posts on the site. Let's apply that to the issues.

This idea emerged from:

  • An individual

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

I think this is the biggest problem: How can a social media site restrict the content people post to only suggestions and counter-suggestions? That's a lot more complicated than a 140 character limit. Could it be done with algorithms or with community policing? That seems to be what Wikipedia does: https://www.quora.com/How-does-Wikipedia-s-editing-community-police-new-edits

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

It's easy to test this decision-making technique in small groups of people--I've done it some, and I'm looking for more opportunities to do it. Just take a small group, ask a question, and have people find their favorite solutions with these restrictions: the words you say can only be a new suggestion, an edited suggestion, or a vote for an existing suggestion. I need someone's help to build a prototype of the tool in order to do a real test.

Tell us about your work experience:

I've got extensive music experience as a composer, trumpet player, classroom teacher, ensemble leader, and event planner. I also co-founded http://groupmuse.com, a startup-esque company that crowdsources house party concerts, focusing on building community around art in a responsible way.

17 comments

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Photo of Khuyen Bui Gia
Team

Hey Ezra!

This is great idea! How about having an ONLINE campfire? I just took a picture from a book I really liked, Organizational Culture & Leadership by Edgar Schein about facilitating cross cultural understanding.
https://goo.gl/photos/msiVisw5WDgHtLeX6

I think you will like it. Copy Andrea Zelenak  too.

By the way have you heard of Sofarsounds.com? It's similar to your Groupmuse.

Spam
Photo of Ezra Weller
Team

Thanks! Yep, we love the Sofar peeps, we've been talking with them for a bit. What do you mean by an online campfire?

I think the trickiest things about this idea are probably 1) establishing the culture of productive suggestions--it's a limitation that I don't think can be imposed in code right now--and 2) making this thing easy and fun to use, so people will actually use it.

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Photo of Khuyen Bui Gia
Team

By online campfire I meant people gathering around (like a chat room) but instead of looking eat each other in the eyes we can look at an animation of the camp fire. It creates some psychological safety that allows people to speak without being judged.

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Photo of Andrea Zelenak
Team

So a talk or a way to get people's ideas heard comfortably? I think openideo is a small prototype of what can really happen. I think if you have people own suggestions and turn them into work or jobs if it's approved, people will more likely put in the effort if it turns into something greater and there involved.

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Photo of Khuyen Bui Gia
Team

Andrea Zelenak Yes, it's a "prop" to ease the fear of
dissenting opinions (especially in more non-confrontational cultures). A relevant example is how on a liberal campus the voice of from the conservative is often muted. It's a tool to facilitate understanding ourselves, our values and listen to others. This is more and more relevant to inter cultural teams.

I think you meant more on the "idea generation" phase. openIDEO is great for that but it wasn't designed to be a conversation space.

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