Conference that was held May 20-22, 2005.

Report on the conference by BayleShanks

ok, i've been back from the Online Deliberation 2005 conference, and I finally managed to write up this short 'report' for CommunityWiki. For me personally, it was fun, and I met some cool people and saw some interesting projects. Also, my friend Dana and I met some people who we may be able to collaborate with on our meeting systems software project. Below, I'll highlight some stuff that was there that CommunityWiki might be interested in, and then at the bottom there's a list of specific things that in theory should remind me of information to add to communitywiki.


PerlNomic? is an online community website running Perl CGI where the community members can suggest patches to the Perl code (or even code to be executed immediately), and those patches can be voted on by other members. If a patch is voted in, it is immediately, automatically applied. Check out the site. I also recommend reading the paper.

This is especially interesting to me because of the similarities to CommunityProgrammableWiki.


If one software tool stood out for me at the CMU 2003 deliberation conference, it was Vivarto's NetConference? Plus (which, sadly, is now down for a complete rewrite as an add-on to… TikiWiki?!?). At this conference, it was CivicEvolution?. Take a look at the screenshot in the paper, and the sneak preview on the website.

Unfortunately, unlike NetConference? Plus, which was open source, CivicEvolution? is not.

Netconference Plus update

By the way, what happened to Vivarto and NetConference? Plus? According to this, the decision to open source the software caused a big fight with the management and the company went bankrupt as a result. After this, a nonprofit was founded to carry on development. However, they decided to rewrite the system from scratch for technical reasons – the new system will be based on TikiWiki and is called Nornorna. As far as I can tell, it's not ready yet. You can still see the demo from the old NetConference? Plus here, although most of the screenshots are gone.

I have a copy of the old Netconference Plus source around here somewhere, but it was a pain to install and I never did get it running.

Parliamentary Procedure

My friend Dana and I presented our Python module, Parliament, to help developers of formal meeting software, as well as our Robert's Rules assistant

which sits on your laptop and helps you out during a meeting governed by Robert's Rules. There were a couple of similar projects.

Doug Schuler presented e-liberate, a PHP web meeting system that supports running a formal meeting online. Looks neat – see this example. It does agenda management, generates minutes, etc. It does not yet support complex rules such as which motions have precedence over which others, etc. E-liberate will be open source sometime in the future, but isn't yet.

Gunnar Ristroph presented Burgess, a refreshingly simple Python web meeting system that maintains a queue of proposals and allows members of an organization to vote on and comment upon those proposals. Burgess will be open source.

Dana, Doug, Gunnar and I ran a workshop on parliamentary procedure software.

Case studies of wikis and/or communities

Kate Raynes-Goldie and David Fono presented a great paper called Wiki Use by Political Parties: A Case Study. It described how the Canada's Green Party used a wiki to write its platform, and interviewed some Green Party staff about it afterwards.

Gunnar Ristroph presented a great talk called Case Studies of Online Deliberation: The Debian Project and Wikipedia. The slides/outline (with hyperlinks) is here. Gunnar explained the governance structures of these two large projects.

Jill Coffin presented a great paper called Transfer of open source principles to diverse collaborative communities (I missed the talk). She makes a list of traits often found in open-source communities:

And then examines other communities with some of these traits, including WikiPedia, Burning Man, and ThinkCycle?.

Peter Thoeny gave a talk on how Twiki can be used to support an online community of software developers.

Argument mapping

Ka-Ping Yee presented a paper by himself and Marti Hearst (at least, I think he presented it, I missed that talk) on a new argument mapping technique.

Rather than forcing participants to use special software, their system watches an email list and then produces a map (although there is a special syntax that people on the list can use; for instance, if they reply to a message and start their reply with "[+]", it means, "i agree").

I'm halfway through the paper. One great part is the literature review on the first 2 pages; you should definitely check that part out if you're interested in ArgumentMaps or in TypedThreadedDiscussion.

SylvieBourguet, here on CommunityWiki, pointed out a website where you can see this kind of visualization system in use.

David Fono and Ronald Baecker gave a talk, which I unfortunately missed, on a tool they invented to organize and archive online chats.

Matthew Easterday gave a talk on the ILogos software.

Also, Robert Horn was at the conference, as he was at the 2003 one, and at one time suddenly a large stack of sets of the complete 7-map set of argumentation maps for "Can computers think?" appeared on the registration desk with a note that said they were free!!! Ha ha ha! You all should have come. Guess what's going up on my desk, and around my desk, and on the ceiling at work! (j/k.. i think the ceiling's a bit of a stretch, but maybe i'll put them up around my desk).

(Typed) threaded discussions

Raymond Pingree presented a very interesting paper which did a sociological study comparing a typed threaded discussion with an unthreaded discussion (by unthreaded I mean that user comments to a topic did not generate subthreads; much like our non-indented color-separated comments here on CommunityWiki), and showed that the typed threaded discussion gave better results.

Also, there was a workshop on XML formats for encoding deliberations. The workshop has spawned a mailing list.

Deliberative polling

There was a lot of discussion about "deliberative polling", an idea which combines a jury and a poll. The idea is, "the people" in a democracy don't have time to consider every issue. But what you want the government to do is to do what the people would want if they had time to think about it and talk it over with people on the other side of the issue.

Polls are a methodology to efficiently determine what the people think about something by using random sampling. But when you poll people, they don't have time to think about the questions or to discuss the issues with the opposing camps.

Juries are a methodology to allow a small number of people to really think deeply about an issue and resolve differences with opposing camps.

So, deliberative polling combines these two; take a random sample of people, have them meet, listen to evidence, and talk to each other like a jury, and then ask them to give recommendations as a group on what should be done about some political issue. The recommendations could then be presented to the legislature for potential adoption.

Sociology of online discussion

There were a number of sociological studies of online discussions presented. One of them was Cliff Lampe's paper about political discussion on SlashDot (I'm about a quarter through it). Another one was Matthias Trenel's paper on the effect of facilitators on online discussion.

Jennifer Stromer-Galley presented a paper on a methodology to formally evaluate an online deliberation

There were also some case studies (in addition to the ones mentioned above), for example Scott Wright's discussion of accusations of government censorship on a British discussion board, Gilly Leshed's paper on the effect on anonymity on a corporate online community.

Matthias Trenel presented a study showing the effects of facilitation on online deliberation.

One question about online deliberation is whether the internet will encourage people to segment themselves into isolated communities of like-minded people; if so, this could actually be worse for democracy than having no internet. There were at least three papers on this topic 1 2 3.

Aside from Cliff's paper, which I'm in the middle of, I haven't had time yet to read the other papers in this section.


VERN is a system to allow a group to choose a meeting time without any central authority to send out emails saying, "ok, how about times A, B, or C? is that good for everyone?". See also the talk abstract.

Jane Finnerup Johnsen and Derrick Cogburn talked about an online Collaboratory that they're setting up for the United Nations sponsored World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).

I've already mentioned the Deme project here.

Related organizations, conferences, mailing lists

The conference website includes the conference weblog and an online repository of many of the submitted papers.
The conference attendees created the International Society for Online Deliberation (ISOD). We're exploring a possible relationship with Online Deliberative Democracy Consortium and/or other organizations. We're planning to have another conference in 2007.
1st International Conference on Computational Models of Argument (COMMA06)
Yahoo group for deliberation research
This may be incorporated into ISOD.
Electronic Chapter of The American Institute of Parliamentarians (eAIP)
I asked Kate Raynes-Goldie and Cliff Lampe which conferences/organizations I should keep track of/publish at for academic research related to online communities. The answer was AOIR, which I already knew about; but this confirms its canonical status.

List of stuff to add to other places in CommunityWiki


Awesome write-up! If I have the time during summer break, I will have to read some of these papers. Thanks a lot, Bayle.

Thank you, Bayle. It was such a pleasure to get a comprehensive over-view, that its started me thinking about this subject once again after a 3 month hiatus. Now all I have to do is find the time to reveiw the many references you provided.


Define external redirect: CivicEvolution ThinkCycle DeliberativePoll PerlNomic NetConference

EditNearLinks: SlashDot TikiWiki