Parliamentary procedure is a family of procedures for group decision making; the goal is for the group to generate CollectiveSpeech in a fair and deliberative fashion. Parliamentary procedure provides mechanisms for group members to propose CollectiveSpeech, and for the group to discuss, amend, and vote on the proposals.

Parliamentary procedure is one kind of DeliberativeGroupDecisionMakingProcedure.

The principals/goals of formal parliamentary procedure systems such as RobertsRules are:

Comparison to wiki

It may be helpful to compare the above principals to the GroupDecisionMakingProcedure? used in the WikiWay WikiProcess. Here we are considering only cases where the community clearly needs to make a group decision; for example, the institution of a rule such as UseRealNames.

Parliamentary procedureWikiWay
Formal Informal
Majority vote Rough consensus
Minorities have a chance to speak See below
Defenses against loopholes or tricks SoftSecurity, not HardSecurity; no formal rules to abuse
Discussion is serial Discussion is massively parallel
Protect rights of absent members No protection of absent members
Does not rely on social cohension Totally dependent on social cohension
Escape valve to suspend formal rules (no formal rules to suspend)

More notes:

Formal vs informal. Informal is clearly quicker as well as less intimidating and easier to learn. However, it is unclear when a decision has been made on a wiki, and exactly what that decision is.

Minority viewpoints. On the one hand, wikis are more supportive of minority viewpoints because the procedure provides no way short of ejecting participants from closing discussion on a topic; the majority can keep deleting the text of minorities, but the minority is permitted to keep posting. So this is not as repressive as formally closing discussion in ParliamentaryProcedure, after which point it becomes illegal for anyone to keep discussing the issue (without obtaining the majority’s permission). On the other hand, though, minorities can be socially dissuaded from speaking out more easily than in parliamentary procedure; on a wiki, someone might feel that they are being a bother by disagreeing with the majority opinon, and other people are free to tell them to shut up. In parliamentary procedure, the procedure explicitly permits/encourages minorities to speak out during the appointed discussion period; publically applying social pressure to get someone to shut up when it’s their turn to speak would be a breach of decorum (I think) and could be stopped by the chair.

It is also notable that in RobertsRules, any individual is only permitted to speak twice on a particular motion. This provides another mechanism to shut people up, but a nondiscriminatory one (unlike wikis, where minority viewpoints are more likely to feel pressure to be silent).

Finally, the massive parallelism of wikis makes it harder for minorities to get a fair hearing. In parliamentary procedure, only one person is talking at a time, so when minorities are speaking, they have a captive audience. In wikis, it is easy for someone to just not read text that they don’t want to read.

Serial vs. Massively parallel. The massive parallelism of wiki has obvious advantages; more work can be done at once; individuals don’t have to spend time listening to things they don’t care about; there is space for different viewpoints to be expressed; much of the complexity of parliamentary procedure is due to the need to serialize/schedule discussion, and this complexity is avoided. However, for the purpose of decision-making, there are also disadvantages. Above, we already discussed how minority viewpoints may simply not get read. Another problem is that people may not even be aware that a decision is being made. It’s easy to look through tons of pages on RecentChanges and not realize that one particular page contains an important discussion of some group decision which is being made.

Voting vs. rough consensus. It should be mentioned that one disadvantage of rough consensus is assessing the degree of consensus. It is unclear HowToInterpretSilenceOnWikis?1. Sometimes, almost all of a group may agree with one side of a decision, but just by reading the ThreadMode, you might think that it was 60%/40%.



My opinion is that for the purpose of making binding group decisions (but not for collaborative writing/discussion), a formal ParliamentaryProcedure is better than the WikiWay. However, I don’t think that ParliamentaryProcedure needs to be or should be RobertsRules, or anything that complex. Someday I am planning to work on a simple ParliamentaryProcedure appropriate for wikis. I am hoping that the Parliament project, by formalizing parliamentary procedure in a way that a computer can understand, will provide a platform for experimenting with simplified, parallelized, online parliamentary procedure.

One way to formalize decisions is with ConsensusPolling.


1. I think we had a page on that? But I forgot the name

Define external redirect: HowToInterpretSilenceOnWikis GroupDecisionMakingProcedure

EditNearLinks: ConsensusPolling HardSecurity