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Open Source Policy Development

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-- 18:31, 14 January 2006 (EST)Kevin Flynn This Wiki is a specification describing a Wiki-based tool for structured, collaborative policy development. The proposed tool is intended to promote thoughtful, pragmatic discussion based on verifiable factual information. In order to make discussion of the tool simpler, I will give it the temporary name of Wikifact for now. In addition to standard Wiki functionality, Wikifact will have the following special features:

  • Powerful calculation functionality
  • Transclusion of numerical data
  • A publication format for numerical data
  • A library of basic numerical data
  • Voting mechanisms

These features are described in greater detail below:

Powerful calculation functionality

This will allow arguments to be supported by "live" spreadsheet-like calculations. Different contributors will be able to modify and change the calculations, correct invalid input data and so on.

Transclusion of numerical data

This means that any number in a calculation can actually be a link to a number exposed

  • elsewhere on the same page
  • in another page of the same wiki
  • in another wiki

which in turn means that the result from one calculation can be used as input to another calculation in a completely different location. In this way it will be possible to create hierarchies and/or networks of interdependent calculations. A change in the result of one calculation will potentially change the result of many dependent calculations.

It also means that the input data to any calculation in the wiki is open to inspection. Any input number is either plain text or a transclusion. If it is a transcluded number, then clicking on it will display a page identifying its source and providing a link to the source document. If it is a plain text number, then it is either uncontroversial (there aren't many disagreements over the the value of pi, for example), or else clearly exposed as an unfounded assumption.

A publication format for numerical data

In order to enable efficient transclusion, "transcludable" numbers must be clearly identified using some form of HTML/XML markup. All results of Wikifact calculations will automatically be saved in this format, so that they are available.

A library of basic numerical data

In order for Wikifact to be useful, a wide range of basic statistical data must be available as input data. We could kick start this process by web-scraping various public information sources such as the CIA world factbook, national census bureau sites and so on, and republishing the data in our Wikifact "transclusion-ready" format. If Wikifact takes off, then others will continue this work for us.

Structuring of information, discussions and policies

Both information, debates and policies may have differing meanings depending on their scope. For instance, details on plant safety at a nuclear installation may be applicable when making local decisions about where to build a school and national decisions on energy policy.

The structuring mechanism is intended to break the information down in to manageable units while still maintaining an overall coherancy. This requires classification of info, debates and policy according to the levels they apply to (local, national, global etc.) and the areas they cover (public health, economic development, energy provision, etc.).

The same structuring mechanism can be applied to participants so that a vote on a local decision is only accessible participants with the same scope.

Voting mechanisms

These are intended to stimulate the process of discussion by allowing participants to evaluate information, crystallise the discussion in to discrete 'schools of thought' and finally decide which course of action they consider most appropriate.

They are also intended to allow users to indicate which discussions they consider most relevant and to rate other users for their ability to participate in a useful manner. Ratings can be given using a variable set of parameters. For instance accuracy, impartiality and completeness. In addition, information can be rated for it's relevancy in a certain context.

Implementation of policy

Once contributors have voted on the policies they wish to see implemented any legal form of action will be considered to bring those policies to fruition.

This can include any of the following:

  • Direct Action
  • Election of OSPD representatives to governmental or NGO bodies
  • Cooperation with or establishment of corporate entities to implement policies
  • Adhoc cooperation between members


For the time being this is a list of the users contributing to development of this system:

David Lloyd - david@cygnet.be

Kevin Flynn - kevin.flynn@broadpark.no

Dustin McGivern - dustin.mcgivern@gmail.com

External Sites

These are other systems of potential relevance:

Working systems

Vivarto - Open source. The creator seems to envisage a wholesale recreation of society. The proposals on delegated voting are very interesting.

The global democratic experiment - A very good example of what we are proposing. Lacks the wiki system for presenting information and no clear methodology for turning policy in to action.

Systems under development

MajorityVoice - Can a decent system have such a clunky website? no demo seen yet of what this software can do. The jury is still out.

Systems not reviewed yet

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This page was last modified on 20 October 2006, at 23:38.
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