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A New Opinion Poll Feature

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The ICC is currently ratifying an update to the IOPS interim decision making process that will include polling interim members on any needed and controversial decisions during the interim period (http://www.iopsociety.org/blog/a-compromise-way-to-proceed).

If adopted, we will need to add a new opinion poll feature to the site. Below I outline some thoughts on the requirements of the feautre. I would like to know any feedback or suggestions you may have before implementing it on the site.

Creating a Poll

- Any Interim Member can create a poll.
- The user enters in the following fields:
  * poll title
  * start date
  * end date
  * poll description
  * voting options
  * which chapter to post poll in (the creator can select only one chapter to post the poll in)

Viewing and Voting on Polls

- The polls are displayed on a new 'Polls' page for the relevant chapter
- The latest polls are also displayed on the Home Page
- Any user of the site can view a poll and the results
- On the polls page, the polls are displayed in order by date
- The results are displayed as number of votes for each option and as a graphical bar chart.
- The user can filter between 'All', 'Open' and 'Closed' Polls
- Any interim member can comment on a poll
- Only interim members for the chapter the poll is displayed in can vote on the polls
- Only Open polls can be voted on
- Polls become Closed once the end date has passed
- Voters can change their vote whilst the poll is still open
- Voters can view a record for which option they voted for

Discussion 42 Comments

  • Lambert Meertens 10th Jan 2013

    I may be wise to put some limit on how often a member can start a poll. For example: when two polls created by a member are still open, the same member cannot start a third poll.

    Poll creators will be well-advised to allow some discussion on the phrasing of the poll questions before the poll opens, possibly leading to a revision or even cancellation of the poll. I think the feature should, accordingly, allow revision or cancellation between creation time and start date.

    • Jason Chrysostomou 10th Jan 2013

      Putting some kind of limits on poll creation sounds sensible. max of 2 or even 1 open poll at any one time per member is interesting. Perhaps a chapter admin has to approve a poll? Any other ideas?

      Agreed with the option for the creator to edit or cancel the poll before end date.

    • Lambert Meertens 10th Jan 2013

      Once the poll is open, it should not be edited any more, as this could cause responses given already to take on another meaning than intended by the respondents. The window in which the creator can edit the poll should close when the poll opens.

      I'm not keen on giving chapter admins more power than they have already. If things should really threaten to get out of hand, we can see what mechanism can be designed to keep the situation manageable.

      In many online polls intermediate results before the poll closes are hidden, except that someone casting a vote gets to see a snapshot of the results afterwards. If voters can change their votes as long as the poll is open, presenting such snapshots would be almost equivalent to continuous visibility of intermediate results, which may be undesirable – for one thing, it might give rise to last-minute canvassing attempts. So perhaps the rule should be that the results are kept hidden to everyone (including the creator) until the poll is closed.

  • Gerry Conroy 10th Jan 2013

    * which chapter to post poll in (the creator can select only one chapter to post the poll in)

    - Only interim members for the chapter the poll is displayed in can vote on the polls

    I might be missing something but it seems from the above that this only makes provision for polls within a chapter? I'm not seeing how polls for the whole organisation, such as the proposed convention pre-conditions poll, are able to take place. Or how about polls for a national branch or a region with shared characteristics, relevant to the questions of a particular poll?

    • Lambert Meertens 10th Jan 2013

      I think that for the purpose of describing the functioning of the site, all levels in the hierarchical tree with local chapters at its leaves are called "chapters", including the national chapters and the one international top-level chapter ("chapter Earth"). In the current set-up many features are strictly chapter-based and cannot be applied to regions that cross chapter boundaries – for example, the only way to have a project covering both Israel and Palestine, is to set it up at the top level, which then means that also New Zealand is included. That should perhaps change, but it may not be the most urgent current issue.

    • Jason Chrysostomou 11th Jan 2013

      Lambert - that's an interesting side issue to explore. Maybe it would make more sense to remove projects as a sub chapter page as it is now, and have two main tabs: 'chapters' and 'projects', and give both chapter and projects pages the same full array of features. It means some re-organisation of the site hierarchy. Perhaps we could discuss that in another blog or somewhere else?

    • Jason Chrysostomou 11th Jan 2013

      Hi Gerry - when I say chapter, I mean at any level, local, regional, national or international.

      So for example, when you create a poll, you will have the choice to post it in Maringa, Estado do Parana, Brazil or International. If say you post it in Brazil, because you think the issue only affects members in Brazil then only members in Brazil will be able to vote in the poll.

  • Johannes 11th Jan 2013

    I think the creator should be able to choose whether or not the poll options are exclusive (for example can you vote only «either a or b» or could you also vote «a and b»).

    I think not showing the intermediate results is a good idea.

    I strongly disagree that «a chapter admin has to approve a poll». I think no one should have any influence of that kind on the creation of polls. Also, why does «Putting some kind of limits on poll creation» sound «sensible»? We don't have any kind of limits in that sense on blog posts or projects and so on and I don't see any problem there. If – and only if – a real problem occurs, we can still put some limits (on which everyone involved agrees) in place.

    • Jason Chrysostomou 11th Jan 2013

      The only reason I suggest some limits or some kind of moderation on poll creation is because I think there could be a flood of too many polls being created that may drown out the important ones, and also that polls may be created on issues that violate IOPS interim commitments on issues that are not to be decided during interim period. For example, someone creates a poll proposing a change to the vision statement or something. Perhaps you are right that it's better to just have it open for now and have admin moderation that take down polls that violate commitments. I'm just opening it up for discussion. At the moment the draft feature requirements do not have any limits. What do others think?

    • Lambert Meertens 11th Jan 2013

      In the interim phase all polls should be non-binding straw polls, unless explicitly sanctioned by the ICC for reaching a decision on a pressing issue. A poll proposing a change to the vision statement would simply gauge the opinion among the membership; its outcome would not change the commitments. Such opinion polls may be useful in the run up to the convention for weeding out proposals in an early stage that don't have a chance of being accepted.

    • Jason Chrysostomou 14th Jan 2013

      yes, makes sense. So perhaps any official ICC formal polls can be highlighted in some way so it's clear to users and also sent in a newsletter.

    • Kuan Phillips 11th Jan 2013

      Hey Jason. Thanks for the opportunity to participate on this. Sorry I didn't reply to your comment to me on my last blog, and thanks very much for posting it.

      What we might do on this poll business, is limit ourselves to one poll, say, per month. Have a Poll Proposal discussion thread where members can post proposed poll questions, and support the proposals of others. At the end of each month the question with the most supporters gets put to the members. If monthly turns out to be too frequent or infrequent we can change that.

    • Jason Chrysostomou 14th Jan 2013

      It's a good idea. I like the idea of using quorums - where you need to get enough support first before a proposed poll goes ahead - I think this should be used at some point, but I'm just thinking for the time being, for the interim period, since this is essentially an opinion poll facility, and only some of the polls ratified by the ICC will be on formal interim decisions, maybe it's best to keep it simple for now and just have it open so anyone can just create an opinion poll and we add some usage guidelines (e.g no polls that violate interim commitments, if you want a formal vote on an issue submit to ICC, etc.)? and then leave the other issues such as use of quorum till the founding convention when final decision making processes will be determined more precisely.

    • Gregory VanGaya 12th Jan 2013

      I think being able to have some kind of Borda or Range voting would be key: i.e., the voter gets a value of 100 and can attribute 65 to (a) and 35 to (b), and then note what parts of the various options they like. This way you don't get whoever takes the initiative and can manage to game the order of development then being able to herd responses into the spectrum of answer they're looking for. If you can choose some of one option and some of another, or, even allow a standard none of the above option (and then we say something like over one third choosing none of the above means the poll is poorly designed/framed), then it seems more assured of being a process refined by discourse.
      Also, I agree that polls should not have to go through a chapter leader, as all of Canada is now admined by a fairly liberal social democrat for example!

    • Jason Chrysostomou 14th Jan 2013

      Okay, lets dismiss the idea of the chapter admin approving a poll. That does not seem to be popular. We keep poll creation open to any members and attach some guidelines.

      Scoring or weighting votes is also a good idea, along with Kuan's suggesting of adding a quorum, but I'm just thinking at the moment that it might be best to start off with keeping simple, so that it is adequate to gauge membership opinions on issues, and we refine it to make it more sophisticated later on, leaving the more intricate decisions on exact voting mechanisms till the founding convention.

    • Kuan Phillips 14th Jan 2013

      Hi Jason. Thanks for your reply. Firstly, on a slightly pedantic note perhaps, I don't think what I'm suggesting would be called a quorum. That would be if, say 10 supporters were required for there to be a poll. What I'm saying is that the proposal with the most supporters each month is put forward, whether it has 2 supporters or 200.

      Maybe a system where anyone can post a poll will work fine - I don't know how many polls people will post. But what I'm worried about, though, is that if we end up with a different poll every other day, members are going to vote in very low numbers, and then maybe pick questions that they have strong feelings about - which will lead to useless data on most polls. Presumably your aim is to get useful info out of these polls, whether we're in a period when we're deliberately avoiding key decision-making at the international level or not. One poll a month, I thought would give us a reasonable chance of a larger, more representitive turnout for each poll.

      When you say "keep it simple" are you suggesting that my proposal is too complicated? It seems dead simple to me, and the sort of thing we need if we are to give ordinary members a proper say in the organisation that affects them.

    • Jason Chrysostomou 15th Jan 2013

      I see what you mean now. It still works on the basis of a poll requiring some level of support from other members to go ahead. Whether it is by requiring a percentage of membership, or, as you propose, obtaining more support relative to other poll proposals, it would still mean programming extra functionality to achieve this. That's what I meant when I said 'keep it simple'; for now to allow anyone to create a poll without first having to obtain support.

      I totally share your concern though about if too many trivial polls are created lowering overall participation. I just think we could see how it goes for now with the more straight forward process first before making modifications. We could always bring to attention to members the most important polls or formal votes by highlighting them in newsletters or something.

    • Kuan Phillips 16th Jan 2013

      Hi mate. We can propose poll questions and support the proposals of others on a forum thread, as I said above, there's no need to have any special technology. It is possible, as you suggest that we allow anyone to make polls but we highlight one each month or two, by putting it on the homepage or in a newsletter. As long as we realise that the person who gets to pick which one gets highlighted is in a position of power, so we don't want someone to have a monopoly on this over time, then it might be fine. I prefer my first suggestion though.

  • Dave Jones 11th Jan 2013

    I think in the spirit of self-management we see how well we do at self-limiting numbers of polls, frivolous polls or those beyond the scope of "interim". We can use admins. to regulate/ moderate if things do get out of hand.

    • Jason Chrysostomou 14th Jan 2013

      I agree, this seems the best option to start with and see how we go.

    • Kuan Phillips 16th Jan 2013

      Hi Dave. Hope you're good. Suppose I'm right that a lot of polls being posted, say one every 2 or 3 days, will result in each one producing very few voters and so not be very useful (I could be wrong of course, as it's extremely hard to predict how many polls people will post). Anyway, supposing for argument's sake I'm right, isn't it ok as far as self managment is concerned for us to prohibit all but the most popular one each month from being posted? I mean, self management means the affected make decisions, so if the polling thing becomes a bit useless because too many are posting, then we're all affected, so we can all decide to limit it to the most popular one. That's how I see it anyway.

  • Brad-Lee Nichols 13th Jan 2013

    I also strongly support hiding results until the poll closes.

    I wouldn't go too buck wild on adding poll features just yet. I'd go with a solid base and see how things go first.

    • Jason Chrysostomou 14th Jan 2013

      Yes, I agree with keeping the poll facility quite simple for now, and in the future we can always refine it. On hiding poll results, see my comment below.

  • Jason Chrysostomou 14th Jan 2013

    @Johannes and Brad-Lee

    What are your reasons for hiding results until the poll closes?

    I understand that knowing how others are voting may influence your vote, but is that necessarily a bad thing? I personally would prefer that. I'd really like to know more opinions on this, please.

    • Pontus Proteus 14th Jan 2013

      I agree with you Jason, really don't understand the point of private voting.

    • Lambert Meertens 15th Jan 2013

      Quote from Pontus Proteus:

       "I agree with you Jason, really don't understand the point of private voting."

      Do you mean anonymous voting? That is an independent issue.

      Above I've given a rationale for not disclosing intermediate results. If they are visible and show the result is going to be a close call, this may tempt members who feel a strong preference for a specific outcome to mount frantic last-minute canvassing campaigns urging other members who are thought to have a like preference to cast their votes. I would consider that undesirable.

    • Pontus Proteus 15th Jan 2013

      "I would consider that undesirable."

      I wouldn't. I don't have to listen to them. And some people are going to campaign regardless.

      "Do you mean anonymous voting?"

      I mean anonymous anything when it comes to polls. Don't do or say what you can't represent.

    • Lambert Meertens 15th Jan 2013

      Campaigning by itself is OK. It's selectively alerting members to a poll that is troublesome (in my opinion).

      Generally I'm in favour of transparency. But if votes are visible, voters might be intimidated and vote differently to what they'd like to vote out of fear for retaliation or other forms of backlash. Therefore, in the interest of everyone's right to participate freely in decision making, we should have secret general ballots. (It's a different matter for mandated delegates; in the interest of accountability their voting must be transparent.)

    • Pontus Proteus 15th Jan 2013

      I get what you're saying Lambert. Intimidation (I think) is a big factor in peoplenot piling into debates here or posting on ZSocial yet. But what kind of backlash? I mean aren't we often choosing between puppies and kittens here?

    • Lambert Meertens 16th Jan 2013

      Choosing between puppies and kittens... for feeding someone's pet snake? It has always appeared to me that the closer two Left tendencies are, the more acrimonious the fight between them gets. People can be afraid of being ostracized if they aren't seen as being in line with the viewpoint that is considered correct by the dominant group. Don't think that that can't happen here, because it can happen everywhere.

    • Pontus Proteus 16th Jan 2013

      Well I suspect you are more experienced than me, but I can't imagine much more serious than the usual webtardery and verbal kung fu. Perhaps that alone is enough to justify optional anonymity. Pity.

    • Johannes 16th Jan 2013

      One issue is that of influence/pressure another is that of anonymity. Well, it's not like we're the first people thinking about how voting should work. In Austria standards include: everyone can vote, every vote counts the same, everyone votes directly (no such thing as an Electoral College), who votes for what is a secret and everyone votes freely without any pressure. Guaranteeing those standards seems to support democracy well, so I would say we stick with that.

      Also, note that no one is prohibited from stating his or her choice. If you want to tell everyone what you voted for, if you want to influence people, you can do so in the comments to the poll. I'm okay with that but it certainly shouldn't be the rule that everyones choice is immediatly transparent to everyone else. Furthermore, even if we would show the results anonymously, chances are people could work out who voted for what, maybe based on when someone wrote a comment or something. I'd rather make sure none of that happens. I certainly don't see any downside to hiding the results until the poll closes. You could also ask other people if you really need to know their opinion. And again, everyone who specifically wants to tell everybody else what he or she voted for and influence people with that can do so without any restriction.

    • Gregory VanGaya 16th Jan 2013

      I don't think everyone's vote should be weighted the same. That goes against our values. If I'm a mum with 5 kids and the issue is child care in my neighbourhood, then my vote is worth 5 whereas the eighteen year old boy thinking about childcare work, gets a 0.7 vote weighting.

    • Johannes 16th Jan 2013

      True. I, of course, agree with the idea of say proportionate to stake (SPS). When I wrote that down I was more thinking along the lines of your vote isn't automatically more or less valuable just because of, say the color of your skin, your gender or your age. So, yes to SPS but no to discrimination.

    • Kuan Phillips 16th Jan 2013

      I think the issue of secret ballots is really fascinating, and I'm really glad you raised it Brad-Lee. Interesting comments by everyone as usual.

      Personally my view of how big decisions would be made in my ideal society, is that we'd have deliberation (possibly compulsory!) ending up in a secret ballot. It's a slightly strange mix, as it's pretty obvious from what people say in the deliberation how they'll vote. But for reasons similar to Lambert's - to avoid intimidation, informal heirarchies etc. - I'd rather have people vote secretly.

      Anyway, when it come's to IOPS, though, I prefer voting and submitting poll answers to be public. I say this because if it's secret it's easier for an admin or someone with computer knowledge to cheat the result. In fact, I'd rather the whole poll to just be a forum where people type "agree" or "disagree" and whatever else they want, and no dedicated polling feature. Counting up the numbers is hardly difficult. I'd rather it all be transparent and open to the scrutiny of all members.

      I agree that some people might toe the popular line to try to be popular, but my judgment (which might be absolutely wrong!) is that on forums like this we're more worried about saying what we really think than being popular (with people we don't know in real life anyway).

      I agree with the Austrian standards very much, by the way Johannes. Thanks for posting that.

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  • Gregory VanGaya 14th Jan 2013

    I have 10 pages written about private voting in the context of Say Proportionate to Stake (SPS). It's not entirely germaine at this point, as we won't have SPS for a while, but I would like people to read it all the same, as I hope we all agree that we need to plan for it.

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