Opportunity for Participant Input in E-Democracy.org’s Rules Review – Open-ended Phase One Due Sep 14

From Mick Souder, E-Democracy.org co-founder, Board member and Rules Committee Chair:


Every few years E-Democracy.org reviews the rules we ask our forum participants to abide by.  We are currently collecting input for a rules review we have scheduled to complete by the end of this year.  We invite our forum participants and moderators to submit suggestions on rules adjustments that may enhance our forums’ effectiveness.

The rules can be found at http://e-democracy.org/rules

At this time the request for input is open ended.  Later in our process the Board of Directors will decide what changes (if any) our rules committee should focus on based on the input we receive and in light of E-Democracy.org’s mission and strategic plan.

If you have any suggestions on rule changes or re-wording, please send your suggestions to committee members at – OFFICIAL COMMENT PERIOD CLOSED, use comment section below.
The suggestion should include:

1)      The specific rule that you are interested in E-Democracy.org reviewing.
2)      What change or rewording you suggest E-Democracy.org make.
3)      Why you suggest E-Democracy.org make the adjustment to the rule.

Please submit these suggestions by Tuesday 14 September 2010. You may also post copies of your submissions on the blog, but official input should go in – OFFICIAL COMMENT PERIOD CLOSED, use comment section below

Thank you.

Mick Souder
E-Democracy.Org Rules Committee, Board of Directors

Editors Note:  Our home grown rules have evolved since 1994. We uniquely use a warning and time-based suspension process for violating our rules rather than a moderate everything or delete violating posts process. These rules are not just “terms of service” that don’t matter. They give participants rights and limit our power as hosts based on our democratic ideals and mission. – Steven Clift

Please read the full rules, but here is the current summary:

Rules Summary

1. Real Names – Sign posts including your real name and city.

2. Limits on Posting – Two per member per day in most forum charters.

3. Keep Topics within Forum Purpose – Local issues on a local forum for example.

4. Be Civil – No name-calling. Respect among citizens with differing views is our cornerstone.

5. No Attacks or Threats – This keeps the forums safe. If content is illegal it will be forwarded to the proper legal authorities.

6. Private Stays Private – Don’t forward private replies without permission.

7. Avoid False Rumors – Asking for clarification of what you’ve heard in the community can be appropriate if issues-based. You alone are responsible for what you post.

8. Right to Post and Reply – Sharing your knowledge and opinions with your fellow citizens is a democratic right.

9. Items Not Allowed in Forums – No chain letters, etc.

10. Public Content and Use – You are sharing your content forever, but retain your copyright.

11. Warnings – You may receive informal or official warnings from the Forum Manager.

12. Suspension – With your second official warning in one year, you are suspended for two weeks. It goes up from there.

13. Appeals Process – You can appeal a warning(s) once you receive a third warning and six month removal. Rare appeals are not received most years.

14 thoughts on “Opportunity for Participant Input in E-Democracy.org’s Rules Review – Open-ended Phase One Due Sep 14”

  1. Rule 2 should be amended to allow a greater number of posts per day for people who use their real names.

    The current limit stifles debate and prevents momentum building behind topics. I often find it frustrating that I am unable to respond to posts because I have already made 2 contributions.


  2. I think I see a need for a clarification, not really a change, and that is to the “Private stays Private” rule.
    I agree with the rule as stated, but I think it is often misunderstood. Postings to these discussions are not private. They often come up in searches, and I think it should be clear that a posting is much like a blog entry, it is public. People should expect that their entries may be quoted and appear in other forums and even occasionally in the print media. If more people realized this, they may take more care in what they post. Posting and blogging are, (IMHO) a form of citizen journalism. This is both its strengh and a possible source of heart burn.
    We should state more clearly that these posts are public, they quoting (honestly and with context of course) is encouraged and to be expected.
    It is only the “outing” of truly private communications that is against the rules.

  3. Since Mpls is such a big city, I’d like to see people be required to identify themselves by neighborhood.

  4. The civility rules create a wall that excludes those lacking the time or practice to craft “approved” language. The forums, by design, reflect only an insider subset of the communities they serve.

    I understand the desire to avoid flame wars, but you also eliminate honesty and sincerity. Democracy must include all voices, not just the polite ones.

  5. I don’t know how to put this, but we have lost a lot of potential participants because they seem to find the thread of any issue is taken over by a regular contributor who does not express himself/herself very well. Either the contributor uses poor grammar, poor spelling or refers the “reader” to some other URL or adds a comment to another contributor’s comment that – to an observer – does nothing to further discussion on the topic – or elucidate what the topic is about. Polemic phrases do nothing to encourage other contributors to participate. Nor do big words…. So, maybe contributions that have more than say 2% spelling errors and ungrammatical sentence structure could be rejected by some electronic means. I mean, for goodness sake – we do have Spellcheck! TXTING should be banned – if you are going to “text” then say you are “going to sent a text message…..” Is that too hard? But how do we form this into s rule? I don’t know.

  6. To: rules@e-democracy.org
    Sent: Saturday, September 11, 2010 5:47 PM BST
    Subject: Re: [BH] FYI – Opportunity to Improve Forum Rules – Participant Input Requested by Sept 14

    Hi E-Democracy Rules Committee,

    In response to Steven Clift’s invitation for participant input to the E-Democracy Forum Rules, and in the format requested by Mick Souder, please may I offer the following three proposals.

    Specific Rule: 2. The restriction to two posts per day.
    Proposed Change: Remove.
    Why: It inhibits genuine participation and can impede participation in multiple simultaneous topics.

    Specific Rule: 9. Comments or complaints about forum management or complaints about member rule violations must not be posted to the main forum.
    Proposed Change: Substitute: Complaints about forum management or about member rule violations must not be posted to the main forum. Comments about forum management or rules may only be posted to the main forum if there is no parallel forum designated for that purpose.
    Why: Concerns about the workings of E-Democracy should be openly discussed by members as they arise and not have to wait months or years for a review such as this.

    Specific Rule: None yet exists on this topic.
    Proposed Change: Add rules to provide for democratic election of officials by members and accountability of officials to members.
    Why: To introduce democratic principles for the governance of the forum itself.

  7. I know that the time for suggestions is over (I was off-list at the time), so I am not going to make any more suggestions. I would just like to urge the governing board of these lists to seriously reconsider the message posting cap. In my opinion, not only does this not serve the purpose as it was explained to me, but actually works against this. The concern, as I understand it, is that a few vocal posters could somewhat hijack a discussion or a sub-forum if they are allowed to post too often. However, by limiting people’s ability to post, you discourage them from trying to inject some sense in a thread that looks like it might be heading in that direction, because they may not want to “waste” their limited posts. Only the people who are really heated up and narrowly focused will post.

    I have been off the groups for a somewhat extended period, and have just been catching up. The result are thus quite striking to me since I am seeing them at once. In six weeks worth of posts, I waded through several threads dominated by posts that could most kindly be termed disrespectful and / or really off the deep end. What makes it worse is that because activity is kept artificially one of the longest threads in the entire set of posts falls into this category.

    Just make sure I am clear – I fully agree with the other posters’ stated reasons for opposing this rule, as well.

  8. I think the moderation and rules generally work. I don’t want the forum to be nasty, and I don’t want it dominated by relatively few individuals. That said, I have, at times, seen political bias on the part of the moderators, deleting comments that they didn’t like. The comments expressed opinions, but did so within forum guidelines as far as I could tell. It seemed pretty obvious to me that the problem was that the moderator didn’t agree with the opinion. I was particularly bothered when a criticism of the Mpls DFL Convention was tagged. It was a legitimate comment, but got booted as uncivil. It wasn’t, and I’m sure many people agreed with the comment. It deserved the chance for debate.

  9. I think the moderators of the e-democracy forum generally do a good job and I would not want to see more suspensions or reprimands just because some people demand this. My general attitude is, the more free speech, the better. I don’t like people trying to silence others through manipulation of rules.

  10. Sorry, one additional comment: A possible area of rules change has to do with the scope of various forums. Some topics do apply to Minneapolis, Minnesota, and U.S. politics. It is unhelpful to be too much a stickler on keeping the discussion in the proper forum.

  11. The E-Democracy.org board is well aware of my position on the rules, specifically that providing “special moderation” of posters who deemed to have crossed the line of civility; this practice is plain and simply censorship and unnecessary if the other rules are enforced since those with multiple official warnings would be prevented from posting anyway. What happens with special is that one person is given carte blanche to decide what is civil and what is not before anyone else. The hallmark of these forums is that posters moderate themselves, and for forum managers to usurp that function invites prejudicial abuses of that and other authority in their volunteer role, something problematic for themselves, other forum members, and the organization as a whole.

    There is certainly enough censorship in the world and E-Democracy.org should not be a party to it. Policing forums when members go beyond accepted standards of decorum is fine, but standing in the way of free speech through special moderation is unacceptable; there is an accepted process for dealing with these posts that makes the point to all in ways that do not damage the integrity of the organization and individual forums.

    I’ve elected not to participate in those forums where special moderation has been imposed on me and the board has supported forum managers in these decisions. The net effect is censorship and the open and honest exchanges that we have come to expect, sometimes heated and sometimes not, are brought to a halt when you silence people in this way. Let us post and be judged by forum members as to meeting standards of civility and sanctioned for uncivil posts in the open, for no one benefits by limiting these judgements to one person.

    There was an New York Times editorial about the US Supreme Court case involving the $5 Million award against the Phelps family that was thrown out on appeal. I had a short snappy post in the paper’s online comment section for the piece that took a different tack than most, one that might have infuriated many, but was not in any way uncivil, i.e., it would have been acceptable in our US Forum:

    “Given the Citizens United decision of the Roberts court, if it is decided to undermine the First Amendment yet again here, conservatives will reap what they have sown. We can pursue slanderers and libelers who have some real money for the hurt their outrageous lies have caused; we can make these corporate persons with their new found free speech wish they had kept their mouths shut.”

    They allowed over a hundred more posts after I submitted it, so I know that it was held back; I expected it to be censored given the mindset at the New York Times editorial desk.

    I expect better of E-Democracy.org, and it is not happening anymore.

  12. FYI. Took a few hours, but the NY Times finally posted my comment, something that will never happen on the US Forum until I am off of special moderation.

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