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A blueprint proposal for Libervis 2008

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memenode's picture
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A new year is exactly two months away. Traditionally, time will soon be ripe for looking back and then looking forward into the future we can improve with what we learned in the past.

Libervis.com was from the very beginning envisioned as nothing less than completely open and welcoming discussion portal. It's topic was from the beginning nothing less than freedom in a digital world. As such it was never meant to be a propaganda publication, a ghetto, an advocate site. However as its evolution was also an evolution of those who make up the community that keeps this place alive, a full and truest realization of the above fundamental principles was by far not realized immediately, and looking at it right now, perhaps not even today. And personally, this evolution has led me to the conclusion I wouldn't have stated even maybe few days ago:

Libervis.com should not be an advocacy site

I have come to believe that a character of "advocacy" ultimately ends up contradicting the character of "true openness" when it comes to multi-human entity like.. an online community. As long as you brand a community as an advocate of something you set it up for becoming fairly single minded. It is not just a community gathered around an interest for a particular topic, but rather a community gathered around a particular agenda

Topic vs. agenda. Which shall Libervis.com follow? Topic is neutral. It is a subject of discussion, an open discourse that can leave participants with various differing even if sometimes similar conclusions. Agenda on the other hand is not as forgiving. It forces a certain conclusion and easily falls prey to the temptation of using ANY argument thinkable to achieve its ends. A single individual may allow him/her self to have an agenda, but not an online community which brands itself as "truly open and welcoming".

In other words, a "truly open and welcoming" community with an agenda is a contradiction. And THAT is what Libervis.com largely is today.

And changing that fact is at the core of the blueprint proposal for the next revision of Libervis.com!

A plan:

Blog and forums on homepage

A new Libervis.com will have two core sections: a multi-user blog and forums, both of which will be prominently displayed on homepage. The only difference between the two is the form. Blog will contain full essays and articles whereas forums will contain a more loose form of discussions.

This is different from current Libervis.com in that forum topics haven't been getting as much attention on the homepage and the articles section was not called a multi-user "blog". It marks a shift from a traditional to a more open form of participation. Articles submitted to the blog will have a more liberal approach to approval. Instead of only admins being able to approve new content it will enter into a public queue for review before publishing to the main blog and homepage.

Alternatively we could ditch the articles section entirely (basically put it into an archive) and have ONLY forums. Remember how some people post full articles in forums? They all go to homepage anyway and can be read and commented just as fine as any article, as well as submitted to other sites. We simply blur the line between "forums" and "blogs". Eye

If we go down that line we could still retain an articles section for the most exceptional posts that are usually called "papers" and "essays" to mark them as special. Everything else is a forum/blog. Smiling

Remove bias from forum categories

Some of our forum categories currently clearly promote a particular "term", like Free Software, which ends up inviting only people who support Free Software to the discussion. We, however, want everyone to discuss on the relation between software and freedom, not just FSF supporters.. Such a forum would better be renamed into "Freedom with Software". The Free Culture forum may be renamed into "Freedom with Culture" etc. The idea is to keep the categories signify a topic rather than an agenda being advocated so as to encourage everyone to participate, not just sympathizers.

Libervis.com will cease to have an official opinion, radically

We will go as far as conceivably possible to erase every implication of an opinion posted on Libervis.com reflecting the official "opinion" of Libervis.com as a whole. It will be loudly stated that what site owner and moderators say does not represent the general view of the Libervis community leaving their "higher" role of merely technical nature.

Libervis.com ceases to be an advocacy community! Libervis.com ceases to have an agenda! Finally, Libervis.com becomes a true embodiment of freedom of speech and expression. The only limitation to an opinion is one imposed by the topic, meaning it wont publish articles and posts about tooth brushing if tooth brushing doesn't have anything relevant to do with digital freedom. That topic is the only constraint remaining. Agenda, however, is erased from the collective and kept for collective's individuals only.

Technically, this will mean making posts display the username of the poster much more prominently than it is now, signifying that it is him who presents this opinion, not the official site.

Featured news will cease to have a spotlight

The biggest value of "featured news" section was in (1) having the homepage updated more frequently and (2) conveniently informing the community about some of the issues relevant to sites topic.

However, the first will be resolved by putting latest forum topics on the homepage and the second can still be achieved by either allowing people to just post a topic with a link to a news story or keeping the featured news section around, just not on the spotlight, perhaps as part of the links section under the "news" tag.

Ongoing campaign of promoting this site as agenda-less and opinion-less

We will feature a note below all high profile articles saying that the article reflects the opinion of the poster not because the opinion of the official Libervis.com "staff" differs, but because Libervis.com is an entity that does not have an opinion on anything except that freedom of speech must flow. A note may link to an article briefly explaining this principle.

-- Further on we might consider changing a slogan to the one more clearly reflecting this new agenda-less attitude. However since the current slogan, "digital freedom community" doesn't contradict the fact that the *topic* of Libervis.com is digital freedom and that we have a community of people *discussing it* not *all agreeing with each other*, I don't make this a concrete proposal. We can, however, have various slogans for our banners and promotional materials.

In essence, the way I envision it today, Libervis.com ceases to be an institution that promotes digital freedom as Free Software, Free Culture, Creative Commons or any other set idea or ideology, but rather "digital freedom" as a topic which has to be discussed openly.

Now, someone may ask.. what the heck.. does this mean Libervis.com suddenly stops promoting Free Software and hence cares less about freedom? Well, I'll tell you this. The very implication in that question that not supporting Free Software means being against freedom reveals the one asking that question as someone who wants Libervis.com to preach his agenda rather than let EVERYONE have a say in a REAL discussion, not preaching!

Enough said. It's your turn. First of all I thank you for reading this far and now invite you to post your opinions. Feel free to brainstorm on a general theme laid out as well! Eye

Cheers

How about a site that doesn't have an agenda?

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Daniel Memenode signature

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From "The Digital Freedom

From "The Digital Freedom Community" to "The Digital Freedom Debate", right?

I like the concept, but how connected it it to reality? In my opinion libervis.com has never been anything else than a discussion site, not pro- or anti- anything except pro-freedom as an abstract concept. An open discussion site about freedom logically can't be against or neutral towards freedom, that would be self-destructive.

Then what's with all those regular posters with similar opinions? I would expect that those with different sorts of opinions simply don't feel as attracted to participating in a discussion forum they don't own - it would be against or at least not encouraged by their principles.

So I'm afraid it can't be helped the libervis.com participants will always have somewhat similar opinions. They will all like things they believe to enable freedom - but they may disagree about what works and what doesn't, and we do see that happening every once in a while (like in this post! Smiling ).

And the preaching thing... isn't everyone who publishes their opinion preaching? A discussion site without preaching would be empty. But of course you mean the site itself not preaching but the participants doing so. How can that be done except by the owner and moderators not voicing any opinions anymore? Even if you clearly state it is their opinion and not that of the site, the line is blurry. When one talks about the opinion of libervis.com, one means the average opinion of the people posting to the site. The website itself doesn't have an opinion, it's just software and data on a server.

Thinking through everything again, it seems that what you really want is a more diverse community. But the people coming to libervis.com now are exactly the type that is attracted to a site that promises to offer truly free and open minded discussion. If you want to attract different types, you have to shift the focus from "open discussion about freedom" to something else. That would be a self-defeating move. Better launch another sister site with a related but less political/philosophical topic. Nuxified is doing that perfectly, so would mobiliberty if only people actually wanted to talk about free mobile computing.

Some other things that didn't fit nicely in the above but that I do want to say:

Being neutral towards free software isn't against freedom, but being against it is. Of course disliking it and therefore not using it is not against freedom, but writing an article arguing it should be eradicated is, because with less or no free software there will be less freedom of choice in software. Being against others doing something that doesn't take away anyones freedom is against freedom.

End of rant.

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tbuitenh wrote: From "The
tbuitenh wrote:

From "The Digital Freedom Community" to "The Digital Freedom Debate", right?

That's a nice way of summarizing it. Smiling

tbuitenh wrote:

In my opinion libervis.com has never been anything else than a discussion site, not pro- or anti- anything except pro-freedom as an abstract concept.

This may be true, at least to a point, but it doesn't show on the outside, and that's the whole problem. In this community as it currently is I'd bet most if not all people would agree that everyone should be welcome to express their opinion here no matter how different and opposing it may be to their own, but when someone comes to Libervis.com without going through all the long posts written here to get to know the spirit of this community they will very easily and quickly conclude it's an advocacy site rather than a discussion site, thatc ommunity discussing here are mostly people agreeing with that particular message being advocated and merely discussing details or particular events and issues that come and go.

So the plan laid out is not really about changing the way this community thinks, it's not about making you, me, democrates, reptiler, kdean06 etc. more open. It is about making it more obvious in site's overall presentation that we are open and that this site is not just about advocating a certain way.

tbuitenh wrote:

So I'm afraid it can't be helped the libervis.com participants will always have somewhat similar opinions. They will all like things they believe to enable freedom - but they may disagree about what works and what doesn't, and we do see that happening every once in a while

That may be, but the definition of "similar" is relative. Someone with a similar opinion may believe it is still too different for him/her to bother with this site.

tbuitenh wrote:

When one talks about the opinion of libervis.com, one means the average opinion of the people posting to the site. The website itself doesn't have an opinion, it's just software and data on a server.

Well it's one way of looking at it. Another way which also many people think of is that the site's official position is as stated by its "staff". So when we say that staff on Libervis.com resigns the right to mold the default policy that already makes a difference.

Then what is left is to clearly present this site as a site in which anyone's opinion can take part of this "collective opinion" if it must exist..

tbuitenh wrote:

But the people coming to libervis.com now are exactly the type that is attracted to a site that promises to offer truly free and open minded discussion.

You never know who else might be in for the party if they just knew what we know. Smiling

That may again be true, but have we really attracted all people who may care about such discussions? I have my doubts.

tbuitenh wrote:

Of course disliking it and therefore not using it is not against freedom, but writing an article arguing it should be eradicated is, because with less or no free software there will be less freedom of choice in software.

I guess sometimes freedom of speech may come in conflict with promotion of other freedoms.. Does that mean we shouldn't allow such an article on Libervis.com? I always think of freedom of speech as a bottom level of all other freedoms. You first have to respect that one to even begin to truly respect any other kind of freedom. Of course I don't think you disagree though..

There is a valid point to be made in not allowing an article on Libervis.com not meaning that we are against freedom of speech, but merely that such an article doesn't fit Libervis.com's agenda. Oh.. and there's the thing.. Do we have an agenda or not? What should we prioritize, an agenda or a completely unrestricted discourse on Libervis.com?

The former would mean banning anti-free software articles, for example, and the latter would mean allowing them as part of the discussion.

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tolerance
libervisco wrote:
tbuitenh wrote:

Of course disliking it and therefore not using it is not against freedom, but writing an article arguing it should be eradicated is, because with less or no free software there will be less freedom of choice in software.

I guess sometimes freedom of speech may come in conflict with promotion of other freedoms.. Does that mean we shouldn't allow such an article on Libervis.com? I always think of freedom of speech as a bottom level of all other freedoms. You first have to respect that one to even begin to truly respect any other kind of freedom. Of course I don't think you disagree though..

Of course articles arguing against free software should be allowed on libervis.com. But do you think those who would write them would feel welcome to publish them on libervis.com? Exactly because we tolerate everything that is on-topic, I expect the less tolerant won't post here. But that might just be my warped logic Sticking out tongue .

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Warped logic the thought is

Warped logic or not the thought is intriguing. Smiling

I guess it's up to us to choose which way Libervis is gonna go and then let everyone decide how to use it. I have an agenda of promoting Free Software and Free Culture and I use Libervis.com to do it. BUT, someone else can have an agenda of promoting Open Source, "Linux", you know the whole adoption at any cost thing and can use Libervis.com to promote it too. Heck, someone may have an agenda to promote proprietary software of some sort explaining it's relation to freedom as "freedom to get paid MORE than Free Software pays" and.. yes... use Libervis.com to promote it.

And so Libervis.com becomes this intersection of agendas, viewing them all equally and neutrally and then, like a free market economy, the discussion (the "invisible hand" of thought exchange) decides whose agenda prevails..

Heh there's a thought: Libervis.com is a free thought exchange market. Smiling

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It may be that libervis.com

It may be that libervis.com is suffering from an effect that I have seen before, from the other side than I am on now.

As discussion sites exist for a few years, their early members who are still around will have become experienced debaters. Their presence can be quite annoying for new members who have different opinions but haven't learned to change hunches into reason very well yet.

"If others are better at taking an opposing argument apart and making it look wrong then I am, that doesn't necessarily mean I'm wrong and they are right, it could also mean I'm just less experienced."

I remember what it was like to have my posts torn apart because of poor wording and failing to write what I REALLY meant instead of something similar but wrong. It made me feel stupid, and so I didn't stay on that general discussion site for very long.

And so diverse communities could change into groups with very similar opinions among all members: those are the opinions of the early members who didn't leave.

I guess it's quite like the elitism that tends to appear on software help sites Laughing out loud . But for software help sites there is a solution: a rule / strong advice to be newbie-friendly both in spirit and amount of explanation in posts doesn't hurt anyone.

The same can't be done on a discussion site. You just can't require participants of a debate to dumb down their arguments or repeat the same old debate about the basics again and again.

If I take this post to its logical conclusion, I would be helping libervis.com more by leaving it than by staying around and continuing as before. How odd.

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shallow to deep, post count and average size

This may be cumbersome, contentious, and unworkable, but I'll throw it out anyway. How about an indicator (say 1-5) of how accessible or advanced a given blog/discussion is, like a pool sloping from the shallow to the deep end?

If there's generally a correlation between debating skills and knowledge on topics, ie, people who know a lot about a topic tend to have been involved in comprehensive debates already and have some skills there, then these two could be lumped into one scale. Exceptions bedamned.

The language is important for such a scale, "beginner" or "superficial" would be insulting and not invite casual engagement in the shallow end so some better word than I can think of at the moment. Then for the advanced end some word that attracts people to get more involved, like a badge of honour. Edit: humourous titles could work, borrowed from gaming maybe, "anonymous coward" works fine on /.

Post Count is used on many fora, and it encourages people to post more, again it's like having credentials. vBulletin also shows a number of stars reflecting postcount, and gives these a special colour of stars for forum mods/supermods. libervis.com could use star colour to reflect how deep the conversations are that the poster has been involved in.

Maybe the shallow/deep thing is just a minefield, here's another thought: as well as post count show the average post size (APS) for each user, and indicate this on threads started by that user so people can see what they're getting into.

At least APS is some reflection of typing effort, though it's prone to rascals cutting and pasting large swathes of quotes into their posts - quotes would ideally be excluded. Those who are able to express a lot in few words tend to be so clever that they won't feel miffed if a verbose lackwit takes ten times the characters to miss the point, hoping I haven't entered that category...

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I think those are some

I think those are some excellent suggestions to take under consideration. We never had a rating system of the kind. Slashdot comes to mind here rating comments as funny, insightful etc.. This could help resolve the issue tbuitenh was describing.

However, faced with the following facts we (tbuitenh and I on IRC) have started developing a whole new, alternative idea, for what Libervis.com 2008 could become. These facts are:

  • The problem tbuitenh described (differences in experience with this kind of forum)
  • We may already be open to all opinions, yet still not obvious enough in that respect
  • We are not the only place digital freedom can be discussed at
  • Perpetual discussions eventually saturate most people, leaving them no reason to stick around this site
  • Taco and I ourselves occasionally feel saturated.. how long before we realize there is no point in the same-old?

So.. the new idea goes beyond anything proposed in this thread, but leaves this thread relevant enough as only a component of what, under the new idea, Libervis.com in 2008 (and further) may be. I will be opening a new thread about it soon, along with a nice graphical illustration. Smiling

Edit: Here is it..

Cheers

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