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The aim is to create a scalable protocol for large numbers of individuals to discuss issues, and for them to speak and act as a group, roughly according to the principles of parliamentary procedure.

This protocol can be looked at as a "Robert's Rules for very large groups who may discuss things asynchronously" (as opposed to Robert's Rules, which is for medium size groups in synchronous meetings). In addition to scalability, this protocol is intended to be simpler than Robert's Rules.

Alternately, this protocol can be looked at as a more comprehensive procedure for initiative referenda. For example, in California's initiative referenda (circa 2008), private organizations sponsor and draft a proposal and then collect signatures in support of putting it on the ballot. Once it gets on the ballot, arguments for and against, and rebuttals, are created by organizations supporting and opposing the proposal. These are collected in a pamphlet which is given to voters when they vote on the proposal.

In this protocol, the public can also participate in the amending of the proposal and the debate. In addition, unlike CA's current system, which allows a large number of proposals to be placed on the ballot at once, this protocol provides a system for limiting consideration of proposals to a few at a time. Finally, the number of signatures collected for each proposal is made available at a central location, allowing individuals to browse lists of proposals sorted by how many signatures have been collected so far.

The principles of parliamentary procedure

(at least, those principles which are reflected here)


i have not had time to update the following yet, but i have some changes since i first wrote this.

thoughts on low-tech

token contests would be easier than reweighted score voting. However, in a low-tech situation, you must linearize anyway, e.g. only one topic at a time. Ordinary score voting could be used.


Reweighted score voting



We want to generate a set of proposals and speeches that every person hears, but there are too many people to allow each person to make everyone else listen to them. Therefore, there must be a mechanism to choose which proposals and speeches to "post" out of a larger pool of "candidates".

The mechanism used by this protocol is reweighted score voting. In each "arena", each person is assigned a weight, starting with 1. Any person may write a candidate speech or proposal. Each person may assign 0, 1, or 2 votes to any proposal or speech. When it is time for the next proposal to be posted, the candidate with the greatest score (weighted sum of votes) is chosen. Speeches are treated similarly, except that there is a penalty for long speeches. We say that one candidate "wins the contest" and is "posted" at that time. When a candidate wins the contest, the weight within that arena of all voters who voted for that candidate is reduced according to the reweighted score voting formula (see above).

For each speech contest, there is a threshold that determines a minimum amount of weighted votes that are needed to be posted (the Post Minimum Strength Threshold). If the candidate does not have at least that score, then there is no winner and nothing is posted.

Participants are encouraged to discuss and debate the issue, comment upon posted speeches, and plan, coordinate and jointly edit candidate speeches outside the formal forum, in public and in private. Rather than think of the posted speeches as the entire debate, think of them as an distillation of the most salient and persuasive points of that debate, most of which takes places outside of the formal forum. The posted speeches are important as summaries because many people will not have the time or the inclination to read more -- the speeches may be your only chance to persuade these people. The speeches are also important because they provide a broadcast medium where speaking time is divided in a fair and principled way.

Multiple discussions at once; subdiscussions

There are 3 proposals up for discussion at any one time. However, within each of these discussion topics, there is a linear thread of discussion. Sometimes a subproposal will be be made WITHIN a discussion (Amends and Commits); this creates a subdiscussion within the discussion.

There is an arena for choosing which topics to discuss in the 3 discussion slots ("topic arena"). Each discussion has its own arena for choosing which speeches and proposals to post within that discussion. Similarly, each subdiscussion has its own arena.

Standing motions

During a discussion, there are a number of "meta proposals", that is, proposals to alter the flow of the discussion in some way. If enough people vote in favor of one of these, it is executed. The voting for these is happening constantly, and you may cast or change your vote at any time; hence these are called "standing".

The current tallies for each Standing Motion are publically displayed. Most Standing Motions give you five alternatives: Yes, Leaning Towards Yes, Neutral, Leaning Towards No, No. Only Yes and No "count"; tallies of the other options are displayed, but don't affect the result.

Multiple-choice proposals

Rather than being yes/no, proposals may offer a list of multiple alternative choices; however, one choice is always "reject", meaning that the proposal is simply rejected and the status quo prevails.

Typical lifecycle of a discussion

The selection of a discussion topic:

The discussion itself:

Subdiscussions (Amends and Commits) follow a similar lifecycle; when the subdiscussion begins, its Opening Speech is posted. Every 4 days another speech or subproposal is posted. At the end of debate, Closing Speeches are selected, and then there is a vote.

Proxy voting

You can delegate your vote on a given set of topics to someone else. They can cast the vote for you, or they can pass it on to a third party. The vote can continue to be re-delegated. You can always "undelegate" a delegated vote, meaning that you can choose to cast it yourself on any given issue, regardless of how far it has been re-delegated.

Only the votes at the end of subdiscussions, and the Final Votes at the ends of discussions, can be delegated (proxy votes also show up in the Straw Poll). Topic and speech selection votes cannot be given away or delegated.

Although, if you cast your own vote, your vote is secret, if you delegate your vote, you can always see which way your vote was cast, and you may tell other people about this if you wish, although the system will not be able to confirm it publically (the system will merely show how your vote WOULD have been cast if you had delegated it to various people; only you know who you actually delegated it to). When you delegate your vote, this is secret.

Holders of proxies do not know whose proxies they hold, or even how many they hold, except approximately (order of magnitude?). Holders of proxies may vote their personal vote differently from their proxy votes.

These secrecy measures are to prevent vote-buying and voter intimidation by preventing any two voters A and B to conspire for A to prove to B how he voted, or to prove that A delegated his vote to B.

Perhaps some sort of anonymized trace should be publicized afterwards to allow some sort of verification? How should this be done? Perhaps temporal ordering should be skewed to prevent de-anonymizing?

Standing motions

Close debate

Ends the debate immediately and moves to the selection of Closing Speeches (or, if there are no speeches to select from, directly to the Final Vote). This motion requires a 2/3s supermajority (because it deprives the right to speak from those groups of people who have enough weight remaining to sponsor another speech).


Puts the current discussion topic temporarily on hold.

The Straw Poll

The proposal(s) under discussion also has a standing poll throughout the discussion. Unlike standing motions, however, this poll is merely a straw poll and has no effect (except in one special case; when a motion to Amend which only adds an alternative is under discussion, and more than 1/3 of the people vote for it in the Straw Poll, the Amend passes). However, if you cast a vote of "yes" or "no" in the straw poll, this will used as your default vote in the real vote unless you cast a different one later. Similarly, in multiple-choice proposals, there is an option to use your straw vote as your real vote if you choose.

More on Amends

Sometimes you think that the proposal under discussion should be rewritten or modified or split into multiple proposals that will be discussed and voted on separately. The way to do this a Motion to Amend (just Amend for short).

An Amend may not change the meaning of the proposal so radically that it is effectively a new topic for discussion. Referees annul such Amends if they are made.

There can be no Amends within Amend sub-discussions.

More on Commits, and Elections

Sometimes a formal assembly is just too inefficient for gathering or summarizing information or for editing a proposal. When this happens, the topic can be Referred to Committee.

The committee will work on the proposal and then generates a Report. The Report is treated as a new discussion topic which automatically fills the next vacant discussion slot. The Report is then discussed like any other topic.

If a new committee is being created, nominations are done via speeches in the Commit subdiscussion. The vote on the Commit then includes a vote to determine the composition of the committee.

A discussion topic can be of type Election, which means that it works like a Commit except that it is a main discussion, not a subdiscussion, and except that there is no Report.

Average proportional allocations

In addition to elections, another special type of topic is an Average Proportional Allocation. In this topic, rather than multiple choice questions, the proposals consist of a range of alternatives to which you can allocate a share of some resource. The allocations of each voter are averaged together. This can be used for creating budgets.

The averaged result becomes a new discussion topic which is then discussed and amended and voted upon as usual. In this way, the assembly can make sure that it is happy with the averaged allocation, and can make sure that the averaged allocation makes sense.


Current discussions

There are 3 topics up for discussion at any one time. Each topic consists of an Opening Speech and one or more proposals. Each proposal consists of one or more multiple-choice options for action. Each proposal in addition must always contain a "reject" multiple-choice option.

During discussion, points of view can be expressed and the proposal(s) under discussion can be amended. Each of these discussions ends in a vote in which either (a) one of the proposals passes, or (b) none of them do (actually, some topics, such as the selection of people for a five-person committee, might permit more than one of the alternative proposals to succeed).

How the current discussions are chosen

Periodically, one of the discussion slots will be vacated, either because the discussion filling it ended after a vote, or because it was postponed until later. At this time, a new topic for discussion is chosen to fill the slot via reweighted range voting in the "topic" arena.

Stages in a discussion

  1. Opening speech
  2. Debate
  3. Selection of Closing Speeches
  4. Final vote

The Opening Speech

After a new topic is chosen, there is a 1-week period before debate starts.

During this period, the Opening Speech associated with the discussion is on display. The Opening Speech was submitted as part of the candidate topic proposal. The Opening Speech may specify what is to be considered on-topic within this discussion. The Opening Speech may introduce the topic, give information and express opinion and may try persuade people to vote for some or all of the proposal(s).

Debate begins immediately after the Opening Speech with the posting of a speech or motion (see below).


How Speeches Work

An important part of the discussion is speeches. Speeches are written pieces of text which discuss the topic at hand and try to persuade people to vote for or against the proposal(s). Normally, one speech (or other "motion"; see below) is posted every four days in each discussion. Anyone can write a candidate speech. People may place debate tokens on candidate speeches that they support. The "strength" of a candidate speech is defined as score divided by (character length + 1000). When it is time for the next speech or motion, the speech with the most strength is posted (ties broken randomly), provided it has at least as high a strength as the Minimum Speech Strength Threshold (and provided it is not surpassed by some Amend or Commit; see below). "per (character length + 1000)" means that longer speeches are harder to get posted -- for example, a speech with 500 characters and 15 score and a speech with 2000 characters and 20 score are equally matched.

Active participants in a discussion

An active participant is a person who votes in any standing poll in the discussion or who placed topic tokens on this topic or who places tokens on any post in the discussion. The count of active participants is used to allow some standing motions to end early by assuming that only active participants in that discussion will want to vote on its standing motions, and is also involved in blocking subdiscussions via motions' standing polls (see below).

The identity of active participants is kept secret, but the total count is displayed publically.

The active assembly

Each member of the assembly is also considered to be either "asleep" or "awake" at any given time. At the invocation of a General Recess, all members' status is set to asleep. By casting any vote, or placing any token, a member's status changes to awake. A member can also manually change their status at any time. The set of awake members is called "the active assembly". This is used to allow more important votes to end early by assuming that only awake members will want to vote.

The asleep/awake status of members is publically displayed, as are the total counts of asleep and awake members.

Motions (non-standing)

A "motion" is a formal proposal for an assembly to take some action. Some motions, when "made", begin a subdiscussion in which the assembly discusses whether it wants to execute the action indicated; this subdiscussion ends with a vote on the action. The non-standing motions are Amend and Refer to Committee. For convenience, this subsection speaks of "motions", but "non-standing motions" are what is meant.

Like topics or speeches, there is a pool of candidate motions. Candidate motions are voted upon in the speech arena. The candidate motions compete against each other and against speeches to be posted into the discussion (or "made"). Unlike speeches, motions are not penalized for length.

Here is the full procedure for deciding what happens when it is time for the next post.

The standing polls (see below) for all motions are checked. If the No votes in the a motion's standing poll total more than 1/2 of the count of active participants in this discussion, then the motion cannot be made at this time and this candidate is temporarily ignored.

Each motion's strength is calculated. A motion's strength is its score / 1000.

The speech with the greatest score per character is chosen. The score on that speech is compared to the number of tokens on all candidate Amends and Commits, and the one with the greatest score wins. If the winning post's strength is less than the Post Minimum Strength Threshold, then this cycle passes without any post being posted.

Otherwise, if a speech wins, it is posted. If an Amend wins, it is posted (i.e. "the Motion to Amend is made") and a subdiscussion is begun about whether or not to Amend. Motions may be made in this subdiscussion, and a final vote is taken at the end of it. The main discussion is on hold until the subdiscussion is complete. Similarly for a Commit.

Each subdiscussion has its own arena. During the subdiscussion, the "suspending motions" (see below), if passed, apply to the entire discussion topic, not just to the subdiscussion. The motion to Close Debate, if passed, applies just to the subdiscussion, not to the entire topic.



If an Amend is posted, then within the ensuing subdiscussion, the proposed Amendment may itself be Amended. However, an Amendment to an Amendment may not itself be amended, because that would just be too confusing.

An Amend may not change the meaning of the proposal so radically that it is effectively a new topic for discussion. Referees annul such Amends if they are made.

An Amend to change, remove, or add new proposals requires a simple majority. However, adding new multiple-choice options to existing proposals requires only >1/3; the logic being that these will be chosen among by a Score Voting method in the Final Vote anyhow, and hence to supress them should be considered to be a limitation on debate. Furthermore, during the subdiscussion on an Amend to add a new option, the presence of a >1/3 "yes/no" in the Straw Poll, stable for three days, ends the subdiscussion and passes the Amend.

The Opening Speech is just a speech; it cannot be amended.

If an Amend passes, a 4-day Recess is taken.


The mechanics of making a Motion to Commit is similar to Amend (see above). Whereas the content of an Amend specifies how the proposal shall be changed, the content of a Commit specifies to which committee the motion shall be referred, what the committee is supposed to do, and a deadline for the committee to report back by.

If a Commit is posted, then within the ensuing subdiscussion there cannot be a motion to Commit.

A Commit may refer the issue to an existing committee, or a new one may be created in the Commit. If the latter, the committee member selection process is as follows. The size of the committee is set in the proposal in the Commit (which may be Amended). Any number of candidates may be nominated by posting a speech in the Commit subdiscussion (they are counted towards the character limit as if each name were 250 characters long). In the Final Vote, the members are selected by the nominees via a Score Voting method.

A Commit motion that creates a new committee has two parts to the Final Vote; one part selects the members of the committee; the other part is to see if the Commit motion passes, that is, if a committee is actually created and if the motion is actually referred to it. If the Commit motion passes, then the discussion is immediately moved to the Table (see below). If the committee fails to report back before the deadline, the discussion reappears as if it were Postponed (see below). If the committee does report back before the deadline, a new discussion topic of type "Report" is created and placed on the bottom of the Stack (see below). When the Report is created, the topic tokens are transferred from the defunct original discussion to the Report, and the original discussion is deleted from the Table.

The Report is like a new topic -- fresh debate tokens are handled out to everyone. The opening speech of the Report is the textual report from the committee. The committee may provide reworked versions of the proposal(s) for the Report -- of course, the assembly may Amend these, perhaps right back to the old versions, if they choose.

Topics in committee may be prematurely discharged via the "resume from table" mechanism (see below).


A Recess:

A Recess follows a successful Amendment or resumption of a discussion from the Stack. A Recess gives people a chance to reconsider their position in light of changed circumstances.

A normal Recess (as opposed to a General Recess; see below) applies only to one discussion.

Standing Motions

Unlike Amend and Commit, which have to compete with speeches and among themselves before they can be posted and considered, there are motions which are always "under consideration" and which take effect without further discussion if a sufficient number of people vote for them.

For a standing motion to pass, the tally of the corresponding standing poll must show a sufficient fraction of "yes" votes over "no" votes (or the corresponding situation in an auction; see below), and this state of affairs must hold for 3 days straight, unless so many people have cast votes already that the result is determined to be affirmative (assuming that all active participants might want to cast votes). The exceptions are Interrupt with Urgent Business which needs stability for only 2 days, and Close Debate during the Opening Speech, which requires at least 1/2 of the active assembly to cast an affirmative vote in order to take effect before the end of the Opening Speech.

The standing motions are: Close Debate, Give Out More Speaking Tokens (2/3 vote), Change Post Minimum Strength Threshold (2/3 auction; see below), Interrupt with Urgent Business, Postpone.

The Straw Poll

The proposal(s) under discussion also have a standing poll throughout the discussion. Unlike standing motions, however, this poll is merely a straw poll and has no effect (except in the case of Amend subdiscussions; see above). However, if you cast a vote of "yes" or "no" in the straw poll, this will used as your default vote in the real vote unless you cast a different one later. Similarly, in multiple-choice proposals, there is an option to use your straw vote as your real vote if you choose.

The Straw Poll counts proxy votes.

Standing Polls

A standing poll is where you cast a vote on a standing motion or a straw poll. Within each discussion, there is one standing poll for each standing motion, one for each candidate Amend or Commit, and one for the straw poll. The aggregate results of each standing poll are always publically available, and tallies are updated instantly -- however, your individual vote is kept secret. You may change your vote in a standing poll at any time.

Except for straw polls on multiple-choice proposals, the format of a standing poll is as follows. There are five options: "no", "leaning towards no", "neutral", "leaning towords yes", "yes". Only "no" and "yes" votes have any effect (aside from confirming your participation, and being displayed in the public tally of votes for this standing poll).

Close Debate

2/3 standing poll.

Motions dealing with speaking tokens

    give out more speaking tokens (2/3)
    change speaking token threshold (2/3, bidir auction)

The speaking minimum strength threshold starts at the Default Post Minimum Strength Threshold and can be changed changed via standing auction. Each person can enter a range that they would like the threshold to fall within. If (a) the current threshold falls outside the ranges entered by 2/3 of all persons who have entered a range, and (b) a range of new thresholds ("acceptable range") exist which is a subset of the ranges entered by 2/3 of all persons who have entered a range, and if this situation persists for 3 days straight, then the speaking minimum strength threshold is changed to the number in the acceptable range (as measured at the end of the 3-day period) which is closest to the old threshold. If Debate is about to end due to a lack of posts, the threshold is checked and changed again without waiting 3 days, in order to see if Debate will be prolonged.

The Stack and the Table

By means of the motion to Commit or the suspending motions (see below), active discussions may sometimes be suspended. The Stack and the Table are metaphorical "places" where discussions reside while they are suspended.

The Stack is an ordered queue of upcoming discussions. Think of a stack of papers in a pile. When a discussion slot is vacant, if there is anything in the Stack, the discussion on "top" of the stack immediately fill the vacant slot and is resumed; thus, no topic token competition takes place in this situation. The only ways that discussions can be put in the Stack are Reports from committees, motions to Interrupt with Urgent Business (see below), and motions coming off of the Table (see below). Some organizations may specify in their Bylaws that external events may also inserts topics into the Stack; for example, the Stack could be used when some outside authority asks the assembly to answer some question. The Stack could also be used by an organization to force itself to consider some issues periodically or at certain times, for instance an annual budget.

The Table is an unordered set of suspended discussions. Each item on the Table is attached to a condition that, when satisfied, moves that item off of the Table and onto the bottom of the Stack. The only ways that discussions can be put on the Table are motion to Postpone (see below) and Commit.

When a discussion is resumed from the Stack, there is only a one-day Recess before discussion actively resumes (i.e. before the next post is chosen and posted). Aside from the effects of the Recess, everything is as it was when the discussion was suspended; if a Commit or Amend subdiscussion was in progress, it still is. Debate tokens are not refreshed.

When a discussion is moved to the Stack or the Table, it vacates its discussion slot; however, its topic tokens are not released.

Discussions on the Stack or the Table are treated as candidate topics. New topic tokens may be placed on them for the purpose of resuming them prematurely. Any of the frozen topic tokens already on the discussion may also be counted for this purpose, at the option of the person who placed them there. Hence, the total strength of these discussions is calculated as the number of new tokens placed on them since they were suspended, plus the number of frozen tokens whose owners want the discussion to be resumed prematurely. These discussions compete with other candidate topics to be chosen as next discussion topic. When a discussion is resumed, the new tokens are refunded to those who placed them. This is also the way that a discussion on the Table may be made the strongest motion for the purpose of choosing it with a motion to Interrupt with Urgent Business (see below).

Frozen topic tokens

By default, the topic tokens that are on a discussion topic that has been chosen act to resist its suspension, and if it is suspended, they support its premature resumption. However, if the owners of those tokens wish to support interruption, they may indicate that the tokens they placed are not to be counted for these purposes (a vote for a suspending motion on this topic is taken as such an indication). This choice may be changed at any time.

Anyone may also place new tokens on a chosen topic for these purposes. These new tokens are not frozen and may be moved at any time, and if not moved, they are refunded when the topic is disposed of.

Suspending motions

Suspending motions are standing motions that suspend a discussion, moving it either to the Stack (in the case of Interrupt with Urgent Business) or to the Table (in the case of Postpone). Suspending motions apply to an entire topic at once; you cannot suspend an Amend or Commit subdiscussion without suspending the topic of which it is a part.

The effect of a motion to Interrupt with Urgent Business is to place the discussion topic on the top of the Stack and fill its spot with a different, specified discussion topic. The new discussion topic must be specified in the motion to Interrupt. The new discussion topic must either be currently on the stack, or it must be the topic which would be currently winning in the candidate topic token competition (if the motion specifies the latter, and the winning candidate topic changes before the Interrupt motion passes, then the Interrupt motion does nothing).

There are two kinds of motions to Postpone; Postpone to a Certain Time, and Postpone until The Disposal of Another Topic. Postpone to a Certain Time specifies a time (mechanically, there are a few preset time options, such as 1 week, 2 weeks, 1 month, 2 months -- note the maximum of 2 months), and a vote for postponing for a longer time is counted as a vote in favor of postponing for any shorter time also). Postpone until The Disposal of Another Topic specifies another one of the topics currently being discussed; after the disposal of that topic, this one will be resumed.

Neither a motion to Interrupt nor a motion to Postpone may be made if the current topic would win in the candidate topic token competition, if the current topic were a candidate whose strength is (its frozen topic tokens whose owners disagree with suspension + its unfrozen topic tokens). This prevents an absolute majority from thwarting the wishes of a small faction to discuss a particular topic, provided that the small faction has diligently saved up sufficient topic tokens over time.

Termination of debate

Debate may be terminated in two ways:

At the close of debate, all candidate posts and standing polls (except for the straw poll and polls to Interrupt with Urgent Business) are deleted.

Selection of Closing Speeches

After the close of debate but before the beginning of the final vote, the closing speeches are selected. Each alternative that will be on the final ballot gets an associated closing speech. The closing speeches are chosen out of the previously posted speeches.

To participate in the choice of the closing speech associated with some ballot alternative, a person must irrecovably cast his or her vote for that alternative. By doing so, the person gives up the chance to change their vote later -- in addition, any proxy votes held by this person will be cast for that alternative during the final vote.

For each alternative, the closing speech is chosen by a Score Voting method among all speeches made during the discussion. Proxy votes do not count in this poll.

There are no closing speeches if there was no debate, and in this case this period passes instantaneously. Otherwise, this period lasts up most 4 days, less if the result can be determined early (assuming that the entire active assembly might want to cast votes).


When voting begins at the end of a discussion or subdiscussion, the straw poll is replaced by a standing poll for the purpose of counting the final vote. Immediately above the this poll, first the opening speech and then the closing speeches are displayed. This standing poll does not contain the "leaning towards" options. As noted above, individuals whose Straw Poll votes were set to "no" or "yes" at the beginning of the Final Vote cast these votes by default in the final vote, unless they change their vote during the final voting period. During the final voting period, votes may be changed at any time.

The vote ends early if at any time enough votes have been cast such that the result could not be affected by the remainder of the active assembly who have not yet voted (where people who have had proxy votes cast on their behalf are considered to have cast their votes, as are people who had cast "yes" or "no" in the Straw Poll as of the beginning of the Final Vote). For example, if there is a single proposal which requires a simple majority, and 51% of the active assembly have had proxy votes cast on their behalf for the affirmative, then voting immediately closes and the proposal immediately passes. Similarly, if there is a single proposal which requires a 2/3 supermajority, and 34% of the active assembly have had proxy votes cast on their behalf for the negative, then voting immediately closes and the proposal immediately fails. Note that this means you should not rely on being able to change your vote after casting it (or having it cast for you) during the Final Vote.

Conditions for winning

Three numbers are calculated in order to determine if the proposal passed: the fraction of "yes" votes divided by "no" votes (including proxy votes; see below), the number of partipicants in the discussion, and the raw number of "yes" votes (excluding proxy votes).

The Bylaws of the organization give minimums thresholds for these numbers in order for a proposal to pass. If any of these thresholds is not met, the proposal fails. These thresholds may depend on what type of topic is being discussed. The Referees determine the classification of each topic's type. Topics which include proposals to change the rules of parliamentary procedure should always have a threshold of at least 2/3 for yes/no.

Proxy Voting

transitive proxy voting

proxy votes are only counted in votes to Amend, votes to Commit, the Straw Poll, and Final Votes.

Multiple choice questions

If a topic comprises multiple proposals, the voting is carried out according to a Score Voting method (with "none of these; do nothing" as one of the options; in the case of ties, this wins). Score Voting means that the method ensures that whichever proposal (or lack thereof) is chosen, it would have beat out each of the other proposals in pairwise votes.

Termination of a discussion topic

After the outcome of a topic's proposal(s) is decided by the final vote, the frozen topic tokens on the topic are recycled. The discussion is archived and deleted, any discussion on the Table which is waiting on the completion of this particular discussion is moved to the bottom of the stack, and the discussion slot is vacated.

Standing motions at the topic level

    General Recess ()
    change topic token threshold (2/3, auction)

General Recess

A General Recess is a Recess that applies to the entire assembly; in addition, it marks all members as asleep, so that they must take some action to become awake again. It can be used to give the assembly some time off, and to reduce the count of the active assembly by marking inactive members as asleep. A General Recess is initiated via a standing motion at the topic level. General Recesses can be for 3 days, 1 week, 1 month, or 3 months.

Special discussion topics

Average proportional allocations

These are topics in which some quantity needs to be divided up among alternatives (for example, budgets). Rather than starting with a proposed division coming from a single faction and then letting everyone Amend it, as is done for most topics, a better way might be to let the assembly collectively create the inital proposal.

A candidate discussion topic may be indicated to be of type "Average proportional allocation", in which case instead of voting (possible multiple choice) up or down, the voters will each specify their own ideal allocation of the quantity between alternatives (expressed as percentages), and then these are averaged. Multiple allocation proposals may be combined into one topic (i.e. in a budget, voters could divide the total money between departments, and then there could be a separate division between projects in each department, all asked in one topic).

This topic also has a set of ordinary proposals, but these are not voted on in the Final Vote, although they may be Amended during discussion. These proposals indicate what the allocation is for; for example, "Resolved, that proportional allocation (A) be set as our budget for the coming year, with a total expenditure of $10,000".

After the Final Vote, rather than vacating the discussion slot, the averaged allocation is automatically reintroduced into the same slot as if it were a prewritten proposal for a new discussion topic. In this way, the allocation can be further discussed and Amended, but the initial proposal has been developed collaboratively.


An Election topic is like a Commit motion (except that no Report will be generated).


(defaults in parens)

Number of topics discussed at the same time (5) Topic Minimum Token Threshold Default Post Minimum Strength Threshold Default/initial Debate Tokens Per Person (2) Discussion initial recess period (1 week) Interpost period (4 days) Stack resume recess period (2 days) Standing motion stability period (3 days) Interrupt with Urgent Business stability period (1 day) Amend recess (4 days) Closing speech selection (4 days) Final Voting period (1 week) Maximium Postpone time (1 month) General Recess times (3 days, 1 week, 1 month, or 3 months) Topic token dwell time (1 month) Debate token dwell time (1 week)

More details

Why the token system? Why is the token supply held constant?

The token system provides a way for a minority of people to ensure that a topic that they want to bring up eventually gets discussed. For example, imagine that there are two factions, each with an endless list of topics that they want to discuss. 60% of the people belong to faction A, and 40% belong to faction B. If they simply voted which topics to discuss, faction B would never get its topics discussed. However, with the token system with a fixed supply of tokens, faction A loses tokens each time its topics are chosen for discussion. Some of faction A's tokens must be spent to force their topic to be chosen next. These tokens eventually get recycled, which means they are redistributed evenly between people; which means that faction A gets only 60% of the tokens it spent back. So, each time this happens, faction A gets richer and faction B gets poorer. Eventually faction B has more tokens than faction A, and can force the airing of its topic of choice.

Upper bounds on posts

The combination of the Debate Tokens Per Person and Post Minimum Strength Threshold puts an upper bound on both the number of posts and total number of characters spoken in a debate (provided that these are not changed during the debate). Specifically,

max number of posts = (Debate Tokens Per Person * people) / (1000*Post Minimum Strength Threshold) max aggregate characters = 1000*(max number of posts - 1)

By keeping track of the total remaining number of unused debate tokens throughout the debate, these formulas can be used to compute a running "max number of posts remaining" and "max speech characters remaining".

What is the upper bound for the time taken for a single discussion?

The debate phase can take arbitrarily long if a 2/3 supermajority wills it. But assuming that debate is not extended by a 2/3 supermajority by changing the Post Minimum Strength Threshold or giving out more debate tokens:

The Opening Speech will take 1 week.

Debate will go on until enough no more debate posts can be made. max number of debate posts = (Debate Tokens Per Person * people) / (1000*Post Minimum Strength Threshold). Since there are 4 days in between debate posts, the upper bound on time is 4*(max number of debate posts).

Selecting the Closing Speeches may take up to 4 days.

The Final Vote may take up to 1 week.

So, the upper bound is: (18 + 4*(Debate Tokens Per Person * people) / (1000*Post Minimum Strength Threshold)) days

Where "people" is the total number of members. Note, however, that this limit can only be approached in proportion to the number of members who choose to place tokens on debate actions. Anyone who has remaining debate tokens and who thinks that a debate is taking too long can directly hasten its completion simply by not placing their tokens. Members who has already spent all of their debate tokens on posts have no basis for complaint about the length of the debate; they have already extended the length of the debate phase to accommodate their post (in effect, they made everyone else wait while they "spoke"), and now they are merely being forced to wait while others exercise the same right.

Strategy: is there a way to avoid a Final Vote on a current discussion topic?

Only by invoking Object to the Topic during the Opening Speech. That requires a 2/3s supermajority and should only be used to indicate for the record that the assembly considers the topic offensive or out-of-bounds.

If Object to the Topic is not called for, or if the Opening Speech has ended, then a Final Vote cannot be avoided.

Strategy: almost everyone wants to avoid discussing some issue, but it came up anyway -- what do we do?

If the topic is legitimate, but people just don't want to discuss it, they should vote for "Close Debate". If Close Debate passes at the end of the Opening Speech, then debate will be skipped and the final vote will immediately begin.

If the topic is offensive or out-of-bounds, Object to the Topic can be used during the Opening Speech to indicate such and to kill the topic after the Opening Speech. Object to the Topic should not be used against topics that are legitimate.

Debate has already started but we want to stop debating and vote

Close Debate can be used to end debate.

What is the quickest way to end a discussion?

If you need to quickly clear a discussion slot in order to begin discussing something else, invoke Interrupt with Urgent Business. This doesn't end the current discussion but merely suspends it.

If the Opening Speech has not yet ended: if the topic is offensive or out-of-bounds, invoke Object to the Topic; if the topic is legitimate, invoke Close Debate. With Object to the Topic, the Opening Speech will still be completed, and then the discussion ends without a Final Vote. With Close Debate, it may take up to 1 week to invoke Close Debate, then the discussion will move immediately to the Final Vote (which takes at most 1 week) -- however these steps may expedited if 2/3 of the active assembly (or in some cases, expediting the final vote step may require as little as 1/3) votes immediately.

If the Opening Speech has already ended: invoke Close Debate. It may take up to 3 days to invoke Close Debate, then there will be selection of Closing Speeches (up to 4 days) and then there will still be a Final Vote (at most 1 week).

So, the shortest possible discussion times are:

(these upper bounds are assuming that only a small number of people vote to hurry things along, but that these votes are not opposed).

How fast can an urgent action be enacted?

Assuming that all discussion slots are occupied, the fastest way to begin discussing an urgent topic is to Interrupt with Urgent Business. If a majority of discussion active participants immediately vote to Interrupt with Urgent Business, it takes effect immediately, but otherwise takes 2 days. Once the urgent discussion is started, Close Debate could be invoked during the Opening Speech, which would move immediately to the Final Vote; these can be accomplished immediately if more than 2/3 of the active assembly votes in favor; if otherwise they could each take up to 1 week. If the urgent proposal requires only a majority vote, and more than half of the active assembly votes in favor of Close Debate and in favor in the final vote (and less than 1/4 of the active ossembly votes against Close Debate), Close Debate can be invoked in 3 days and the final vote can end immediately.

So urgent action can be enacted instantly if >2/3 of the active assembly wills it, can take 3 days if a majority wills it and less than 1/4 is opposed, and can take up to 16 days otherwise.

(this upper bound is assuming that only a small number of people vote to hurry things along, but that these votes are not opposed).

How large does a faction need to be to make a discussion take longer against the wishes of a majority of the active assembly?

If just over half of the active assembly is trying to rush things, a 1/4 faction is needed to block the motion to Close Debate (assuming the remaining 1/3 doesn't care).

If just over half of the active assembly is trying to rush a discussion but is opposed by a 1/4 faction, how long will the discussion take?

In this situation, the only part that the majority can rush is the Final Vote, which can be over in less than 1 week if the majority casts their votes quickly and if that determines the result. Otherwise the total time for the whole discussion is the same as the upper bound (see above). In this situation, we can assume that debate will not be extended by giving out more speaking tokens or changing the token threshold because those things require >2/3, but we are positing that a majority is trying to hurry.

When should Object to the Topic be used?

Object to the Topic should only be used to indicate for the record that the assembly considers either the proposal(s) and/or the Opening Speech offensive or out-of-bounds or incoherent (if the proposal (and hence the "topic") is clear but the Opening Speech is incoherent, but not offensive, then Object to the Topic should not be used).

Object to the Topic is only available during the Opening Speech.

It seems like this procedure makes it hard for a majority to avoid wasting its time discussion something that it isn't interested in, or has already made up its mind on...

Groups using this procedure should realize that one of its design goals is to give small factions that care a lot about some issue a chance to raise that issue for general discussion. Even if a majority thinks they don't care about some issue, or that they have already made up their mind, a small group is given a chance to be heard.

This is one of the principle that distinguishes "parliamentary" procedure from other types of procedures that can be used by large groups to hold discussions and make decisions.

Strategy: is there some tricky manuver by which an absolute majority can frustrate the wishes of a small faction to discuss some issue indefinitely, even if the faction has saved up enough tokens?

I don't think so (provided the fraction of people not wanting to discuss the issue is less than 2/3). I think that the most that an absolute majority could do against a token-rich faction would be to continually call a General Recess of the entire assembly, preventing any business from being transacted at all in any discussion slot.

A majority cannot use Postpone or Interrupt against the wishes of the sponsors of the topic because these motions can be resisted by the frozen topic tokens that were used to select the topic.

Strategy: How many topic tokens does a small faction need to save up in order to force the airing of some issue?

You only need to save up enough tokens so that your topic has a plurality of the entire token supply. This means that you must get more tokens than any other topic. In theory this could mean getting as much as more than half of all of the tokens, but in fact it will usually be much less.

Strategy: What if most people do not wish to discuss some topic? When can a small faction force discussion?

By getting a plurity of tokens, a topic's Opening Speech will be posted.

In order to dispose of a posted topic after the Opening Speech but without any debate, the opposition to the topic must muster a 2/3 supermajority -- if the small faction includes at least 1/3 of the assembly, it can guarantee debate.

Are token contests auctions?

Token contests can be thought of as auctions in which factions bid against each other for the assembly's attention. This way of looking at things is a simplification in a few ways:

1) Multiple factions may all see it in their interest to contribute tokens to the same topic 2) Individuals who theoretically compose one "faction" may not be organized enough to act optimally 3) The action of contributing tokens may acquire symbolic meaning beyond their formal function within the procedure

An example of (2) would be if a faction's optimal allocation of tokens changes rapidly but its individual members do not update their placement frequently.

An example of (3) would be if individuals contribute tokens to an candidate that does not "need" them in order to express their support.

Nevertheless, the auction point of view is useful.

What about sniping?

Since token contests can thought of as auctions with a fairly predictable ending time, and in which all participants can see each other's bids, a phenomenon called "sniping" may occur. You may be familiar with this from eBay. The tokens placed on candidates may be low until just before the ending time, at which the number of tokens on some candidates may suddenly skyrocket. This is undesirable because it adds an element of surprise, and possibly scope for advantage by highly organized factions.

One way to eliminate this would be switch to a "sealed bid" auction, in which the number of tokens currently placed on a candidate is secret. However, this would add even more surprise and scope for advantage by highly organized factions.

Another way would be to switch to an auction without an end time. However, this could occasionally lead to very long delays before the selection of a new topic or post. This could be ameliorated by requiring a new bid to exceed the previous bid by a set amount -- however, this could be confusing to many people when a candidate won the contest even though a different candidate had more tokens. In addition, it would be more complex.

The random end time of the contest should ameliorate sniping somewhat. It is anticipated that there will be some amount of sniping regardless.

Why are tokens fractional?

Because otherwise we could not only charge the winning candidate for the amount of the second-highest bid and refund the rest proportionately to its sponsors. This would make it important for the sponsors of the winning candidate to make sure that they don't waste tokens by placing more tokens than necessary. This would, in turn, make the sniping problem much worse.

Why can't tokens be moved for 1 month/1 week?

To discourage confusing strategic manuvering where a faction attempts to give their opposition a false sense of security by placeing their tokens on the opposition's candidate until the last moment, at which time they switch. This could lead individuals in the opposition to decide to spend their tokens elsewhere, causing the surprise failure of a candidate at the last moment.

The main advantage of moving tokens is to allow the assembly to incrementally revise candidates, and allow the supporters to move their tokens to the current best revision. Even when tokens can't move, this can be partially achieved via the use of the "what-if" tallies to allow supporters to indicate that a candidate has been (or "should have been") superceded by another one.

Further analysis of the token system

To play out the above scenario: Say faction A starts with 60% of the tokens, and faction B with 40%. On the first turn, faction A must spend more than 40% of the tokens to out-spend faction B. These are recycled, at which time faction A gets 60% of them back, and faction B gets 40% of them. Let's pretend this happens immediately. Now faction A has only 60% - 40% + .6*40% = 44% of the tokens, and faction B has the rest. So, faction B can force its issue to be aired next.

A similar thing happens with a smaller faction, although it takes a lot longer. If 90% belong to faction A and 10% to faction B, then each turn faction B acquires (faction B's previous net worth)*.1 new tokens. Faction B's net worth over time is:

0.10000 0.11000 0.12100 0.13310 0.14641 0.16105 0.17716 0.19487 0.21436 0.23579 0.25937 0.28531 0.31384 0.34523 0.37975 0.41772 0.45950 0.50545

In general, if B has fraction B of the population, then B's net worth over time is given by the difference equation x = x + x*P, with initial value x=P. This is like interest continuously compounded with a rate of R = ln(1 + P); the differential equation for that is e^Rt. The time constant is 1/R. We have P*e^Rt = .5. Solving for t, we get t = ln(.5/P)/R = ln(.5/P)/ln(1 + P).

Note that this critically depends on our starting conditions, however. After B wins once, how fast can it win again? It depends on how fast tokens are circulated, which depends on how much A is bidding within itself to decide topics while B is "poor". Calling that "minBid", you can run a simulation of 3 cycles with the following Octave/Matlab code:

i=0; x = P; t=0; while (i < 3); while (x < .5); x = x + P*max(x,minBid); t=t+1; disp(x); end; x =0; i=i+1; end; t

But we might assume that the frequency of over time of B getting its way was inversely proportional to the time it takes B to win from the given starting conditions. Let's look at how B's frequency of winning relates to the size of its faction. We calculate tp, which is defined to be the reciprocal of the fraction: (frequency of B winning) / P. The following Octave/Matlab code calculates and plots this, for faction sizes of P = .001 to about P = .4:

P = logspace (-3,-.4); t = log(.5./P)./log(1.+P); tp = t.*P;plot(P,tp)

So, factions smaller than about P = .2 are "underrepresented" in the sense that the proportion of topics that they win is less than their proportional strength; but factions larger than .2 are "overrepresented".

Let's assume a different model; let's say that winning bids are always a constant, "bid". Now, on each turn, faction B gains bid*P tokens. In this model, clearly the frequency of wins varies directly with faction size.

In the first model, the underrepresentation came from the fact that for most of the time, the bid needed to win a topic, and hence the amount of tokens being exchanged, was small and how small depended on the smallness of B -- because the bid on each round was mainly determined by what was required to outbid B.

So, the stronger the connection between the faction size and the minimum bid size, the more that very small factions will be underrepresented. This effect is mostly nullified for factions smaller than (the minimum bid floor / total token supply), whose level of underrepresentation (tp) stays almost constant at the value found for factions of size (the minimum bid floor / total token supply):

P=.1; minBid = .1; i=0; x = P; t=0; while (i < 3); while (x < .5); x = x+P*(max(x,minBid)); t=t+1; ; end; x =0; i=i+1; end; (t/3)*P ans = 2.3667

P=.0001; minBid = .1; i=0; x = P; t=0; while (i < 3); while (x < .5); x = x+P*(max(x,minBid)); t=t+1; ; end; x =0; i=i+1; end; (t/3)*P ans = 2.6093

Even very small factions can save up and eventually win. There is a limit to the smallest faction that can ever win, however, because tokens are nontransferable and hence are recycled when a person dies. This means that a faction that would have to wait longer than its members' life expectancy can never win.

Of course, any faction smaller than 2/3 can be silenced by the majority via a change of the rules (or by token inflation). However, it is likely that in most cases, the majority will be composed of various groups with their own special interests, who have been saving their own tokens in hopes of getting their issue heard later. Hence, they will be quite literally invested in the token system and so probably will not use their power to overrule it often. In addition, since the small groups' issues come up less than proportionately, the assembly will only have to spend a small proportion of its time dealing with a given small group's issue.

Attacks against the system requiring only a simple majority include non-germane amendments and divisions of the question. Non-germane amendments and divisions could be used by a simple majority to repurpose any topic into the topic that they want to discuss. Referees prevent this from happening.


see HC notes for an idea to combine this with a 'bubbling-up' moderation procedure to gain recognition for unknown proposals.

forkable speeches to choose from

unused text:

a number of "tokens" are created. they are distributed evenly to the citizens. each citizen can place any number of tokens on any proposed main motion (but all tokens must be placed somewhere). a citizen may move their tokens at any time. each time the floor is open to a main motion, the motion with the highest number of tokens is made. the tokens on that motion are restributed evenly throughout all citizens (or, to avoid fractional-valued tokens, tokens are placed in the treasury and then only distributed back when there are more tokens in the treasury than there are citizens; and the remainder waits in the treasury) placed back into the treasury.

interrupt with urgent business: (in place of a motion to table) the effect of a motion to interrupt with urgent business is to place the pending main motion on the stack and take up a new main motion. the next time that the floor would be open to main motions, instead the top item is popped from the stack. the new main motion must be specified in the motion to interrupt. the motion to interrupt is only in order if the new main motion is the same main motion that would be made if the floor was open to main motions at the instant that the motion to table was made.

chair authority req'd in order to prevent non-germane amendments and divisions of the question (attacks for the majority to defeat the token system)

recess: return tokens, reset straw polls, and invoke a timeout period -- specific to a main motion if made under a main motion

multiple choice main motion: when debate is closed, first an alterative is chosen using a condorcet method, then a final vote is held to see if the motion passes

refer to committee: a committee delivers a report when done. if they wish, they can include a main motion or a choice of main motions (which will be chosen among by a condorcet method). when the report is ready, it is queued on the bottom of the stack

a minimum number of speaking tokens is needed to speak -- if a certain time period passes without that happening, debate ends

tokens are recycled when a motion is disposed of without passing or failing

"change speaking token threshold", a standing motion, can be implemented by an auction -- each user says a threshold that they'd like -- then the actual threshold starts from Inf and goes down until it goes through 2/3 of the user thresholds

division of the question is a special form of "amend": "amend" can turn a single question into a divided one and can turna signle-choice Q into a multiple-choice one

for analysis:

list of motions:

main motion amend interrupt with urgent business postpone to a certain time postpone until another motion is disposed of object to the consideration of a main motion close debate give out more speaking tokens change speaking token threshold recess refer to committee resume a motion kill motion divide the question

proxy voting

transient coalitions are recognized rather than individuals

procedure specifies recognition (rather than chair discretion)

voting to determine "who" gets recognized next


standing motions

(continued) linearization

use of "straw" polls

to think of a simple, fair, unbiased, objective procedure that would allow

'*' indicates that motion initiates a sub-debate ("debatable") '$' indicates tokens are refunded upon pass/failure (2/3) indicates that success requires a 2/3 vote rather than a simple majority NOTE: Motions which so not initiate a sub-debate are "standing", except for "speak"

valid at root:

during the intro recess at the beginning of the debate of a main motion (other than "to modify rules"):

   object to the consideration of a main motion

valid within a sub-debate:


the same motions are valid within a "refer to committee" subdebate as a main motion debate, except for "refer". within a "refer" subdebate, only "amend" and the speaking token motions take effect on the subdebate; the other motions take effect on the pending main motion.

the same motions are valid within an "amend" subdebate as a main motion debate, except that an amendment to an amendment can't be amended. within an "amend" subdebate, only "amend" and the speaking token motions take effect on the subdebate; the other motions take effect on the pending main motion.