Postmasters is an online, non-profit, service organization for the benefit of the worldwide web community. Our purpose is to promote and practice traditional discussion arts. We are a self-moderating, self-developing, self-propagating and self-sustaining community. To achieve our purpose Postmasters provides for the public an open circuit, free speech zone and offers The Discussion Workshop Series. The Discussion Workshop Series: 1. Provides for its community members opportunities which give them skill and experience as participants in online democratic discussions; 2. Enables community members to coordinate democratic discussion so as to achieve online group action; 3. Provides for the community fair and constructive evaluation of their efforts; 4. Enables the members to investigate and deliberate upon matters relevant to the online community; 5. Affords leadership training for its members. A. I mean many things with wording such as "democratic" and "free speech". Wherever there is a Postmasters club, there is also a free speech zone. I suppose that the term "free speech" will mean different things to different clubs. I suppose that my own interpretation of the term "free speech" may even have to yield to our group as it grows. The membership may change the meaning, and that is alright. I am aware that there is no absolute free speech or democracy. F. Are you free to keep silent by the butcher's, for instance, and then, are you free to say what you want? Is there free speech with your superior, even outside a work situation? A. It is a relative term. There is an open circuit relative to the closed circuit. We are making the memberlist closed to only elected members so that the term "member" does not become confused. Therefore we need a point of contact with the public and it seems very natural to have an open circuit where a guest is really a guest. It also seems that the area should be protected from interference from adms, mods and members so as to promote free speech. The administration of the board should be set up to maximize protection of free speech. It should never be allowed to attack the public because the public is not coming to us to have their behavior modified or moderated.
"Attacking the public" includes invasion of privacy through IP-checking. The IP number can be traced to a precise location wherever you are on the planet, and administrators and moderators everywhere are abusing it and violating the privacy of users.
We are going to have very strict regulations on administrators. Think about the longest set of rules you have ever seen for forum users (they can be as long as 35 pages). We are going to have that many rules for adms. And no rules for the public. That makes it very easy for everybody because the public does not even need to read the rules. They need to know nothing at all because the rules never apply to them. Besides, there are very few adms, so if anything goes wrong, we have very few suspects.
Anonymity seems to maximize free speech. The administration should not be allowed to attack the privacy of anonymous users. Also, with this open circuit, we also have a safety valve because if people are afraid to say a thing in the Workshop, they can just log out and say it anonymously. But this requires a very disciplined administration, which is exactly why we have the Discussion Workshop! - to discipline the administration.
For me, free speech includes the right to speak in any mode - expository, narrative and dramatic. Due to it's random nature, an open circuit allows for dramatization of a point. Yet the Workshop is decidedly expository. Anonymity promotes the dramatic mode.
F. What do you mean precisely by "dramatic", "expository"? Isn't the Workshop conclusive above all?
A. The Discussion Workshop is very expository because we are building a decision making group. But an open circuit of public posters can be very dramatic. Now we have an expository thread about the constitution in G&G. The public has a right to post anything they want in that thread. If they should start telling stories or posting pictures or acting out a play by Balzac, then that is what we get.
However free speech means that we should be able to communicate in any mode. It's in the Workshop that we learn to control the modes through proper uses of form.
F. I still don't understand the meaning of "expository".
A. The Workshop is where we train members to administrate. We practice expository form in order to maintain an expository mode. This is a self-moderated group - the group moderates itself. The group has a right to free speech in the expository mode, so the group practices an expository form that squelches and defeats the dramatic and narrative forms. The group moderates the mode of discussion through practiced use of form. Yet we can nurture the dramatic forms in a separate dramatic workshop.
We are now engaged in an exposition of Art 2. We are using Art 2 as an outline for our discussion. We are not rambling, but are following a course. An exposition is an arrangement of text or speech. A nomenclature is expository because it outlines a course of study. An expository mode is established when each poster arranges their text. The expository form is achieved by arranging the order of speakers or posters. An expository form moderates the expository mode. Alternate posting ABAB is expository. Circle posting ABCABC is also expository. Random posting promotes a dramatic mode. We will demonstrate this in the workshop by using the forms. It is very difficult to improvise a dramatic presentation when expository form is being used.
F. What is a democratic discussion or group?
A. The democratic tradition is not one, but many forms. Being able to speak anonymously on an open circuit is one kind of democratic form. But to adhere to that ONE form as THE form for every occasion is, to me, very non-democratic. Because I feel that the proper democratic process is one that gives the group an optimal listening experience.
F. Must it be taken here in its political meaning? I don't think so. In the same time, "democratic" implies freedom and then choice. And the choice is not necessary plural.
A. Having your say, and as much as you want is one kind of democracy. An open circuit with unlimited numbers speaking in random form can speak as much as they want and as often as they want, but I think that the drawback is that it is nearly impossible to measure such an unorganized discussion. An open circuit is irrational since it cannot be measured by a whole number. When we elect our membership, we can always count the whole number of members upon our fingers and toes. If there are twenty members today, it is not likely that there are going to be 40 members an hour from now.
Since we have a whole number that is measurable, we can also measure the foundational relative quantity of equality. We can then measure majority and minority and conduct a democratic discussion, deliberation and decision making process.
We should have a wide range of choices when processing information. That everything should be discussed with unlimited numbers, speaking in random with no end or development of the process, without measurable limits, severely restricts our choices. Try finding a "democratic community" on the web! All that will come up in a search is some affiliation with the Democratic Party! The only way you will find any such group is if you do a search for the exact terms "democratically organized web community" and you will get one and only one group - Postmasters! That's why I say that we are in a perfect niche because what we have is greatly needed, but is in very scarce supply.
F. For a decision, you begin with a plurality (at least two possibilities), and at the end, there must be just one. A plurality made of indecision is not democratic. A permanent choice may also be free. A. Narrowing down our options is how we decide a thing. Also, I think of democratic decisions as being relatively permanent, semi-permanent and temporary. It is likely that as the group grows and our power is lessened that the majority will override one or both of us on an issue. What do we do when we think we are right, but we are in the minority? We must act with the majority yet work with the process to change people's thinking slowly.
A democratic discussion is one that is organized. After hearing what everyone has to say when they are able to speak randomly, as much and as often as they like, we might then ask for them to poll and vote a smaller number of themselves into a circle formation where each person has equal time. In a circle discussion, each participant has the right to speak, the responsibility to speak, the right to hear and the responsibility to listen to the others.
If I am in a circle of ten people, then I have the right and responsibility to speak once, then I must keep silence and listen nine times before I am allowed to speak again. That is an ordinal form. See: What is a Forum?
In the Workshop we practice the arts of measured discourse. We discuss with the objective of learning a self-moderated form, and then we measure it according to the stated objectives. We should be little interested in whether someone is "nice" or "good" or "stupid". How can we objectively evaluate with such criteria?
F. How will it be measured? A. Every project has objectively measurable criteria. The 20:04 thread has a measurable objective. The poster either posts at 20:04 or they don't. If they do post at 20:04, the discussion then turns to how did you accomplish this, what problems did you encounter and how did you overcome them? If the objective is to post in circle form (ABC ABC) then it is very easily evaluated. We either posted in the correct form or we did not. If we did not post in form, why? If we did post in form, then how?
At every meeting, the members are rotated through meeting roles, such as Grammarian or Master Postmaster of the Day or Discussion Organizer or Discussion Evaluator. The rotation of roles gives us experiences at listening and functioning in different roles. This is done by appointment through the Educational VP and the Master Postmaster.
There are also elected long term roles. These are defined in Art 4. The person who is Master Host one term, may be a VP or the President in the next term.
This is leadership training.
The administrative accounts are never to be used for posting. We only use those accounts as tools. And we only perform administrative actions that we have been trained to perform.
F. Ok, all that is brand new for me, I follow you blindly... A. I want to go over this article in detail and also talk about the ethical treatment of online community. Any discussion can be had in any one of these forums. There is no separation of topics. The idea is that the topic can be duplicated under varying conditions. The conditions in the public forum are different from the Member's Lounge and those two are different from the Discussion Workshop, which is a formal meeting. Discussions can be started in one section and moved around by the members using the administrative tools, thereby achieving distinctly different discussion effects.
F. And do the Member's Lounge, and the Discussion Workshop, correspond each with the active members, and the administrators? A. The Member's Lounge is for the elected membership. Since they have their own space, there is no reason to handle any complaints about the behavior of the public. This reestablishes the normal use of language. a guest is a guest and a Member is a member. Only elected members appear on the memberlist. In the public area, the public has complete control. In the Member's Lounge, the members have the right to express themselves as individuals. But in the Discussion Workshop, the group expresses itself. In the Workshop, the individual can only post at designated times and in given order so the result is a group expression, not just an accumulation of individual voices.
In the Discussion Workshop, the membership meets every two weeks for a coordinated group meeting. People post with their member accounts but may also use administrative tools to perform a community approved administrative action.
F. So that combines a total free speech, and a more reflexive expression, I guess. This appears democratic and clever. A. It is an ordinal forum. People can only be elected by attending two consecutive meetings. the meetings are ordinal and temporal. So we admit them to membership on purely objective terms. They might be total idiots on the open circuit but if they attend two ordinal meetings and they comply with the order, we elect them, because they have qualified themselves to maintain the order. The public, too, can perform ordinal projects on the open circuit and we will extend the meeting invitation to those individuals.
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Postmasters is communication and leadership training for democratically organized web community