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Running a Non-Partisan Political Forum? 116

Posted by Cliff
from the a-sensible-discussion-of-politics dept.
cptnHaddock asks: "The internet was supposed to give a new breath to democracy. While there has been some interesting initiatives, I feel a lot more could be done. Do you have any experience, tips to share, about running a non-partisan political forum? How to encourage well-thought postings and filter out the cynical ramblings, and how to moderate without censoring? Is there any good software that you would recommend for that task? Are there other solutions even better suited to running a policy-oriented discussion board?"
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Running a Non-Partisan Political Forum?

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  • Impossible (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Impossible.

    Next question?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      It certainly is a curious question. How do you have a political debate without people debating with their individual political ideologies. Impossible? Probably. Difficult? Certainly.

      My recommendation would be to limit debates to only between two people or two groups which have an equal amount of people. Otherwise the common forum habit of teaming up against an opponent occurs.

      Additionally, I would only allow information in a debate that qualifies as a highly verifiable source. Noone should be able to
      • The biggest problem is a bunch of people agreeing with each other until their opinion becomes "fact". Then no one else can argue with them.
      • by raduf (307723)
        Wikipedia's Neutral Point of View [wikipedia.org] ideology may help here. Sounds like wishful thinking but they managed to make it work. Helps a lot they translated a vague concept (NPV) into a clear and short set of guidelines and made people respect it.
    • Indeed. Submitter needs to look up the words "partisan" and "political". They cannot be seperated. Non-partisan politics makes as much sense as dehydrated water.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by edgarde (22267)
        Partisan means more than having a position. Someone who is partisan seeks victory at any cost for their side. It's considered a destructive extreme.

        Unfortunately, politics in the United States have become so very partisan that most open discussion of this sort will devolve quickly into shouting matches between kneejerk liberals and dittoheads.

        • by TheGreek (2403)
          Unfortunately, politics in the United States have become so very partisan that most open discussion of this sort will devolve quickly into shouting matches between kneejerk liberals and dittoheads.
          Shut the fuck up, you America-hating, shiteating, cocksucking sack of whoremongery.
    • by tacocat (527354)

      I would have to agree. How can you have a non-partisan political discussion? It's an oxymoron these days.

      I suppose you could set up something of a debating blog on current issues. But how you would go about filtering out the political from the non-political opinions would itself be highly subjective. It's like legislating taste.

      How would you defend the following: I publish an opinion/discussion about why I think abortion is evil. You block my post because you believe it is too partisan biased a disc

  • +1 Funny (Score:3, Funny)

    by MeanMF (631837) on Saturday September 23, 2006 @02:39PM (#16168751) Homepage
    Why isn't this under the Humor section?
  • Simple (Score:3, Funny)

    by antifoidulus (807088) on Saturday September 23, 2006 @02:42PM (#16168781) Homepage Journal
    Just ban all posts and all stories. Well, you can allow porn.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by CrazyDuke (529195)
      You apparently don't know about Jeff Gannon, Laura Slesinger, and Bush and Kerry's Daughter. Not to mention that report on what Bill and Monica did. Some good readin I hear...
  • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Saturday September 23, 2006 @02:45PM (#16168807)
    ...and that you know will reply in the fashion you desire.

    That pretty much limits it to just yourself. But it's a start!

    Politics and religion are two of the hottest flame-war topics EVER. You either choose to moderate EVERY comment (you are "censoring" your own board) or you accept the fact that there will be heated disagreements and non-polite exchances.
    • by LetterRip (30937) on Saturday September 23, 2006 @03:56PM (#16169345)
      We have had an excellent forum that has a reasonable sized user base, an extremely diverse set of viewpoints (Your standard variety of mild to hard core democrats, republicans, libertarians, but also views from communists, fascists, etc.), and consitently high quality posts.

      There are rules that people are expected to follow regarding respecting those you are discussing with. While there are occasional flame wars (and people are suspended from posting for a brief period of time when it gets out of hand), it doesn't require anything particular draconian. Requiring respect in a public discussion is not censorship.

      ornery.org for those interested.

      LetterRip
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by gfxguy (98788)
        I could see that it might not be too bad if there were no anonymous posting.
      • Seconded! Ornery.org rules. Possibly another reason it works so well is that Orson Scott Card (who owns the site) tends to attract thoughtful people of all political stripes. This keeps it from getting bogged down in any particular ideology.

        By the way, nice to see you here, LR. This is PS. :D
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          Oh, and by the way, if you want to join the Ornery forums, you should know what you're getting into. The standard greeting there is "Welcome to Ornery. You're wrong."
    • by epee1221 (873140)
      Restrict access to only those people you like...
      ...and that you know will reply in the fashion you desire.
      That's an ironic way to keep things neutral :-P

      Parent sure has a point though.
    • You have to find a way to prevent high-traffic, partisan political sites from sending large numbers of their members to your forum. Maybe have a quota for the maximum number of new members who can register in a day?

      Also consider having three forums: one for liberals, moderated by volunteers within the forum; one for conservatives, moderated by volunteers within the forum, and one non-partisan. That way, the people who really just want to be partisan can talk amongst themselves, and they can censor the oth
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Valdrax (32670)
        Also consider having three forums: one for liberals, moderated by volunteers within the forum; one for conservatives, moderated by volunteers within the forum, and one non-partisan. That way, the people who really just want to be partisan can talk amongst themselves, and they can censor the other side as much as they want within their own forum.

        That's a bad idea because it provides two nurturing pools for partisan extremism to let people gear up for battle before going all out in the "non-partisan" forum.
  • Running a Non-Partisan Political Forum?

    Oxymoron... How about a forum where the partisans don't just degenerate into having a flame fest.

    No this isn't troll, just an observation that all political discussions, in any forum, are partisan.

    One might hope for non-partisan consensus to emerge from a forum... but I wouldn't count on it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I think you misunderstand what the submitter was talking about. It looks to me like he's trying to set up a forum that takes no political stand of its own and lets people of all parties and convictions discuss politics. It's not the discussions that are non partisan it's that the site's owner doesn't use it to push his own agenda.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        There is such a word as alot, and it is roughly a synonym for allocate.
  • A Few Tips: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Eightyford (893696) on Saturday September 23, 2006 @02:47PM (#16168823) Homepage
    I started a religion forum about six months ago, and I too was worried about flamewars and intolerance. Suprisingly, we have had very little name calling at all on our forum. Most of our members have came from slashdot through my sig link, so I guess that helped us get members that were above average in terms of writing and discussion skills.

    We use phpbb with a few mods, like quick reply and a captcha system that doesn't really work. Most of our top posters have mod abilities, so that really helps us control the spam posts. Amazingly, for a religious forum, we haven't censored any posts in six months. Basically, just encourage rational debate and I don't think you will have any need to censor.
    • Re:A Few Tips: (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Eightyford (893696) on Saturday September 23, 2006 @03:06PM (#16168967) Homepage
      More tips:

      1. Start small. There's no need to create all of your forum topics at once. Start with a few and create more as they are needed.

      2. Welcome new members. It can be tough joining an established forum. New members don't always know the forum etiquette and they don't know any of the "in jokes". Welcome them and thank them for contributing.

      3. Don't censor. If someone steps out of line, just ask them nicely to "tone down" their posts. When the subject is politics, you have to be very careful to ensure that the poster doesn't feel like their view is being unfairly silenced.

      4. Allow guests to post. You will need a good captcha system, but allowing guest posting really helps to get the "lurkers" involved in the discussion.

      5. Start the discussions. Write a few posts everyday that you know will generate discussion. Start a poll that asks if abortion should be legal, and before you can say flamewar you'll have a hundred new posts. I also spam my own forum with "in the news" links. It can really help get the ball rolling.

      6. Forum games and offtopic posts. Create a lounge section for members to discuss issues that don't relate to politics. Forums should be about discussing issues with friends. Solve an online puzzle like www.antiriddle.com together, and the members will set aside their political differences and have fun together. Also, little games like word association and photoshop tennis can help strengthen the community.

      7. No ads! Don't put google ads between every post. That is annoying, and people don't want to join an online community created strictly for profit.
    • Hm... (Score:3, Funny)

      by Guanix (16477)

      Most of our members have came from slashdot through my sig link, so I guess that helped us get members that were above average in terms of writing and discussion skills.

      Hm...

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Eightyford (893696)
        Most of our members have came from slashdot through my sig link, so I guess that helped us get members that were above average in terms of writing and discussion skills.
        Hm...
        Have you been to fark, or imdb, or any other forum? Slashdot has some idiots, for sure, but the users are certainly above average.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Spazntwich (208070)
          Depends on your viewpoint. Slashdot users also tend to have very strong notions of right and wrong with low tolerance for anything deemed wrong.

          Replies, even if informative and correct can be downmoderated if moderators detect even a hint of pedantic tone or the slightest "flame" even when directed at someone who is a complete idiot.

          Forums like Fark and others offer a much more relaxed and less formal atmosphere because of their "immature" users, and if I'm> going to spend a lot of time on a forum, I sur
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Stonehand (71085)
          Not if you ever visit any of the 'intellectual property' threads here, where you're likely to see hordes of posters who haven't the slightest clue about the differences between patents, trademarks, and copyrights; nor the slightest desire to learn. You're lucky if you actually find a poster who's willing to look up primary documents rather than repeat mere rumors and bogosities, even when the documents are obvious (ex -- the US Code regarding Federal statutes) and the myths debunked years ago (ex -- the al
          • by bit01 (644603)

            Not if you ever visit any of the 'intellectual property' threads here, where you're likely to see hordes of posters who haven't the slightest clue about the differences between patents, trademarks, and copyrights; nor the slightest desire to learn.

            Nonsense, the vast majority of slashdotters are well aware of the differences.

            Just because people object to the current implementation of those concepts, and want something new, doesn't mean they don't understand them. Your position is the typical conflation

          • by gad_zuki! (70830)
            >find more insight and genuine debate with less groupthink on Fark,

            Right. I can see it now:

            Topic: Intellectual Property Rights:

            farkguy1024: liberz suck!!!

            farkguy720: -inline photo of a half naked gay man saying 'you go girl'-

            farkguy882: bomb those ragheads!!!

            farkguy 882: -inline animated gif of a nuclear explosion with Saddams head flying out of the frame-

            farkguy1222: Where are the boobies?????

            deleted post of an inline photo of a naked obese woman or possible tubgirl/goatse
        • > Have you been to fark, or imdb, or any other forum? Slashdot has some idiots, for sure, but the users are certainly above average.

          I second that. You don't really appreciate the intellectual level of /. until you hit some other forum. Hard to say why this is the way it is; could be the fact that the subject matter attracts educated people, but I think it's more due to the moderation system. It's got its problems, but I think it strikes a good balance between freedom of expression, and making it easy to
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by jabster (198058)
      Most of our members have came from slashdot through my sig link, so I guess that helped us get members that were above average in terms of writing and discussion skills.

      WOO-HOO!!

      OMG!! RAOTHLMFAO!!!

      Now I have chocolate milk all over my monitor!

      Thanks for brightening my day!

      -john
    • "Most of our members have came from slashdot through my sig link, so I guess that helped us get members that were above average in terms of writing and discussion skills."


      Yes, and the Pope is infallible.
  • It's not going to ever look non-partisan unless everyone's posts agree with your politics. In which case, you don't really have a non-partisan forum at all, but a you-partisan forum. What's worse is politics is nasty enough that even experts cannot be relied upon to settle disputes: they come with their own biases. There's the whole epistemology problem to contend with.

    I think the best you can hope for is for everyone to be civil, but even that's only enforceable if everyone's already civil: uncivil mode
    • by Erioll (229536)
      I'd say that the best way to start one is to have it on a site that has an existing topic that's non-political. For example, the politics section over on eq1.eqsummoners.com is attached to a Magician Class board for the game Everquest. But the Politics section is almost-completely populated by people that either play the game or used to play the game, which gives the range of opinions to be extreme. It has a slight bias, as obviously you must be in a certain financial situation to be able to play a game
  • If it's an obvious troll, delete it. Otherwise let it stay.

    You need maximal freedom of speech for proper discourse.
    • Not that easy. (Score:2, Interesting)

      by partisanX (1001690)
      If it's an obvious troll, delete it.

      Speaking as someone over the years who has been derided on political forums as both a far right rightwing extremist and a left wing nut job, when it comes to politics, trolling is often in the eyes of the beholder. What would be considered trolling in a left wing forum would be seen as a valid opinion in a right wing forum and vice versa. This is due to the different "hot buttons" partisans of different parties are programmed to have.

      I'm currently struggling with
      • 'a blogsite/message board for people who refuse to dirty themselves through alignment with a political party'

        Hiya

        I'm curious - how do you/these people act on their political views (in real life)

        Direct action, single issue stuff (pro/anti GM, etc), industrial action (strikes/ direct confrontation, etc. All of these, none, some I haven't mentioned?

        Ta

        • I'm curious - how do you/these people act on their political views

          I don't know how the forum will turn out. It has not been launched yet. I have secured a server for it and am in the process of configuring the software and choosing a layout. My plan is to attempt to draw independent minded people to the forum and then see where the chips fall.

          but, I can tell you how I handle this so far...
          Direct action, single issue stuff (pro/anti GM, etc), industrial action (strikes/ direct confrontation, etc. Al
          • Hiya

            I don't really understand some of the issues that you mention ('memes and cult like group think', 'some partisan friend of mine emailed me to sign a petition.') - these aren't ways that I see people operating in In the UK, and EU)

            I still don't get where people who 'refuse to dirty themselves through alignment with a political party') actually *do* anything about things they disagree with.

            How do you/ they attempt to change society/ the world/ their neighbourhood?

            When you mention memes and petitions, I th
            • I don't really understand some of the issues that you mention ('memes and cult like group think', 'some partisan friend of mine emailed me to sign a petition.') - these aren't ways that I see people operating in In the UK, and EU)

              Do you understand what a meme or a cult is? The definition of meme is debateable, so I'll focus on cults as that's the more serious of my accusations anyway.

              A cult can grow around many different things. A charismatic leader, an appealing idea, etc... For the sake of clear exp
  • Have you not seen some of the political discussions running amuck here?

    Even with the mod system, the filtering in "pref's", and the karma system, most political battles^Wdiscussions resemble fireworks on the 4th of July, only with nukes, WMD's, and hookers...er, what was we talking about?

    BTW, sorry I don't have something more positive, but good luck with that anyway- it should be an interesting experience!
  • it is possible (Score:3, Insightful)

    by joe 155 (937621) on Saturday September 23, 2006 @03:09PM (#16169009) Journal
    I'm actually doing this, and I can give you advice about some sections of it.

    Firstly about ACs and flaming, we run it through a university society so most people who come on are from a university (and as such there is little flaming and trolling). We are open though for anyone to post on it, but I think most people wouldn't hunt out a small system on the net to try and troll. I know you get it on /. but it is a much bigger target - and even here it's not too big of a problem.

    I think If you want it to be non-partisan then you need to put up non-partisan stories and just let everyone have their own views and post them. You can even put up partisan stories but just try to make sure that they are fairly ballanced in number. For us me and a firend put up the stories, he's a Labour supporter (and a Blairite) whereas I'm a member of a conservative party. It's not normally that hard to see your own bias.

    If you live in the UK getting access to non-partisan representations of the news is easy (because all our TV media has to be non-partisan). It might be harder if you want to do US news but you could always put up a right and a left wing interpretation of the story and then let people talk about where they feel that they are on it...

    If you want to try and encourage well thought out discusion you should consider getting some friends and along with yourself post your own opinions on the stories in a well thought out way (especially at the start) so that people can see top quality examples of discusion and reason

    As for moderation on the whole I'd say don't. I've had people say that they think that 9/11 and 7/7 were justified etc. and I've just left it, people can see bullshit and often don't even flame back (but can tear their poor arguements appart). I would delete something which used overly offensive language, or an obvious flaming comment (like "Bush is crap and likes to have sex with dogs and children!" - you know it's a lie and it has no point).

    • by Alsee (515537)
      If you live in the UK getting access to non-partisan representations of the news is easy (because all our TV media has to be non-partisan)

      I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry over that comment.

      Here in the US there are many who insist that that UK news has a wildly liberal bias. "Fair and Balanced" over here means placing your required-to-be-non-partisan media at one "radical" end of the field... placing goal post right there and calling that one biased slant on the news, and then of course there is the oppo
      • by Quila (201335)
        The US Political Right 0wns talk radio. The US political left 0wns comedy TV.

        Consider that "0wns" means the vast majority of Americans listening to those media formats prefers listening to those views. The left-wing Air America got into talk radio with major financial backing, and is now floundering due to lack of listeners.

        And although the Daily Show appears to slant left, I've noticed it pulls no punches when the left does stupid things. I'm actually wondering whether it would appear to slant right if a l
        • by Alsee (515537)
          Consider that "0wns" means the vast majority of Americans listening to those media formats prefers listening to those views.

          Exactly. And the very interesting point to ponder of just what it is psychologically about the left/right audiences and the aspects of the two media formats that causes such an overwhelming and opposite effect in each.

          The left-wing Air America got into talk radio with major financial backing, and is now floundering due to lack of listeners.

          Air America is not just floundering, it took t
          • Talk radio
            Talk radio always seems to come off as a heavy-handed, authoritative voice -- and the left, pretty much by definition, reacts against traditional authority. A single speaker telling it like it is has to choose a topic to focus on, a viewpoint, and how far that viewpoint should be carried out.

            In some ways, it's almost like a sermon, and you can see where that's going.

            A conservative and traditional viewpoint is easier to preach to: Things were fine before the liberals started messing around. Follow
          • by Quila (201335)
            they virtually all openly support drug use and gay marriage and abortion and indulge in "elitist contempt for those of deep faith".



            Not all conservatives are Christian social conservatives. Others are the more libertarian wing of conservatism, just get the government out of where it doesn't belong and return to the plan laid out by the Constitution. This view pisses off both social conservatives and leftists since it's against the grand design of both.

          • by radtea (464814)
            I have have one or two ideas struggling to explain it, but nothing fully formed, nothing providing so much as a 50% explanation,

            The left fails in talk radio because everyone who is remotely liberal is already listening to NPR, and has been from an early age. NPR is everything the left is looking for: broadminded, skeptical, eclectic. No startup can compete with that.
  • by wfberg (24378) on Saturday September 23, 2006 @03:20PM (#16169099)
    1. allow only discussion on events that happened atleast 120 years ago in rural Sweden
    2. no Swedes
  • I, too, have often thought about creating a forum where well-reasoned ideas could be expressed and debated. However, actually allowing for democratic participation usually results in the debate turing to jingoism and argumentum ad hominem. I have formulated a plan in an attempt to overcome these problems, but failed to implement it due to the amount of time required. I will describe that plan forthwith so that you might consider it as a possible answer to your inquiry.

    The subject for the debate is poste

    • by Mandrel (765308)

      I think rather than working on a schedule, debates should have long lives through use of an ongoing forum which is linked to a wiki summary of the respective pro and con cases, each case overseen by a group of editors.

      In this respect, check out: makethecase.net. [makethecase.net]

  • by rolfwind (528248) on Saturday September 23, 2006 @03:40PM (#16169237)
    I have seen forums come and go while certain ones stay. They have several factors, but in terms of administration:

    1. I would think the first step would be to go out and attract/recruit the core group of people who share your vision and are enthusiastic about it. The core group is very important, as they set the energy and the mood for everyone else. They are also the ones you will eventually trust to place moderators when the forum outgrows your oversight.

    2. Set clear and simple policies and rules that encourage the atmosphere/cooperation you want in place and enforce them consistently. Be fair and explain the actions you take and have the moderators explain themselves to the group when they make a decision, don't make decisions that are arbitrary. People can see when you are being fair or when you are taking sides due to varying factors such as cronyism, partisanship, etcetera.

    3. No censorship of purely political speech. It may see like "no duh!" but enough political forums decide to censor views that are not compatible with the moderators/leader of the board. Even over objectionable views, there are ways to win over them without resorting to this.

    Okay, that aside, let's discuss what you want. You want a non-partisan board. The origin of partisan is of course party, like political party. The role of the political party was always to band individuals together into a force that has power. The downside of a political party is that over time a member had to trade in his individual thinking and go with the groupthink of the group, sometimes with issues that had little to do with the original goal of the group.

    Political parties/movements have done or promoted some good, such as the abolitionist movement, women's suffrage, and of course our own revolution.

    Political Parties have also done a lot of bad: the Communist Party in Russia and elsewhere where they have actually taken power, the National Socialist party, etcetera. In America, Political Parties have not been this evil, but have set the current political system (which I think should be unconstitutional) and climate to their advantage and have wrought the current situation.

    In this sense, the way to minimize partisanship is to get in your core group of people who are for independent politicians (no party affiliation mandatory) and where political parties have little meaning to them. Meaning that your core group should be people that don't follow a party line, but decide issue by issues. People who staunchly stick with their parties will always have a conflicting interest to be partisan as a show of loyalty/teamplaying for their party.

    You will likely also want people who are not afraid to blast both sides equally.

    Like many social human endeavors, since politics is the assertion of one's own ego, don't expect a lack of shrill bickering though.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Censor anything that deviates from logical discourse. Discover a contradiction, belittle the poster for their failure to argue critically and objectively, attempt to correct their pseudo-syllogism, and applaud yourself for making the world a better place.

      An easy way would be to also allow the community to modify words by adding hyperlinks to support or deride premises.
  • You have to decide what's most important to you: reach or principle.

    On the one hand, many of the free discussion forums are flooded with people who spout hateful gibberish about politicians they don't like or blind lovefest for politicians they do. To keep these people out, you might want to consider charging membership fees. People seem to pop off a lot less when it costs them money to do so.

    On the other hand, charging a membership fee may create a problem with reach. Some people may be the sort to engag
  • http://whatswrongwiththe.us/ [whatswrongwiththe.us]

    Very interesting (even if I'm not american myself and the site focus on US issues). It is slash-based, so provide the moderation system you know can help filter the comments. However, the site does not have that many comments yet.
  • Instead of focusing on parties or current (cliched) discussions, start with first principals and try to steer discussion toward principals upon which people agree on, THEN apply the reasoning to current events.

    For example:

    Abortion - pro or anti? -- Wrong!

    To what degree should the law force dependency on a person? Can the law require a person to allow the use of their body to host another, even if it means the other may perish? Could we force a person to donate blood or an organ? -- Discuss the principal,
  • I was thinking about this issue recently ...

    If you have a large, public forum, and use a moderation system, it seems that partisans would mod their side up and the other side down. They may balance each other out; in fact, the flames that provoke outrage should attract more negative mods, and those that can make arguments that appeal to the other side would be left alone (or modded up).

    You could also hand out many, extra, '-1 partisan drivel' mod points, maybe 1/day/user, to filter out the remainder of the
  • Republican posters will ruin it for everyone.
    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by Quila (201335)
      ... in response to rabid Democrats. I have seen the drivel posted on Democratic Underground, including conspiracy theories that get posts of support all the way through. Seriously, these people would believe Bush planned 9/11 every step, they personally, venomously hate him so much. It's worse than than the worst that's posted on its conservative counterpart, Free Republic.

      FTR, I'm not a Republican, nor a Bush fan.
    • If we weren't called ReTHUGs even before we talk about anything. Talk about censorship.
  • First off, I think you're bound for failure. However, if you really want to do this, there's a feature you should absolutly not impliment. Friends. Nothing like a /. zoo. Friends will be people that agreee with you. Foes will be people that disagree with you. Soon it degenerates into killfile.

    Some say don't censor, but that's wrong. You should. Too often the shrillest voices take over the discussion. Be fair though. Five years ago Jonah Goldberg fired Ann Coulter from the National Review Online,
  • Maybe what you're trying to do is to set up a centrist blog.

    There is no such thing as nonpartisan polical discussion, but there are a surprising number of centrist blogs, running normal blog software, that succeed in perpetuating a culture of thoughtful comments, rather than paranoia or personal attack.

    Spam's more of a real problem than trolls.

    It was started by a couple of people of centrist inclination getting together and recruiting a initial core. That's since changed drastically, but it's still

    • > Maybe what you're trying to do is to set up a centrist blog.

      But everybody thinks he's a centrist. No matter where you place yourself on any issue there will be extremists who will label you "leftist" or "rightist" (or "uppist" or "downist") because you are not as extreme as they are.
  • by NoMaster (142776) on Saturday September 23, 2006 @10:18PM (#16171839) Homepage Journal
    A few reasons :

    If it's a US-centric forum, you can't avoid partisanship. One of the very cornerstones of US political practice is partisanship - the system has largely been warped from a rational discussion of issues and direction into an "us vs them" argument ("this isn't an argument, it's just contradiction!" "No it's not..."). Of course, there'll always be a few truely non-partisan people around - the people you want to attract - but they always seem to end up being attacked by both sides.

    And that's another point: you will be attacked. Trolls, swarming, astroturf, DoS, legal threats - anything and everything, every dirty trick, will be used by one or the other to destroy you. Because you threaten their beliefs, because you threaten their cosy bipolar system, and sometimes just because they need to rile up their army of like-mided followers to attack something.

    (A little aside: every organisation of any power or size has some sort of hidden master/slave structure. In left-wing organisations, the two parts are sometimes called "members & militants". The militants are, well, militant; they make policy, choose targets, etc. Members exist so that (a) the militants can point and say "look, we have 30,000 supporters, so we must be right!", and (b) because 30,000 members turning up at a rally is much more impressive than 10 militants...)

    Finally, it's impossible to keep it non-partisan. Gradually, in 100 different little ways, the group will show a consensus biased towards one side or the other. Even these little biases will attract one or two like-thinking members, and discourage one or two others. Eventually the tipping point is reached - and in these things, that point is almost invisible - and the bias becomes unrecoverable.

    So, nice idea - and one I applaud tremendously; I can see my own country's political system becoming more and more party partisan every day because that's what the parties desire. But, ultimately, doomed to failure. It'd be a nice windmill to tilt at for a while, though...

  • by NevarMore (248971) on Sunday September 24, 2006 @10:15AM (#16174475) Homepage Journal
    Assuming you're American, you need to remember that a NON-partisian organization needs to include ALL political parties and ALL voters. This includes independents, Libertarians, Greens, Socialists, Communists, and all the other 'minor' ideas. Non-partisian doesn't mean just democrats and republicans, do you hear me League of Women Voters?

    As for the moderation issue, make it clear and make your users agree to a 'debate not argue' concept. By example, I was at a political rally for PeirceForOhio.com last week. A Green supporter, a Blackwell supporter, and I were having a discussion about poltics. We disagreed, but we were amiable and making points all around. Another rally-er came over and started ranting while we were having a nice conversation, irritated all of us.

    Your users need to be reminded that a discussion forum is for DISCUSSION and is not a pulpit.

    See also issues arising from Godwins Law: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin's_law [wikipedia.org]

    A strategy that I use on a non-political board is NEVER to delete posts. I move, split, and edit and every time I have to moderate I make it clear why the thread was moderated. I and the other admins also listen to and respond to issues with moderation, but not in the moderated thread.
  • In so much as I try to encourage political debate on the forums for my politics game here:
    http://www.positech.co.uk/forums [positech.co.uk]
    I think I've been ok so far, even though the discussion is fairly sparse. One reason for this is that the nature of the game is entirely about politicl policies and actual implementation, rather than rhetoric or 'principles', so possibly that skews the discussion away from the more flamebait related areas.
    One thing I suspect helps si that if I start a poll or topic, I always try to rpese
  • I will say this is impossible.

    Oh, the board will stay fairly-civil -- at first. But political boards suffer from a decay effect: over time, the conversation decays and devolves into mindless ad-hominem attacks and factless "IMO, this is what we should do" ideological partisan squabbles.

    The problem is one of regression towards a mean value of quality. On any given board, as the population rises, the ratio of insightful, intelligent commenters to moronic, idiot blatherers widens. The behavior is very much
  • I do not think this is the best place to ask your question HEIL HITLER!

  • The first question you need to ask yourself is are you trying to create a forum that's fun to mess around with, or are you trying to create something that's seriously useful, a valuable part of the democratic process.

    If you want something seriously useful, then you need to consider various scenarios that a toy site can ignore: e.g. what happens if Karl Rove hires a few dozen people to get on your site, and pretend that they're several hundred different people, who all just happen to be presenting a simila

  • I know this is probably never going to be read, but I'll have a quick say anyway.

    I believe the best and most civil forums have roughly 5-20 active participants. Any more and you just have fools who join strictly to post "all liberals hate America!" or "all conservatives are Nazis!" With a smaller community its much simpler to run because the extremists can always be bashed back into line (ie. www.tdtalk.com)

    Anyway, good luck :)

Physician: One upon whom we set our hopes when ill and our dogs when well. -- Ambrose Bierce

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