Fri 19 Jul 2013 3:34PM

Liquid Democracy in Loomio

JS Jeff Swift Public Seen by 467

I've been doing some research into various kinds of democracy, and I'm intrigued by the idea of "liquid democracy." This might have already been discussed here, but I wanted to see if anyone else would be interested in this sort of thing.

The basic idea is a democratic system in which most issues are decided (or strongly suggested to representatives) by direct referendum. Considering nobody has enough time and knowledge for every issue, votes can be delegated by topic. Furthermore delegations are transitive and can be revoked at any time. Liquid Democracy is sometimes referred to as Delegated or Proxy Voting. source

So, as I understand it, liquid democracy is somewhere between representative and direct democracy, leaning toward direct democracy. I'm intrigued by this idea of being able to "delegate" the weight of my support on particular issues to particular people. So, if I trust my friend on environmental issues, I can give her my support on those specific issues. This will free me up to focus on the issues and deliberations that I am more knowledgeable about and interested in.

I could see this being a useful addition to the Loomio system for a number of reasons. Personally, I'm not able to keep up with all the different conversations going on at any time, and even if I were able to read them, I wouldn't be able to engage in the background reading needed to really be able to contribute meaningfully. So, either I skim most of the discussions, or I just ignore them.

If, however, I were able to indicate my support for an individual in some way on a specific issue, and that support were made visible to others in the discussions where that issue was being discussed, then at least I would know my support is playing a role in those deliberations even if I wasn't personally engaging in them.

I would imagine this would start very small, a few individuals delegating specific things to close friends. It's a new and odd way of thinking about deliberations. But, eventually, I could see a robust system of liquidity, where support is extended and withdrawn and deliberations are more productive and engaging for everyone.

It would require a system for people to "delegate" their votes, and vote-recording system, so that people can track how their "delegates" vote and make sure they still deserve that support. It would also require some kind of system for people to see how much "support" each person has about specific issues. There would surely be other issues, but these seem like the biggest ones.

But, like I say, I'm only now exploring these theories. Here are some more sources I've been looking at: The Wikipedia article on liquid democracy, Der Spiegel on the German Pirate Party's use of this model, Community Wiki notes on the idea.

So, what do you say? Would this work with the overall goals of Loomio? Could this be implemented in such a way that it takes advantage of both direct deliberative democracy?


Josef Davies-Coates Fri 19 Jul 2013 4:04PM

I love liquid democracy!

And I'd love Loomio to evolve into a tool that makes it possible!

A very important point by the original coiner of the term is, however, sadly almost universally missed, and that is the different between vote delegation/ proxies and vote recommendations.

See here http://seed.sourceforge.net/ld_k5_article_004.html where he writes:

“Other systems similar to LD have been designed, but as far as I know they employ vote proxying, rather then answer recommendation”

And here http://campaigns.wikia.com/wiki/Liquid_Democracy where he re-iterates the same thing (I previously had to revert that wiki page to an older version to include it)

“i’d just like to stress the difference between vote proxying and vote recommendation. one’s “pull” and the other’s “push”, and that’s a big part of what makes liquid democracy unique. with liquid democracy, people can request recommendations from multiple people, and from there they can do all kinds of things – take the average, ignore some recommendations, ignore all the recommendations and vote their unique conscience, etc. with proxying, you can’t do that, and that’s why proxying isn’t enough. “

He doesn't spell it out, but vote recommendations also keeps the power at the edges where it belongs, and makes it harder for people to become too influential.


Jeff Swift Fri 19 Jul 2013 4:47PM

@josefdaviescoates, that's a really interesting distinction, let me see if I grasp it. So vote recommendation in liquid democracy is that I go to my five smartest friends who knows about the environment and get their advice on how I should vote. And then I vote however I want to.

Vote proxying, on the other hand, is that I go to them and say "here's my vote" and then move my vote later if I need to.

Is that the difference?


Chris Taklis Fri 19 Jul 2013 5:04PM

That in my opinion is more negative than positive.

And if it some day become reality on loomio there should be an option to disable/enable it for those groups which don't want or want it .

And in the last congress of the German Pirate Party they expell the liquid feedback for the reason that has delegation and couldn't disable it. And that happened because there were over 3.000 members and only voted no more that 300.

Also in Pirate Party of Greece that has the same problem with delegations is a war between members because 5 people vote for 40. That means 1 person has a lot of delegations can take the poll where he/she wants.


Josef Davies-Coates Fri 19 Jul 2013 5:10PM

Just turned that into a blog post feel free to spread the word and comment! :P


Josef Davies-Coates Fri 19 Jul 2013 5:16PM

@christaklis neither parties were actually using/ practicing liquid democracy as originally conceived. See my blog post.

@jeffswift not exactly, you don't go to them, the (and everyone who wants to) issue vote recommendations which you apps would automatically know about (like an rss reader gets rss feeds for you, you don't have to manually go and get them). Then you could either decide to go with what the majority of the people you trust on a particular subject want, or just one, or none. The power stays with you. You'd be able to set-up all sorts of clever rules like: if 75% of people I trust on x subject agree, vote that way, if not, email/ text me etc etc


Miguel Prados Rodriguez Fri 19 Jul 2013 5:41PM

Liquid Democracy is just another type of representative democracy, I do not fancy it at all, same dog with a different collar.


Josef Davies-Coates Fri 19 Jul 2013 7:00PM

@miguelpradosrodrig imho Liquid Democracy is fundamentally better and more flexible than the form of so-called representative democracy (that is neither representative nor democratic) that dominates politics in most of the so-called democratic world.

If you so choose, you get to vote on everything yourself, just like direct democracy. If, on a particular subject, you don't trust yourself or have neither the time nor inclination to actively participate, you can accept the vote recommendations of those people you trust in the relevant context. That is a world apart from delegating your votes in all issues to one person (normally the person who didn't actually vote for) for many years.


Miguel Prados Rodriguez Fri 19 Jul 2013 7:21PM

@josefdaviescoates it is basically representative democracy, no change.. Collective Intelligence studies shows that it is better not to give an opinion rather than delegate yours in someone, please see "Effects of Social Influence on the Wisdom of Crowds" in http://arxiv.org/html/1204.2991v1


Josef Davies-Coates Fri 19 Jul 2013 8:32PM

@miguelpradosrodrig I'll have a read of that, thanks! :)


Chris Taklis Fri 19 Jul 2013 8:44PM

I say only if that is available on the future give the opportunity to disable it for those groups who don't want it and don't make it compulsary.


Danyl Strype Mon 22 Jul 2013 9:47AM

Loomio is a tool for finding consensus, and recording the chain of deliberation by which a consensus was reached. It is not a voting tool. Instead of trying to make Loomio a decision-making swiss army knife, think it would be better to keep it focussed on facilitating consensus, and maybe create a fork of Loomio which meets the needs of organisations which using voting to make decisions.

For consensus, I agree with @miguelpradosrodrig that it's better for people to just ignore discussions that don't affect them, rather than trying to have a controlling say in everything through any kind of proxy, even the liquid "pull" kind that @josefdaviescoates mentioned.


Nicolas Wormser Mon 22 Jul 2013 10:11AM

Argh, no time now, but that looks like very hot stuff and I don't want to miss out! I'll come back to it as soon as I've got time!

Maybe we need a “star discussion” feature for this? (don't answer here)


Ricardo Araújo Wed 24 Jul 2013 11:08PM

I've been doing some work with some teammates in a political project that joins representative democracy, delegative democracy, liquid democracy and direct democracy all in one. There is not yet a english translation but is the is a relevant interest i may do it soon or explain it directly to someone via skype.
You can see the most important diagram here: http://movimentocdp.wordpress.com/organizacao/organograma/secretarias/
Loomio may be adapted to include those kind of democracy models and a way to build a organization structure, which is very importante for groups with an hierarchy to use loomio in a efficient way.


Josef Davies-Coates Thu 25 Jul 2013 11:34AM

@strypey says:

"Loomio is a tool for finding consensus, and recording the chain of deliberation by which a consensus was reached. "

That may be what you want to use it for, and what it is currently designed for, but that isn't how the purpose of Loomio is actually described here:

The actual purpose is defined far more broadly:

"Loomio exists to create a world where it’s easy for anyone to participate in decisions that affect them. "

@strypey also write:

" it's better for people to just ignore discussions that don't affect them, rather than trying to have a controlling say in everything"

I don't get why you describe someone wishing to have the opportunity participate in decisions that affect them via a Liquid Democracy style processes as "trying to have a controlling say in everything"?


Josef Davies-Coates Thu 25 Jul 2013 11:37AM

PS (if only I could edit comments and not have to do a PS ;) )

For the record, the longer and I assume more official version of Loomio's purpose is:

Creating a world where it’s easy for anyone to participate in decisions that affect them.

With the right collaborative process, groups generate better ideas, decisions and actions than any individual would by themselves.

Loomio breaks down the barriers to participation in decision-making at every level: in neighbourhoods, community organisations, businesses, social movements, and local and national governance.

Collaborative decision-making balances individual autonomy with the collective good.

From https://www.loomio.org/about#purpose


Richard D. Bartlett Tue 30 Jul 2013 9:15PM

Great thread! I am very interested in the various options for facilitating mass collaboration, be it liquid democracy (push or pull), parpolity (i.e. spokescouncils), or some other novel mechanism.

In my opinion, whatever mechanism in use to inform the recommendations/delegations/representatives, there's likely to be a relatively small group of people at the top of the pyramid/nexus of the network/innermost circle who will have to decide things deliberatively.

For the forseeable future at least, I'm thinking about Loomio as the place where that deliberation happens, and for it to be 'agnostic' as to what mechanisms and processes are feeding into it.

I.e. I can imagine an ecosystem of interoperable tools that allow different groups to vote/delegate/rank/filter/sort using the mechanism of their choice, which will then feed into a Loomio thread and a final decision point (which I imagine to be something like consensus).


Torsten Fischer Fri 2 Aug 2013 12:29PM

Hey. A very necessary discussion. I am a member of the Pirate Party here in Berlin. Since the last election 2011, there are 15 pirates representing Berlin, all of them officially committed towards Liquid Democracy. Principally everyone can take part in any decision, create own motions and so on, or delegate his/her voice for a certain section or in total to another user. After almost 2 years, the results so far are not that motivating:

Many members do not have a working account, even amongst those who do there are few very active and due to the delegation system very powerful users, whereas the most mostly stands aside and interact rarely. The problem with delegation is, that the raising power of one user deminishes the others´. If one only assumes that engagement will be fruitless due to a powerful opponent (i.e. s.o. with many delegations), the effect on motivation are devastating. Also I personally find that delegating lead to the believe that one is engaged without really engaging. Atm it is true what you say, @jeffswift that it can be hard to follow all discussions. This though only indicates that a tool like loomio can only be functional until a certain level of complexity, but I find this is a very good thing, since small things tend to be much more human than big ones.


Josef Davies-Coates Wed 7 Aug 2013 10:43PM

Hey @torstenfischer thanks for sharing your experiences. I think a big mistake was made when adopting for delegative/ proxy voting (push) vs vote recommendations (pull). Also, publishing who has lots of power is also a big mistake. People should issue vote recommendations and who is accepting them (or not) should not be public. This would hopefully keep more power at the edges and motivate people to think and vote for themselves a lot more.


[deactivated account] Thu 22 Aug 2013 3:33AM

On another list I am on I just noticed the following message. I suspect some of you may be interested:

Hi all,

I've just finished the first version of a (simple but attractive) online tool allowing communities/groups to practise liquid/delegative democracy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delegative_democracy

You can find it at http://liquidocracy.com/. Let me know if you want an invite to a test community.

(day job at the new economics foundation, twitter @wordsandwriting)


max noble Sat 14 Sep 2013 1:13PM

Have you guys seen the way China is doing democracy right now. Its the best system in the world! its a hybrid of computer data and high level decision making.


Matthew Bartlett Sun 15 Sep 2013 8:28PM

@maxnoble tell me more...


max noble Tue 17 Sep 2013 9:32AM

@matthewbartlett have you seen the TED talk "The great firewall of China"?


max noble Tue 17 Sep 2013 9:34AM

I got an error on the FB signin for Cookie
Puma caught this error: must pass either a code parameter or a signed request (via signed_request parameter or a fbsr_XXX cookie


Matthew Bartlett Tue 17 Sep 2013 9:36AM

@maxnoble — nope; thanks; I'll check it out


max noble Wed 18 Sep 2013 7:35AM

THe basic strategy is as follows;
1 make copyies of all western social sites in our country.
2 run all socail data through Beijing computers
3 mine the data for common public unrest.
4 make a high level decision to solve problem
5 take action


max noble Wed 18 Sep 2013 7:36AM

Its a hidden hybrid version of democracy...and to be honest I think its much more effective than our western corrupt systems.


max noble Wed 18 Sep 2013 7:43AM

The big question in all systems is...how to prevent corruption?


Ricardo Araújo Wed 18 Sep 2013 10:04PM

Liquid democracy is good to force representative groups in an a organization to gather as many colleags as possible so they have the more representative power inside the organization. Delegative is algo good because the delegation is not static. somo one may be elected at a specific time by couting delegated votes but with that can change, people can change their delegation, and it's bat for the person elected. so the elected person in this system has more pressure to acomplish promisses or the his image may turn very bad if in some poit he has less delegated votes than the ones that eleted him, and wors less than competition. It may not loose the place for wich he was elected for but his "authority" will be seryously compromised. At some point, at some percentage of droped delegation there could take place a new election, since the current elected person doesn't represent the minimum persons percentage established.


Michael Duane Mooring Fri 13 Jun 2014 12:33AM

Liquid Democracy could also let someone subscribe to interests they care/are informed about and vote on those while giving their vote to other topics to other popular experts/friends on those matters.

So with a Loomio mobile app that did liq-demo like this, I'd get a notification on my device whenever there were votes I could vote on for matters of having floride in public water or voting on Solar Roadways, or voting for NASA's budget ect...


Miguel Prados Rodriguez Fri 13 Jun 2014 6:46AM

Uau ! I am very very glad to read the practical experience of @torstenfischer related to liquid democracy, really glad. Sometimes you are convinced of something and then experience puts you back to real life. I have never been a fan of liquid democracy because I think it gives good bloggers the capacity to legislate due to the power of delegation (no good), If it also affects motivation as Torsten said, then it is nothing fun this liquid democracy thing.


Michael Duane Mooring Fri 13 Jun 2014 6:50AM

@miguelpradosrodrig, it is good to try it out and get real feedback/data. One thing is clear, politics is becoming more participatory every day thanks to technology by average citizens.


Daniel Plaat Tue 17 Jun 2014 10:01PM

strange that sometimes ranked choice voting is called liquid dem; but so is the delegation. Now the recommendation kind(what I'm attracted to the most) is also called liquid as well. Seems that just as there are different versions of consensus and terms can get jumbled; a need for specifically different terms are needed so we know what we're talking about.


Joum Thu 3 Jul 2014 1:21AM


Joum Thu 3 Jul 2014 2:57AM

The pirate party and liquid democracy.
a pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.
Oh those Germans and their descriptive words lol.


Thierry Sat 12 Jul 2014 7:51AM

Europe's Pirate Parties are sinking, but they've already won

Concerning Liquid Democracy just have a look at AGORA Ex Machina : https://github.com/CRLbazin/agoraexmachina with delegations

Demo : http://www.seeraiwer.org/agoraexmachina/web/


Caelan MacIntyre Sun 17 Aug 2014 9:49PM

Some years ago, I thought of creating some sort of party, until I immediately realized that it you can't-- in all likelihood, to be charitable-- have a direct democratic plugin that plugs into a main system that is not.
In this light and in the relatively-meaningless monoplatform light, the Pirate Party is utterly ridiculous.


Joop Kiefte (LaPingvino) Sat 30 Aug 2014 9:51PM

There has been a fork of Liquid Feedback, called Pirate Feedback, that replaced liquid democracy for priority voting. I think that their rationale is sane, and if ever Loomio adds open answered questions and/or delegation, doing this with priority voting would be my strong recomendation (i.e. NO chain delegation, like in Liquid Feedback).

Notably, getting rid of chain delegation with priority voting basically solves the problem of a small group of people having all the power as seen in the German Pirate Party, while providing basically all advantages of the Liquid Democracy system.


Hubat McJuhes Sat 30 Aug 2014 10:50PM

I cannot see the problem with chain delegation as 'all the power' stems from the number of people who empower them in real-time -- and can revoke their delegation at any point in time. It is in effect a merit system. I think this is essential for certain deliberation processes, e.g. for party policy development.


Joop Kiefte (LaPingvino) Sat 30 Aug 2014 11:00PM

@hubatmcjuhes the problem with chain delegation is that you don't know if your voice is actually heard, i.e. the one you delegate to can decide not to decide. And if he decides not to, who says you agree with HIS delegation? also, you have the risk of circle delegation, which is also a waste of vote. Priority delegation solves both by having just one level of delegation and providing a second choise for delegation yourself instead of trusting THAT part of the decision to the delegated.


Tekarihoken Sun 7 Sep 2014 9:24AM

I have also met a complementary idea called "distributed" delegation.

The idea is very simple if you need to delegate your vote to the person you trust A. Instead of giving 100% of the power to A you can distribute this power between differents members.
For exemple you can give 50% to A and 25% to B and 25% to C.
With distribution it reduce the risk of power abuse or risk of non-vote.
In this case if A don't vote , your vote is distribute between B and C (50%/50%).
However if nobody of A,B,C are voting you can use a default vote :
- the user is choosing his default choice
-the user is choosing his default choice but a lowest level of power for exemple it can choose to vote with a value of "0.5" instead of "1".
- the user can choose a "random" vote


Chris Taklis Sun 7 Sep 2014 10:40AM

@tekarihoken see the example of the liquid feedback which it's working with delegations.

Ghost-votes. They are voting few people with many delegations which creates a lobby and very few people can do whatever they want, and the people who give their delegation to other people they don't usually care what the other people voted for them...

As for non-voter that mean they don't usually care for the subject.

It's much better to vote who they care, as it is now in Loomio,
and not ghost-voters with people have also and 100 votes instead of 1.


Tekarihoken Sun 7 Sep 2014 11:07AM

I'm not agree at all with your "they don't usually care for the subject".
I don't like direct democracy because it suppose that every one is able a to make the good choice .

If there is a vote about economy proposing different solutions :
-A : Ultra liberal
-B : Communism
-C : Socialism 1
-D : Socialism 2
-E : Utopy

I know that I don't want A and B but I don't know if E can be a good solution, and wich solution is better between C and D.
In this case I can choose 3 friends that have similar polical idea than me and have more knowledge in economy.

In this particular case if one of them is voting A or B I will understand that I have made the wrong choice by giving them my vote.


Chris Taklis Sun 7 Sep 2014 11:23AM

that's the point of delegation @tekarihoken... But very few are using it like this...

i have this experience through pirate party of greece. with 400 members, when we voted direct through forum usually we voted about 150 members but when we went to liquid feedback and we started delegations, in begining we voted 20 members and all the rest not doing anything...

Later 3 people took around 15-20 delegations each one, and those we voted in subjects were about 15 people but it was already late, because has created a lobby who each one of 3 voted in 1 subject it already has won because those who gave the delegation almost never checked what did vote the person who give the delegation...

Now the direct votes are around 10 and delegations but ghost-votes are around 20. But when one subject had to be voted in forum it took immediately about 80 votes...

So if you think it's good i can't change your mind. But i know that is used wrong and that is not going to change never. So i will continue to say it's wrong the delegation. It is much preferable to have direct vote and vote in subjects you want and you have an opinion or vote what do you think it's better even if it's the worst and not just have ghost-votes for just have more participation (ghostly participation) and more votes.


Tekarihoken Sun 7 Sep 2014 11:34AM

In fact your problem come from the lazyness of people.
In this case a solution can be to ask the same "investment" from people to delegate or vote.
It can be done by asking for each vote : a choice or a delegation.
But my idea to use "distribution" can also help to avoid the concentration of the power.


Chris Taklis Sun 7 Sep 2014 11:37AM

but also that you say:

For exemple you can give 50% to A and 25% to B and 25% to C.

that is using pirate party of Germany and also have same problem with ghost-votes like pirate party of Greece and many who have used delegation platforms in past in their groups-organizations trying to find new platforms more directive.

Why when delegation platforms are falling, should Loomio try to become one?


Poll Created Sun 7 Sep 2014 11:50AM

It is good to add an open answer system, but we should avoid chain delegation Closed Sun 7 Sep 2014 1:23PM

by Joop Kiefte (LaPingvino) Mon 27 Feb 2017 10:22PM

The question turns out to be confusing and probably too early. We should come back to this when/if it is decided to add more question options, and then this should probably be configurable.

Liquid feedback gives us some good examples of what can be good and bad in a system that allows to give open answers to polls. For example the priority voting (available in both Liquid Feedback and Pirate Feedback) is a necessity for a honest open question system. However, chain delegation has its own problems that make Loomio too complex and defeating its purpose.


Results Option % of points Voters
Agree 40.0% 2 JK DN
Abstain 40.0% 2 AI T
Disagree 20.0% 1 CT
Block 0.0% 0  

5 of 899 people have voted (0%)


Joop Kiefte (LaPingvino)
Sun 7 Sep 2014 11:53AM

I would suggest to go for a one-time degelation system myself, but in small groups I think not having delegation could also be an option, and the other alternatives to chain delegation should probably also be considered.


Chris Taklis
Sun 7 Sep 2014 11:53AM

no to any delegation system. direct voting is much better.


Alanna Irving
Sun 7 Sep 2014 12:15PM

This is an interesting discussion and I want to encourage it to continue, but in terms of actually what could be implemented in Loomio, I think jumping to specific solutions is premature.


Sun 7 Sep 2014 12:20PM

The solution proposed is too restrictive.
According to me loomio should propose different kind of voting system and let the groups used the system that they prefers.
The solution proposed is only one kind of voting system but there is other.


Diogo Nunes
Sun 7 Sep 2014 1:14PM

Chain delegation is as complex as we want it to be. There's always users/citizens that want to influence the decision making but don't have the time to do it, however they trust specific users/citizens to vote for them.


Chris Taklis Sun 7 Sep 2014 12:17PM

But even if that is activated on loomio, i think it should be an option who those don't want it so they can disable delegation system for their groups.


Diogo Nunes Sun 7 Sep 2014 1:15PM

I think the decision is mixing distinct concepts (open answer and delegation systems). What am I agreeing to? Please create a topic just to discuss delegation.


Matt Wisdom Sun 7 Sep 2014 7:16PM

So there are 5 people offering positions. Seems like we are picking various poisons here. How do you make a decision without a quorum?


Joop Kiefte (LaPingvino) Sun 7 Sep 2014 7:18PM

There is a need for a new vote with a better definition. Maybe you can start it?


Alanna Irving Sun 7 Sep 2014 7:41PM

@mattwisdom I don't think it's about getting a quorum and making a decision all the time... this process was actually great because what @joopkieftelapingvi 's proposal did was clarify exactly the situation, which he then summarized nicely in the outcome statement - that proposal wasn't the best way to put the question, it's a bit early to come to a decision, but one thing people do agree on is options should be configurable. Awesome!

Someday when we're getting closer to actually implementing a feature related to this (which is a ways off probably) this discussion will provide a rich starting point, and we have uncovered a lot of the design questions that will need to be worked out. I think ambiguity definitely has its place in group decision making processes, because sometimes the right answer is there is no answer yet.


Matt Wisdom Sun 7 Sep 2014 8:42PM

Points taken, @alanna. My issue is a bit more personal, which is watching groups struggle to get a quorum to make a decision. Frequently, it ends up being a small number of people that decide things (5 here), whether through a board with a noticed meeting date, or (as people are concerned above) with proxies. The question to me is the mechanism to enable the passionate folks to make decisions, which involves a certain amount of delegation either through disengagement on a passive basis or proxies or what have you. I've never seen a consistent level of high engagement.

I'm not a kurmudgeon by any stretch, but deciding that a new feature should be optional if it is done is not adding much. It's the default answer to a lack of consensus on UI, in my experience. Microsoft's UI is filled with this kind of thing, with optional stuff all over the place. The default UI has extraordinary power, and making those calls is ultimately very important, albeit way premature set at this point in the discourse.

I agree that there is far from consensus on the issue, and the contexts vary pretty dramatically for how a group might function.


Alanna Irving Sun 7 Sep 2014 9:09PM

@mattwisdom you are getting at some really key points when it comes to engagement and group decision-making. Couldn't agree more!

This is verging on another topic, but I have found that how we frame discussions is the crux of getting engagement. For example, the Loomio dev team puts a lot of thought into writing good background and providing mockups for major feature updates we are actually close to implementing. We've found you need to give people enough information and create clear asks for them to engage with, and then you do get a lot of involvement (see the following thread, and the participation permissions thread). This kind of process is something I also host a lot at Enspiral - context is key!

This is also the impetus behind processes we've developed like collaborative funding. I find that the key to getting real engagement is to optimise making the information people need to be meaningfully engaged transparent and accessible, then they jump right in. For something like financial decision-making, that's taken some thought and effort.

Of course, there is a lot of inherent power in who frames the discussion, who provides the background information, etc. But if you at least make that explicit, people can also meaningfully engage by questioning the framing and background info, which is also valuable engagement. And over time, more and more people in the group feel empowered to host engaging discussions themselves. This kind of deep facilitation is not something groups just do - it's a skill groups need to build up together consciously.

Basically, I don't think requiring a certain number for a quorum is as good a solution as building group process skills. Training up a critical mass of people in a group on online facilitation is way, way more valuable than any feature you can code. Just look at groups who do amazing things with very simple tools (we've managed to get pretty far on spread sheets sometimes). Ideally a tool should come along and make a process that's already been optimised easier, not create the process itself (that's how I see Loomio).


Hubat McJuhes Tue 9 Sep 2014 8:12AM

I have been away a little while and have been reading though all these valuable statements right now.
Liquid Democracy as a concept means a lot to me. I think it can change the world as we know it. If people have concerns which stem from trying it, I think it is very important to find better answers that address the concerns better.
@tekarihoken has expressed his frustrating experiences with vote aggregation becoming too dominant in chain delegation situation. Could it be worthwhile considering a degradation factor of vote weight per 'hop'? E.g. exercising our right to vote directly results in 1 vote. With a degradation factor of e.g. 20%, you delegated vote is worth 0.8 of a vote. If your vote happens to become chain delegated 5 times, there would only roughly less than 0.5 left. A group could define the degradation factor. You could even go for 50% loss per hop.
@tekarihoken, do you think this could help?


Hubat McJuhes Tue 9 Sep 2014 8:17AM

Another idea: In Liquid Feedback there is a strict process with a proposal phase to develop the exact wording, then a voting phase where the proposal is freezed, and then the end result.
Would it be worthwhile to consider an additional phase where after all votes have been placed voting is frozen in general, but all original bearers of voting rights which become part of the decision via delegated votes get informed about the outcome of their vote and they get an extra time period to have a chance to adjust their vote?


Tekarihoken Tue 9 Sep 2014 9:59AM

@hubatmcjuhes it wasn't me but @christaklis that has expressed the frustration about chain delegation.
I have only proposed a solution that could help to reduce this risk by using "distributed delegation" instead of "mono delegation".
But your solution seems also very good since it give an incentive to the user to participate.
Both solution are complementary.


Joop Kiefte (LaPingvino) Tue 9 Sep 2014 12:05PM

I was thinking that you could actually combine chain delegation and preference delegation, deciding one by one if you want to let a person do delegation on to others, or if you want to go to the next one on the list instead. Maybe even decide a number of levels to permit chain delegation. For example one chain can be okay, two chains goes so distant that it can be hardly seen as a meaningful choise. This way everybody can decide a level of trust. But probably this would be too complex?


Matt Wisdom Tue 9 Sep 2014 12:40PM

Chain delegation seems a bit unstable. The chains can break multiple times, which adds a lot of practical and conceptual complexity. In general, people have a very hard time understanding concepts beyond the vanilla democracy they were raised with, and so it is a hard sell. Additionally, the sftesre behind it becomes complex. That's my opinion, anyway. I started a company called VoteIt.com so I've been fighting this out for a while.

My sense is that getting an elegant version of of a single level of delegation to work well is more important -- how decisions are made, how votes are delegated by topic area, the period that a person can have a last chance to see if they want to change their vote to disagree with the proxy, and generally the notification system to bug the voter just enough so they get the right level of engagement, even if they have delegated their vote.

Those areas all seem like they will require finesse, experimentation, and great design to make them generally accessible. Chain delegation, which I really hope can be made to work, seems like the next step once simple delegation proves effective.


Caelan MacIntyre Wed 10 Sep 2014 10:33PM

The term, 'Liquid Democracy' seems just another adjective for yet another form of democracy without really adding anything to clarity and if anything, making things murkier by adding to complexity.
I mean, do we all have to get into some kind of body of water before we can vote? Is voting from under a shower good enough?
Nevertheless, as long as Colloid Democracies (in-gelatin voting rights), etc., work for whoever want it and are not coercive to those who don't, then I'm fine with that.
Have it in your ecovillage. In a swale-fed pond.


Hubat McJuhes Thu 11 Sep 2014 10:28AM

@caelanmacintyre 'Liquid Democracy' is a concept that tries to give a positive answer to what is seen as a major problem of democracies-as-we-know-them.

The usual democracy will be based on a delegation system where the people vote their representatives (or a pre-configured list of representatives) and for a given period of time these representatives will make all sorts of decisions in the name of the voting people. this model is beautifully expressed by the term 'seine Stimme abgeben', which means 'to vote' but literally says: 'to hand over ones voice' - making it very clear that, once you voted, you have no saying any more at all (until the next voting day in three, four or five years time, when you will be hero just for one day again).

The concept of Liquid Democracy wants to overcome this tragedy by introducing a way of real-time delegation, where you can define fine-grained delegations, so that you can define your representative(s), not a list, but the exact person; either for all things politics or only for particular political fields or a single issue. But in any case you always can exercise your voting right yourself on each and every issue, if you like. You delegate just as much as you feel appropriate. And you can change your delegation scheme at any point in time. No election day needed.

I think, this is more than...

just another adjective for yet another form of democracy without really adding anything

...this is a change of paradigm.


Caelan MacIntyre Thu 11 Sep 2014 10:04PM

@Hubat McJuhes
Fair enough, Hubat, I guess… There are, of course, ‘pure democracy’ and ‘direct democracy’, but if they don’t already suggest a similar approach or framework to Liquid D (clothes come out softer in Liquid D), then perhaps it is not reinventing the wheel.
In any case, and again, much of this seems of the ‘Ya, no kidding’ category, but somehow never makes the light of day. Instead we get so-called ‘representative democracy’ at the business end of an embedded gun to varying degrees, depending on what kind of prison-ship you live on.
The parable of the violent tribe.
Even the crony-capitalism-state model (call it what you will) is what creates the computer network upon which rides Loomio and, presumably, Liquid D.


Caelan MacIntyre Thu 11 Sep 2014 10:18PM

Loomio, perhaps in association with, say, Permaculture Global, seems to need to be its own decentralized pure democratic– ok, liquid, if you will– ‘country’ or ‘liquid democratic republic of a million villages' and to use its own model– its own, main point perhaps– to help run it, uncoercively/opt-outable.

If so, then it is a ball that is being dropped, or not exactly picked up and held properly– a lost opportunity– by the folks at Loomio and elsewhere with similar takes that are ‘internally democratic’ or discuss it and have some kind of idea of it, but somehow can’t seem to get around to the other side, outside of Plato’s Cave perhaps, and in part, look back in on itself and note the cave’s limitations, even if the prisoners are unchained.

So Loomio it is suggested is essentially just, say, a quaint house on a street somewhere that is democratic on the inside or has a democratic model to export to other houses, with little apparent ambitions of transcending, or capacities to transcend, its walls.

“Most people are not really free. They are confined by the niche in the world that they carve out for themselves. They limit themselves to fewer possibilities by the narrowness of their vision.”
~ V. S. Naipaul


Joum Sat 13 Sep 2014 8:47AM

Every aspect of everything is built upon the established framework of that which existed before it. Followed to its roots, everything is derived from the potentials of existence.

The foundations of society do inhibit the freedom of the potential designs that can be added, and I don't think it is necessary to tear down that which already exist to be able to create systems that could offer better opportunities and potential. We are creating little experiments all over the internet. Testing different ways. Soon some of these different methods will take root.

If it is true that a better paradigm can exist, and they surely can, then change will come.


Caelan MacIntyre Sun 14 Sep 2014 9:55PM

There's potentially much that can be done on and with, say, a 'sociogeopolitical Titanic' before it sinks, with a caveat that it is important to recognize what we have to work with and its implications for our efforts.


Joum Sun 14 Sep 2014 10:47PM

In the manipulation of the social mechanics of society, we have many possible combinations of the methods available to us. Every so often a new invention broadens that potential, and the internet is unquestionably one such invention. There was a chain reaction of events that lead to the invention of the printing press, it was not the results of one man or one technology. Did the participants in the use of this new technology foresee the effects that this new ability would have on society? I guess they would have known that it would be a huge benefit, but could they have imagined how much it would raise the ability of the lowest class? It used to be that the elite possessed easier access to enabling technologies, but now you and I can use the same powerful technology as the rich.

We will not know the eventual effects that the convergence, of the internet into the governance of society, will have until after it has happened. I am of the opinion that giving every person access to the mechanisms of their society, not through the occasional vote for a few people but through the every minute results of an internet poll, will demonstrate the true collective nature of humanity. Therefore I believe that the most important consideration is question of whether the true majority nature of humanity will produce positive results for the success of humanity.


Caelan MacIntyre Sun 14 Sep 2014 11:57PM

“It’s not an accident that the internet came into existence during the last hurrah of the age of cheap energy, the quarter century between 1980 and 2005 when the price of energy dropped to the lowest levels in human history. Only in a period where energy was quite literally too cheap to bother conserving could so energy-intensive an information network be constructed. The problem here, of course, is that the conditions that made the cheap abundant energy of that quarter century have already come to an end, and the economics of the internet take on a very different shape as energy becomes scarce and expensive again… As we move into the penumbra of the deindustrial age, then, it’s crucial to start thinking about the options open to us – individually and collectively – with an eye toward their long-term viability and to the hard reality of a world of ecological limits. When today’s data centers are crumbling ruins long since stripped of valuable salvage, and all the data once stored there has evaporated... the thinking that led politicians to gut viable library systems on the assumption that the internet will take up the slack will look remarkably stupid. Still, the habits of thought instilled by the age of cheap abundant energy are hard to shake off, and from within them, such mistakes are hard to avoid. ” ~ John Michael Greer


Joum Mon 15 Sep 2014 12:46AM

Good quote. The content... it is possible and not just slightly, but I don't see that it is likely. Perhaps you do, and that is you. Me - I don't know. As for faith in humanity - I choose to.


Erlend Sogge Heggen Mon 9 Sep 2019 9:18PM

Count me in as wanting to use Loomio for an LD governance model. As far as I can tell this is not yet possible. All the LD alternatives I’ve evaluated don’t appear to be actively maintained.


Rob Guthrie Mon 9 Sep 2019 9:54PM

I expect we'll have the ability to delegate your vote in about 6 months time - after Loomio 1.0 is retired there is a small architecture change to happen that will solve a number of things, including specifying exactly who can vote in a proposal and selecting and applying delegated votes.

We're also looking into the process of many groups discussing and participating in their own copy of the same proposal, then showing an overview of these proposals for cross group intelligence.


Jaimie Cosmia Thu 14 May 2020 10:13AM

I just want to issue a strong ‘second’ to @Hubat McJuhes’s suggestion that delegated votes could degrade. The skepticism and criticism for LD in this thread have definitely given me some pause and caused me to rethink my enthusiasm somewhat, but I still think LD/delegate democracy could exhibit some really valuable strengths. Perhaps the vote degradation could be even more dramatic—a delegated vote only counts for 25% or 10% on the first handoff. This would certainly reduce the power of proxies, incentivize participation and deliberation, appropriately penalize indirect and likely under-informed engagement, while still allowing some influence by those who are less-informed or very short on time or temporarily occupied. It also lends greater legitimacy to decisions in which a majority of people did not directly participate, which I personally think is a better outcome than decisions with a minority of any kind of engagement becoming binding, which I think is more likely to generate resentment among people who are simply unable to consistently participate.

I’m also interested in other measures for potentially limiting the power of proxies, such as prohibiting chains, requiring that proxies complete their votes a certain interval before decision deadline (and notifying members of their choices with the chance to change them before the deadline has passed), and, a suggestion I haven’t seen here yet, establishing an upper cap on the number of votes a proxy can carry.


Jaimie Cosmia Thu 14 May 2020 10:19AM

I also think apathy and the decision to delegate are more likely to occur the lower the stakes of the decisions. As some groups become more and more important in their impacts on members’ lives, I strongly believe members will be more motivated to directly participate more often. Participatory democracy is also a habit and a lifestyle that few of us are well-practiced at—I absolutely expect that in early stages we will see the worst levels of engagement in either LD or more purely direct forms. It’s just a period that we have to push through for democracy to become second nature—and as we do, people will make better and more engaged direct decisions and, as the case may be, better delegations.


Jaimie Cosmia Thu 14 May 2020 10:26AM

Final thought, I’m not sure whether the Pirate Parties previously discussed conducted their votes online or in-person, but smooth online voting dramatically lowers the barriers to participation and makes it much easier to pick-and-choose when to delegate and whether to invalidate the decision a delegate made for you, which should dramatically diminish the imbalance of influence compared to in-person decisions that require travel and long meetings.


Rob Guthrie Thu 14 May 2020 8:27PM

We've been reworking the architecture of Loomio's voting system over the last couple of months. A basic proxy voting system is planning for some time this year.

First iteration will be a simple "Select your proxy, should you not participate" when joining the group, on closing of proposal all votes that were not cast will be updated according to the proxy rules, and marked as proxy votes.

With export to CSV support, you can apply your own understanding of the weight of proxy votes vs direct votes.


Midi Berry Thu 14 May 2020 9:02PM