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Introducing Discussionist: A new forum by the creators of DU
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Skinner

Profile Information

Name: David Allen
Gender: Male
Hometown: Washington, DC
Home country: USA
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 59,542

Journal Archives

If you hate the DU jury system, you're going to hate this.



Introducing



www.discussionist.com



It has been two-and-a-half years since we launched the jury system as part of the DU3 upgrade, and during that time we've observed it closely and made a number of changes and improvements. Overall, we believe it has succeeded well beyond our original expectations.

Yet throughout the long process of creating the jury system and watching it in action, a question has continued to intrigue us: How well would this work if we weren't using it under such tightly-controlled conditions? That is to say, what would happen if the jury system were tried outside the relatively protected cocoon of Democratic Underground, in an open-to-all environment without ideological boundaries, where the community itself can truly take the lead in setting its own standards?

This is not an experiment we could ever hope (or would ever wish) to try here at DU. To quote from our own About page, DU is "a diverse community of people holding a broad range of center-to-left viewpoints." Therefore the jury system needs to be backed up by an active team of administrators and MIRT members who must intervene to ensure that the site does not stray too far from its intended purpose.

So we thought we would try the experiment somewhere else. If you like the jury system, and if you are curious about the possibilities, then we invite you to take a look at Discussionist.


What is Discussionist?

Discussionist is a general-interest discussion forum with a focus on current events. Unlike Democratic Underground, Discussionist is intended to be open to a wide range of different worldviews. It is not a safe-haven for a particular viewpoint, but we believe that the jury system will allow for robust, passionate discussions while maintaining a level of civility which is acceptable to the broad range of members.

We have also experimented with a new way to organize discussions. The site is separated into 11 top-level categories: news, politics, culture, sports, science, tech, money, health, life, beliefs, and fun. Within each category, every new discussion thread can be assigned to as many as 10 different forums via a simple tagging system. If someone tags a post with a tag that has not yet been used, a new forum is automatically created for that tag. In this manner, the community can spontaneously create a multitude of different forums, and content from those different forums will cross-pollinate throughout the site.

Discussionist is built on the same discussion forum software that runs Democratic Underground. So if you are familiar with DU, or with discussion forums in general, you shouldn't have too much difficulty over on Discussionist. You will notice that we have made a number of changes, both big and small, but overall the software should seem pretty familiar to you.


What does this mean for Democratic Underground?

In a word: nothing. Democratic Underground will still be here, same as it's ever been. All your friends will still be here. All the interesting and aggravating discussions will still be here. And the administrators will still be here, too. Other than being created by the same three people, Discussionist is intended to be entirely independent from Democratic Underground.


How do I join?

Just go to discussionist.com and create an account.

We encourage you to sign up with a different username from the one you use here at DU. The message board culture is going to be different over there, and it might be more fun with a different name. Don't expect to find Skinner, EarlG, or Elad posting over on Discusionist; we've changed our names too. (If you simply must use the same username, you can request it here on DU by sending a DU Mail message to Elad with the title "Discussionist username" so he can release your name to you. We have set aside all usernames from DU so trolls can't grab them on Discussionist, but we have not copied over your email or password for privacy reasons.)


A word about inevitable glitches

Discussionist is still in "beta" and there is a good chance that you may find some bugs, or stray references to "Democratic Underground" when you are over there. If you do have any problems, please post them in the Help section so we can fix them.

Easter at my house

I did not celebrate or even acknowledge the existence of Easter for about 15 years, from my early 20s until my first child was born. As far as I was concerned, it was a holiday that did not exist. But when my wife and I started a family, we thought it would be fun for the kids to have a little Easter egg hunt on Easter, like we did when we were kids. So after a decade-and-a-half hiatus, Easter returned.

Our next-door neighbors had children the same age as ours, and when we saw them outside on that Easter morning five years ago we decided on the spur of the moment that it would be more fun for everyone if we combined our Easter egg hunt. So we combined our eggs and spread them around both front yards. The kids had a blast. The whole thing lasted about 15 minutes, and then we each went back into our houses. It was a very modest event. What we didn't realize at the time was that it was the beginning of an annual tradition.

The next year we once again combined our Easter egg hunt with the next door neighbors. And we decided to add brunch, and a few other people. So EarlG came over with his wife and son. And one of my wife's co-workers came over with her family. And my adult niece was there.

The next year we invited a few other people -- families with young children. And the brunch got bigger. And the next year we added some more people. And more people the year after that. We started inviting other families in the neighborhood. This year we invited pretty much everyone we know on our block, along with a bunch of our other friends. We had about 50 people.

Among the people attending our Easter egg hunt and brunch this year, we had: Church-going devout Catholics, church-going devout Protestants, observant and non-observant Jews (including an atheist Jewish Reconstructionist who keeps kosher on Passover), lapsed Catholic and Protestant Christians, some atheist and agnostic former Christians, a number of atheist Hindus (and possibly some observant Hindus), some children with mixed families that include one Western parent and the other parent from an Asian religious tradition (Buddhism and maybe also Shintoism), a pair of Swedish nationals of indeterminate religion, and some children (including my own) whose parents are not raising them in any faith and do not tell them what they are supposed to believe.

My wife and I stayed up until 2am on Saturday night cooking the food, cleaning the house, and stuffing candy into plastic eggs. It was hard work, but it was worth it. The food was fantastic, and the people were friendly. Everyone seemed to have a good time.

That's what Easter is to me. It is not a religious holiday. But it is also not a time when anyone is made to feel bad about what they believe -- whatever it is. You can be religious or non-religious, and you don't even have to celebrate Easter in your own family. Everyone is welcome at my house on Easter. All we ask is that you be friendly and respectful to other guests, and please help yourself to all the food.

Seven-person juries go into effect today.

By popular demand, we have increased the number of jurors to evaluate community standards alerts from six to seven.

This is a fairly large technical change, and there are likely to be a few glitches. If you encounter any issues that you think the DU Admins need to be aware of, please post them in this thread.

Thank you for your understanding.

Skinner
DU Admin

Who nominated them, and how they voted...

Key:
Supreme Court Justices who were nominated by Republican presidents are in red.
Supreme Court Justices who were nominated by Democratic presidents are in blue.

List of Justices who voted to STRIKE DOWN caps on total campaign giving:
John Roberts
Samuel Alito
Anthony Kennedy
Clarence Thomas
Antonin Scalia


List of Justices who voted to KEEP caps on total campaign giving:
Elena Kagan
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Stephen Breyer
Sonia Sotomayor

Science Fun: Can you identify this drawing?

Yesterday, my 5-year-old son drew this picture at school, and cut it out. When he brought it home he asked me if I knew what it was. I immediately recognized it.

I just had to share. I'm curious if anyone else knows...

Should Democratic Underground switch to seven-person juries?

This topic has been discussed a number of times in the Ask the Administrators forum, and the DU Admins have discussed it here in the office repeatedly over the last two years. Currently, if a community standards alert is sent, it is evaluated by a jury of six DU members. Should we increase the number of jurors to seven? This would likely have the following effects:
  • There would be no more 3-3 ties. Every alert would result in a majority decision.

  • There would be a modest increase in the number of posts that get hidden. If the number of alerts stays constant, and if we assume that approximately half of the current 3-3 ties end up as hides, then the number of additional hidden posts per day would be less than five. Possibly two or three.

  • There is a chance that the total number of alerts might increase. Some people have stated that the current difficulty in getting posts hidden acts as a disincentive to send alerts. It is conceivable that alerters might have a greater incentive to alert when the chance of getting a post hidden increases, and would therefore send more.

  • Democratic Underground would probably see a modest increase in civility, for two reasons. First, uncivil messages that are posted would be more likely to be removed (and the authors of those posts blocked out of threads). And second, people would be less likely to post uncivil messages in the first place due to the increased likelihood that they could get hidden.

  • There might be a modest increase in "misfires" or perceived misfires, in which juries hide posts based on some sort of misunderstanding. This occurs rarely, and would likely remain rare.
The purpose of this poll is to get a sense of the opinion of the community. The DU Administrators will not be bound by the result.

(Note: This poll has two options -- you can either vote to change to seven-person juries, or you can vote to keep six-person juries. If you came to this thread hoping to discuss the merits of the jury system as a whole, I want to make clear that it is here to stay -- we are not getting rid of it.)

Some advice about the Olympics and possible spoilers

As everyone here is probably aware, the Winter Olympics start this week. And once again NBC is going to be showing many events on tape-delay during primetime. That means that many DU members will probably not see the events when they are actually happening, and will instead see them for the first time during primetime -- hours after they have actually happened. This of course raises the possibility of "spoilers" -- when you learn the outcome of the event before you actually watch it.

With this in mind, here are a few thoughts...

Advice for people posting about the Olympics on DU
  • Thread titles: If you want to post about the Olympics it is common courtesy to refrain from posting spoilers in the subject line of a discussion thread. Posting spoilers in the subject line of a thread is considered rude by many people and may put your thread at risk of being hidden by a Jury.

  • Repeatedly posting spoilers on purpose: During the last Olympics, one person loudly and proudly proclaimed that he was deliberately posting spoilers for every event (for what he believed was a perfectly good reason). Even if you think you have a perfectly good reason for maliciously disrupting DU in this manner, don't do it.
Advice for people reading DU during the Olympics
  • If you feel strongly that you do not want to accidentally encounter Olympics spoilers, you should not be on Democratic Underground or any other social media during the Olympics. That is just a fact.

  • You should assume that any discussion thread about the Olympics will include spoilers even if there is no "spoiler alert" warning in the title.
And on a related note...

There are a number of DUers who have already indicated that they intend to boycott the Olympics this year to protest the horrific treatment of LGBT people in Russia, and the laws passed by the Russian government which serve to legitimize anti-gay hate. If you decide to watch the Olympics, and discuss the Olympics here on Democratic Underground, you should not be surprised if some DU members question the appropriateness of your decision to watch. I fully expect this discussion to occur here on DU, and I hope that members who choose to engage in a discussion on this topic will make an effort to remain respectful.

REMINDER AND UPDATE: Five hidden posts and you can't post

Back in September, we announced some changes to the way the site is run. In that announcement, we promised that we would make the following change, after a 90-day period:

If you have five hidden posts on your account you will be unable to post.
... If you have five hidden posts showing on your Transparency page (a 90-day period), then you will be temporarily unable to post. In order to regain your ability to post, you will need to wait until the oldest post of the five is more than 90 days old and "falls off" of your record. At that point you will only have four posts showing on your Transparency page, and you will regain your ability to post.

Due to a fluke of scheduling, that new policy was supposed to go into effect on December 25, Christmas Day. However, because the DU Administrators do not wish to spend our holiday break fixing the inevitable bugs, we have decided to push back the launch date.

The new launch date is Monday January 6, 2014.

Members whose transparency pages are showing will be restricted in the following ways: 1) they can't post, 2) they can't serve on juries, 3) they can't serve as hosts in forums or groups, and 4) they can't serve on the Malicious Intruder Removal Team. If they are currently assigned as a host or as a MIRT member, they will be removed by the software.

Members whose transparency pages are showing will not be restricted in any other ways. They will be able to send and receive DU Mail. They will be able to recommend threads. They will even be able to send alerts (this is so people can't insult people who are temporarily blocked).

Thank you for being a part of DU. And have a happy holiday season!

The DU Administrators

He was a good dog.

I'm a pretty private person when it comes to my personal life, so I don't often share stuff like this. But I know some of you might be interested in knowing that Romeo, our chihuahua, passed away early this morning. He was about 15 years old, which is a good run for a dog. He had definitely slowed down quite a bit in the last year, and he was on three different medications for his heart -- so this didn't exactly come as a surprise. We'll miss him. He was a good dog.

Here are a few pictures that I found sitting on the DU servers. You may remember seeing some of them.







HealthCare.gov will meet deadline for fixes, White House officials say

Source: Washington Post

Administration officials are preparing to announce Sunday that they have met their Saturday deadline for improving HealthCare.gov, according to government officials, in part by expanding the site’s capacity so that it can handle 50,000 users at once. But they have yet to meet all their internal goals for repairing the federal health-care site, and it will not become clear how many consumers it can accommodate until more people try to use it.

As of Friday night, federal officials and contractors had achieved two goals, according to government officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss ongoing operations. They had increased the system’s capacity and reduced errors. On the other hand, the site’s pages do not load as fast as they want, officials said, and they are working to ensure that large numbers of consumers can enter the site.

An official at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency overseeing the federal health insurance exchange, said the site’s true capacity is somewhat murky because workers need to see how it performs under “weekday traffic volumes” when demand is at its peak.

Federal employees and information technology contractors were expected to work through the night Friday to try to reach one of the remaining targets: improving how many people per hour are able to register and log on to the site. An earlier attempt to make the fix failed several days ago.

Read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/healthcaregov-will-meet-deadline-for-fixes-white-house-officials-say/2013/11/29/caf6a236-5792-11e3-835d-e7173847c7cc_story.html
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