voice of humanity: Handling Collective Messages    
 Handling Collective Messages8 comments
4 Sep 2003 @ 13:28, by Roger Eaton

The basic elements for a global database, as laid out in a previous article, are hubs, participants, items, categories, ratings, linkages and linkage rules. In order to handle collective messages we will also need perspectives, groups, addresses, thresholds, listener groups and dialogue cycles.

Perspectives are membership categories defined by participant attributes, such as country, political party, gender or occupation. A participant and the items he contributes or rates will automatically go into each of the several perspectives he belongs to. Perspectives are so named because when viewing the database contents from a perspective, the list of items sorted by rating will be sorted by average rating of perspective members, not by the average rating of all participants, allowing us to see the priority of items from the perspective of the group. An option will allow the list to be restricted to items contributed by the group members.

Every perspective is itself a "group", so Los Angeles participants as a whole form the LA group. The intersection of a perspective with other perspectives or categories is also a group. For instance, the "basketball" category from the Los Angeles perspective would form the LA Basketball discussion group, or Los Angeles participants who are chefs might form a group called "What's Cooking, LA?"

Collective messages may be formal or spontaneous. Spontaneous collective messages are posted by group members at any time in a particular group and addressed from the group to either an individual or another group. Spontaneous collective message are "sent" only if they reach a preset "send threshold" for that group, at which point they are automatically delivered to the addressee, where they must be "heard" by a "listener group". A listener group is a small randomly selected sub-group of the addressed group. A listener group may or may not allow a collective message through to the larger group, depending on an adjustable formula involving average interest ratings by the listener group and total interest ratings by the sending group. Because we use total interest ratings from the sending group, therefore the size of the sending group comes into the formula indirectly, so a message from humanity will be more likely to be listened to than one from, say, San Francisco.

Both send and listener thresholds are adjustable by the group. An "advanced controls" page for each member of the group will have a number of slide bars showing the current group setting and allowing the user to slightly influence that setting by changing the position of the slide bar.

Formal collective messages are created through "dialogue cycles". Between peer groups, only formal collective messages are allowed. Under current conditions where violence between groups flares up so easily, it would be foolhardy to allow spontaneous messaging between nations or other peers, such as cities or religions or political parties. In an unstructured, free exchange between peer groups, the slightest misstatement can rouse hostile feelings that might spin out of control. The definition of "peer groups" will be taken up in another article.

For one example of a dialogue cycle, see the earlier article, "Arab / Jewish Email Dialogue". The key to formal collective messaging is making sure the combined collective voice of the dialoguing groups plays a prominent, moderating role in the dialogue.

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8 Sep 2003 @ 11:05 by ming : Perspectives
Now, who decides what the perspectives are? It sounds like you see it as a hierarchy. And it is the kind of thing that sounds very sensible at first, but which can be a big problem when people don't agree to that way of laying out the hierarchy. I can maybe succeed in putting together a satisfactory ontology for myself. But I'll be pretty sure that not everybody will agree with it. That doesn't matter if I just use it as a menu for my website. But it matters a lot if it is supposed to represent collective opinion. If I don't feel my group is represented, the system has failed for me. E.g. if there's a set of political perspectives like "democrat", "republican", "green party", "undecided". They wouldn't work for me any more than "christian", "muslim", "buddhist", "atheist" would have a place for my spiritual beliefs. I have no doubt that you personally would be very understanding of these issues, and make a pretty good set of hierarchies. But they won't make everybody happy.

So, in my opinion, that single thing is a HARD problem. The only satisfactory solution would be that ALL categorization schemes anybody has can work in parallel. That doesn't make it any easier, but it gives a target to work towards. If all of our mind maps can at the same time be overlayed on the world, and we can actually sort the world through them, and see what the collective voice is in those different divisions, that would truly be something.

I know you're thinking of schemes where one can group or aggregate categories of stuff that might have been called different things in different places. But I think that won't be quite enough.  

10 Sep 2003 @ 11:27 by mre : re: Perspectives
But, but, ming, the voh design has already handled the problem in a previous article, and the solution is precisely the one you indicate, that "ALL categorization schemes anybody has can work in parallel". The key idea was expressed in the {link:http://blog.voiceofhumanity.net/newslog2.php/_v252/__show_article/_a000252-000016.htm|"How to Build a Voice of Humanity on the Web"} article. Looks like I should have emphasized the novelty and importance of the concept:

Here is the relevant bit: "Hub owners and other trusted users manually create long-term linkages between categories on a single hub or between pairs of hubs, specifying what items and ratings should be transferred, and how often. For each linkage, items may be exchanged in both directions, while ratings are always transferred in one direction only thus creating a hierarchy where the linked category that receives the ratings is above the hub/category that sends the ratings for that particular linkage."

So the hierarchy is manually created one link at time by all the group moderators, and it is the direction of rating flow that indicates the hierarchy. (Note that a "perspective" is a form of category and therefore perspective hierarchy is created by the above rule.)

The problem is overlapping categories from overlapping hierarchies. I live in Culver City, in the LA Basin and in LA County. LA Basin is part of an ecological hierarchy, Culver City and LA County are part of a jurisdictional hierarchy. Presumably people interested in ecology will get together and create a hierarchy that includes the LA Basin, but ignore LA County. And the civic people will want to have hierarchy by city, region and county. So the "LA Basin" will feed up to the "Southern California Coastal Region" say, where Culver City will feed up to LA County. Interesting thing, though is there is nothing to stop LA Basin from feeding up to LA County as well. It is up to the moderators of those two groups to decide if it makes sense. This is why I call it a "bottom up hierarchy".

There are bound to be cases where two groups are evenly overlapped, so which should feed to which? My zip 90066 is partly Los Angeles and partly Culver City, but mostly Los Angeles. Well the moderators just have to decide if there is a fit or not. If zip 90066 feeds up to both City of LA and Culver City, and then both City of LA and Culver City feed up to LA County, then the same item / ratings could be duplicated in LA County -- but no problem, the ID of the items and ratings will stay with them so at the LA County level, we only have one copy.  

16 Sep 2003 @ 16:03 by ming : Overlapping categories
Well, I had read that part, and I guess I didn't think it would quite cover it. So, you're saying that the hub owners and other trusted users would create the long-term linkages. Well, I'm skeptical that it is enough. It is a good thing, and it would work with the examples you give. I.e. where it is just a matter of different categories being known by different names by different groups, or where they just group them a little differently.

But what if, say, I create a category based on a political group with a very specific set of agreements or program points. Like, it advocates nationalization of the media, mandatory adherance to hindu rituals, and the right to carry concealed weapons, plus a whole bunch of other points. How is that going to be included in bigger groupings? Other groups might group them under "freaks", "communists", "gun lovers", "religious groups", but there would be very divided opinions about how to categorize them.

Part of the problem is that many groups will combine a bunch of otherwise separate ideas into their identity. Ideas that go together in their mind, but not in most other people's. They will be difficult to lump in with anything else, because they're about an eclectic mix of things.

People who don't hold the same beliefs will tend to categorize many grassroots groups in ways they wouldn't be happy with.

Geography doesn't give rise to too many likely conflicts, even though there will be some. But complex aggregations of ideas and principles and behaviors most certainly will.

Just the political spectrum will cause plenty of problems, for example. I for one don't agree with the left-right spectrum at all. If somebody categorizes my beliefs somewhere on it at all, I'll be protesting, and won't consider that my views are represented at all.

So, I still don't see how it can end up representing a voice of humanity, other than by somebody's top level categories, which everything fairly arbitrarily will be fit into.

It would become easier if there were a way of looking at specific issues or characteristics in a more finegrained way, even though I still see problems with that. Like, do I believe in gun control? What is my occupation? What is my IQ? My education, etc. I'd like to be able to see the positions on gun control for people in all sorts of different groupings. Like women versus men. Would that be accomplished by aggregating groups?

I might still be misunderstanding your scheme for aggregating or linking categories, and you've got it figured out. I hope so. But I still think this is a very difficult issue.  

18 Sep 2003 @ 12:02 by mre : re: Overlapping categories
My answer needs a short preface.

It is in the wonderful nature of people to form groups. Even the nations, for all the misery they have inflicted on us, are beloved, and few would have it otherwise. Still, belonging to a group requires compromise and even sacrifice, and the same is true between groups as between individuals and groups. Groups are idiosyncratic, too, and don't always fit in so well with other groups. Witness the fiercely independent ritualists in the example given by ming, above. That group just doesn't belong to a larger grouping. In a way, we are dealing with the "the map is not the territory" conundrum. No finite hierarchy can fit the facts.

The community of open-source networkers that I would like to attract to the voice of humanity project, have reservations about hierarchy, I realize. The talk is of rhizomatic networks vs hierarchy, with the former being the favored model, but I think we lose too much if we ignore the positive role that hierarchy can make in network modeling. I think the dichotomy between rhizome and hierarchy can have a "both/and" solution if we are willing to work out an accommodation.

Now let's look in more detail at the question.

Since the proposed voice of humanity has a bottom up structure, it automatically respects the independence of all people and groups. In particular, there is no requirement that a group have a connection with another group above it in the hierarchy. Classifications are not imposed, but rather agreed upon by the parties involved. Our example gun-toting cultists, for instance, may decide not to have links on the up side, only on the down side. That is, they may have one sub-group to discuss gun issues, another that explores the inner meaning of their rituals, and a third to tout the benefits of a nationalized media. These sub-groups would feed up to the full group, but the full group need not feed up to any other group.

It may seem that special groups pay too high a price for their independence, being thereby disconnected from and losing their influence in the voice of humanity, but it turns out the voh structure is quite
accommodating. The gun issue sub-group, for instance, might well feed up into a larger discussion about guns, so even though the cult as an entity is a disconnected local maximum in the hierarchy, the sub-groups could still be connected. Plus, all groups have the ability to send a collective message to humanity or to any sub-group of humanity that maintains a listening structure (as described in the {link:http://blog.voiceofhumanity.net/newslog2.php/_v252/__show_article/_a000252-000018.htm|"Handling Collective Messages"} article that we are discussing. So they are not that disconnected after all. And this is the hard 20 percent of the solution, as I see it anyway. Eighty percent of the time, groups will not have a problem connecting to the hierarchy that tops off with the voice of humanity as a whole.

An important point in the above is that a group can connect up to multiple hierarchies. For example, the Women in Black activist group centered on Mid-East issues in Los Angeles could connect up to "LA Progressives", "LA Women", "Global WIB" and more. New nodes can be formed at any level at any time, though in practice at high levels it will take a lot of influence to get groups to become part of the downline of a new group. Still it will happen, because important new ideas and circumstances keep coming, and each one will need its own structures. As new structures evolve over time, the flow of information will be significantly altered. Entire hierarchies will wilt and others bloom. We are not talking about a predefined brittle structure. The design has that resiliency that comes from being bottom up.

As for the possibility of an ad hoc "fine grained" approach, I think I should wait until I have developed the next major article, which will cover an idea I have for using the ratings to help with search capabilities. I think there may be an application of the search capability that might do the trick. At this point I am not quite sure, tho.  

26 Sep 2003 @ 15:48 by ming : Collective messages
I think you're on a right track here. It will be obvious to most groups that there's power and advantage in feeding up into a larger group. So if there's a way of feeding up from different sub-groups, that would change things. One would then try to organize one's group and one's sub-groups so that they will plug in well with other groups. The groups influence has a strong relation to how well it connects with other structures.  

26 Sep 2003 @ 15:57 by ming : Perspectives
Have you thought about the distinction between perspectives that are mostly geographical/demografic and perspectives that are options/positions? Like country, gender or occupation are different things than one's political views or stands on various issues. Apples and oranges. Of course the lines blur as organizations and political parties become part of one's demografics. But it seems to me like there's a key here somewhere. A group that is demografic will naturally feed up to a larger group. Van Nuys feeds up to San Fernando Valley which feeds to LA County. But specific views do not feed up to larger views very well. Opinions can't very well be aggregated into larger opinions. But we can check for specific opinions in any group. Maybe that's obvious.  

30 Dec 2008 @ 23:53 by 堀北真希 @ : thanks
nice site. thanks.  

8 Jun 2009 @ 06:17 by jewelry @ : pearl
Smile! It will make you feel better.  

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