Subject: Re: [NYCGA Internet] SUPERASSEMBLY PROPOSAL // counter to "Internet GA"
From: fragro
Date: Fri, 28 Oct 2011 08:17:39 -0500

I've got some significant concerns about this idea.

For one, how can we scale the GA to the planet? From what I can tell it's a synchronous process, so how do you expect people to want to participate if the probability they get to speak is absurdly low? I've already heard of large GAs  breaking down because people far in the back cannot be seen and do not get a chance to speak. Trying to tie the GAs together significantly increases this problem.

You never actually define how we determine consensus. In a local GA facilitators sample the consensus, but this automatically casts consensus reports from facilitators into a binary yes/no answer. What if the true majority is Nay, but the consensus reached is Aye? 
For instance 5 GAs report Aye and 4 report Nay. Among the 5, the GAs are divided but reached consensus anyways because the process encourages groupthink. The 4 were all in solidarity for Nay. The true majority is Nay, but the result is Aye.

Another issue is how do you compare one General Assembly to another? Is my GA of 1 person in Podunk county equivalent to your GA of 1000 in Chicago? If not, how do we determine importance? Take a role call?

What has made the GAs powerful is the fact that no contentious or complex decisions have been made. In my experience, we never made any really complex policy decisions within our GA. Just where do we protest? How do we protest? etc. It's a beautiful model of participatory democracy, but does not translate to a societal collective decision model.


Actually it's the process of deliberation that tends to produce consensus, rather than the voting method, regardless of whatever method that is. You assume and up/down voting system which is not necessarily the case. We could easily employ a multidimensional voting system. And frankly a superassembly would either have extremely simplistic decision making capabilities, or consensus would not occur. On the other hand in an internet assembly we can use powerful mathematical optimization techniques to find sets of issues or policies that maximally unify the group based on the votes.

DDOS is not that significant a threat. It's not really hard to spend a little bit of money to identify and ban DDOSers. Or you could federate the servers, and allow them to sync together but frankly it's better to have a single target because it's easier to pool our resources to stop DDOS. This is the people's network, I think we will have the resources to deal with bullshit like DDOS.


Physical participation is important but you are completely ignoring the fact that we can translate those trust links into the online system through public reporting and evidence based trust systems. Creating reputation systems and trust networks online is not new, there is a lot of research and literature available to help us build a system. For instance the anonymous randomized photo verification makes sockpuppets worthless and trolls minimized.


I don't really think you can make this argument without a case study. Or at least you should have included your data, because those are some highly specific numbers.

And finally my primary concern is that by forcing the global assembly to be synchronous you are creating a fundamentally undemocratic process. How would such a process translate to the global movement? What about people that cannot actively participate in every GA because they are the working poor? What about people in remote parts of the country or other countries entirely?

The reason we don't have a representative system in our government with thousands of participants is because synchronous processes break down as the number of participants increases. What you are suggesting is increasing the number of participants in a synchronous process multiple orders of magnitude. I cannot see this working for anything but the most trivial issues.

I think it's important to integrate the GA into the online systems that promote the national and global movement. However you cannot ignore the fact that the GA does not work well as the scale increases, and it's foolish to abandon the greatest strength the internet offers, asynchronous communication.
Frank Grove

On Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 2:04 AM, planetary_io <> wrote:
We ask you to review & welcome you to comment on this advisory/
initial proposal (full text @ link), spelling out our serious concerns
with the "Internet GA" model and our recommended alternative, a more
democratic/consensus based approach that easily extends the current
physical GA facilitation model.





This advisory concerns several proposals made to the Occupy* movement,
suggesting processes & mechanisms for conducting online "General
Assemblies" of sorts. The proposals we have reviewed mostly indicate
use of Web tools in various ways to allow Internet users to submit -
and usually vote on, with a familiar majority/supermajority mechanism
- proposals in the GA format.

While we are very intensely interested in helping link distributed GAs
for coordinated action: and we see that introducing Internet
accessible supporters into the direct democratic / Occupy* decision-
making process is an attractive goal: we are concerned that
approaching this as an online forum, rather than a method of linking
existing forums and processes, is tactically foolhardy and threatening
to the direct democratic core of the movement. thus we wish to submit
an alternative for the GAs' consideration that extends, rather than
replacing, the consensus model & processes.

Instead of opening wider participatory space, we fear the pure online
participation / [super]majority voting method to be fundamentally
incompatible with establishing a CONSENSUS of the mutually committed
in the established GA process: as well as an operational model highly
susceptible to attack, untrustworthy / noise-filled, and difficult to
implement at the scale it intrinsically requires.

We propose a sort of 'hybrid' alternative to this as GA
supercoordination method: the SUPERASSEMBLY concept. We believe that
by combining the localized, physical presence of the GAs with online
tools & a tiny supercoordination team/process, this model can offer
similar mass coordination benefits, but keep the current GA process,
integrity of consensus & human accountability, better security, and
possibly provide radical cost and bandwidth savings.

While this proposal does not solve the problem of building mass online
mobilization, we think it is critical to attack these in parallel as
separate problems. Attempting to solve both with the same stroke
changes too many fundamental assumptions that have made the GAs so
powerful and successful, and in a way places not just the operations
but _the consensus_ needed for ground mobilization at risk of online


((continued @ )

Libertas et Patria