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Author Topic: Remote participation  (Read 36820 times)
admin
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« on: September 13, 2006, 12:40:07 PM »

Remote participation
Many people will not be able to travel to Athens, but they will be able to follow the discussions via Web cast on this Web site.  We are therefore looking for proposals on how to facilitate remote participation as well as for volunteers willing to serve as ‘connectors’ to remote participants. 

The meeting could rely on different available solutions, from IM to more elaborate virtual collaboration systems. Please let us now what you think works best. Participants are encouraged to bring their own solutions to the meeting and act as  ‘connectors’. However, they will be responsible for their own funding.

The volunteer ‘connectors’ would serve as point of entry for remote participants into the IGF discussions. They could bring to the attention of the meeting the opinions from their respective communities across the world.
Please join the discussion.
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Jeremy Malcolm
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« Reply #1 on: September 18, 2006, 04:15:12 PM »

This question is part of the chapter that I'm currently writing of my thesis on the IGF.  Unfortunately, because I'm in the middle of it, that means that my thoughts are still only in point form (as opposed to chapters 1-3 which are already complete - and see my signature below for the URL to the incomplete draft thesis).

Having said that, there are a few observations I can throw in at this point.

First, the applications and protocols available to assist remote participants are divided into three classes:

  • Synchronous communication (for example, instant messaging and chat applications)
  • Asynchronous communication (for example, discussion boards and mailing lists)
  • Hybrids (for example, Unchat (http://www.unchat.com/) which is a chat application linked to a static document repository)

As a starting point, both synchronous and asynchronous approaches, or a hybrid, should be employed.  The use of synchronous applications alone would disadvantage those in other timezones, but reliance upon asynchronous applications would inhibit remote participants from contributing interactively.

A secondary point is that software selected should be open source and based on open standards, firstly for the purely practical reason that there is an absence of funding to support the use of proprietary software, but also to ensure that the tools employed for participation operate transparently (eg. they do not inappropriately alter, moderate or discriminate between contributions), and that they are fully compliant with W3C and IETF standards and thus are likely to be interoperable across a broad range of operating environments.

Finally, elaborate virtual conferencing tools are both unnecessary, and likely to be exclusive of those, particularly from developing countries, who may not have access to powerful computing resources or fast network connections.

I would therefore suggest that the following combination of simple yet tested and effective participation tools be employed:

  • An unmoderated Web-based discussion board such as this one, but open for all registered users to start new topics; and
  • An unmoderated IRC channel which is to be logged to the IGF Web site, and perhaps made accessible via a Java applet hosted on the IGF Web site for those who do not have the technical confidence to install or use IRC software.

I indicate my willingness to assist in the administration (and if necessary the hosting) of either the discussion board, the IRC channel, or both.
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Kieren
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« Reply #2 on: September 22, 2006, 07:41:42 AM »

I largely agree with Jeremy above but I have a far more pragmatic view of things.

Ultimately I wouldn't care if the software was open-source or proprietary if it did what was needed and it didn't cost *me* anything. But I agree that open source is preferable.

The big issues are simplicity and accessibility.

For example, I had to wait for an email to register for this forum, which will have immediately stopped most people's impulse comments. It is very easy these days to have a verification box that makes interaction much easier and faster.

Although this layout - as most open source programs are because they are written by techies - is very crowded, clunky and ugly. It may sound a bit trite to complain about this because it is all supposed to be about the information itself - but that is not the reality of human interaction. People want this clean, smooth and simple. And if they're not they won't bother working with them.

I think the forum approach, while very useful, doesn't tend towards any sense of consensus - it is extremely easy to lose the conversation and/or be overwhelmed with what seems like an impenetrable mass of posts.

But, likewise, having tools in which you have to be participating at that time, cuts out people that will be asleep or at work etc etc.

But rather than having the two both run, the real solution is to connect the two. So you can review what happened at a given moment later on, and then react to it.

I think absolutely and fundamentally, you have to remove the control as far as possible. If you allow people to interact without having to get anyone's approval you are dozens of times more likely to get people bothering.

I would like to see tools in which a number of polls are arranged simply on a page and people can instantly click on and then instantly see the overall result. For example, if someone on a panel says something in the room and there appears to be a disparity of agreement - or if someone raises a question - it should be possible for that question to appear instantly on the online IGF page and people both in the room and following the discussion on the Web to vote immediately.

This can provide enormous feedback very, very quickly and allow discussion on stage to have a real sense of progression and interaction. And I'm certain that will in turn generate more interest.

The sore realities are however: where are these tools? Who is going to get them and install them and check they're working? And where are they going to be hosted? They should definitely all be on one website - or perhaps through mass linking through an agreed menu, they can be linked together.

While the IGF itself may be a good spot for discussion and sharing knowledge, the back-end has to be purely practical - there and working.

We need some collaboration as soon as possible between people that can actually make this happen.

That's my views - anyone at all that has a plan get it down here and feel free to email me.

Kieren






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Jeremy Malcolm
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« Reply #3 on: September 22, 2006, 09:25:35 AM »

But rather than having the two both run, the real solution is to connect the two. So you can review what happened at a given moment later on, and then react to it.

...snip...

I would like to see tools in which a number of polls are arranged simply on a page and people can instantly click on and then instantly see the overall result. For example, if someone on a panel says something in the room and there appears to be a disparity of agreement - or if someone raises a question - it should be possible for that question to appear instantly on the online IGF page and people both in the room and following the discussion on the Web to vote immediately.

Unchat, that I mentioned in the last post, facilitates voting by chat participants.  The site given above is full of marketing hype, but http://dotank.nyls.edu/Unchat.html is a little better.  Unfortunately though Unchat is proprietary and patent-encumbered, and it doesn't facilitate asynchronous participation.

To do that (but without the voting facility), there is a site called Conflict Lab (http://www.conflictlab.com) that offers a "Commons Console", also proprietary.  I may ask on Slashdot to see if anyone knows of an open source alternative.

The sore realities are however: where are these tools? Who is going to get them and install them and check they're working? And where are they going to be hosted? They should definitely all be on one website - or perhaps through mass linking through an agreed menu, they can be linked together.

That's why I figured a bog-standard messageboard and a standard chat application would be more practical, given that we only have a month for it all to be up and running...  If people want them both on-screen at once, that's what windows (lowercase w) are for.  It would be interesting though to hear from the IGF Secretariat about what they are capable of hosting, and what kind of assistance they will need.
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Kieren
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« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2006, 04:59:41 PM »

I'm not quite sure what Unchat actually is, aside from a Flash-based load of marketing bollocks.

I think a message board such as this will not attract anyone though because it's too complex, too clunky, too troublesome - as is made clear from the fact that as I write this there are only 12 people registered and only three people have written any posts, myself included.

I can see why with all the stuff out there that we can't produce a very simple and attractive IGF menu and release it a very simple bit of code that people can stick on a lot of different sites and each menu button links to whoever has done the best job of setting up a useful collaboration tool.


Kieren

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Jeremy Malcolm
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« Reply #5 on: September 27, 2006, 12:03:43 AM »

I hear you Kieren, even after my mini press release (on CircleID and ICANNWatch) about both this site and http://igfwatch.org, you and I are still the only people on either site discussing IGF issues.  Does that mean everyone is happy that Athens will turn out OK, or that they are resigned to it turning out badly?

Anyway, my real purpose for following up is that I've just had a private message saying (I'm sure he won't mind me quoting him):

Quote from: Peter C Hart
I spotted your IGF discussion about a hybrid many to many communications tool. You may find what you need at www.dialoggers.com. We developed our Dialog Dashboard™ for Conflict Lab but realize it has applications beyond simulations and wanted to make it available to others. Yes, it's proprietary but you can use it without cost if the discussions are open to the public. If the discussions are private, the cost is $10 per month.

The Dialog Dashboard has extensive voting capabilities - we call it polling. Each discussion post has an opportunity for community rating.

I can't tell from your post what your requirements are. Let me know how we may be able to help you.

I attach a pdf chart with a list of features. We are working on a new site that explains the features better. In the meantime, I'll be happy to respond to any questions you may have.

I'm not sure how actively the IGF Secretariat is monitoring this board, so I might pass the offer on to them directly.  I did take a look at the product, and it looked quite suitable which is why I mentioned it in a previous post.  The fact that it can be made available for free as in beer assuages a few of my concerns.
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admin
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« Reply #6 on: September 27, 2006, 12:42:58 PM »

Sure, we are listening and we are open to any reasonable suggestions. We will look at the alternatives you have suggested and see if they are more suitable and if we can implement them.

Also we will not implement anything that is flash based, java based or does not try and conform to W3C priority 1 and 2 usability standards (priority 3 would be good as well if possible).

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Kieren
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« Reply #7 on: September 28, 2006, 11:53:59 AM »

Sure, we are listening and we are open to any reasonable suggestions. We will look at the alternatives you have suggested and see if they are more suitable and if we can implement them.

Also we will not implement anything that is flash based, java based or does not try and conform to W3C priority 1 and 2 usability standards (priority 3 would be good as well if possible).

It strikes me that time is very rapidly running out.

But let me ask this question: assuming we find two programs that do exactly what it appears we think would be the best way forward i.e. a simple forum program that intertwines with a polling and questioning tool -- what then?

What's the process by which a tool is found, is then installed and can then be used at Athens? What are the constraints? Will the IGF insist on programs being hosted on approved server/domains?

How will people's attention be drawn to these tools? What are the no-nos? Is there some essential requirement that some things be included? How would any programming be co-ordinated?

If we don't have the answers to these decided right now, it just won't happen.

Incidentally, I agree entirely with the no-Flash, no-Java approach - it has to be as open and easily accessible as possible both standard and bandwidth-wise.

----------------------

In terms of polls this is precisely what I think would be most useful:

Someone in charge of deciding on polls. They have an email addresses. Anyone with a poll suggestion can email that person. That person either puts that suggestion out as a poll, or includes it in a poll of polls to see if others vote for it to be added to the main list.

Main polls:

A list of polls, with two featured prominently. The most absolutely simple interface possible with pretty colours and instant results. Voting entirely open but with some safeguards - IP address verification for example - although that may have to be lifted for those in the actual conference centre because they will all be coming through the same IP addresses.

That voting has two parts. One is the vote itself for whatever answer. But the second part before that is a request that people identify themselves from a drop down list. They are required to select one option from the first, which are: Government; International Organisation; Civil Society (set the default on Government). A second list is optional (but encouraged) and is a list UN regions.

With this information you can then produce all sorts of interesting stats about participation and viewpoints that would be incredibly useful later. It is also imprecise enough for people to not worry about voting - especially government officials worried that their vote might be viewed as somehow an official stance.

Resulting stats: how active people are, and from what region. Whether governments were agreed or not agreed on this topic; whether civil society felt strongly about this subject; and so on and so on.

With this basic approach, you can build a complex picture of what different people think and the poll flexibility is such that you can answer subjects that crop up - giving a real sense of interaction.

I really think this would be a massive advantage to the IGF but - and this is my point and my fear - I don't know where the software is, I am not a coder, and even if I had all this code working right now on my computer, I don't know how you could get it working at the IGF itself.


Any and all answers more than welcome



Kieren


 
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jmh
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« Reply #8 on: September 28, 2006, 12:32:13 PM »

The trouble with any kind of poll is it is usually biased - you cannot force everyone to submit and it is hard to get a balanced opinion as a result.

I have been to events where chat facilities were present, as well as video conf and webcasts. The chat is a toy - useful, but used generally by members of the audience to make rude remarks about the speakers! These would then be followed by muffled laughter from one or two laptop-weilding people in the audience. They would quickly forget the chat could be seen generally, and things went downhill from there. The usefulness of the chat to bring the event to people (sitting outside in the bar for example!) failed as no-one inside put in anything useful. So to make it work you need reliable input from the attendees.

The videoconference worked ok for the session it was used in, but I am talking about a national event so with no timezone issues. I never bothered to watch the webcasts as I was there anyway.

Another issue with polls is the length of time you must leave them for everyone to vote before it can be fed back into the discussion. That is manageable only if the voting is in response to some 'thing' and everyone has time to view text/video about that 'thing' and vote before it is discussed later. So no use for short sessions.

One thing I have always found valuable is tagging - forums like this are far less useful than, say, a blog with sensible tags added to the posts. That makes it much easier to locate topics of interest. The same is used in the likes of flickr to locate imagery. Forums are good for focussed discussion, less good for random ramblings, yet those ramblings can carry content just as valuable, if you can find it.

Sorry - these are just rambling thoughts in a lunch time!
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jmh
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« Reply #9 on: September 28, 2006, 12:37:56 PM »

I really think this would be a massive advantage to the IGF but - and this is my point and my fear - I don't know where the software is, I am not a coder, and even if I had all this code working right now on my computer, I don't know how you could get it working at the IGF itself.
On the software issue, there is lots of it out there. It is often harder to choose which one than to find the options you need. Even free/open source forums usually have polls. Typically those are connected to the forum login so you can only vote once for each poll, you see the results straight away (or afterwards so the results don't sway your answer), and as you logged in there's no need for any other checks so no IP address issues etc.
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Kieren
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« Reply #10 on: September 28, 2006, 01:07:28 PM »

The trouble with any kind of poll is it is usually biased - you cannot force everyone to submit and it is hard to get a balanced opinion as a result.

I have been to events where chat facilities were present, as well as video conf and webcasts. The chat is a toy - useful, but used generally by members of the audience to make rude remarks about the speakers! These would then be followed by muffled laughter from one or two laptop-weilding people in the audience.

Yes, exactly, these are the real-world problems that you get.

I have been inquiring of people I know that have actually used colloboration tools in meetings and the best piece of advice I received was that you have to set a tone for each collaboration tool or it either isn't used or it descends into what you noticed - being used as a toy rather than a serious interaction.

The advice given was to have some people already lined up and promising to use it in the best way. So, for example, you have some eminently sensible people prepared to make a suggestion for a poll, or they promise to post intelligent comments onto the forum at the start. That way the tone is set.

If you could get one of the moderators on stage to suggest a poll, and get the audience feedback - and *then* post the poll, you would get people interacting and interacting in a useful fashion. If you could get this level of interaction and decent results at the end of it, you could then feed these results back into the end of the day summary - which in turn encourages more people to have a look at them and take them seriously and so on.

What would incredibly good would be if you have a large screen behind the stage that occasionally showed the results of the most recent polls going on, with a link to where the polls can be found.

In summary, basically, yes, for these tools to be of any use they have to be managed and by managed that means a small group of people keeping an eye out for what is happening, and trying to make sure the interaction is as useful as possible, whether by inputting into the system or personally encouraging others to do so.

I have been asked to produce the interactive element for an IGF pre-meeting coming up in London, so I'm hoping to set something up and see if it works. But any and all advice and expertise is welcome.

Oh, I've also mentioned to Chengetai that I think having a different colour for each of the four main topics could serve as a very useful pointer in countless ways. I'm going to dig up some colours and see if we can try to come to some kind of agreement.



Kieren

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Kieren
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« Reply #11 on: September 28, 2006, 01:49:34 PM »

Oh, I've also mentioned to Chengetai that I think having a different colour for each of the four main topics could serve as a very useful pointer in countless ways. I'm going to dig up some colours and see if we can try to come to some kind of agreement.

Okay, what about this for colours?

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jmh
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« Reply #12 on: September 28, 2006, 03:30:45 PM »

The issue with colours is with text over - it doesn't always match (and there are some seriously bad combinations!)

If colour is used in design to theme parts together then fine.
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Jeremy Malcolm
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« Reply #13 on: September 28, 2006, 03:32:08 PM »

First, a caveat to all this emphasis on polling: I'm not sure how relevant that will be to the first meeting.  I realise you are talking about polling rather than voting, but I think we might find that at the first meeting there will be rather a lot of discussion back and forth and hearing each other's perspectives, and rather less taking of positions on concrete propositions.

Second, much as people like to make negative noise about how the meeting will be captured by governments and ordinary Internet users will be left powerless, it seems that this is an area in which what we suggest could prevail, if only because nobody else is seizing the initiative to provide input.  Your colours idea, for example, Kieran.  Good stuff.

Third, I don't think coding up anything from scratch is really on the agenda for the first meeting; there simply isn't time.  So far the most promising software I've seen is the Dialogue Dashboard, and the Secretariat is looking at it now... so I reckon if it gets the thumbs up, let's roll it out and play with it.  If not, the decision needs to be made and communicated soon so that we can move on to the next option.

PS. What's this IGF pre-meeting of which you speak?
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jmh
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« Reply #14 on: September 28, 2006, 03:58:36 PM »

I realise you are talking about polling rather than voting

Actually - what is the difference between a vote and a poll? In the UK we use the term interchangeably - we go to the 'polls' to 'vote' for political candidates for example!

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