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Appoint impermanent moderators to handle a meeting.

Posted by Romain on

A moderator shares speech: a person can ask for it by raising their hand but the moderator can also ask to someone their opinions. A moderator makes sure that no one talks too much or too little by controlling how long people speak. How can we fairly appoint moderators for a fixed amount of time? I propose here a method to do so.

I. We determine together a maximum time of office, for example the duration devoted to an item on the agenda.

II. One casts one or two dice to appoint a moderator depending on how many people attend the meeting. The throw 1 or 1-1 designates the caster as the moderator, otherwise the n-1th person on the caster’s left will moderate. The number n corresponds to the throw: for a die there are 6 possible results, n being the number written on the die; for two dice there are 36 possible results – i.e. 1-1, 1-2, … 1-6, 2-1, 2-2, … , 5-6 , 6-6 – n being the result’s rank. If you have no dice you can use a coin that you flip several times, then you order the results to obtain n. For example by throwing the piece 3 times you have 8 possible results. If the result is higher than the participant’s number it suffices to throw again.

III. If the moderator resigns or if we reach the maximum term of office, we appoint a new moderator and the former moderator casts the dice.

In addition to raising your hand to speak, you can move your hands over your head to express your agreement or cross your arms in the air to express your disagreement. The moderator can also add other visual signs in addition to these three basic signs.



Posted by Romain on

Some consider Switzerland as a laboratory for democratic experiments. The Swiss town of Bienne exemplifies this trend. This city who contains more than 50k inhabitants hosts a movement called Passerrelle.

They start to exist in 2008 and they recently celebrated their 10th anniversary . In 2011, they argue for the involvement of foreigners into communal policies. This step toward openness partly demonstrates their philosophy: use everybody’s idea.  Passerelle has proposed to create citizen assemblies in 2017. The later assembly would suggest ideas to solve municipal problems. They talked about, like many sortition proponents,  its massive use in ancient Greece to promote the method.

Two bridges which link different landscapes or methods.

Passerelle runs in March 2018 to be a member of Berne regional council. Ruth Tennenbaum is the name of their candidate, an unimportant detail. Indeed, she will resign as soon as she gets elected. They hack the Swiss Electoral system. I already talked about a method used by Demorun to mix the electoral system with random selection in a previous post. Passerelle wanted to go further and select randomly after the vote to avoid any possible personification occurring during the campaign. Some « technical » details remain to be decided: the list they will pick from or the method used to perform random selection, On this later point I contacted a source close to Passerelle who told me that they might use the method I described in a previous post! The election takes place the 22nd of March. A story to be continued…

Thank you for reading! If I forgot something, the comment section is just below.


King of communication

Posted by Romain on

Who knows a politician, either good or bad, clumsy with their wording? No, me too. Oral skills rule politics. A politician must speak loud and clear but they must also be catchy. This might explain why advertisers infest politics. And journalists often sound like groupies.

A moderator changes the game. A good moderator will help to clarify a point and an attentive and benevolent mood will let everyone express their views. To do an impartial work a moderator needs to be impartial and impermanent. Journalist badly moderates, they often have an hidden agenda. A journalist without an agenda get one very quickly. Neutrality cannot be achieved by a human being, but we can discipline ourselves to transiently have it.

Two tools enhancing ones speech. Romain Cazé CC-BY

We have to fly away from debates. Right/wrong remain too binary. Reality displays much more diverse shades than black and white. Yet an argument can be better than another and room exists to discuss. Debates often lead to dead end. To discuss between humans opens new avenue.

We have to fight to change our « debate » culture. It may take time, but it will be worth it. So let mute sing because they will alleviate our colorblindness.

Thank you for reading! Write a comment to enrich this discussion.


Repetition and impermanence

Posted by Romain on

These two keys unlock evolution. Random mutations expresses DNA’s impermanence and the generations’ renewal refers to repetition. What links between these ideas – repetition and impermanence – with sortition?

The link between impermanence and randomness appears immediately. Things move when randomness enter the game, and nothing stays the same. Randomness introduces changes, sometimes bad change then called aging, sometimes good changes called growth. This impermanence drives evolution, without it nothing moves.

Randomness needs repetition to be useful. The famous Andy Warhol Campbell soup cans above a free illustration showing randomness from Pixabay. Romain Cazé CC-BY.

Randomness remains an energy waste without channelling. And repetition channels randomness. A solution might work super well at a certain time and fail miserably at another. Randomness introduces novelty and repetition uses it. You need repetition and renewal to exploit the right solution at the right time. We could imagine randomness as water, you need to constrain it to build a fountain.

Sorting a moderator contains these two sides of the same coin. You cast dices and limit the mandate ensuring repetition and renewal. Control becomes superfluous in this case, time will work for us. A bad moderator? None of them can stop the time. A good moderator? Because they can resign any-time and because their task will end, they avoid tiredness. I like this scale, it’s the smallest scale for which you can contemplate sortition’s impact.

Thank you for reading! Comment below if change and repetition mean something to you.


A birthday gift

Posted by Romain on

This gift bent my life’s trajectory. The present remains classic, a book, titled « Guide pratique pour oser s’impliquer dans la vie politique locale ». This long title describes a practical guide to participate in local politics. It gives so many useful tips, this book explains in details how one could participate to the next communal elections in France. For instance he proposes a calendar to prepare for the 2020 elections. The first eight chapters each deals with a specific and pragmatic topic, what the candidate must do, mayor’s duty, the town hall budget. In a nutshell the book details everything you need to know about the town hall.

Two weapons. The left one may change France.

We can use this book to organize ourselves. It is its purpose. The author has two dreams: the limitation to a single mandate in space and time; citizens to participate in how the town hall and city work. The preface nicely details these dreams and why they could be game changers.

He also discusses about random selection in almost every chapters. For instance to evaluate the program, he proposes to visit the 20th house of every street and propose to fill an evaluation sheet. Another proposition consists in Citupperware meeting to discuss about the program in a local home. Both idea help to build and strengthen the program for the elections.

Thank you for reading! Write below if you want to know more about this book.

P.S: Thank you Ambre.


Sortition Foundation

Posted by Romain on

I spent the weekend in Babylondon. I went there to meet people from the Sortition Foundation. They have existed for a year and had their first annual meeting. By the way, I have to use my remaining pounds to become a member and I encourage you to become a member if you live in the UK. They might change how we do politics in United Kingdom. Brett facilitated our group (we were around ten people) discussion. I report below some topics we discussed.

We started (among other things) to talk about billionaires and poor unkw0wn artists. They search for people to support and advertise their effort. One person said that: ‘they should go for the rich and famous people to talk about the sortition foundation’. On the one hand, these people are not only difficult but they might sternly disagree with sortition’s idea. On the other hand, artist craves for free advertisements and hugely help some other movements like #MAVOIX. Plus poor unknown artists fill London’s streets

Two people. Forbes report on the first last week, the second has changed the world. Romain C. CC-BY

I also brought up two other subjects: using crypto-currencies accounts for donation and apply sortition first to ourselves. We need to practise random selection as often as it is possible to make robust and efficient. Crypto-currency could propel crowdfunding for sortition as many new geeks could potentially be interested in new ways to do politics.

Thank you for reading! I heavily biased my report below, maybe people at the meeting want to add their view in comments.


Where is the server?

Posted by Romain on

Who shelters Nuit Debout wiki’s server? I use the singular (server and not servers) because no reason make me believe that multiple servers exist. This question may seem like a geek’s problem.

Who owns the server will own the wiki and has its full control. Imagine that a malicious entity possesses the server. This person can delete as they wish wiki’s content or change its layout. Using multiple node’s who independently store the entire wiki prevents such censorship. If one day the wiki’s owner wants to put ads or remove sensitive content, it will take three hours max to restore the entire wiki.

Having a system with a single failure point could also drastically improve its robustness. A flood, an earthquake or a simple electricity shortage are going to disrupt the unique server. The problem evaporates when you store the same information in multiple independent locations. This feature explains in part blockchains’ success. Nodes store the blockchain entirity, this make the system super robust because a single node can regenerate the entire chain. You need to disrupt all nodes at the same time: possible with one node, difficult with two, next to impossible with three.

Last but not least putting a wiki server on a raspberry pi costs next to nothing. The storage space might be the highest budget ~200 euros for a teraoctet. The highest recurring budget is the broadband internet connection (around ~30 euros per month). A rasperry pi with a memory card would be around ~80 euros. It gives around 300 euros of fix initial cost and then 30 euros per month to maintain. Largely lower than any human cost.

Two support for a server. The raspberry Pi weights less. Romain Cazé CC-BY.

I participate to « La nuit du code citoyen » tonight. I’ll suggest to work on a project to distribute wikis with raspberry pis. We could employ an original management for the project, killing two birds with one stone. I’ll propose that the manager would be selected randomly among all participants and to use an impermanent manager that would change after a certain duration.

Thank you for reading! If you have ideas, share them!


We finally found a use for the financial markets.

Posted by Romain on

Could financial markets finally be useful, and could financial markets finally be useful? Imagine you organize an event with a hundred seats and you have a thousand people who want to go to this event. The classic solution consists in giving the seats to the first arrived. The solution I propose uses sortition to designate the participants. We could write an open source script to automatically perform this task. France Insoumise organize a convention and put their script on github. Yet it is insufficient, a malicious agent can re-run the script until they obtain the desired result. A way to circumvent the problem would be to randomly pick the seed with witnesses. As soon as you have a givent seed any computer can reproduce the entire allotment.

Two sets of empty chairs. Maybe in the future one will fill the others. Romain Cazé CC-BY

Picking a seed with witnesses has an inherent cost and it may be complex to make the full procedure tamper-proof. Here comes the stock market. The idea would be to use a stock market index like the dow jones or the CAC 40 at a given time in the future. To make the seed even more unpredictable we can hash this number using a cryptographic algorithm. This method seems easy and very robust. Manipulating a market to obtain a given index cannot be done and we know that markets behave very close to a random process. The hash function makes sure that a minimal variation in the index creates.

Thank you for reading! If you have other ideas you can write them below.

P.S: Thank you Luca to point out this method to me. Démocratie réelle used this method to randomly pick candidats for the French European elections in 2014.


No thumb but a maximal time

Posted by Romain on

Things reborn yesterday evening. I was at a participative list meeting for 2020 the municipal election. We had a productive meeting and I loved it. We randomly sorted moderators, last time such an event happened was months ago.

The beginning was clunky. No one opposed to the idea yet I had to insist: I brought two dice and asked multiple times to use them to select a moderator. Before the meeting I also explained the method I wanted to use, but we didn’t use this exact method.

We did not use this method but we made it better. The initial stage stayed similar, we cast two dice to select a moderator among all the people (we were 9). The thumbs up stage to make the moderator resign was deemed too violent and we replaced it by a limited time condition. In a nutshell the rules changed the following way:

Two ways of ending dictatorship. Romain Cazé CC-BY

To designate a new moderator we cast a dice. The nth person on the left of the caster becomes the moderator, n being the number on the dice. The person can decline this assignment any time -because everyone experiences fatigue- and before casting the thrower set a maximal time -to avoid dictatorship-. You don’t have a dice? You can use a coin then: heads, the first person on the left becomes the moderator; tails it’s the second. You are more than six and you want everybody to have the same chance to be moderator? Use two coloured dices following this method (details are here).

Thank you for reading! Try to designate a moderator using chance at your next meeting, write below your impressions.



Posted by Romain on

Let’s do some sightseeing and go to Saillans. A small village in a South of France tried something unusual, and I belong to a collective in Paris wanting to reproduce their experiment. A member sent a bunch of links on videos about Saillans.

Two images to help locating Saillans. Romain Cazé CC-BY

Saillans’ town hall uses sortition massively. 12 randomly selected citizen control the elected official (check 5:00 of this video). They also use random selection to build action groups on specific topics, like how to design city’s urban plan. The experiment demonstrates how we can use chance to enhance citizen’s involvement. They show us the way on at least two topics: (1) Citizens can perform executive functions (2) Citizens can be used to control the executive power.

Of course, some locals speak against this method and for them things were better before. And some mayors around look on Saillans with a judgemental eye. They argue that people should not decide on topics unknown to them. We can answer to the previous remark with two points: people can become expert through use and certain mayors didn’t have any prior training before their elections.

But the easiest critic to this experiment deals with the scale (Saillans’ population is around 1200 inhabitants). Hey, we need to start somewhere and better start at the smallest scale possible. I like the bottom-up approach and believe that a revolution should be done one step at a time. The town hall has worked this way for four years now. A story to be continued…

Thank you for reading! Write below, if you want to add information about Saillans or why you agree or disagree.