The Governance of the DhO, or Anarchy vs Monarchy

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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

The Governance of the DhO, or Anarchy vs Monarchy

Posts: 3166 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Forum: The Big Issues

There has been raised the issue of the governance of this place and whether or not this needs more formal structure.

The situation in reality as it currently stands is this: it was founded by Daniel Ingram (me) with the help of Vince Horn for technical support, with Hokai joining in very early to help as well, and then we were joined by a number of friends, some of whom we made moderators who rarely have to use that power, and so the website goes along pretty much by itself with little need for much except posting and the very rare deletion of a thread, post or member. Most decisions of practical importance are made by me and Vince with help from others in the community, and these were few until we began researching a new platform on which to host this thing so that we could have a stronger and more functional wiki of terms, concepts and practices to help people get up to speed on lingo, etc.

As we work on transitioning to a more structured website, DhO 2.0, the question has been raised by some more seasoned members about whether or not we need a more formal structure of governance, which involves a whole host if of issues, what that government would look like, who would vote or decide who was on whatever governing body we came up with, etc.

If anyone has complaints, issues, problems, thoughts, ideas, or contributions to how we can make this place better and bring more clarity, fairness, and the like to the process of how decisions are made here and who has what little bits of power there are to be had here, this is a place to discuss them openly.
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: The Governance of the DhO, or Anarchy vs Monarchy

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: garyrh

Governance by moderators works well while there are good moderators. As a structure you might want to consider moderators being elected by the members. Of course candiates would have to have suitably demonstrated their contribution for a determined period and be willing to participate.

[edit] I say this because you guys [ the current moderators] might want to go on a retreat!
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: The Governance of the DhO, or Anarchy vs Monarchy

Posts: 0 Join Date: 5/16/09 Recent Posts
As a novice practitioner, from my perspective the thing that DhO needs most - perhaps the ONLY thing it needs - is a working Wiki on PRACTICE-related material/concepts/terms. And, the nature of Wiki, as we all know, does not demand the creation of some formal governance except some intelligent moderation, which we have in abundance, so far.
Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: The Governance of the DhO, or Anarchy vs Monarchy

Posts: 28 Join Date: 8/23/09 Recent Posts
I don't have thoughts regarding governance as you frame it Daniel; I'm very happy with the moderation of the site. Regarding governance more broadly, I'd really like to see the site divided up into spaces for discussion of novice and higher level attainment. Stickys on perennial issues with links to relevant threads could also be created; particularly the issue of insight practice 'versus' no practice approach. As much as I was attracted to the site this was a significant concern for me when I first began to lurk, and it took 2/3 months of reading before the issue was resolved in my mind.

And, it would be also great to have a space set aside for simple speculation - there's value in that, too, so long as it is seen clearly for what it is.

I suspect all of the above are under consideration. As great as the current site is, I'm looking forward to the new Dharma Undeground.

Damon
Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: The Governance of the DhO, or Anarchy vs Monarchy

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
I personally like the openess of discussions. I compare the DhO to being like a large room where one can enter and have conversations with others. Everyone is on equal footing as far as adding to the discussion, and if someone is getting out of hand they would be mildly rebuked by the consensus, and if they get real ugly then they will get escorted out of the room, so to speak, by those who keep the 'room'. And for those who get bored of the discussions, well they move on to somewhere else.

I, for one, love that I can approach the novice to the expert here, though I'm hesitant to call on the experts until I at least finish the book and spend some more time in practice. The one thing I would like to suggest is, like I did in another thread, maybe having more control of the user pages by the user, like to start a meditation journal (maybe with weekly entries) so that way the experts could help guide the novice a little better by knowing where they come from and what they are doing. And if the experts would also keep this online journal, then maybe the novices could read those journals to get some guidance, and maybe not have to ask so many questions in new discussion threads. And maybe the experts could continue to add helpful content pages, but not just fluff, but deep stuff that will really help.

Oh, and could we please ditch the black background with white text. I must be the only one whose eyes hurt after spending some time on this site in one sitting.
Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: The Governance of the DhO, or Anarchy vs Monarchy

Posts: 10 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Jamie, you are not the only one! I would like to do more reading here, but the white on black limits the amount of time that I can spend reading.

I haven't contributed much here; I'm quite a beginner, but I've been lurking for a little while. I am comfortable with the moderation structure as it stands. I trust that I could ask questions and be treated with respect, even if the response could be boiled down to "RTFM again" and I appreciate that.

Also, I like Jamie's idea of the online meditation journals.

Becky
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: The Governance of the DhO, or Anarchy vs Monarchy

Posts: 11 Join Date: 8/24/09 Recent Posts
IMHO, the governance thus far exceeds the quality of any other community I've joined thus far. The maturity and knowledge of both the moderators and the members serves as an outstanding screening mechanism to weed out trolls, misguided or overly dogmatic personalities, etc., etc., ad nauseum.

And the fact that anyone can throw the B.S. flag at any time without being excoriated for daring to challenge those who may have higher attainments or more experience is worth its weight in gold.

In other words, I don't see a need for change; everything is working fine from my perspective.
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: The Governance of the DhO, or Anarchy vs Monarchy

Posts: 3166 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Well, these colors are not perfect, but the other themes seemed worse. The new DhO site will have better thematic coloring, I believe.

Thanks for all your feedback and support. I am glad people are liking this place.
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: The Governance of the DhO, or Anarchy vs Monarchy

Posts: 43 Join Date: 5/20/09 Recent Posts
governance seems quite adequate to me. would like to suggest a couple improvements of a more superficial nature, though ... not sure whether this is the right place for that, but it seems like usability should be as much a consideration as governance for an improvement worthy of the 2.0 label. please note that these are offered in a wholly constructive spirit (nobody likes the new guy telling you why your website sucks ...)

* email access - the features offered by web forums are great, but its hard to beat the simplicity/convenience of email access for discussions. just having stuff like collapsable threads, the ability to mark posts read/unread, instant text searching, not having to follow links or page through discussions, having a local/offline archive of group history, customizable formatting preferences (not to mention that little "unread count" badge on the dock icon) makes me much more likely to read and/or contribute to discussions. not suggesting DhO be like a newsgroup or anything (its great having profiles, summary/overview pages, etc), just some better email delivery preferences (and perhaps the option to download an mbox archive of discussion history).

* better search - not sure how exactly wetpaint sites do their searching, but there seem to be some serious limitations (for instance, one might expect this thread to turn up under a thread search for "governance", "anarchy", "monarchy") not a huge deal, but does tend to result in new folks posting the same questions over and over (i think i did this on my first post, actually). [edit: looks like thread search now searches subjects ... woo-hoo!]

* the profile template is pretty silly (whats your superpower??) and probably a turn-off for new member that think theyre supposed to answer the questions. a more practice-oriented template might be a good idea.
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: The Governance of the DhO, or Anarchy vs Monarchy

Posts: 43 Join Date: 5/20/09 Recent Posts
wow ... much, much better!
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: The Governance of the DhO, or Anarchy vs Monarchy

Posts: 658 Join Date: 5/14/09 Recent Posts
candy stripes? now MY eyes hurt.. am i the only one for whom the white on black worked better?
Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: The Governance of the DhO, or Anarchy vs Monarchy

Posts: 4 Join Date: 4/30/09 Recent Posts
I think this is an important conversation, but any conclusions cannot be arrived at by popular vote. We can feel the pulse, of course. But at this point it's a sliding-scale rule, the sliding being scaled by the founder, and as such has its advantages and shortcomings. Whether more or less formal structure is necessary will be, ultimately, decided in the same way.

Whether "people" can indeed self-regulate has been an issue for a very long time, and mild moderation has been sufficient for this framework, but will probably not be sufficient for the 2.0 phase, due to its sheer complexity. I believe Jimmy Wales' Wikipedia has a great organization structure in this regard, though their favoring of consensus over credentials is sometimes obvious, and this can (and should) be avoided at DhO (and so far mostly has been). I would also argue for adoption of some principles of holacracy, as proposed by Brian Robertson.

In short, I don't see it as "anarchy vs. monarchy" since we have a little bit of both already, but as a question how to best use the natural three-tiered nature of our community to create and maintain the best environment. Thoughts?
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: The Governance of the DhO, or Anarchy vs Monarchy

Posts: 439 Join Date: 4/30/09 Recent Posts
In my experience, the keys to the smooth running of an organization are 1) a clear structure and 2) the consistent application of that structure. This applies whether the organization is as small as a family or as big as a nation. I agree with Hokai that the three-tiered structure which has naturally emerged here gives us a ready-made framework for governance. I also agree that the form of governance will not be arrived at by popular vote. It will be up to Daniel to decide how much, if any, decision making power he wants to share, and with whom.

Up until now, Daniel, as founder, has made all of the important decisions. He has done an excellent job. Furthermore, as someone who has known Daniel well for twenty years, I can vouch for his integrity. But, as this community grows, more and more people will have a stake in it. In other words, this place matters to people. And history shows that it is unwise to put something you value in the hands of one human being. That goes doubly if the thing in question involves religion or spirituality.

I'd like to see more critical thought regarding not only our governance but also the teaching we present here. Many people have been been touched by what they've found in Daniel's book, MCTB, and the book has become the keystone of this online community. That's good and bad. It's good because it gives us a common theme and vocabulary in addition to providing valuable guidance. But there is a danger that we will turn it into dogma even as we turn Daniel into a religious leader whose ideas and edicts go unchallenged. I don't think Daniel wants that. I don't think you want that. I most certainly don't want that.

Let's accept each others' help while holding each other accountable. A well-structured organization will help us do that. I'd like to hear from Vince, Hokai, and others for more detail on ways to organize, as it is beyond my area of expertise.
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: The Governance of the DhO, or Anarchy vs Monarchy

Posts: 3166 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
I agree with Kenneth that I have no stomach for becoming some sort of religious leader, but I don't think there is any danger of my ideas going unchallenged, as history has shown, and I think that is a really good thing, and while it is true that MCTB has provided some conventions that help, the material that this wide array of very knowledgeable people draws on is vast, rich and diverse, and that shows in the discussions, and the open format of this place by its nature allows the posting of and linking to a great treasure trove of perspectives.

The nice thing is that, so far, there has been little need to do much aside from some technical decisions about hosting sites and the like, most of which have been made or aided by the broad array of computer talent we have here, and as to the rest, there is really not much to do and not really a lot of power that is present here or needs to be used for much at this point, so it is not like we are debating something particularly large or complex, and it is not like the decision making power isn't diffused, as I simply don't know enough to have made many of the technical decisions about how things have and are being implemented, and so far this place has pretty much run itself and taken on a life of its own, as consistent with the tenants of holacracy, vague though they may sometimes be. From my point of view, please feel free to add your voice at any time to whatever problems or complexities arise, and I suspect that group consensus as it is will guide what happens along the way.

I am in this because I like having a place in which and a community with whom to share the dharma and just wanted a place to talk about the dharma the way I know it can be at its best, which from my point of view is open, as egalitarian as is realistically possible, down to earth, empowering to those who come here, fun and practical, and so long as that's what this place is, I am happy.
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: The Governance of the DhO, or Anarchy vs Monarchy

Posts: 3166 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
It is also true that not everyone here is going to finally agree on how things should be, and that is also fine.

One thing that is great is that Wetpaint sites like this one can be set up with a few clicks of a mouse, as this one was, and they are free so long as you don't mind the ads, and so my wife and I were joking last night that perhaps I should found a site called "The Dharma Overlords" to be a spin off from this site for those who for whatever reason like more formal hierarchy, rules, regulations, roles, titles, procedures, and feel that this place is too lax, disorganized, rough and arbitrary.

That obviously would be the start of the Great DharmaOverground Schism, which is probably inevitable, as there are some strong voices here, many visions of how the dharma should be shared and what meaning this place has for their lives and sense of themselves and how they fit into the world, and that is natural and a fine thing, and I would hate for people to somehow feel that the wide open world of the web and other venues was somehow limited to this place and it needed to become some sort of battle ground for power or control.

I am also not quite sure what the focus on me here is all about, as there are quite a few who post more than I do, many who give all sorts of great and well-respected advice all the time, and plenty who provide support media for this place way beyond MCTB.

Those things said, I do have my particular vision how the dharma is the most fun and useful, and I it is clear that this colors the place, which is only natural, as the vision statement at the front door reflects my vision, and thus I believe pre-selects for those who share it and see its value. I hope this place stays as true as possible to its original founding tenants as possible, as I think they beat the heck out of what happens most other places and in most other times in history.
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: The Governance of the DhO, or Anarchy vs Monarchy

Posts: 3166 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
In that same vein, as the web is so open and communities so easily set up and this place is only attended to because people wish to be here, essentially all power rests in the hands of the community, as without them nothing happens, no conversations occur, and, as censorship of opinion and post is so rare here so far, basically this place is running itself, and as membership is voluntary, this place will only flourish if it is offering something people resonate with, and from my point of view, it will only be fun for me if it continues along something like its current path, which has been amazing.

While it is true that I have requested that Vince keep DhO 2.0, the one with the wiki, closed while we build some core structures and work out some bugs and kinks, that is only reasonable, and once it is up and running, we plan to make it as open as possible, in the spirit of this place. As I currently fund that site out of pocket, as that server time and platform cost, I hope no one minds that I make a few decisions about it early on to make it happen well and be an improvement on what we currently have here, with thanks for the invaluable support of the tech sector here.
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: The Governance of the DhO, or Anarchy vs Monarchy

Posts: 97 Join Date: 5/6/09 Recent Posts
Daniel,

Speaking of funding... I think it's great that you're funding the 2.0 project out of pocket, since it allowed you and Vince to get the ball rolling quickly. We're all going to be enjoying the new site, though, so there should probably be a way for us to donate money to keep the site up and running. I know that Buddhist Geeks has a donation system set up, so it wouldn't be hard to use the same kind of thing for the Dharma Overground. I just don't think it's fair to put all of the financial burden on one individual.

You may have already considered this. I just thought I'd get the idea out in the open.

Jackson
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: The Governance of the DhO, or Anarchy vs Monarchy

Posts: 439 Join Date: 4/30/09 Recent Posts
Hey Daniel,

I'm calling you out here, but it isn't because I want your job, nor even because I like to torment you (although, of course, I do ;-)). It's because there is some shadow stuff here I want you to look at.

As author of MCTB and founder of DhO, you are the natural leader of our online community. You are very influential for a lot of people. Seeking to downplay your influence is a mistake. Rather, I'd like to see you acknowledge your power along with the responsibility it brings. Making reference to "what little bits of power there are to be had here" is disingenuous given the extent to which people here have come to look up to you. So far, their admiration has not been misplaced. But when, as in posts 14 and 15 of this thread, you imply that people who disagree with you should go elsewhere, you are misusing your power. And when you cast a legitimate discussion of the future governance of DhO as a "battle...for power or control," you are indulging in spin. When you joke that there should be another site called the Dharma Overlords for those who like "hierarchy, rules, and regulations," you are missing the irony that by opposing the creation of a formal power-sharing structure you are ensuring that you remain the one and only Dharma Overlord at DhO. Let's call it what it is. It's not so important whether DhO is a democracy, a republic, or the fiefdom of a benevolent prince. What is important is that we get our shadows out into the light of day.

Your friend,

Kenneth
Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: The Governance of the DhO, or Anarchy vs Monarchy

Posts: 74 Join Date: 5/13/09 Recent Posts
Just to be clear: the wetpaint site is not the v2.0 site.
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: The Governance of the DhO, or Anarchy vs Monarchy

Posts: 0 Join Date: 5/16/09 Recent Posts
Kenneth,

I will speak for myself and I must say you are reading way more into things than is necessary! Sure, I read the MTCB quite a lot but I also read the actual suttas and examine results from my own practice to see how much of what Daniel writes meshes with the Buddha's own discourses and my own experiences. In the process, at any given time I take what makes most sense to me and discard the rest. That, to me, is what Wisdom is all about.

Moreover, I always carried the impression that Hokai and you were/are much more active on DhO, and therefore you two influence other members more than Daniel does! Given how much empowering the approach has been on DhO vis-a-vis the Dharma, I hardly think there is any danger of anyone being turned into a religious leader or something. To drive home this point even more forcefully, I should state that I now don't even care how awesome the Buddha may have been. When I read the suttas, I see the Dharma being laid bare before my eyes. The Buddha guy is just some convenient mental construct in my mind. And, if I can learn all this from the DhO, then I am pretty sure we won't turn Daniel into a religious leader!

In other words, the purported influence of Daniel's over others may perhaps only be a figment of your imagination and nothing more. See? If you had been given some formal title, I would have never written what I just wrote above!
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: The Governance of the DhO, or Anarchy vs Monarchy

Posts: 439 Join Date: 4/30/09 Recent Posts
LOL. Thanks, Vishal, I got a good laugh out of your post and especially liked the part about how you now see that even the Buddha is just some mental construct. Wonderful.

Well, I just had a long talk on the phone with Daniel and I feel very good about it. He and I have been having our periodic brotherly bickering sessions for many years and the fact that we now have the DhO means that all of you get to witness it, ha ha. In any case, we had fun stating our cases and hearing each others' points of view, laughed a lot and remembered that we agree on much more than we disagree on.

For me, the important thing is not that we have any particular form of governance, but that we always feel free to discuss things openly, even when we disagree with the high muckey-mucks of dharma. :-)

One of the things Daniel and I agree on is that the most important thing we can do at DhO is to help others get through the first 16 ├▒anas to stream entry. After that, they'll be fine. So, while he and I may occasionally feel the need to entertain ourselves with our familial head-butting, we'll try to keep most of the focus on practical dharma.

Very Best to Everyone,

Kenneth
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: The Governance of the DhO, or Anarchy vs Monarchy

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: garyrh

I do not believe the current governance structure is suitable for the community to grow.
The things that follow are not so much issues now, although those within the community are not well positioned to know how it is perceived from without.

-1- the current moderators available can only handle so much "work". A larger community will require more moderators.

-2- more importantly, when the community is larger it will attract more comments and critics. It is better nip in the bud the "Guru Daniel and his followers" perception that will be put up with the current structure. If Daniel is percieved as the leader anything he says will be taken to respresent the community even with his disclaimers. This is obviously problematic.

-3- A democratic system can work. Contributors are already in a sense voting by being here. I have not seen the general consensus go too far astray. The community can select moderators the only requirement is the voters have a vested interest in the outcome; and this can be assessed by the individuals contributions to the community.
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: The Governance of the DhO, or Anarchy vs Monarchy

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: ccasey

This article may be of value to you:
Emergent Order and Self-Organization: A Case Study of Alcoholics Anonymous
http://nvs.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/26/4/527

A key value here is the egalitarian nature of the exchanges, and eventually, I feel there should be a committee making decisions. Deviant Art also went through some of the same issues as they developed.

That the common goals as Kenneth pointed out are being honored will help this tool live on.
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: The Governance of the DhO, or Anarchy vs Monarchy

Posts: 3166 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Dear All,

Kenneth and I did have a good conversation, and it reinforced a few things. As the founder of the site and the one who carved out a little place on the web where I can have the kinds of conversations that I couldn't have anywhere else on the web, I do feel that there is some reason for me to use what influence I do have to keep this place the way I like it, and how I like it is stated on the front page and many places elsewhere, meaning: pragmatism over dogmatism, personal experience over blind faith, the spirit of mutually supportive adventurers rather than formal student-teacher relationships, and the notion that these things can be done and are being done, as well as realistic models of the stages of the path and good, open, down-to-earth conversations about whatever we wish to talk about that is useful.

Kenneth pointed out that it was ironic that I, a site administrator and founder, would advocate for not changing much about what power structure there may be, and he has a point. You can expect that I will try to stick as closely as possible to my original vision of how the dharma can be shared, though everything changes, and if things need to morph, so be it.

I am pretty open to whatever goes on here, and it seems that people like things largely the way they are, so for the moment we seem okay, and I have faith that the community process and wisdom and openness will be able to solve problems as they arise.

In all honesty I am not that concerned with how the community looks from without, as most of the dharma discussions and communities I found out there seemed to have a very different set of priorities and paradigms from what happens here, as is routinely pointed out by members here who find nothing like this elsewhere.

I agree we may need more moderators, though I only remember a few deletions of anything in the last year, so in all honesty so far it is not hard work: interested? Let me know.
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: The Governance of the DhO, or Anarchy vs Monarchy

Posts: 3166 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
As to a committee making decisions, the reality of what happens behind the scenes has been this: I tend to advocate for making things happen and try to do so, often based on suggestions from the group, and usually with the support of people like Vince Horn and other tech people here. It is a relatively small to medium amount of work, and I wouldn't mind having some help with a few things: let me know if you wish.

Kenneth and I talk often enough and debate things. Lee Moore will probably take over tech stuff from Vince, when he gets off his retreat in Malaysia June 1st, assuming he is willing to, and if he doesn't have the time, I'll find others to help keep things working on that front.

These are the mysteries of the behind the scenes revealed.
Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: The Governance of the DhO, or Anarchy vs Monarchy

Posts: 15 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Has this resulted in the black on white?
Cos... I can't read that at all hehe!
So I've not followed this thread to find out if it has, I just can't read it! (Stupid medical condition)
It would be lovely if the new website allowed a user to specify colour preferences, within a style set by you guys making it.
Or even a number of different styles available, that's what most wiki's have, especially if they're using the Wikimedia software.
Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: The Governance of the DhO, or Anarchy vs Monarchy

Posts: 5 Join Date: 8/30/09 Recent Posts
Everything seems to be working fine... but maybe it's because the lack of formal governance means that paying attention is even more important. What I mean is too much structure and formality can tacitly encourage laziness.

The only addition I can think of is a more formal guide to "if there is problem x, then contact moderator y." And if this site becomes very large and hard to coordinate, then consider maybe forming a oversight committee that can handle that sort of stuff. But there is something about organizations that stay small enough not to have managers managing managers... that's when efficiency seems to break down.

hth!
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: The Governance of the DhO, or Anarchy vs Monarchy

Posts: 3166 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Current thoughts on this:

The proposal by Hokai and Vince to adopt a holacracy-influenced structure to help us scale up a bit will be discussed sometime this month. People interested in doing something more formal: being a moderator, helping with tech support in LifeRay, being a go-to person for whatever, helping with the donation section to fund LifeRay, which does cost a little, etc. would be welcome, so let me know.

If people are interested in being part of the more formal conversation about implementing a few things, that should happen in the next few weeks, let me know.

Until then, all is basically the same.
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: The Governance of the DhO, or Anarchy vs Monarchy

Posts: 19 Join Date: 7/7/09 Recent Posts
"People interested in doing something more formal: being a moderator, helping with tech support in LifeRay, being a go-to person for whatever, helping with the donation section to fund LifeRay, which does cost a little, etc. would be welcome, so let me know."

Message sent.

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