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Draft of proposal:
It's time for democratic filters

Democratic filters (where readers can create, share, select and
combine filters) are the solution to newswire spam on Indymedia.

If readers can post articles for others to read --
then why can't they also post filters for others to use?

Last updated: July 15, 2005
contents

1. Our Mission
2. Some key principles
3. Overview of this proposal
4. Details of the 3 stages
5. Some mock-ups of screen shots
6. We need your help
 
mockup pages

Indymedia front page
filters page
"help us" page

comments

Post your comments today.
See what our readers have posted.

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I. Our Mission

Provide Indymedia activists a clear and compelling demonstation of the power of democratic filtering technology to improve the experience of readers and increase Indymedia readership.

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II. Some key principles

1. What the proposal is:

This proposal aims to increase the size and the participation of the Indymedia audience by improving the Newswire, which is one of the main attractions for Indymedia's readers.

The basic aim here to create the simplest possible proposal that could be acted on. Once readers and activists around the Indymedia community are able to see and recognize the power of the principles of democratic filtering -- then we will be in a better position to sort out which additional features are most important to add next.

2. What the proposal is not:

The current proposal will not make use of rating technology.

If the current proposal can be successfully implemented -- then at some unspecified time
in the future
we might be able to experiment with methods by which:

  • readers can rate articles and comments.
  • readers would be able to filter on the basis of the ratings, and
  • we could implement true collaborative filtering (ie: in which a reader will be able to see the articles and comments which have been given high ratings by that subset of the readership which in the past has made rating decisions that are similar to his own)

3. Requirements of the project:

a. The proposal must capture the imagination of a section of Indymedia readers and at least one or two technically-minded developers who would need to modify the code. If the proposal is a hit -- then Indymedia readers could be recruited to help test the new code.

b. The work to create a new version would require the attention and participation of many Indymedia readers -- who would provide feedback and help to keep us motivated in this work with their enthusiasm for the new features.

c. The code base of the new version of Seattle Indymedia would probably have to be changed so that it is using code which is:

  • well-documented
  • easy to modify
  • similar to the code base of many other Indymedia centers
    (ie: so that there is a large pool of other tech activists
    who are familar with the code)

4. How we can get started:

The first step is gathering together a group of people who are enthusiastic about making this happen.

It will be a good thing if this can be made to happen at any Indymedia web site -- because its success at one location can serve as a model for other locations. It would be fitting if the Seattle Indymedia site -- which originated at the WTO protests in 1999 -- and served as a model for the more than one hundred Indymedia sites which now exist -- also takes the lead in demonstrating the power and popularity of democratic filtering.

To begin this process we can post a summary of this proposal in the center column. If we get a sufficiently positive response from readers -- we can then add a request for help at the top of the left column (ie: similar to what appears in the mockup).

Then we will see if we get enough offers of help to make this a reality.

If not, we may also need to send news of this proposal and requests for help around the Indymedia community.

If we can make this happen at Seattle Indymedia -- that would also be easier than at some other Indymedia -- because it would be easier for us to meet in person.

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III. Overview of this proposal


Fig 1: Readers will be able to easily choose, with a single click,
which (if any) filter they would like to use

The proposal consists of 3 stages of development:

  • stage 1 -- All newswire articles will be thrown
                      into one (or more) of 6 buckets

    • Local Bellingham to Olympia
    • National eastern Washington and the rest of the U.S.
    • International
    • Rants stuff that is not news and which may, or may not, be interesting
    • Actions Mass protests, and info on progressive meetings,
      events, organizations, campaigns and the electoral circus
    • Indymedia evolution policies, principles and development

    The Newswire will be partitioned into sections for each of these categories and will also be made much wider (nearly 640 pixels) in order to display, in a single line, more information about each newswire article.

    Some articles would fall into more than one category and therefore might appear in more than one place on the newswire. People who post will fill out a form indicating which category (or categories) their article falls into. Indymedia editors would modify these categories if and when necessary.

    News and Non-News

    The first 3 categories are based on geography and are reserved for articles that are either really news or are of genuine interest to a section of the Indymedia readership. The rant category is a convenient catch-all for everything that is not news. Many of the rants, of course, will be worthless, but others will be priceless gems and this section has potential to be a big draw for our readers.

    The 2 big topics

    The only two "topic" buckets are for (a) protests and progressive events and (b) the principles and evolution of Indymedia. Both of these topic areas are extremely important. To prevent "inflation" of topic areas into a large number of fuzzy and poorly defined categories -- no other topic buckets will be created.

    The "What's Hot?" category

    The newswire will also feature a 7th section following the 6 sections above. This will be the What's Hot? section and will consist of all articles from the above sections which have drawn comments from readers in the last 48 hours.

  • stage 2 -- ability to create and share filters
                      that can hide Newswire articles

    • All readers will have the option of registering. Registered posters will have their name on all posts marked as "verified" and the option to have their name link to a website of their choice. This will prevent impersonation.

    • All registered readers will be able to create filters that can be
      shared with all other readers. These filters will "hide" articles
      (ie: prevent articles from appearing) in the Newswire column
      (note: filtered articles will be represented by a small clickable symbol which
      will display title, reason filtered and other information on mouseover and which
      will bring up the article when clicked. This will make it easy for readers to verify
      that their filters are not excluding too many potentially interesting posts)

    • Readers will be able to easily choose which (if any) filter they would like to use

    • The Newswire will always display (prominently, at the top) which filter is in use
      (readers will be able to change filters, or remove all filters, by selecting
      from a dropdown box of filters and clicking the "change filter" button)

    • Each article will always show, at the top, a list of the filters which hide it.
      So if you consider an article a complete waste of your time, you will know
      which filters to use in the future.
      This article will not be visible in the Newswire if you are using any of the following filters:

              Alan, Bob-44, Charlie23, David, Eric_97, Fred, Gary, Jack-29, Karl, Larry,
              Mary, Nancy, Olaf, Peter, Rich, Steve, Terry, Victor, Wally


      If you consider this article to be a waste of your time and don't want to see similar articles in the Newswire, you may want to consider applying one of the filters above (or any of the 17 filters which use those filters, etc). To find out more about how filters work, go to our filters page.
      Fig 2: A message at the top of every article will make it easy
      for readers to easily see what filters hide a particular article.

    • Each reader will have the option of using cookies so that when he or she returns to the site in the future -- his or her prefered filter will still be in operation.

      In addition, each filter will be "linkable" (ie: have its own unique URL of the form:

      http://seattle.indymedia.org/filters/tom77.shtml

      so that readers can go directly to their filter of choice without the need for any extra clicks.

    • New readers to the site will find 2 kinds of filters in operation:

      • the mandatory filter which filters out articles with potential for legal problems (mainly threats) and articles which link to or promote neo-nazi webpages or groups. Readers will not be able to disable this filter (for legal reasons and also to prevent Indymedia from being used by neo-nazi groups)

      • the default filter will hide articles from trolls and the brain-damaged as well as commercial spam, the less obvious neo-nazis (like holocaust revisionsts or "journalist" Wendy Campbell), duplicates and test posts. Readers will have the option of disabling this filter if they choose the "No Filter" filter. The main reason that readers might want to disable this filter -- would be to verify for themselves -- that this default filter is not being used to hide articles that are not in these categories. On the contrary, most other filters would probably make use of this filter (see below).

    • Filters will be able to include one another -- so Jane's filter might
      include Dick's filter, which might include Tom's, etc.

    • A page will exist which displays all the filters which have been created
      together with the username who created the filter and comments
      by the filter creator concerning what he filters

    • Readers who look at the Newswire archive will have a choice of looking at the archive for only a particular bucket -- or looking at the archive for all 6 buckets.
      Filters will work on Newswire archive pages just the same as the Newswire column

  • stage 3 -- filters that can hide comments

    • Filter functionality will be extended to the comments which are made on an article

    • Readers will have a choice to view any newswire article in two different ways:

      With no filtering of comments
      With filtering of comments by the author of the post
        (or anyone he has authorized -- see below).

    • Readers will be able to switch from filtered to non-filtered comments in a single click.

    • Comments which are filtered will be replace by a clickable symbol that,
      on mouseover (hold your mouse over the link right now to see what this
      will look like), shows the reader the title and author of the comment
      together with a short description of why the comment was filtered

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IV. Details of the 3 stages

Stage One -- 6 categories for the newswire

We will bring this live before we go on to stage two. This will immediately improve the site and help to generate enthusiasm from readers for stages two and three.

  • The front page will be reformatted so that the newswire column is considerably wider
    • the width of the left-hand column (which is always static) will be reduced
    • the width of the entire page will be increased to 1200 pixels

          (the small number of readers who have VGA screens that are 640 pixels
          wide will be able to see only enough of the Newswire to realize the
          need to use the horizontal scroll-bar to view the entire Newswire)

    • the width of the Newswire column on the right will be increased
      to a bit less than 640 pixels

    Front page redesign will accomodate VGA users
    without crippling functionality for everyone else


    Fig 3: VGA users with 480 x 640 screens will see
    only edge of newswire and will need to use
    horizontal scroll bar to view newswire.


    Fig 4: VGA users will be able to view entire
    Newswire column after using horizontal scroll bar.

  • The "get involved" box in the upper left hand corner will be changed.
    The link to "volunteer" will:
    • be placed on top of the link to "donate"
    • be labeled "We need your help!"
    • link to a local help us page which
      • explains that we need criticism and assistance from readers
        to make this project work
      • describes the aims and status of the project to improve
        the software scripts
      • displays posts from the Seattle Indymedia email list,
        together with info about how to subscribe
      (ie: similar to this page.)

  • Instead of a single field for author -- we will have 3 fields: author, poster and source.
    This will cover situations where where Tom is posting something by Chomsky that he found on the Counterpunch website, etc. In this example, Tom's name will appear in parentheses following Chomsky's name in the newswire listing. And the source URL will appear at the top of the article.

  • People who post in the local bucket will be required to fill out a field
    with the name of the local city (ie: Seattle, Tacoma, etc)

  • Newswire items in the protests and progressive events bucket
    will be in one of the following categories:

    • Announcements of mass actions and marches
    • Public meetings and other events
    • Discussion, analysis or criticism of left or progressive organizations
    • Political theory or debate related to how to build a progressive movement
    • Articles or announcements related to electoral campaigns

    Announcements of mass actions and marches will always be at the top of the protests and progressive events bucket. People who post in this category will be required to fill out a form with the time, date and location info for the action. These announcements will not roll off the page -- but will remain until a day or two after the action.

  • The Newswire will list (in a single line) the following info about an article:

    • title (or at least the first 60 characters)
    • author (and poster if poster is differetn than author)
    • date and time posted
    • number of comments made in response
    • time and date of most recent comment made in response
    • total size (in kilobytes) of the post and all comments
    • a separate link that will open the article in a separate browser window

    The summary field of the article will appear on "mouseover" -- so users
    will not need to click and wait for a new page to render in order to get
    a better idea of whether the article is useful or is a complete waste of time.

    In some cases less than 60 characters of the title will be displayed
    in order to make all this info neatly fit on a single line
    (users can always get the rest of the title on mouseover).

  • Each of the major categories will list at least 10 to 20 articles.

  • Articles will remain on the main page for at least 48 hours.

Stage Two -- ability to create and share filters

Under development: watch this space ...

See the mockup of the filters page.

Stage Three -- filters that can hide comments

Fig 5: mockup (below) of screen that user will see after posting an article.
Do you want help moderating comments
on this article?

As a registered poster who has just contributed an article, you have right to moderate (ie: hide) comments on this article which you consider to be insincere, abusive or which do not contribute to useful discussion.

You can also authorize others (ie: anyone who has created filters -- see the filters page) to also moderate comments on this article.

If you would like to authorize one or more of the following filter creators to moderate comments on this article -- then check the box next to their name and click the button. Once you do this -- any comments that any of these people decide to moderate will be hidden. (You will be able to go back at any time later and change your authorizations and the effects of moderation will be reversed.)

Who can moderate comments on this article?

anti-fascist zero tolerance for neo-nazi trash
anti-freeper no "free republic" trolls
Jane77 blah ... blah ... blah ... blah ...
Mary No treesonis anti-american eleet intellectuols
Tim No Israel-bashing
Tom No zionist propaganda
Wally No tin-foil hat comments

Note: readers will have the choice of switching to
an unmoderated view of comments.

Registered users who post an article will be able to authorize anyone
who creates a filter to moderate the comments on their post.

What prevents abuse of this feature? Moderated comments
will be marked by the filtered icon . Readers will be able to:
(1) mouseover on the icon to read the title and author of the comment and
(2) click on the icon to switch to a mode where all comments are visible.

Stage Four -- ask our readers what's next

Once the project is successful, we can call for greater community participation and consider ideas for more ambitious proposals that would give readers the ability to rate articles and comments.

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V. Some mock-ups of screen shots

Here is the a mockup of the Seattle Indymedia home page with filters applied on the Newswire.

Here is the a mockup of the page where all the available filteres are described.

Here is the a mockup of the help us page.

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VI. We need your help

We cannot turn the ideas on this page into reality without your help.

We need your ideas on how we can turn these ideas into reality.

What are you willing to do with your time to help create a news service in which readers and serious activists have a greater degree of democratic control over what is seen?

Please post your comments, criticisms and questions in the form below.

Ben Seattle

 
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