Thanks to everyone who has filled out the User Survey, which you can find by clicking the link that’s over on the left hand column of the site (as seen on a computer screen). I’m going to try and do these every couple of weeks, or at least once a month.
Q: “Please keep it action oriented, to keep the complainers at bay.”
Matt Knoedler, CaucusRoom CEO:
We definitely agree, CaucusRoom should be action oriented, and my prediction is that it will very much feel like a “team” discussion almost all of the time.
As a former legislator, I participated in our weekly Republican Caucus meetings, and that’s exactly how the discussion usually played out: “Hey, the Dems have this bill coming on the floor- who is going to lead the charge? Who is going to provide backup?” If you’ve attended your local caucus, the discussion is mostly about who is going to represent the precinct at the upcoming assemblies. My prediction is that most of the discussion at CaucusRoom will be “Hey, I’m organizing a group to fight the Dems’ latest tax increase… who’s with me? Want to organize a rally?” We’ll have the occasional debate or even some opposing views that manifest into competing groups… but I’ll bet those are the exception to the rule, and we are currently researching how to help facilitate those discussions with user feedback that incentivizes the comments to remain constructive.
I know for a fact that the first 200 people to join the site were the true “doers” of the movement- not the complainers. They say that the first users on the site set the tone for it’s future growth. That is exactly what we prayed for, and those prayers were definitely answered. We are so grateful to all of you for joining early to set an example.
Q: Please keep the “Most Recent” feed as the default, rather than an algorithm.
ABSOLUTELY. That will always be the default option. I’m not sure if, or how, we would ever do content algorithms, but I’ve been warned that at some point we’ll have so much content that it might get messy if we don’t find a way to sort it. We’ll cross that bridge with the help of the CaucusRoom Council, once it’s in place.
As a general rule, we want the programming rules that govern content, groups, and other aspects of the site to reflect the comparable “analog” institution. For instance, we structured membership access to reflect “real life” political involvement. There are trustworthy unaffiliated folks who join conservative-leaning groups in real life, such as school-choice groups or anti-tax groups. But their neighborhood GOP caucus is off limits unless they are truly Republican. We don’t use “Republican”, but we restrict access to the Neighborhood discussion based on political profile data as described in the previous question. So that’s an example of how we are trying to make CaucusRoom as close to “real life” as possible.
“Analog over Algorithms”, that’s our motto. (Actually, I just made that up. But I kinda like it.)
Q: What will you do about the “Trolls?”
MK: Sorry Trolls, we only allow humans on CaucusRoom.
There are several kinds of trolls:
1) The liberal “spy” troll.
CaucusRoom is for conservatives, and we want to calibrate the level of access to the site with the level of interest in conservative issues. We may have liberal people who support a school reform campaign– they are welcome to join that Group if the Group Host approves– but they won’t be able to access Neigbhorhood discussions, and any group host can ban any member who causes trouble (even from public groups).
How do we know who’s conservative? We are currently verifying Members’ identities by checking them against a commercial data company named i360. This is an imperfect and temporarily solution, but it’s a data source that we are familiar with and have found to be reliable. When we hold CaucusRoom Council Elections, the CaucusRoom Council will help us write better membership access rules.
Finally, there’s a question about the secrecy of the site in general- I’m going to write an entirely separate blog post on that one very soon.
2) The loudmouth troll.
We love people who post content. We really love people who post helpful, action-oriented, and thought-provoking content. Those are the kinds of things that CaucusRoom will thrive upon. We are exploring user-feedback mechanisms for you to help calibrate what is helpful, and what isn’t. If we do it right, it becomes a fun and really rewarding “game” for our movement- the more helpful and productive you are as a content poster, the more reward and impact you’ll get from our community. I’m not sure on the timeline on this, but I am hopeful that we will begin testing ideas pretty soon. We also think this will help address the tendencies of the few who enjoy posting unhelpful things. Plus, their reach will be limited by geography and they can be ejected from any group by the host.
3) The havoc-wreaking troll.
Same answer as number 2, but with a few other points: First, there are no anonymous trolls allowed. Second, CaucusRoom asserts wide latitude to suspend memberships if people are not constructive members of the community– HOWEVER, we operate like a municipal police force and the prosecutor: We will put a bad-actor in “jail”, but eventually they will be able to appeal their suspension to the elected members of the CaucusRoom Council. Only the Council can issue permanent suspensions.
4) The “fake news” troll
Very similar answers to #2 and #3, as well. Note: it is against the terms of service to knowingly tell a lie on the site. But we’ve all been duped by a poorly-reported news article, or an Op-ed that twists the facts. My advice: doublecheck your sources before posting anything, especially anything inflammatory. I generally find that my posts are more effective if I read and link the actual news source, not the opinion column that interprets the source.