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Extended FAQs – Twin Oaks Decision Making

This is the second in a series of extensions to the FAQs found on the TwinOaks.Org website.  Members, ex-members and other informed folks are encouraged to send corrections or alternative interpretations of my extensions as well as of the official FAQs themselves.

Here is what the website says about our decision making system:

Our decision-making model is based on the Walden Two Planner-Manager system combined with our egalitarian values. Managers are responsible for the day-to-day decisions for their area. For community-wide decisions and larger issues, the Planners (3 rotating members) make decisions by looking at our bylaws and policies, and by soliciting community input by posting papers for comment, holding community meetings, putting out surveys, talking with members (especially members that are closely involved in the issue or have strong feelings), etc. They don’t make decisions based on their personal preference, but rather by gathering information and determining the larger will of the community on a given issue. Any member can appeal a Planner decision they feel is unfair, although this rarely happens as Planners generally do a pretty good job at considering all the aspects of a given issue.

The community as a whole does not use consensus for making decisions, but some decision-making bodies within the community use consensus to make their decisions (e.g. the Membership Team). In keeping with our egalitarian values, we all have a voice in making the decisions about how to spend our collective money and labor during each year’s economic planning. The Managers and Planners put out their proposed economic plan, and each member can alter the plan according to their values and preferences (e.g. I can cut the office budget, and shift that money/labor to the garden budget instead, if I want). Once every member who wants to has done this, the Planners synthesize everyone’s changes to create the final budget.

decision-making-processes sign post Decision making at Twin Oaks is complex and the origin of this complexity (in my opinion) is the noble notion that we can do better than have a simple majority win.

The founders of the community thought they could improve on voting.  They wanted a system which revised proposals, even if they would win a simple vote, so that they could take care of minority voices in the community.  But because there were not (in 1967) good secular models of consensus process, they decided to roll their own and create a whole new group decision making structure. Key to this structure is our own unusual internal communication system.

Every community has an internal communication system, and almost all of them are verbal.  The group gets together some number of times each week and discusses what needs to happen and who is going to do it.

Twin Oaks was founded by writers.  We have a written communication culture. I don’t know of any other community that does it this way.  It has several advantages and some disadvantages as well.

The principal advantage is we avoid the “sloppy majority effect”.  If you are making a proposal and you have general support for it, but there are people with concerns about it, you cannot just force it through as a simple vote would.  If there are reasonable ways you can take care of the minority by modifying your proposal, the expectation is you will try to find these and amend your proposal.

This is why the O&I board is more powerful than a meeting format for proposal reworking. The O&I board is a collection of 24 clipboards on which people post proposals for changes in our policy and decisions.  These clipboards are stocked with extra blank paper at the ends so that there is room for people to add their thoughts (and so they feel like the authors of the proposal are inviting them to do so).  Ideally, critics voice their concerns, make constructive suggestions, and these amendments get reviewed and integrated in part or in totality to the new version of the proposal. The problem comes when the comments are not constructive or not easily folded into the existing proposal.  This is especially problematic when a vocal minority wants the proposal not to go forward at all or has a significantly different alternative they would like to advance.

How are we getting there?

How are we getting there?

These contentious proposals test our decision making system and demonstrate both its flexibility and its hazards.  The person who posts the proposal has several different options when they get complex or contradictory feedback on what they have submitted.  The first and easiest option is they can simply drop the idea.  This happens with some regularity.  Many folks proposing things, however, have a vested interest in the improvements they have suggested, so they will typically go one of several routes:

  • re-write the proposal to include new suggestions
  • call a community meeting to discuss the proposal (this is rare)
  • do a survey of member’s attitudes on this topic (also rare)
  • consult with other area managers or the planners

It’s a complex process and can proceed at a glacial pace, but some proposals do pass and it works well enough at Twin Oaks.

[ edited by MoonRaven ]

“Hacking” Facebook

If you really knew me you’d know that I never log out of facebook, and that I’ll steal your hamburger when you’re not looking.

Is what my facebook wall said, but i did not write it.  Earlier in the day at Acorn, i had discovered a hamburger in the conspiracy office.  It seemed an odd place for a hamburger, sitting on top of the low file cabinet.  i asked the people in the office, who had no knowledge of it.  I asked the cooks in the neighboring room. still no clues.  The lone person in the down stairs living room was also uninformed about this abandoned burger.  i ate it.

hamburgler

So busted

Turns out it was Mac‘s.  She had only left the burger for a few minutes (she claims) and my timing was terrible, or perfect depending on who you ask.  We spoke about it.  It was funny, it is one of those things which might happen in community – if your community is unfortunate enough to have people like me in it.  But later when i left FB open on one of the public computers she jumped on, she put out this funny line, making fun of me and transparency tools (“if you really knew me”) and my burger theft.  This seems a lovely response of my bad log out behavior.

One of the many things we share in commune life is computers.  While many individuals have personal computers, both Acorn and Twin Oaks have a number of “public computers” which are available to anyone who wants to use them.  i use these all the time.  And the nature of my life is that i also jump up from them all the time, to get a phone call, to respond to someones request of me, because i hear a song in the other room i want to dance to.  i dont always log out of everything i am logged into.

This has resulted in some funny blog posts by Belladonna Took including:

i twerk this badly

i twerk this badly

If you have not read these posts and need a laugh, i would encourage you to check them out, they are definitely some of the funnier entries on my blog.  And Belladonna, who is one of the few people in the world with surplus creativity, is happy to bang such things out when ever she finds my WordPress account open.  Though these days this is less often, since she is starting a new community on Staten Island across the street from Ganas which is affiliated with Point A.

Don’t let anyone tell you Facebook is simple.  It can be addictive, it is often petty, it can reconnect you with lost friends,  it also can have terrific blow back in which people lose jobs and friends and relationships, it can invade your privacy, it can allow you tell lots of people things quickly, it begs all kinds of questions about who your “friends” really are (does it include all your family? your colleagues at work?  your boss?).  Facebook is many, many things – but simple is not one of them.

Who are your real friends?

Who are your real friends?

 

 

“I forgot what i changed your password to.” – Willow

i feel a bit like the Soviet Union in 1965.  The US had amassed a tremendous stockpile of nuclear weapons which it already had a demonstrated capacity to use and appeared to have a dangerous attitude towards the other side of the iron curtain.

nuclear Stockpiles_500

My son is using increasingly clever hacks into my facebook account and that gives me this cold war feeling.  Despite me logging out of it much more reliably and changing my passwords.    Most recently he used a browser trick to bring back my logged in email account, told Facebook i had lost my password which then sent a reset code to my email account.  He then changed my Facebook password and replaced my profile picture with this:

Apparently, i look like a blobfish.

Apparently, i look like a blobfish.

Perhaps more disconcerting, Willow started chatting with people about his strange timeline postings (including a critique of contemporary movie genres) as though he was me and clearly fooled at least a couple of people.  Tho tragically, his spelling is even worse than mine.

We talked about it briefly in ZK today.

“Have you seen your facebook page recently? ” Willow says smiling broadly.

“i could not get in because you changed the password.  i suspected you.” i fail to look upset and he can tell he is on safe ground.

“i did not change your email password.” he fires back, which seems slightly beside the point to me.

“What is my new Facebook password?” i stand closer to him in a slightly menacing way.

“i don’t remember.” he says with a silent “whatever” on the end.

“How am i supposed to get in if you forgot the password?!” i start to get excited.

“The same way i did, tell Facebook you lost your password and get a reset sent to your email account.” there is a silent “duh, obviously” attached.

Don't be fooled by the innocent look

Don’t be fooled by the innocent look

i spent 5 years in engineering school and my 12 year old is explaining how to circumvent the new password he put on my account that he hacked for fun.

And i want to be in this game with him.  Despite the frustration some of my FB users experience, and especially as he ups his game, i consider this part of his nefarious home schooling experience, which is a small but important part of his overall educational experience.

We fly to Florida later today for Xmas.  Willow and Paxus circa 2014

We fly to Florida later today for Xmas. Willow and Paxus circa 2014

Acorn brings the Party

The sign of a culturally rich community is that there are more things happening than there is time to do them all.  This often happens around evening events and parties at Acorn and Twin Oaks.  And tonight there was a transparency group at Acorn, while there was also a dance party at Twin Oaks.

KeithHaringDanceParty5I

We tried to get out of the transparency group early – but there were all these interesting new people and early became after 9:30 PM.  But a bunch of people still wanted to go, so we hopped into a minivan and a Dharma Bum‘s car.  And walked in and only the DJ was dancing and the dance floor was nearly empty.

Dharma Bums band comes out of the Omega Institute in NY

Dharma Bums band comes out of the Omega Institute in NY

But we brought 13 people and started a bit of dancing.  Half an hour later, Twin Oaks visitors disappointed by the early ending of the original party came back and started dancing, as well as some members who heard rumor of the party restarting.   We had a crowded dance floor and the party was reborn.  Half an hour later the first shuttle went home. By midnight everyone was heading back to Acorn. Report backs were all positive, glad they went, got what they were looking for.

ilovedance

The funological principal here is if you have a dozen of the right/enthusiastic  people that you are adding to an event (even a near dead one), you can control the health of a party.

 

Why the Republicans winning the Senate might be a good thing

i’ve been bumming most of the day.  The election results were pretty terrible.  I voted just so i would not feel as bad about them (tho it turned out to be a good thing because the Warner Senate race was actually close).

Red Tide

Red Tide

Then i read the following piece called Chill Out, Liberals! The Republicans Took The Senate And That’s TERRIBLE…For Them.  I thought it was really clever and i am discount re-blogging it.  The first 2/3rds of the article is below.  All the graphics are my additions.

————————

What? Did you think this would be good news for Republicans? Not a chance!

You see, for the last 6 years, the only thing Republicans have had to do is say “No!” to anything and everything President Obama and the Democrats put forth. That’s easy when your base hates the president so much they would happily light themselves on fire if he said “Third degree burns are bad for you.”

president-obama-Bye-legacy

This rage keeps the right wing voting for Republicans as long as Republicans tell them what they want to hear: Obama is a Kenyan Muslim socialist Commie Nazi that stole the elections, government is the problem and we’re here to stop Big Gub’mint blablabla…

But now Republicans have to do something they no longer know how to do: Lead.

Shooting spitballs from the back of the class at the smart kids doesn’t require much effort. Standing at the front of the class and solving problems requires both brains and discipline and the GOP is sorely lacking in both.

This is the same Republican Party that forced a government shutdown because the Tea Party caucus blocked their own debt ceiling bill because it wasn’t extreme enough.

This is the same Republican Party that forced Speaker of the House John Boehner to pull his own immigration bill because the Tea Party caucus decided it wasn’t extreme enough.

This is the same Republican Party that has been threatening to impeach President Obama for years. Heck, they came up with a ridiculous lawsuit against the president that no law firm will take because judges keep laughing it out of court.

The Republican Party is controlled by crazed extremists and they will use their new found power to prove just how crazy they are. They can’t help themselves.

Love the Tennis Racket

Love the Tennis Racket

Here’s the next two years:

  • Now that they have the Senate, conservatives will demand that the GOP repeal/defund Obamacare but the ACA is too deeply entrenched now. Attacking people’s healthcare is a sure path to electoral suicide but the base won’t care because they hate Obama with a blind rage. If Republicans don’t try, the base will turn on them and here come the primaries from the far right.

impeach-obama-billboard

  • Impeachment!!!! The base and Fox News want impeachment proceedings so badly they can taste it. The base is dumb enough to think it will work, Fox simply wants the massive ratings the doomed-to-fail impeachment hearings will bring. Republicans in the Senate still remember how much damage their last attempt to impeach a Democratic president did and won’t want to even try. And then here come the primaries from the far right again.
  • The House will pass insane bills and the Senate will try to smooth out the extremism to attract even a handful of Democrats. The House GOP will froth at the mouth and here come those primary challenges.
  • Ted Cruz will be running for president and will take every opportunity to undermine Mitch McConnell as Senate Majority Leader. Cruz already has a track record of sabotaging the GOP for his own personal gain. Expect that to get worse.
  • Several other Republicans will be running for president as well and they will be loudly demagoging to the farthest of the far right. Expect normal humans to be nauseated.
  • Mitch McConnell has already said he will be trying to blackmail President Obama at every opportunity with threatened shutdowns. How do you think that’s going to go over with the public?
Where Gridlock Comes From

Where Gridlock Comes From

Sure, the press will mindlessly repeat Republican claims that Obama is responsible for the continued gridlock but the thing about being the one writing the bills to put in front of the president is that your name actually has to be on it. Now Democrats can sit back and point out the GOP’s extremism and even the “liberal” media will have a hard time blaming Democrats for it.

TO finish this article go to AddictingInfo’s Chill Out, Liberals! The Republicans Took The Senate And That’s TERRIBLE…For Them

“There is nothing we can do about it”

There is a news story which is breaking over several media recently.  Wired did a feature on it a bit over a week ago called “The Laborers Who Keep Dick Pics and Beheadings Out of Your Facebook Feed”.  This article quotes in-the-know sources who say there are “well over 100K people” working on content moderation world wide, mostly in countries like the Philippines.  The Philippines has cultural ties to the US, has a strong English second language culture and can pay people to do this work between $300 and $500 a month – a tiny fraction of doing the same work in the US.

Pressing this too often can give PTSD like symptoms

Pressing this too often can give PTSD like symptoms

This army cleaning the internet for first worlders is suffering pretty serious casualties.  Understandably, people watching sex all day become desensitized to it.  Most of these workers quit this job between 3 to 5 months after starting.  And the visions haunt many content moderators long after they leave the job.  People using kittens as bait for sharks, people setting animals on fire, child abuse and abusive and violent sex literally flood into various social media platforms, often being posted by proud perpetrators.

But what is disturbing about most of the many recent articles on this topic is that the commentators simply throw up their hands and say there is no other solution than this growing suffering army.  The NPR story especially ended with this hopeless approach. [With the recent Slate article as a notable exception to this trend.]

If verified, they ought to do something more than just pull the image.

If verified, they ought to do something more than just pull the image.

In fact, there are numerous fixes.  Slate recommends law enforcement be called in, but i think there is a better way.  You could simply track the number of flagged posts someone has on their Facebook or other social media site, if they get over 3 deemed inappropriate posts you write them a “Cease and Desist” letter, if they don’t you ban them.

We have a created a system where a misplaced value has been placed “freedom of speech” in the form of you can put up what ever you like.  But then we will review it and pull it down if we don’t like it.  But don’t worry we will not make you in any way responsible for their depraved content you post.  I find this particularly messed up, if you consider that a month back Facebook was demanding members use their birth names.  But it is unwilling to say “you can’t post beheading video’s on this family friendly site”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Death of the Diamond Album

“The music industry is in free fall” my pop star brother said to me after the last show of his i saw.  And by a collection of measures this appears true.

You have likely heard of gold and platinum records, representing 500K and 1 million albums sold respectively.  But not many people have heard of diamond albums, which represent 10 platinum records or 10 million albums sold.  And you are not likely to hear much about them, because they are almost extinct.

One of my personal favorite diamond album winners.

One of my personal favorite diamond album winners.

In it’s endless listing of things, Wikipedia lists the 115 or so diamond albums of all times.  It reads a bit like a classic rock who’s who.  The Beatles and Led Zepplin and Garth Brooks does quite well. Madonna, Pink Floyd, Billy Joel and the Backstreet Boys all have a couple each.  But the partial proof of my brothers claim is that there is only one diamond album in the last decade, it is Adele’s 21 and it is dead last on the list.

The last diamond album ever?

The last diamond album ever?

But don’t lose a lot of sleep worrying about the income of rock stars.  Capitalism takes care of it’s own.  In an article called “Digital music sales are in free fall, as Spotify does to iTunes what iTunes did to CDs”   The article notes:

Good news: The switch from downloading to streaming likely won’t devastate industry revenues like the shift from physical albums to digital downloads did. Despite the accelerating rise of streaming over the past few years, annual US music revenues have held steady at around $7 billion since 2009. That year, traditional purchasing made up 95 percent of total US revenue, compared to only 79 percent last year.

Of course, stopping the bleeding is cold comfort to artists and other industry stakeholders faced with low royalty payments from streaming music services. But while it’s true that the revenue generated from one stream is far lower than the revenue generated by a digital download, that may not matter. Many believe the market for paid music subscriptions is set to explode, particularly on a global scale.

What is really going on here is that services like Spotify and Pandora (and even YouTube) are making it easier to get the music you want by either listening to/viewing ads (which pay artists) or paying the service (which also pay artists) than trying to figure out how to steal it from the labyrinth tubes of the interwebs.

spotify

And while  it is far from played out which type of service will dominate (with social networking solutions like SoundCloud representing a different type of solution) i tend to agree with the upbeat conclusion of the earlier sited article.

So from this perspective, the death of downloads, despite the fact that their payout is higher per-unit than streaming, may not kill the music industry at all. On the contrary, it may resurrect it for the first time in over a decade.

 

 

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