Archive talk:Constitution

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This is not even really a finished draft. A car crisis has interrupted my work somewhat. So far it is way too heavy on organizational structure and not enough on actual strategy. Nelson, I'm counting on you to fill in a section the plan for the coming semester, including the Free Culture Tour. We need to be ready to roll on that.

Outside of this, please don't take the way I've divided the committees as received wisdom. There may, in particular, be a need for another committee to help people brainstorm local organizing strategies across schools. Generally speaking, however, I think having few committees is good. ---Luke


I reformatted what there is, turning it into something more resembling a normal outline. -Jeremy

Gavin's Notes

Throughout the document, I have eliminated double-spaces after sentances (only one space after a preiod), changed dates from Month #, Year style to # Month Year style, replaced "FreeCulture" and "FC" with "Free Culture," exchanged "Free" for "free" with an explanation, and tried to add hyperlinks where relevant. I have also added a version history, summarized from the History tab, for quick reference and for external distribution. Most of these are matters of taste and up for debate.

  1. There are a few dates named in this document. I have placed the ones in italics which may merit further definition or discussion/debate.
  2. While these are certainly goals of FC, is this the central goal or is there more to it than that? See, for instance, the web of issues I drafted and its accompanying discussion on the core team mailing list. I've left Luke's here for lack of a definitive better answer, but I strongly believe that this merits further exploration and discussion.
    From where I'm sitting, these are pretty much our goals. Not exactly our guiding principles, but certainly the goals. -- Jeremy
    I think the manifesto's first line is a stronger basis for our main goal: "The mission of the Free Culture movement is to build a bottom-up, participatory structure to society and culture, rather than a top-down, closed, proprietary structure." We may want to adapt it to fit the focus of a strategy paper, but we should keep in mind that "free culture" is something that spans a variety of technological and cultural issues, and we should keep our definitions open enough to be inclusive of possible future issues. -- Scudmissile 14:59, 31 Dec 2004 (EST)
    Nelson posted a better version of that first line on the Core team mailing list when I first sent the issue web to the list, although I don't have my old emails handy (and forget my pw to log into the archive.) Could someone grab it? I remember thinking it answered a lot of questions. -- Gavin 3:34 p.m., 31 Dec 2004 (EST)
    resolved (see Nelson's email about central goals -- Gavin 8:16 p.m., 1 Jan 2005 (EST)
  3. Must the coordinator of each committee be a member of the Core, or need they only be required to report back to/interact with the Core? Picture, for instance, various ad-hoc committees formed for relatively small purposes for short periods of time. Or maybe the person with the most experience or resources in a certain field is nevertheless not someone the Core wants making Core decisions -- or, alternatively, perhaps the coordinator doesn't want to be a member of the Core.
    I think that there at least has to be someone from the Core team on each committee, if they are not the coordinator. Mostly I worry about someone who is not on the Core team making decisions that do not reflect our ideals, not necessarily out of any malice or contrariness, but because they may not understand fully what we're about. I think that having a member of the core team on each committee could be sufficient to prevent a committee from going off track and destroying our public image/reputation or something. -- Nelson 12:47, 31 Dec 2004 (EST)
    I agree. Unless someone demurs, I'll change the section to reflect that. -- Gavin 3:35 p.m., 31 Dec 2004 (EST)
    resolved -- Gavin 4:04 a.m., 1 Jan 2005 (EST)
  4. I find the wording of "set policy, distribute funding, and approve major decisions" very nebulous. Defining the distinct powers, and limitations, of the Core Committee is of high importance. Let's talk about this.
    I think the Core Committee needs the ability to define its powers as situations arise. In other words, a certain amount of leeway is exactly what we need. -- Jeremy
    I agree they need leeway, but I think that much leeway is more detrimental than it is helpful. It maybe doesn't need to be 100% mapped out at this point, but it at least needs a bit more definition. -- Gavin 3:37 p.m., 31 Dec 2004 (EST)
  5. Could the responsibilities of the secretary be split into more than one position? Should they be? Should we split them in this document, or simply provide the flexibility for them to be distributed as nessecary?
    They probably could be split up, but I'm uncertain if that's actually a good idea. I could certainly see splitting off the roster management, though. The other three bits are pretty closely linked. -- Jeremy
  6. Sorry Luke, but I didn't see any strong reasoning behind the ideal committee sizes. Why not just let things take their own shape?
  7. Consensus is a steep requirement. Is it really necessary here, or is 2/3 enough?
    Consensus is important. Just because a majority of people believe something is right doesn't make it right (think Minority Report). Everyone on the core team is intelligent, well-versed in free culture, and willing to talk about things, and I don't see why the core team can't come to consensus on things so long as it maintains a relatively small size. I would feel that we were doing something wrong if we overruled one or more of our well-qualified Core team members. -- Nelson 12:47, 31 Dec 2004 (EST)
    Consensus is probably best. Internal division and strife are the last things we need. -- Jeremy
    I'm not so sure. What happens when, even after discussion, someone on the Core still has qualms? Maybe it's not violent disagreement, but they still can't bring themselves to vote for something they disagree with. Maybe they just don't have enough information, and don't feel comfortable voting for something based entirely off someone else's word. We can't proceed without consensus. The dissenting member would essentially either have to silence themself or be browbeat into agreeing, for the good of the organization, because we can't go anywhere without consensus. Let's face it: even on relatively minor things, there's liable to be somone with a bit of doubt, which we won't always be able to erase. This is a good thing, and reflects our diversity. I think a 2/3 majority -- or even higher, if you want to go there -- shows enough agreement among the Core that we can move forward, while satisfying the dissenter's need to feel like they've been heard and are a valuable member of the Core. -- Gavin 3:43 p.m., 31 Dec 2004 (EST)
  8. Let's let our communication evolve as best suits us. Tying ourselves down to conference calls, which have already started to show some of their weaknesses, as the main method of communication would be foolish. I think we should continue to use conference calls, since they remove some of the impersonality of other methods of communication, but let's not set it in stone so much.
  9. "To all committee members"? Does this refer to all Core committee members, or all members of any committee?
    From the context, it probably means Core committee members. -- Jeremy
  10. The word "campaign" is never really explained. What is a Free Culture campaign? What does it look like? What does it not look like? How does it work? How does it start? How does it end? Or are there no generalizations, no common characteristics? Let's discuss this a bit.

I agree there should be a committee to help young campus chapters, or a committee on chapter relations.

I also agree the document needs more specific, immediate strategy. This is a very good start, but the body is missing a limb.

Like our immediate goals and methods, you mean? -- Jeremy
Yeah, just a brief roadmap of our to-do list (of both tangible and less-tangible goals) for the coming term. -- Gavin 3:44 p.m., 31 Dec 2004 (EST)
resolved -- Gavin 4:03 a.m., 1 Jan 2005 (EST)

I also think we should devote some more space and thought to communication issues.

We should add a brief summary of who we are, etc. for external purposes. No more than a sentance or two.

Also, can someone smart please go through the spelling and grammar with a fine-tooth comb?

And by the way, about the Wednesday conference call which produced this document: did anybody keep minutes? I don't remember thinking about it at the time.

The minutes from that call are here: User:Bendonahower I have a feeling that they ought to be moved to a more appropriate page. -- Nelson 12:47, 31 Dec 2004 (EST)
No, I'm looking for the minutes from the conference call on Wednesday (29 Dec); these are from Monday (27 Dec). The call where Luke agreed to write the draft. There were only a handful of people on Wednesday's call, unlike Monday's. -- Gavin 2:43 p.m., 31 Dec 2004 (EST)
I don't think anyone actually took notes... -- Jeremy

Is this really our "constitution"?

I don't see how an internal strategy paper is an obvious model for an official constitution. They serve different purposes. I think that insofar as this paper currently resembles a constitution, it's not doing its job as an internal strategy paper. Our plans for the next year have no business in a constitution, and a constitution cannot serve as our plans for the next year.

I'm not even sure that we should have a constitution. Stephen Dionne said in an IM, "well, some kind of constitution might be a good idea; like at BU, *officially* we are not affiliated with, because in order to be affiliated with an outside group we need to submit a copy of their constitution so the school knows that you're not crazy nazis or something; and other schools might need something like that too." I may be fine with having a constitution, it seems like it might be a good thing to have, but we haven't talked about a constitution at all, and we are not currently writing a constitution. It's just a matter of keeping to the task on hand: writing a constitution may be something we want to put *in* an internal strategy paper, but it shouldn't *be* the internal strategy paper. -- Nelson 14:17, 31 Dec 2004 (EST)

resolved -- Gavin 4:02 a.m., 1 Jan 2005 (EST)

Org. Principles

This is my RFC for the edits I made to Nelson's Organizational Principles.

Also, can someone more familiar with wiki fix my line breaks? (The lines start "We do not have a..." and "As a corollary to that...".) I want to have separate paragraphs within the same bullet point, but I can't figure out how. I tried using : but it wasn't right.

Nelson, can you explain the "One Ring" effect? I know the allusion but I'm not sure how you're using it. -- Gavin 3:29 p.m., 31 Dec 2004 (EST)

Does my explanation help? -- Jeremy
Sort of, though I'm still not quite sure how it applies. -- Gavin 3:46 p.m., 31 Dec 2004 (EST)
If you use the methods of your enemy to destroy him, you become your enemy. -- Nelson 16:52, 31 Dec 2004 (EST)

Version history

What is the point of the version history being inside the document? Can't you get that from the History page attached to the article? I guess it's a bit more human readable, but still... are we going to list EVERYONE who made an edit?

The idea is, yes, to make it more readable, but also to put the information in the document so it can travel beyond the wiki. The current format is already getting too top-heavy; I think the final draft should, instead, include a statement like "Drafted and revised 30 Dec 2004 - final date by names". -- Gavin


Do we need a separate heading for Projects? Isn't the entire strategy paper about our goals for the next semester? Let's just scrap the header of "Goals" and move things listed under "Projects" under the applicable Goals. Then people can start adding more of their own concerns under the relevant goals. -- Gavin 6:33 p.m., 31 Dec 2004 (EST)

resolved -- Gavin 4:01 a.m., 1 Jan 2005 (EST)

One talk page?

Why does the strategy paper Talk page redirect to the Constitution Talk page? They're different documents now, shouldn't they have different discussions? -- Gavin 6:39 p.m., 31 Dec 2004 (EST)

resolved -- Gavin 4:01 a.m., 1 Jan 2005 (EST)

Nelson's email about "central goals"

in response to Note 2

I think that I would like to rewrite our mission statement to say something like, "we're for a bottom-up, participatory structure to society and culture, and we're working towards that through the democratizing power of digital technology and the internet". Because technology is really what's changing everything, it's like the transformation in society when printing presses became widely available.

However, I don't think that it should be *required* that technology be involved. I think that a good rule of thumb is that if something touches on at least two of our issues, we should consider it to be relevant to our organization. However, if something only touches on one issue, we should question whether it is clearly in our domain.

So for instance, a freedom of speech online case isn't automatically something we care about, but freedom of speech issues + copyright law are. The reason for this is that I want to make connections between different parts of our philosophy. Also, since we have limited time and resources, I want to kill two birds with one stone as frequently as possible. Finally, if something hits two of our issues, even if one issue turns out to be sketchy, we still can be involved for the other reason, redundancy is always good :-)

This way, we can be interested in a broad variety of issues and not prematurely narrow our focus, but at the same time we don't get spread too thin and get involved in many very unrelated campaigns.

Email to the core mailing list by Nelson Pavlosky, 01:38:17 10 Dec 2004 (EST)

Media Committee

Should the Media Committee be split into two committees, a Press Committee and a Resources Committee? (Perhaps someone could come up with a better name for the resources committee.) Their realm of responsibilities are pretty clearly divided into two separate areas, and those two areas are not entirely closely linked. Experience with the GIMP is not much connected to experience with the press. They also operate in pretty fundamentally different ways: the Press Committee requires rapid response and someone working 24/7, while creating resources is somewhat less time-specific.

Alternatively, these could be two different "teams" within the same committee, as the Web Committee may have separate teams to develop the Web site, the wiki, etc. If we go this route, each team should have a coordinator which reports back to the committee coordinator, and some permanent teams should be written into the constitution. -- Gavin 2 Jan 2005