Basic proxy capability now online


As previously announced in this section, now has a basic Delegable Proxy functionality (see this link to know more about Delegable Proxy Democracy).

Now, you can do the following:

  • Choose to become a proxy. If you do, other people can delegate their votes to you. Each time you'll vote, you'll do so in their name, too, i.e. your vote will carry more weight.
  • Choose another member as a proxy (see on their user profile page). They will be able to vote in your name, giving you a voice even when you are too busy to vote yourself.
  • If you have a proxy, it's ok if you visit the site only once or twice a month: your proxy will carry on representing you in your absence.
  • When you do visit the site, you will be able to see how the proxy has voted in your name. You can change any vote
  • As you get to know better your own proxy and other members, you always have the choice to change proxy.
  • You can have as many proxies as you want, so you can grant and revoke proxy rights as you wish.

However, the current implementation of Delegable Proxy is very basic. It is an All Or Nothing affair. It can only give you a taste of things to come:

  • you will be able to select the topic for which you want to grant a proxy. You might trust someone on economic affairs, but not on environmental issues.
  • the previous point means that you'll be able to give a proxy to different people on different topics.
  • you will be able to accept or refuse proxies (so far, if you accept to act as a proxy, you must accept all proxies given to you.)
  • you may only let a few selected friends know that you accept proxies.
  • and much more...

When I am developing those features, I am trying to strike a balance between openness and privacy. For example, your vote is private and is not displayed openly, but anyone can see how their own proxy voted for them.

As you can see, there is still much more to implement. You can let me know which additional feature you would like to have first.

To conclude, I would like to especially say thank you to Jan Kok for his support at many levels.


Use it!

See the following forum post to know how to become a proxy, and to select a proxy.

But how are issues categorized?

>a taste of things to come:
>* you will be able to select the topic for which you want to grant a proxy.
>You might trust someone on economic affairs, but not on environmental issues.
I do not support this feature as I am concerned that it can be abused.
The manner in which affairs are categorized becomes very important.

One implementation that I would be comfortable with would be for someone
to assign ones vote to someone who is responsible for the categorization
and who takes care of reproxying the vote for specific votes.

Eg. I assign my proxy to 'Reproxier A' with instructions to proxy my vote
to 'B' on environmental issues, 'C' on economic issues and to 'D' on all
other issues. 'Reproxier A' uses 'voted categorizer service' 'Q'.
If I become unhappy with the categorizer service or with the repoxing service
I can assign my proxy elsewhere.

I think that what I describe is a very advanced system but is complicated
enough that it may not be worth supporting.

Follow my blog at



I just saw the good news on your blog, about California Secretary of State Debra Bowen and voting machine certifications. :)

There are two points in your comments. I'll reply separately. First there is the issue about abuse.

To be honest, today's system is already abuseable. There are many services on the web that allow you to very easily create email addresses that are often used only once to register to a site like this one. With this, a single abuser can create multiple accounts (i.e. Sock-Puppetting) and assign proxies to one main account. Thus, he could get as many proxies as required. I'll patch the software to make this kind of behavior obvious to the community (by listing who has been voting for whom). This way, this kind of abuse will be detected earlier.

I am very aware of the multiple ways the system can be abused, believe me. I'll try to prevent the most obvious and easy ones. This will be an ongoing concern that we can discuss in the forums.

Still, as Jan pointed out somewhere, sock-puppets are a nice problem to have :) It means that the site is prominent enough that some consider worth their own time to try to skew the results. By that time, the site would have reached one of its main goals: spread awareness about better election methods and FA/DP. does not aim to replace the official mode of democratic expression: it is an experiment in direct democracy aiming to provide information on why/how they can be improved. The possibility to abuse any software is one of the many reasons why I am generally against electronic voting. The news about Secretary of State Debra Bowen de-certifying voting machines is very much appropriate here.

None of the above means that I won't do my best to prevent abuse, where it can be prevented. As I said, this will be an ongoing topic.

taxonomy terms

But how are issues categorized?

Currently, it works this way:
1) I am the only one able to create new taxonomy terms (tags for poll issues).
2) When creating a new poll, the author can select any term from the available list.
3) The poll creator can change the term at any time.
4) If you want a new term to be added in the hierarchy (e.g. if you want to create a new poll with that new tag), just ask me publicly in the forum and I'll do it.
5) If anyone is unhappy about the way a particular poll is tagged, they can ask the poll creator or myself to change the tag.
6) All of this is perfectly open and based on goodwill and mutual trust.
7) should a dispute arise, we can have a poll about it :)
8) anyway, taxonomy terms are not currently used for proxy delegation, but only for classification and information purposes.
9) terms are viewable here:

Later, it might work this way:

1) Polls could be assigned not only 1 term, but many (e.g. from different categories).
2) I (the site administrator) wouldn't need to create or administer terms: the community would do it.
3) There will be a new content type (maybe called "official poll") that will be controlled by the community, and not by the poll creator. Currently, the poll creator can edit the question at any time, change some key settings, etc. A new workflow would be defined for official poll, so that when the poll becomes official, the poll creator has no more rights than the rest of the community to change settings.
4) There will be an interface to allow members to add / change terms attached to the poll.
5) Any change in the taxonomy terms can be subjected to a quick (e.g. one week) referendum poll (Yes/No to this change).
6) ... ?

Again: what will be implemented, and in which order will depend on your feedback. I think what will come next is support for different EM (Approval voting first).

On proxies and applications

A few comments, I hadn't looked at this for a while.

First of all, basic FA/DP concept: public proxy lists. That is, the proxy table is public. There are other means for private proxies. Now, any user can register an account and that isn't public information. What I mean by a public table is that user names are linked through it. Typical proxy table is userhandle, proxy userhandle, assignment date, acceptance date.

And then votes are reported as user handle, vote.

In small nongovernmental organizations, there is a long tradition of non-anonymity. Indeed, real anonymity in organizations only truly becomes possible with the internet. And it introduces a host of problems. It is certainly possible to have anonymous member votes, but I'd be very wary of a secret voting system where proxy votes can't be traced. Where are these votes coming from? That, in deliberative process, is crucial. Think of FA/DP as a way to reproduce standard deliberative process when the scale is large: it does it by reducing the scale.

If you must have secret ballot, then use Asset voting. There are many ways to do Asset voting, but the common thread is that a "candidate" ends up with votes that the candidate may use as if they were personal "assets." In this context, a proxy holds so many votes having been secretly given. But, think it through. Are people going to trust this? I'd suggest reserving proxies for those willing to be public. On a wiki, it's generally easy to see all contributions for a user; so one could tell the difference between a user who never made contributions and one who has, and then analysis of proxy expansions can consider this information. Automated analysis should be reserved for situations where security has been established and users are truly authenticated.

One more point: a prominent proxy solicitation on the pages about proxies is a bit of a violation of Free Association concepts. Looks like the FA is promoting Augustin.... as the site owner, Augustin, you have access to email addresses of users; you can still serve them in appropriate ways without being named as a proxy. Sure, I'd like to see everyone name a proxy, but ... there are better ways to encourage that.