Wednesday, February 20, 2013


I think we need to identify what we are talking about.

1) The extensive discussion of available Internet forums and Bulletin Boards is way above my pay grade. I have said and repeat, any delegates who want to create any kind of forums for discussion by delegates either nationally or in a given state is fine with me, as long as it doesn't impinge on any part of the existing web site. Tennessee has done something like this and Doug McCormick has created another forum and invited delegates to join in discussions there.

2) My thoughts on how I wanted the state caucus pages of the web site to work is merely to provide a convenient platform for caucus activity. It is not intended to preempt the autonomy of each state caucus to do business however it wishes. I do not believe that the convention Rules should attempt to dictate procedures to the caucuses. Caucuses are of various size and greater or lesser cohesiveness. If a caucus chooses to do its work outside of the convention website, it may certainly do so.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013


When a delegate clicks on CLOSE DEBATE,

1)  the VOTE page appears.

The VOTE page shows the TITLE of the pending MOTION and lists all delegates who have voted on the motion showing YES and NO boxes after each name and totals at the bottom of the page, and has this message at the top:


2) An automatic email goes out to every delegate giving them 72 hours to vote on CLOSURE.

3) When a delegate enters the caucus, only the VOTE page appears until the time for voting is over.

4) A digital CLOCK on the VOTE page shows how much time remains for voting on CLOSURE.

If, at the end of the time for voting, there are more YES than NO votes, debate is closed and a new VOTE page appears, showing;

The title and text of the motion and the time remaining to vote on the motion.
An automatic email goes out to all caucus members informing them that they have 72 hours to vote on the motion.

If, at the end of the time for voting on CLOSURE, there are more NO votes than YES votes, the page reverts to the PENDING MOTION page.

There are, I am sure,many details which a competent programmer would see needing attention, but this is what I originally intended. I still believe it should be done, and if the Committee has the expertise, I urge them to ttry to complete the CAUCUS

State Caucuses

The original plan for the state caucus page on the conventionusa web site envisioned a place where delegates could discuss ideas, exchange information, offer, debate and vote on motions.

When entering the page the delegate would have two choices: FORUM or MOTION.

If he selects FORUM, he is then given a list of TOPICS under discussion, and an option to create a NEW TOPIC.

If he selects a TOPIC, he will see all prior COMMENTS on that TOPIC and a blank box into which he can
write a comment.

Whenever a new COMMENT on a TOPIC is posted, all delegates who have previously commented on that topic receive an automatic email informing them that a new comment has been posted.

Whenever a NEW TOPIC is created, every member of the caucus should get an automatic email notification and invitation to comment.

If the delegate selects MOTION, he is given a page which has a box for the title of the motion, a box for the text of the motion, and a button to SUBMIT the motion for consideration by the caucus.

When a motion has been submitted, several things occur:

The FORUM is no longer open. When a delegate enters the caucus, he sees the pending MOTION, all comments on it which have been posted, box for him to add a COMMENT, a button to SUBMIT his comment and a button to call for a vote to CLOSE DEBATE.

If he SUBMITS a COMMENT, the CLOSE DEBATE button disappears. An automatic email goes ouT to all members of the caucus.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Forum Software Options

The Convention USA Chairman has established acceptable criteria for the establishment of a testbed for new ideas, leaving great flexibility as to the form such a forum may take. Further, the support offered for a forum suggests it is time to examine the potential forum options.

NOTE: It was originally my intent to begin building the forum on February 19th. I will postpone this until the 26th, to allow this conversation to reach a natural conclusion.

The selection of a forum software is an important choice, as changing forums tools becomes increasingly more difficult the longer we use a particular solution. Two solutions have been presented so far, phpBB and MyBB. I have been continuing to research the benefits of each. Here is my report. I welcome a report by Delegate Tape to ensure that a balanced presentation is made.


phpBB3.0 is the more established forum solution. As such, it benefits from being tested in a wider array of situations and from having a much larger base of developed customizations. This comes at a cost of vestigial code that handle obscure cases unrelated to our specific needs.

Its permissions system is much more elaborate, allowing much more flexibility, but leading to a more complicated administration control panel.


MyBB is the new kid on the block. As such, it is a slick new code that includes paradigms not yet available in phpBB. This comes at a cost of being tested in a wide range of situations.

In particular, MyBB locks entire database tables on a write, while phpBB only locks database table rows. This makes MyBB less scalable, particularly when handling larger forums with thousands of users simultaneously participating.

Two of these features stand out.

Hooks allow for a more efficient implementation of modifications, which is particularly helpful when upgrading forum versions.

In Line Moderation allows moderators to have far greater control while simply viewing the forum than phpBB allows.


phpBB3.1 has entered the final verification steps before alpha testing can begin. A developmental version is available, but I would strongly oppose loading a developmental version. A stable release should be available by the end of the year, though I have no guarantees of that.

This version will include built-in hooks, similar to MyBB.

My Thoughts:

The primary long-term tradeoff appears to be scalability vs. in-line moderation.

If our goal is to build a forum to handle a convention the size we are now, I would agree that MyBB would be the optimal solution. Since our view is a convention with hundreds to thousands of active delegates participating simultaneously, however, I feel that scalability is the most critical factor.

Initially, the primary goal of our forum will be building a community of delegates, not including the newest and fanciest forum features available.

My Recommendation:

It is my view that phpBB3.0 is the best initial solution for our needs, but that we should anticipate moving to phpBB3.1 once a stable release is made available. As such, we should be very judicious about adding custom code modifications until we have made that transition.

Your Turn:

This post is at least twice as long as I typically like to write. It contains a lot of information to digest. I thank you for taking the time to consider its content.

I also value your further insight into this critical decision in forming a forum that meets the needs of our fellow delegates.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Convention USA Forum

Our current State Caucus forums are inartful, and the committee by blog arrangement suffers from a reliance on third party services that fundamentally require using multiple log in processes to participate in our proceedings.

I strongly believe that the establishment of a phpBB forum at a sub-domain of Convention USA would provide a significant improvement over existing methodologies, and provide a structured way for future development.

I have examined the carnage of the previous attempt at a forum. This suffered from a severe lack of use of permissions, leading to the forum becoming over-run with spam posts. It also had minimal use of sub-forums to effectively organize content, and no use of groups to allow different sub-forums to cater to different groups. Further, it was housed at, so all of its content was presented as representative of the convention as a whole.

I strongly believe that the content of should be reserved for official statements and resources approved by the convention or, when appropriate, its officers. To this end I would house the forum at, making use of our hosting company's free sub-domain service.

It is my hope to unify the log in process, so that logging in to will automatically log in verified delegates to the forum. It is possible that I will be unable to accomplish this, requiring a seperate log in for the forum. Regardless, it could be unified by a professional web consultant once we grow to have funds available to fund the consulting fees.

If no objections are raised, I will begin building the forum I envision on February 19th, with the aim of having a working draft, able to support standing committees and states electing to move to the new forum, available by the end of the month. Limited access to this forum would be open to any delegate requesting access.

Feel free to post here if you would like to help, or to raise an objection to the forum. Alternatively, feel free to contact me by E-mail.

Ben Prather
Internet Committee Chairman

Greetings from the Internet Committee!

Fellow Convention USA delegates, it is my privilege to serve you as the Internet Committee Chairman.

I look forward to hearing your ideas about how we can use the internet more effectively to communicate and become an effective deliberative body. I will shortly be posting an idea I am advocating to significantly improve our internal communication tools.

With improved communications we will be better able to determine where our common visions overlap, better identify what needs our organization has, and allow delegates to be able to find a place where they can be actively involved at whatever commitment level they are able to make.

With this post, however, I am primarily interested in hearing your ideas. If you post as an anonymous user, please include your delegate ID, so I can identify who you are. For example, I am FL012.

I also welcome those who may be able to contribute time and skills to this effort. As we grow, we will need people to serve as moderators of various discussion media, developers to expand our capabilities and graphic designers skilled at making our tools aesthetically pleasing. In particular, I am very weak in the later category.

Thank you for your time and input!

Ben Prather
Internet Committee Chairman