Here’s information about our new social network:

We’ll be using a platform called Your Priorities for our first iteration of the network—the beta version of our website. An online deliberation-by-committee tool developed by activists in Iceland in the wake of the country’s infamous 2008 financial collapse, Your Priorities is an award-winning open source program that has been used by parliamentarians, city councilmembers, and other public servants to engage with citizen stakeholders. It has been used by:

  • The city of Reykjavik, to allocate about 2 million Euros annually to resident-picked neighborhood improvement projects;
  • Legislators in Estonia, to get reform proposals from civil society and the general population, in the wake of a political scandal. Seven out of fifteen eventually were signed into law; and by
  • Administrators of Britain’s National Health Service, “to help people identify and discuss the issues that the NHS should be talking about.”

The way it works is simple: users propose ideas, others vote them up or down, and there is room for all to debate them.

Find out more about Your Priorities and its parent organization, The Citizens Foundation, here and here.

On our site, members will have influence over our weekly editorial process. They’ll give us ideas—we will solicit questions for lawmakers in particular, because we can stake them out on Capitol Hill–and we’ll go out and do the reporting.

How we envision actually carrying this all out:

“Ideas” will be organized in the “Categories” section (it’s all very confusing, isn’t it?), per the Your Priorities set-up. The categories will be divided into four broad committees. Those currently are:

  • The Secrecy and Security State Committee, which will focus on law enforcement, The Constitution, and the judicial branch.
  • The Committee on Science, Communications, and Technology Committee, which will deal with telecoms regulations, encryption, and drones.
  • The Foreign Affairs Committee, whose jurisdiction will be international relations.
  • The Labor, Economy, and the Climate Committee, which will debate pitches on workers rights, labor regulation, trade policy and the environment.

No sort of Platinum Membership will be required to join additional committees. This is merely being done for organizational purposes.

Discussion Privacy

What is said on the forum and in “committees” is not going to be made public by The District Sentinel, and we take information security seriously. But we’re going to ask our members to assume that, one day, someone might be interested in splashing what is said in this or in any social network on A1 of The New York Times.


While we often enjoy free-for-all’s online, there are already plenty of them (go, for example). We therefore intend to enforce simple rules:

-Racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia will not be tolerated.

-Abuse of other users or moderators will not be tolerated (defining what constitutes “abuse,” admittedly, will take some work, and we’re certainly open to input from members).

-We intend to create a community for progressives. If you pitch The Great Climate Hoax or Why Teachers Unions Are Actually Conservative or Actually, Bashar Al-Assad Is An Anti-Imperial Lion of the People, your post will definitely be deleted and your membership might even be canceled.

-Users found engaging in their own commercial activities will be barred.

Final Thoughts

Because this is in the experimental phase, we can only commit, at first, to a minimum of one suggested story per week. We hope to get the hang of things quickly and do as many as possible—hopefully sooner rather than later.

But we will reserve the right to ultimately reject the suggested story, if it isn’t possible, or isn’t grounded in good progressive or journalistic principals (see above examples). If we do that, however, we will offer our members a written critique, on the back-end, explaining why we ultimately rejected the story.

Also, we intend on granting any user who initially suggested a story idea we accept some time to discuss with us how we intend on writing it—15 minutes on the phone or half an hour, through an online chat.

As we said, this is rather prototypical, and our model will evolve. Fortunately, as a cooperative, it was built to change. We’re looking forward to it, and everything that comes next.