I'd like to start by addressing the inevitable rebuttal that we are merely a weblog, and we don't need anything like a Constitution or a government. In a way, that is true right now. But is that all we should strive to be, ever? I believe that the strength of K5 is not the stories or the comments, but the fact that we are a community of people, who interact, some of us, on a daily basis, despite being located often thousands of miles apart in real space. We are a block of humanity who have defined ourselves as sharing a common interest, which is expressed in the discussions that go on here.
The idea of becoming, literally, a virtual State might require a shift in perception for some of us. Instead of thinking of K5 as a website, imagine us all in a room. A pretty big room, actually; there are nearly 9,000 of you now. For comparison, that's more than three times the population of Al Gore's hometown of Carthage, Tennessee. That's a meaningful number of people, and it's a rather large number of people to all "get by" on an undocumented dictatorship.
I propose that we set in motion a process, a Constitutional Convention, which will ultimately produce a document that codifies what we feel are the important values that have made the site what it is, and how we can protect those values in the future, regardless of any individual leaders.
This is not a trivial task. We will need to determine what aspects of the site, and the community, the government will control, what form of government we feel will work in our interests, and how it can be implemented for a virtual state. Will we remain a dictatorship, albeit a constitutional one? Will we form a republic, or perhaps a parliamentary system? What rights will citizens of K5 have, and what responsibilities? And conversely, what rights will we grant the government, and how will they be beholden to the citizens? These are the questions that any constitutional process must face, and in and of themselves, they are fraught with dangers and pitfalls.
But there is yet another aspect to this whole thing, which is that all of this is defining a purely virtual state. Or, perhaps it would be more precise to say that we're defining a hybrid state. The world we, as citizens, inhabit is online, but the State will control certain real world properties. The core K5 database, the server or servers that run the site. Perhaps we will decide to raise a budget by advertising, or other means. That's real money, and real property, that will, if I can help it, actually be in the direct control of the duly constituted government of Kuro5hin.org.
This is, as far as I know, a new event in the development of the net. I welcome examples of real collective self-determination online, and I hope that we can learn from them. But what I am suggesting is that we create, from the base of K5 as it is now, a virtual nation, which operates according to principles we decide upon, and is governed by you, the people, or your representatives.
So, the questions before us are as follows. Should we draft a Constitution, and abide by it in the operation of the site? If so, how should we go about drafting this document? I'm not even approaching questions of what form the government should have, or what rights it will assume, yet. Right now, we need to determine who will address those questions.
I propose that we elect a number of representatives, who will form a Constitutional Convention, charged with creating the first Constitution of Kuro5hin.org. I feel that the number should be large enough to represent the diverse interests of the readers, but small enough to actually produce a document we can vote on. I feel that between 20 and 30 people would be about right for this, but I welcome your comments.
Further, I propose that this convention be run in a completely open manner, with all future citizens given full comment and discussion privileges to matters under consideration. Ultimately, the representatives will vote on items before the group, and their votes will be the ones that count. I think that a two thirds majority should be the minimum required to adopt an article or resolution.
When the Convention has finished, they will present a final draft of the proposed Constitution to the community at large, and each member will have a vote whether to adopt it or not, and of course, full commentary privileges. I feel that again a two-thirds majority of all voting readers will be required to ratify this Constitution.
The above is my gut feeling about how we should go about this. As current dictator, I feel that it's ultimately up to me to lay out the rules of the Convention. After that, I hope I will be supplanted by rule of law, and I won't have to make arbitrary decisions any more. But for now, I will follow my tradition, which has been to lay out what I think is workable, and open it up to you. Good ideas are more than welcome, and I'll be glad to explain further if that's needed.
To make it perfectly clear: I am very serious about this. We are not playing government. I am proposing we form a real online nation, and I'm willing to give up any power I have over the site if that's what's required. Kuro5hin.org is currently a Delaware C corporation, and I hope that whatever we come up with can be put directly into the corporate bylaws, to give real-world legal teeth to the structures you agree upon. I am suggesting no less than turning over ownership of the site, and control of the community, to all of you. I believe we can do this, and I believe it will change the world.