The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) is holding its annual board election. In the election campaign's online forum, there's an interesting thread on CIRA as a Membership Based Organization. Yesterday I posted a comment there; I'm reposting it below (with better links) followed by some further thoughts. So although the election forum will be closed to comments after tomorrow noon (Eastern Time) when voting starts, we can continue discussing here.
Great discussion on this important topic! Thank you paulandersen for launching it. I'm one of the few actively engaged CIRA members for the past five years – see my blog at votermedia.blogspot.ca/search/label/CIRA. As you can see from the tag cloud there, I've studied various membership organizations, with a focus on engagement and accountability.
Picking up on comments already made on this thread above:
I agree with Kerry Brown: "... having a large number of members is important, even if the vast majority do not engage. It provides a check in case something goes wrong."
I also agree with leedale and the "interested citizen who is not a .ca domain owner, that they were curious why this membership stipulation exists, particularly as CIRA continues to invest in other initiatives that impact them. They would like to participate as a member, but without a .ca domain name, can't. That's an interesting question to me as CIRA continues to build towards a better online Canada."
Indeed, CIRA affirms that "Proceeds from every .CA sold are reinvested directly into the Canadian Internet community through the Community Investment Program." As you can see from the CIP projects, they benefit all Canadians, not just domain registrants. So CIRA sees the Canadian Internet community as including all Canadians who use the internet. It would make sense to let any Canadian join CIRA, which would increase member engagement and accountability.
Good suggestion Rowena, to consider letting members vote on Community Investment projects. CIRA could take a first step in that direction by letting members vote to allocate a small budget among competing providers of voter information during the CIRA board election each year. That would help us choose the best director candidates, and increase voter turnout by reducing the amount of research each member must do to vote intelligently. I've outlined this idea in several places, including:
Discussions like this thread are too important to erase. We should enhance member information and engagement by keeping an online forum open year-round on any CIRA-related topics, with a special section for this election forum each year. It's often helpful to see what was said on a topic in the past, so we can build on it instead of reinventing it.
Lack of member involvement in this election forum is also not surprising because of its design flaws:
- Frank_Michlick above: "I do think the election site could use some improvements as well - I always find that I have to search for the timeline and details of the process and yet this isn't the first time I'm going through it."
- Rowena: "Do you find it a bit difficult to find this forum if you don't know exactly where to go? My link goes to the CIRA Home page but I need to search to get to the Forum..." Indeed, on CIRA's home page there is no mention of the election or this forum. Reminds me of the movie "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" :-)
- Once you get to the forum, you see the message "Get to know the final candidates!" But there's no link to the list of candidates and their candidate statements. If you got to the forum by a direct link (like from a CIRA email), good luck finding that important candidate info.
- Arriving at the forum for the first time, you can see "Log in to post new content in the forum." Click that and you find the instruction "Enter your Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) username." In the past 5 years I've been prompted to create several CIRA usernames, at member.cira.ca, cif.cira.ca, participate.cira.ca, and forum.cira.ca. So I tried them all, and they all failed. Then it occurred to me that the instruction should have said "You now have to create yet another CIRA username!" I'm persistent, but other members may not be.
Apologies for this lengthy post, but it all seems relevant. I look forward to your further discussion – too bad this forum closes in 2 days. Feel free to contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org
The lack of members at the CIRA forum reminds me of a UBC student union election event I attended in January 2006. They had reserved the campus movie theatre for this in-person forum (not online). I don't think I saw any student there besides the candidates and the event chairperson. I was a non-student curious about the election process. They looked at each other and said "What are we doing here?" So they unplugged their mike and speakers, and moved the forum into the lounge area outside the theatre, where quite a few students were hanging out in easy chairs, eating, chatting and maybe studying.
Later that year I went to a student council meeting, and offered to sponsor a competition for reporters to cover their January 2007 election. That led to a multi-year implementation -- results described in the video How Votermedia Affects Election Campaigns and the report Experiments in Voter Funded Media.
As I've done in past years, I will soon post about who I'm voting for in the CIRA election and why.