Nomics – A Game for Finding Consensus

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been interested in how we participate in the policy decision making process. I went so far as to state that both the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street movements were a reflection of deep frustration with our political process. I say this because, despite differences in demands and world views, the two movements are populist in nature.

From my perspective, the big “ah-ha” moment was when I started looking around for how the Occupy Wall Street group was organizing itself. There were websites here, Facebook fan pages there, but nothing cohesive. Moreover, nothing that I could find represented a “this is what we believe and this is what we want”.

Of course, I then asked myself, “What would people use to reach a consensus?”

I thought of the Nomic Game.
Eric Reis, author of Lean Startup, once said (something along the lines of), “People spend a lot of time worrying about their ideas being stolen…need to just get it out there…and I’ll bet that even if you tried to have someone steal your idea, you couldn’t.”

I’d like to take that bet. I’m going to present some initial conceptual thinking I’ve done on the Nomic Game as a tool for organizing political though. I feel comfortable doing this because I agree that it’s highly unlikely that someone will steal my idea. Or more accurately, if the idea is “stolen,” it was “stolen” because the person who originally thought of the idea didn’t do anything to move the idea from “idea” to “reality.”

In terms of what is built, I have the database (mostly) designed/implemented and will likely have something “poke-able” by the end of the week. That’s my goal at least.

When reading the conceptual overview, you’ll note a bit about “community” at the end. A big challenge that we deal with at Servio is, “How do we know that particular person is qualified to participate in this project?” I’ve put in a smidgen of initial thinking in this regard and see “communities” as a v.future feature set. I believe a little thinking about “how to protect an idea from the wrong people participating” (i.e. people who aren’t qualified) because I think a major mistake at crowdsourcing companies is that they don’t think about “project guards” up front. (I spoke about at CrowdConf last year; here’s a blog post on it).

Conceptual Overview of Using Nomics to Solve Political Engagement—my notes

There are people.

People can create or modify ideas.

People can agree with an idea.

People can also disagree with ideas.

Goal: Find the best idea with the most consensus.


This means there needs to be a way to associate one idea with another, as in an anscestory of ideas.

That implies we have a root idea, partent ideas, and children ideas.

The root is a parent but not the parent of all ideas.

The root is the parent of itself.

The root can have many children but no ancestors.

The root idea is the ancestor of all present and current ideas.

Some parent ideas are children of the root idea but others are children of children of the root idea.

The root idea is a mere proposal for more proposals.

The root idea cannot be agreed with or disagreed with.

The root idea can only create children ideas.

Once a child idea is created, it can be modified, agreed with or disagreed with.

A modified child idea is a new child idea.

The new modified child idea’s parent idea is the one from which the modified child idea originated.

At some distant time in the future, ideas can be merged with other ideas to create new child ideas–child ideas with two parent ideas.

Also in the future, a child idea can be merged with its parent idea or ideas.


To track the consensus of an idea, the count of moment of agreements or disagreements must be tracked.

A moment of agreement or disagreement is a point in time when a person evaluates an idea and decides to either agree or disagree.

There can only be one moment of agreement or disagreement per idea per person.

A person can change his mind from/to agreement or disagreement.

If agreement changes, the count of agreement or disagreement should equally change.

Another word for moment of agreement or disagreement is vote.


A simple idea is a belief.

If a belief cannot be stated simply, it is likely ill-understood.

Complex ideas originate from a lack of understanding.

Ideas should be simple, at least to start.

Ideas should have a one sentence-ish summary.

Ideas should have a three to five sentence description.

Ideas longer than this are likely too compelex and should be revised to be consise.

Access to ideas may require guarding.

All people do not have authority over all ideas.

There are communities of people.

People belong to many communities.

People who belong to some communities do not below to other communities.

People who do not belong to a community may or may not be allowed to access an idea.

Access to an idea is a decision of the person or community who propose it.


An idea’s creator is the person who proposes it.

If two ideas are merged, the new merged idea’s creators consist of the originating ideas’ creators.

The root idea has no creators.

If the root requires a creator, the root idea is its own creator.

People are known or unknown.

Unknown people belong to a community of unknown people and no other communities.

Only known people can belong to communities of known people.

A community is a self-selected group of people.

Self-selected means that the people see themselves as consistently coming to consesus on ideas.

People can discover or create communities by identifying people who consistently agree or disagree with the same ideas.

An idea is only priviate to a community if the person who proposes the idea decides to make it so.

A consensus is the current balance of moment of agreements and disagreements.

There is no definitive consensus with an idea.

A consensus is a spectrum of agreements and disagreements.

There should be transparency into the specturm of agreements and disagreements.

There may also be a summary consensus which translates the spectrum consensus into either Agreement, Netural or Disagreement.

An agreement is when over 55% of moments of agreement occur.

If there is no majority of agreement or disagreement, 55%, the consensus is neutral.

People should create new ideas or modify ideas to resolve neutrality.


People should be able to see what the parent or child ideas of the current idea are.

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