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Discussion management and decision making

DEMOS (Delphi Online Mediation System) is a complex application available on Wornex's WorldDirector platform that provides an environment that assists the management of discussions and decision making through the web, especially when involving a large population (e.g., a community using the web to debate about city issues) or small groups of experts. DEMOS is based on the integration of three well-proven methods of social research: the Delphi method, Survey techniques, and Mediation method. These are supported by a set of tools (user interface, forum management, survey organization, and clustering), integrated in a layered architecture and adapted to multiple languages: the current version is working on English, German and Italian. The approach and the system was successfully validated at two trial sites, the City of Hamburg (Germany) and the City of Bologna (Italy).

DEMOS is aimed at researching and developing a technology for the mass market or for small groups of experts. All the users involved in any internet mediated discussion process could be a DEMOS end user : citizens, consumers, employees, forum members. Hence, the potential customers of DEMOS are the companies and organisations that provide DEMOS services to the public.: Administrations, Consumer Opinion Platform, Market Research Companies.

The DEMOS system provides a state-of-the-art set of features for e-participation but is ready for the market and does not depend on any technology that is beyond the state-of-the-art of products readily available on the market.

DEMOS goes beyond the usual Internet chat or discussion forums to provide a powerful and integrated methodology and socio-computational system with the following configurable and customisable state-of-the-art features to support large-scale public participation in political discourses on the Web:

  • unstructured iterative discussion sessions and structured debates with oal-directed cycles, organised and controlled by a moderator or a group of moderators
  • differentiated user roles and access rights
  • modes for communication and feedback (direct/indirect, public/protected)
  • support for differentiated types of user-interaction
  • sorting and aggregating quantitative data and qualitative semantic content (free answers, comments and statements)
  • participative "bottom up" specification of issues, construction of questionnaires, and selection of experts
  • conflict resolution strategies allowing differentiated outcomes (convergence,consensus, divergence, "rational dissent")
  • self-organization and subgroup formation allowing different levels of aggregation and distribution
  • methods facilitating the maintenance of process coherence and coordination in the face of large numbers of participants with high fluctuation rates.

 These features presented various technical challenges, including:

  • assuring scalability, to allow the system to maintain process coherence and coordination in the face of large numbers of participants with high fluctuation rates
  • providing powerful and convenient administration features for moderators and mediators, especially for structuring and dynamically restructuring large scale participative discourses
  • using surveying, rating and voting to help discussions progress and to enhance conclusiveness of debates
  • supporting procedures, for essential parts of the DEMOS participation process.

The DEMOS system is available for licencing under an ASP model. The application including the moderation service is availale as a turn-key system through Wornex.

Application Service Providers (ASPs) deliver and manage applications and computer services from remote data centres to multiple customers across a network. The users no longer have to buy, implement and maintain the applications, as they rent them from the ASP. The settlement occurs either on a monthly basis or is subject to the frequency or intensity of usage.

For large applications such as DEMOS, the Wornex's ASP model provides a turn-key system, with the following characteristics:

  • Speed: A DEMOS process for any kind of organisation and any kind of survey will be available in days or weeks, as opposed to months or years.  Customers will find DEMOS online quickly, including the overall infrastructure, hosting capabilities, support, training, moderation and all necessary applications, as no need exists to create a special custom application for each DEMOS process.
  • Cost: For clients, using DEMOS for their needs means a huge increase in cost savings as they pay only a fraction of the cost while renting the application on a subscription basis vs. licensing of an application.
  • Focus: Today's Industry and Government executives know that anything that distracts their office from its expertise must be moved outside the organisation for greater efficiency and reduced cost. Partners in the DEMOS consortium will offer a one-stop shop and best-of-breed application for running qualitative analysis on topics of interest to their end-users.
  • Flexibility: For clients it is important to know that DEMOS includes a true "plug-and-play" approach, including easy and fast customisation and internationalisation that can be adapted and installed by Wornex according to custemers' requrements.
  • Scalability: Small and large scale processes, may be run using the DEMOS infrastructure already developed and tested. Consulting and other related services will also be scalable to any kind of organisation, and provided by organisations members of the consortium.

The DEMOS package is offered on top of WORNEX core technology called WorldDirector. This technology includes load balancing and content acceleration to allow for seamless upgrade of almost any application to allow concurrent access to hundreds of thousands of users, in a very scalable and cost effective way.

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