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Executive Summary:

Fork the Law is an attempt to fix the legislative process, and generally make the law more accessible to everyone. Since most legislation introduced is drafted and presented by professional lobbyists and insiders, even subject matter experts have less voice than corporations. We will walk individuals and groups through the process necessary to turn their ideas into bills and hopefully someday legislation.

Legislation will be tackled in project spaces. A leader can create a space and enlist help from others to help research, draft and promote new legislation. The multi-user editor will link background materials to the text of the new statutes. Legal specialists are invited to digest and help lay people understand opinions written about the law. These digests will continue to be available outside the scope of the individual project.

This is meant to be a social backbone in that it brings people together, build shared knowledge and encourage them to share thoughts and create consensus. Groups will be guided on how to promote their changes and introduce bills. Users will be guided to work through their differences and find more understandings to create positive change.

Full Description

We are in the information age, an age of active participation and unprecedented inclusion. We can no longer be content to let others tell us what we will get, letting only our viewership and ratings determine what our lives will be. We no longer accept things as they are given to us, but are active participants in our own lives, our own country. We are not spectators.

But we dodn't know what else to tell them than "no". We need to fix that.

The Problem:

Legislatures are busy places, with more to do than they have people to get things done. New laws are written around the world by lobbyists and corporate interests. A few are written by public interest advocacy groups (often dubbed "special interests" by detractors) but most are written by corporate lobbyists, working solely with the interest of big business in mind. Even if we eliminated all campaign finance issues, we'd still be facing this terrible problem: Congress does not get good laws in. In fact most lawmakers, if they had the opportunity to, would be enacting legislation by and of the People. Unfortunately, they seldom have that option.

Further, when public interest groups want to achieve an important goal, they need money to engage in lobbying and all dea with the other issues with the broken system. The best way to raise money for your organization (or political campaign for that matter)

The Solution:

Fork The Law is a site that will make it easier to to say what we're thinking, and to bring the message to Congress. The People need help drafting our own legislation that we hammered out ourselves, instead of leaving it to lobbyists and private interests. So we decided to make a tool for doing just that.

Fork the Law is an effort to bridge the gap between citizens who are experts in their fields and governing law. Our effort begins with experts who work with rapidly evolving technology who have become frustrated with the statutes that impact their work.

We plan to walk participants through all necessary steps to move from where we are to where we can be most effective, from drafting new legislation, to educating ourselves and others about the issues we face as a nation, to promoting passage of new laws in Congress and everywhere else to continue our forward progress. Corporations do this today, so they are running the show. It's time to give some of the same tools to the citizens.

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Principles

Openness: We are dedicated to openness principles. Our goal is increasing the breadth of human knowledge, and that means not locking up data. We aim to use open source tools, platforms and packages wherever we can. It is our goal to make as much as we can available to the People without compromising our sustainability.

This open attitude also includes the functioning of our organization, as much as possible. Part of our goal is to establish transparency in all our operations. With a common background in information security, the team fully understands that the most solid system is one that is held open to critical scrutiny.

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Who Will Use This

While ideally, we'd like people who are experts in their field to lead projects, we don't intend to be the arbiter of who is knowledgable. Anyone who wants to may register and create their own project workspace. Of course, the more people who have signed on to a project, the more likely the project will make it through Congress, since that's how democracy is supposed to work.

Joining a Project

If a registered user wishes to join an existing project, they'll make a request to the project administrators. Project administrators will have a variety of levels of authorization to allow users to contribute in incremental steps. It will be left entirely up to the administrators to vet potential contributors in any manner they choose. Collaboration will be encouraged but not required.

Endorsing a project

By default any registered user will be able to endorse a project. The project administrators will have the ability to promote endorsers to highlight their participation and/or allow them to help with promotion of the project outside of the editing process.

What Will a User Experience

Project Initiation

When a user goes to set up a project, they'll be asked to identify the section of code they wish to fork. (Later phases would include a full text search of existing statutes and expansion beyond statutory law.) They then select this to initiate a project space or fork. If the code they have selected is open any other project spaces, they will be alerted to this and they will have the option to request to join any alternate projects currently in process.

If there are no other working spaces on that section of code or they choose not to join them, the application will create a new workspace. The workspace will contain a code editor, an area to place related cases, publications and other relevant information available (Later phases would include automatically suggesting materials here.) and an area with promotion including external links and discussions.

Since the goal of Fork the Law is to increase public knowledge and understanding of the law, branches in the free editor will be viewable by anyone. Later phases would have a private editor available via subscription.

The editor pane

This is where the text of the statute will be edited. Automatic change control will identify each editor's contributions by color signifiers. Users may create callouts that link to articles, cases and other statutes and comments identified in the information pane, but may be viewed in short form in bubbles in the editor pane.

The information pane

Although general commenting will be connected through links in callouts from the editor pane, most content will start out unlinked and can be stored here. Independent levels of authorization would be required to contribute to content, from up-voting/down-voting materials to adding or linking new content. Case briefs and other summaries, descriptions and discussions and other information will be collected here as data module items that may be exploded in editable modules for short and long summaries.

Users who have been approved for editing will be identified here so people considering endorsing or signing on to help with the project can check out who they'll be working with.

When users working in other workspaces add briefs and summaries of materials that have been selected in the workspace, notifications will be available, enabling users to pull selected summaries into the workspace.

The promotion pane

Here is where information will be collected on how to promote the bill and convince Congress to merge the changes into law. Information on key members of each house to target based on past legislation will be identified so the project has the best chance of success.

Additional text editing bubbles will be available for documents the promotion team puts together, with organizing bins to sort the documents the promotion team creates. Social media links will be here, as well as integration with other bill promotion opportunities such as POPVOX, who we are actively working with.

Endorsers will be shown here, with some automatic initial ranking algorithm adjusted by the team to promote key supporters.

For the free project space, a limited private space may be available here for promotion strategy discussions. No links will be functional and no advanced functionality will be available in this area.

Project Merge

For particularly contentious topics, we anticipate many copies of the same statute will be edited at once. People will disagree, or hold their ideas exclusive and start their own project. We focus on encouraging people working on similar projects to build real consensus, not just compromise, for the greater good of their efforts. The benefits of unification should greatly outweigh divisiveness, as it does in the real world.

As an advanced feature, to achieve a greater consensus, we will have a merge process that will enable projects to combine to form one cohesive whole. Administrators of each project will be able to identify their differences and discuss how they can bring them together, working through the merge process in a thoughtful manner.

Although this is a goal, we don't anticipate the need for this function in the initial phase. We will be building our data structures and work flows to enable this in the future.

Generating the Bill

Promotion should begin long before the text of the code has been solidified with the editor, so the bill text finalization will likely come at some point in the middle of the process. Once everyone has agreed that the text is what they'd like to see, then they commit their changes and the text will no longer be editable. Once frozen, a bill will be automatically generated suitable for presenting to the selected congressmen for submission.

If the text needs further changes then a new version of the editor may be opened, based either on the original statute or the previously edited bill and the process may be repeated.

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