6 Apr 2018

Free idea! The Rumor Mill

Back in 2005, I was really annoyed that Bush II was going after whistleblowers, as I think that they deserve the protection they are promised by law as well as our appreciation for putting themselves at risk to bring bad behavior to light. (Little did I know that Obama would be worse for whistle-blowers and Trump just plain worse for humanity!)

Anyway, I set up a website (rumor-mill.org, later rebranded whistle-safe.org) that would allow anyone to say anything they wanted, anonymously, as well as for others to comment on those "rumors" and vote on whether they thought the rumor was true or false.

I knew that some people would lie, but I thought that voting would slowly reveal "qualified commentators" because those who voted for rumors that turned out to be true would get a "positive reputation" while those who voted against them would get a negative reputation. (This system is similar to what we we see today on reddit, but I was inspired by digg, 4chan, and slashdot.)

Sidenote: In the course of shopping this idea around, I ended up chatting with Julian Assange in the early days before wikileaks got popular. I thought his idea was good, but his reliance on documents restricted what could be discussed. (His subsequent biased filtering and release of documents is just a basic betrayal of his original promise, so I think he's far more of a manipulative villain than hero these last few years.)

After I spent several thousand dollars to get the site set up, I tried to get people to use it. I failed to get any attention from whistle-blower lawyers because they prefer to know who they are dealing with. I failed to get any support from journalists because they like to see documents. I shut down the site after a few years of failure. (Here's a bit of background that's left over.)

My failure does not mean the idea is invalid! All over the world, there are middle managers, nameless bureaucrats and personal assistants who see misdeeds up close but lack a way to get information on those misdeeds out in public. A website like the rumor-mill would help them because it's easy to write a few words that might inspire others to add their own ideas, opposition politicians to ask questions or journalists to investigate potential mis-behavior.

So that's the idea. Take it. Use it. I'd be pleased. Humanity would benefit.