Online Discussion Government Style – Open Humboldt / Peak Democracy Forum FYI

Open Humboldt

Open Humboldt is an online forum for civic engagement. Read what others are saying about important Humboldt County topics, then post your own statement. County officials will read the statements and incorporate them into their decision process.

When you post your first statement, you will be asked for your name and home address. This confidential information is only used to identify statements from residents in and near Humboldt County – so that users know which statements are from local residents.

Open Humboldt is run by Peak Democracy, a non-partisan company whose mission is to broaden civic engagement and build public trust in government. They will keep your information confidential per their strict privacy agreement.

As with any public comment process, participation in Open Humboldt is voluntary; county officials will consider input from this forum along with all other channels for participation. However you choose to participate, thanks for helping us build a better Humboldt County.

Humboldt County

Peak Democracy, Inc. develops internet software that augments and diversifies online civic engagement in ways that can increase public trust in government. The Company has two flagship products.

Open Town Hall / Comments is an online forum for dialogue on specific issues. It emulates the order and decorum of public hearings — making the forums insightful and civil yet compliant with free speech and other legal requirements.

Open Town Hall / Ideas 3.0 is an online forum for ideation on general topics. It’s modeled after the best practices of brainstorming workshops professionally facilitated to optimize for collaboration (not arguments), consensus (not polarization), and broad public interest (not narrow special interest).

Peak Democracy was founded in 2007. During our first few years of operation, we quietly and patiently developed a software platform that met the unique needs of government agencies – by piloting a solution to a small select group of local governments.

Today, Peak Democracy has worked with over 50 government agencies across the US to power over 900 online forums that have attracted over 100,000 online attendees, and have garnered a user satisfaction rating of over 95%.

Our company is headquartered in Berkeley CA, but we have staff located all over the US, and our servers are housed in a high-security, co-location facility in Dallas TX.

We are methodically scaling our platform, infrastructure and team to provide the highest quality online citizen participation solutions to every local, state and federal government agency across the US and Canada.

FYI Peak Democracy Privacy Policy found at:

Peak Democracy Privacy Policy

We take privacy very seriously and we promise to safeguard yours zealously.  This document describes our policy regarding your contact information: your name, street address and email address.

Sharing your contact information

We will never share your contact information with anyone without your permission, unless we are required to do so by law.

Why we collect your contact information

We collect contact information to make local forums work on the world wide web.  Contact information:

  • enables us to identify statements from residents in and near the forum’s community – so that users know which statements are from local residents.
  • helps us verify that each person makes only one statement per issue.
  • enables us to determine which issues are happening in your vicinity, so you can subscribe to announcements just for your area.

You may unsubscribe from announcements by clicking on ‘Subscriptions’ under ‘My Profile’.

How do Open Town Hall online public comment forums work?

Integrating Open Town Hall into a government’s website can take less than an hour of a webmaster’s time. Peak Democracy provides an HTML snippet to the webmaster, and then the webmaster simply embeds the HTML into a page of the government’s website. The forum’s look (i.e. color, logos, etc) can be easily customized by the webmaster. All of the forum’s IT requirements are provided by Peak Democracy’s servers — including bandwidth, storage and backup, etc.

Government staff access the forums via a password-protected dashboard and backend suite of tools. Staff prepare topics, review the content, and then make the forums available to the public. The forums are then announced to subscribers and the community via email, Facebook and Twitter — as well as announcements at meetings, and other communication channels.

People visit the online public comment forums, learn more about the topics, read and support other perspectives, as well as post their own public comments.

In addition to handling all IT requirements, Peak Democracy’s software and staff monitor comments to maintain civility, authenticate participants to prevent fraud, and provide end-user support.

Government leaders can read the responses and synthesize voluminous feedback using Open Town Hall’s analysis tools. The forums can be archived for public records retention, and printed for distribution at community meetings.

What’s the pricing model, current customers, and how are they leveraging Peak Democracy?

Peak Democracy’s cloud-computing architecture, smart software and economies of scale enable the company to cost-effectively price it Open Town Hall service — as described on this web page. Pricing is based on client population, and starts at $2,400 per year of unlimited use, or $700 per forum — for communities with populations below 25,000.

Open Town Hall is used by over 25 towns, cities and counties.


found at ,

Online Public Comment Forums: How to Avoid the Referendum Effect that is Common with Online Crowd-Sourcing

How to Minimize or Prevent the Referendum Effect Online:

There are techniques that can minimize the potential of the Referendum Effect in online forums. The most straightforward technique is to caveat the forum with messaging that explicitly addresses expectations. For example, Peak Democracy Inc’s Open Town Hall OPCFs integrate the following message in the user interface: As with any public comment process, participation in Open Town Hall is voluntary. The statements are not necessarily representative of the population, nor do they reflect the opinions of any government agency or elected officials.

Another straightforward technique to minimize the Referendum Effect is to exclude the word “vote” from the user interface — as the “v-word” can create an expectation that feedback with the most votes wins.

An additional and more sophisticated approach to minimizing the potential for the Referendum Effect is to structure the online forum to solicit only qualitative feedback (as opposed to quantitative feedback). For example, instead of the online forum requiring participants to indicate “yes” or “no”, or option 1 or 2, the online forum can simply ask for a comment.


“Those Pesky Online Citizens” Paul Jacob July 2012

One of the benefits of the Internet has been the increased ease with which citizens can learn about their governments. Just as important has been the increased opportunity to tell elected representatives and public officials, along with their hired guns in federal, state, and local bureaucracies, just what they think.

Technology has given democracy a second lease on life.

But that doesn’t mean that politicians aren’t fighting back. And finding service providers and consultants to help them.

Cohen [ of Peak Democracy]  is more than willing to advise how to keep pesky citizens from actually having an effective voice online.

Another way he counsels the International City/County Management Association “to minimize the Referendum Effect is to exclude the word ‘vote’ from the user interface – as the ‘v-word’ can create an expectation that feedback with the most votes wins.”


Peak Democracy, Inc. has a location in San Francisco, CA. Active officers include Robert Alan Vogel. Peak Democracy, Inc. filed as a Statement & Designation By Foreign Corporation on Tuesday, December 11, 2007 in the state of California and is currently active.

Filings: Statement & Designation By Foreign Corporation  (CA – Active)

                State of Record: CA
                State Reference ID: 03058442
                File Date: Tuesday, December 11, 2007
                Active: True
                Filing Type: Statement & Designation By Foreign Corporation
Source:  California Secretary of State last refreshed 11/11/2012


Comment at

I’m Robert Vogel, co-founder of Peak Democracy and webmaster for

I am hoping that Humboldt County residents will find Open Humboldt Gov a convenient way to participate in civic discussion.

Indeed Peak Democracy is now based in Humboldt County – I recently moved up to Trinidad from the Bay Area, and haven’t yet updated all the records – hence the Berkeley address.  I’ll clean that up; thanks for noticing that.

We’ll be inviting Fortuna and other councilmembers and County Supervisors shortly – hopefully most  elected officials will participate shortly.



I put my email address in the subscribe box and this is what I got in return (What should I do?):

Hello –

Thank you for subscribing to Open Humboldt!  You will receive updates for Humboldt County topics.

Right now, 42 residents have read statements on Open Humboldt.  Please click

to read what others are writing and/or post your own statement.

To post a statement, you’ll need to finish joining Open Humboldt.  You can do that by clicking the JOIN button displayed after you submit your statement, or by clicking this link right now: .

Either way, Humboldt County thanks you for participating!


About highboldtage

60 something ya. Libertarian Socialist, community activist, writer and troubador.
This entry was posted in Humboldt, Local News and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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