Yesterday held many gems, and one of my favorites was seeing Charlie defend his dissertation (he would prefer it be called “defenestration“). He’s built an incredible tool called InterTwinkles, an online tool for non-hierarchical, consensus-oriented decision making.

Non-hierarchical, participatory, consensus-based decision making has seen an explosion in popularity in recent years. The traditional techniques of formal consensus, however, are limited to face-to-face meetings, which can limit organizations’ capacity due to their time and cost. InterTwinkles is a set of integrated but composable online tools designed to assist small and medium-sized groups in engaging in formal group decision making processes online. In this thesis, Charlie DeTar presents a thorough investigation of the ethical and practical motivations for consensus decision making, and relates these to concerns of control and autonomy in the design of online systems. He describes the participatory and iterative design process for building an online platform for consensus, with particular attention to the practical constraints of real-world groups with mixed technical aptitude. He presents the results of a three month field trial with six cooperative groups in the Boston area, and evaluates the results through the lens of adaptive structuration theory, with particular attention on the fit between the ethical motivations and performance outcomes.

It also generated one of the better #vizthink outputs I think I’ve done in awhile. A big part of being able to do that is based all of the wonderful conversations Charlie and I have shared over the past few months. He’s always been generous with his time and his brains.

Keep an eye out for his future work, try out InterTwinkles in your housing co-op or other affinity-based consensus group. While I (and the rest of the Media Lab) will miss Charlie dearly, Montana calls him to new adventures (and to his awesome partner!).