The History of LiquidFeedback

Milestones, Events, and Important Users

LiquidFeedback has been developed by Jan Behrens, Axel Kistner, Andreas Nitsche and Björn Swierczek since September 2009. The backend was first released in October 2009, and the operational frontend was released the following month by the Public Software Group under the permissive MIT/X11 license. Thus, the software was initially available in English and German to all interested organizations.

Political Parties

The first user was the Pirate Party Germany Berlin, the German Pirate Party’s branch in the state of Berlin, from January 2010 for the preparation of a state party conference. During this time, the branch developed new statutes with the help of LiquidFeedback. After the conference, LiquidFeedback went into regular operation and was used to recommend resolutions by members to the state executive committee. Other German state branches joined in. In this context, organizational units were introduced in LiquidFeedback in order to be able to map branches and committees of an organization. Starting in August 2010, the national party used LiquidFeedback to prepare motions for a national party conference in November 2010. Four years later, the Pirate Party Germany Berlin amended its statutes: a “Permanent General Assembly” conducted with LiquidFeedback was given organ status in order to pass binding resolutions.

Interaktive Demokratie - Association for Interactive Democracy

In June 2010, the developers of LiquidFeedback founded the Interaktive Demokratie e. V. – Association for Interactive Democracy, an independent and non-partisan research institution. The association works with researchers from various scientific disciplines, including computer science, mathematics, media studies, philosophy, psychology, and sociology. The association promotes science, education and development cooperation, working with intergovernmental organizations, governmental organizations, local authorities, universities, and foundations.

Interaktive Demokratie is dedicated to research and scientific collaboration in the field of digital democracy. LiquidFeedback continues to be published by the Public Software Group. Commercial services related to LiquidFeedback are provided by FlexiGuided GmbH.

SuMa Award

In September 2011, LiquidFeedback received the SuMa Award from SuMa e.V. - Association for Free Access to Knowledge. The award ceremony took place in the representation of the state of Lower Saxony to the federal government in Berlin. The laudation was held by Prof. Walther Umstätter.

Corporations and Associations

Starting in January 2012, Synaxon AG was the first corporation to use LiquidFeedback for internal corporate decisions involving the entire workforce. From March 2012, Slow Food Germany used LiquidFeedback to draft a new set of bylaws.

LiquidFeedback 2.0

In June 2012, the Public Software Group released version 2.0, a completely revised user interface. The version was presented to the public at the event “LiquidFeedback 2.0 - We Proceeded On.”

Constituency Participation and Civic Participation

In August 2012, Kurtis Hanna of Minneapolis, Republican candidate for the Minnesota House of Representatives in District 62a, was the first individual candidate to provide a LiquidFeedback platform for his constituency.

The first application of LiquidFeedback in the field of citizen participation took place in the German County of Friesland from September 2012. At the suggestion of the county, administrative procedures were introduced (complementary to the normal bottom-up proposal development process) to solicit citizens' opinions on existing county council proposals. Other cities and counties followed the example of Friesland County.

Minority Positions

In March 2013, “Harmonic Weighting” and “Instant Runoff” algorithms were added to ensure appropriate representation of minority positions.

Global South

In November 2013, the LiquidFeedback project's inaugural operation in the Global South occurred. Interaktive Demokratie participated in a week-long workshop entitled “Political Parties and the Citizens” in Yangon, Myanmar, together with International IDEA in Stockholm, the Asia-Europe Foundation in Singapore, and the Hanns-Seidel-Foundation in Munich.

LiquidFeedback 3.0

LiquidFeedback Book

In January 2014, the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD) hosted the international launch of the book “The Principles of LiquidFeedback” in the Hague, The Netherlands. The book covers LiquidFeedback's preference aggregation algorithms and process design in detail. The launch was attended by representatives of Dutch political parties and ministries. On behalf of the authors, Axel Kistner presented the first copy of the book to Ingrid van Engelshoven, deputy mayor and alderman for Education and Public Services of The Hague. At a second event in Berlin, the book was presented to the German public. Version 3.0 of LiquidFeedback with a redesigned user interface was released at the same time as the book.

Liquid Democracy Journal

Since March 2014, Interaktive Demokratie has published “The Liquid Democracy Journal on electronic participation, collective moderation, and voting systems.”

LDAP Support

Since July 2014 LiquidFeedback supports LDAP based member authentication.

Development Cooperation, Peace Building, and Conflict Resolution

At the invitation of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the LiquidFeedback project participated in the Technology & Strengthening Democracy conference in Islamabad, Pakistan in October 2014.

In November of the same year, Interaktive Demokratie, together with NIMD and in cooperation with the Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Georgia and Armenia, conducted a workshop “LiquidFeedback for Georgian Political Parties” in Tbilisi, Georgia.

In August 2015, at the invitation of the Office of the High Commissioner for Peace to the Colombian government, Interaktive Demokratie joined the event “Conectados por la Paz” in Bogotá, Colombia, which focused on the necessary inclusion processes in the implementation of the agreements for the settlement of the internal armed conflict.

Under the title “When water becomes the new oil. How Switzerland will master the conflicts of the future,” the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute in Rüschlikon/Zurich discussed extreme scenarios for the organization of the water supply with representatives of the Swiss water industry from October 2015. LiquidFeedback was used to discuss, comment on and evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of individual scenarios.

Democratic Software and Product Development

As of version 3.1, released in December 2015, LiquidFeedback supports democratic software and product development by providing an interface to connect LiquidFeedback to version control systems such as Git or Mercurial.

LiquidFeedback 4.0

Horizon 2020

From 2016 to 2021, the LiquidFeedback project participated in the EU projects WeGovNow and CO3. During this time, LiquidFeedback 4.0 was created with a Material Design based user interface. LiquidFeedback gained OAuth2.0 client and server functionality, a self-registration and user accreditation component, geospatial extensions, variable voting for mapping ownership stakes in companies, voting based on blockchain tokens, and an integration framework for seamless integration with third-party applications, among others. LiquidFeedback has since been made available in English, French, Georgian, German, Greek and Spanish.

As part of the aforementioned EU projects, LiquidFeedback was used in Athens, London, Paris, Turin, and San Donà di Piave in the Metropolitan City of Venice.

Towards a Decentralized LiquidFeedback

In July 2018, the Liquid Democracy Journal published the conceptual roadmap for a decentralized LiquidFeedback, along with a prototype of the LiquidFeedback blockchain.

Latin America Edition of the LiquidFeedback Book

In May 2021, “Los Principios de LiquidFeedback,” the Spanish-language (Latin America) edition of “The Principles of LiquidFeedback” was published at the initiative of Pedro Javier Etchegaray and Sergio Damián Schreyer of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Educational Videos on Liquid Democracy

In June 2021, an educational video on liquid democracy, which also addresses the implementation and use of transitive delegations in LiquidFeedback, and an educational video on the origins of liquid democracy were created in cooperation between Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Institute for Technology Futures and Interaktive Demokratie.

In July 2021, Interaktive Demokratie released the film “Liquid Democracy-A Transatlantic Affair,” a conversation among scholars from Europe, Israel, and the United States about the potential of liquid democracy.

Scientific exchange

During the same period, Interaktive Demokratie held lectures at various universities, such as “Computational Social Choice” at the University of Toulouse, France in June 2016, “The Future of Democracy” at the University of Bologna, Italy in November 2016, “Digital Democracy” at King's College London, UK in July 2017, “Mathematics for Social Activism” at University of Leeds, UK in June 2019, and “Liquid Democracy, Algorithms, and the Temporal Dimension”, Mechanism Design for Social Good, Carnegie Mellon University and Harvard University in December 2021.

2022 to the present

Communicating Across Political Fault Lines

The computer scientist and LiquidFeedback co-founder Andreas Nitsche was a 2022 fellow in residence at the Thomas Mann House in Los Angeles, California. The Thomas Mann House is a residency center and space for transatlantic debate owned by the Federal Republic of Germany. In Los Angeles, Andreas Nitsche explored the question of how, in a polarized society, arguments can be achieved to be received even by supposedly antagonistic groups. Other aspects of the fellowship were indigenous contributions to democracy and the equitable design of participation processes with regard to historically excluded ethnic groups (racial equity). He held discussions with scientists from various universities, including Arizona State University, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University, Stanford University, University of California Los Angeles, University of Southern California, and with representatives of civil society.

Lorentz Workshop “Algorithmic Technology for Democracy”

In October 2022, scholars from both sides of the Atlantic gathered at the Lorentz Center in Leiden, The Netherlands, for a week-long workshop to discuss digital democracy, social networks, algorithmic fairness, social influence, argumentation, and collective intelligence. The scientific organizers of the Lorentz workshop “Algorithmic Technology for Democracy” were Prof. Davide Grossi (Universities of Groningen and Amsterdam), Prof. Ulrike Hahn (Birkbeck College London), Prof. Michael Mäs (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology), and Andreas Nitsche (Interaktive Demokratie).

Equitable Mass Deliberation

Together with the RAND Corporation, Interaktive Demokratie organized the April 2023 event “National Coalition for Equity Impact (NCEI) Summit #2: Innovations in Equity - Contextualizing U.S. and International Perspectives” in Santa Monica, California. At the event, held at the residence of the German Consul General in Los Angeles, Ulrike Hahn, Michael Mäs, and Andreas Nitsche discussed German and European experiences. Of particular interest to the American interlocutors were the experiences of the LiquidFeedback project with the implementation of an equitable and mutually respectful deliberation for a basically unlimited number of people.

In May 2023, Interaktive Demokratie participated in the NCEI Summit #3 in Los Angeles, California, an event organized by the RAND Corporation in cooperation with the Finnish and German Consulates General. In a climate panel with the technically responsible deputy mayors of Los Angeles and Helsinki, Andreas Nitsche informed among other things about the use of LiquidFeedback for the citizen consultation on climate change and decarbonization in the English county of Yorkshire.