Monday, July 23, 2018

The Delphi Method Bogeyman, Again

The City of Richardson or the Richardson ISD periodically seek public input on an issue. Often it's by means of a public hearing on a proposal already on the table. You know the routine, an open mic where individuals give their opinions, pro and con. But sometimes, usually early in the process, other types of meetings are arranged, where organized group discussions take place, maybe some kind of voting happens, and a sense of the community is determined, or not. Sometimes the community is split and these meetings reveal there is no consensus. That's good to know as well. In any case, different formats for public input are useful at different times. Or at least you'd think. Not everyone agrees.

Whenever any of the formats that involve small group discussions take place, someone or other claims that mind manipulation is going on, or attempts to bully the community into believing it supports some predetermined outcome when in fact it doesn't. This supposed brainwashing is sometimes called the "Delphi Method" or "Delphi Technique." Wrongly, it turns out.

Sometimes this misuse of the term Delphi Method bugs me enough to blog about it, like I last did in 2015: "Mind Control with the Delphi Method". I don't really have a lot to add to that, so if you just reread that, I'll be done here.

But if you're curious why I think a refresher might be needed now, it's this. Someone on a Richardson Facebook page (of course) just posted three links: first to the Wikipedia article on the Delphi Method and then to two YouTube videos, the first titled "Resisting the Delphi Technique of community manipulation" and the second titled "Derailing the Delphi Technique."

So, like a moth to a flame, I checked them out. As a public service, I'm here to report on what I learned so you don't have to watch them — you're welcome. Same old, same old. The Wikipedia article is fine. It accurately describes the Delphi Method, a non-controversial forecasting technique widely used in business. I don't know what to call what is going on in the YouTube videos, but it's not the Delphi Method.

The first video is just a woman expressing her support for private property rights (and objecting to being called racist). Apparently she took part in a community exercise where participants were asked to rate how much they value "open space." She took this as an attempt to override private property rights. She might or might not be right. Not seeing the actual exercise she took part in, I can't say whether it was done fairly or not. Even with good intentions, it's difficult to construct polling questions while avoiding subconscious biases. The woman in the video mentions Delphi Method a few times, but never cites any details of her meeting to indicate that the Delphi Method was even being used in her exercise. The woman just assumes that what she disliked is the Delphi Method. It isn't.

The second video is a small public meeting somewhere in California where some people in the audience apparently arrive already knowing what they want and show no interest in talking to others who might or might not share the same opinion. They simply refuse to go along with the moderator's call to break into small discussion groups. Instead they insist on having a traditional open mic public hearing. Having small group discussions is not a synonym for the Delphi Method. And derailing small group discussions is therefore not derailing the Delphi Method. It's just being rude.

And that's why it's time to provide a refresher on the Delphi Method. I don't have data to back this up, but it seems like every time I see or hear about the Delphi Method, the term is being used wrong. The speaker either doesn't know or doesn't care. Or maybe they are just collecting points for trolling me. In any case, hearing someone using the term Delphi Method wrong is actually a helpful sign in identifying certain people, kind of like if they wear their tin-foil hats in public.

1 comment:

bryan holland said...

you made me look!

Those parents who discuss that don't even put their kids in public schools. all private. not sure it's worth the time to worry about it.