Imperfect Tools

Broken CD

..."But like people, tools are imperfect;"...

A fragment of a message and yet has occupied my mind a lot these past few days. In an ideal world there would be no need for any kind of tool. Since we don't live in that world, what would a solution for the problems victims of harassment, abuse, and treats are experiencing look like?

Not all the obstacles needed for such a solution can be fixed or solved, so I will stay on the obstacles I think I could fix, help fix, or propose ideas to fix. With that in mind I set out to jot down whatever came to mind, my own personal brainstorm.

The legal system itself is huge and there are many things wrong with it, but there are things that can be done to improve the efficiency of the legal system. What can be done to help the complaints about harassment reach the end points of the legal system where they would be processed?

  • I've used case management systems, document management systems, but searching for complaints systems I found just a handful, suited for corporate client or user complaints and with a focus on customer relationship management. So a new complaint system it is.
  • Harassment is just one of the problem victims are facing. And, harassment itself happens in different ways. Let's make it generic. A generic complaint system.
  • The video game industry is not the only sector with victims of abuse. What about the elderly, children? What about government agencies dealing with abuse? The Puerto Rico Department of Family Affairs itself had 30,000 cases of pending child abuse complaints alone in a period of time[1]. Overhead and lack of personnel are commonly cited problems. So, a free open source complaint management system anybody can use.

What would be the minimum features such a system would have?

  • Complaint entry
    • Complaint summary and detail text.
    • Who is doing the entry?
    • Against who?
    • Unique identifier for each complaint for reference.
    • Permalink to the complaint.
  • Complaint categories
    • It is harassment, abuse, a threat?
  • Supporting documentation for every complaint
    • Allow attachments for each complaint
  • A resolution for each complaint
    • Has the complaint been resolved? Is more documentation required?
  • A log of events for each complaint
    • When was the complaint opened? When was the resolution reached? Who changed the resolution of the complaint?
  • An integrated appeals method
    • The appeal will be stored in the same system as the original complaint. The appeal itself would be an entry linked to the original complaint reducing code repetition and allow for the same logging, resolution and attachment features for the appeals.
  • Support connectivity with other systems
    • An API to connect to case management systems, mobile apps, custom frontends.

So this is my proposal, a free open source complaint management system composed of a minimal core of features with an API, that provides a self documenting and transparent process.

Helping victims of harassment is something everybody can support, regardless of ideology. Everybody can help, no matter what you do for a living or as a hobby. Graphic artist? Help with the visual design, mockups, color scheme. Public relations? Help with project identity, communications, community management. Writer? Help with the documentation, instructions. Journalist? Help spread the word, reach more people that can help with the project. Programmer? Help with the code, issue managing. Hacker? Help find and document exploits on the code. Devops? Help with installation procedures, Docker/VirtualBox images. Lawyer? Help with the wording, definitions, disclaimers. Accountant? Help create a non profit foundation to manage the project. None of the above? Help translate the texts of the project, share your ideas for future improvements, help maintain a wiki or mailing list to organize discussion about the tool, evangelise, let government agencies and nonprofits know that an entire community is working on a project they can use, or just talk about this with a victim and let them know there are people trying to improve how and when they get the help they need.

I will be doing my part and work on what I know: software development, project management. Everybody is encouraged to join.

Update Code repository is at https://github.com/Cleisthenes/cleisthenes

[1] http://www.elnuevodia.com/cargadadeplaneslanuevasecretariadelafamilia-1420089.html