U.S. Presidential Debates Moderated by ProcessMaker

By | October 9, 2012 | ProcessMaker

What would a U.S. presidential debate look like following a ProcessMaker process? Last Wednesday’s debate, held at the University of Denver and moderated by PBS’s Jim Lehrer, lacked strict, clean transitions like those of an automated business process. While there are definitely benefits of having a debate mirror a natural-flowing conversation, the moderator was often relegated to insignificance, with the candidates speaking right over him.

Why even have a moderator? Why can’t two intelligent people have their own debate? The idea is that processes are more efficient when organized. A debate is a process of questions and answers. We hedge against the possibility of Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney, or your business process, reenacting this. The moderator’s main function is to organize the questions and answers so to cut through the platitudes and out-of-shape talking points, and to force the candidates into clearly articulating the logic of their positions.

Let’s look at a possible debate format:

  1. Question
  2. Obama/Romney answer (2 min)
  3. Obama/Romney answer (2 min) and rebut (2 min)
  4. Obama/Romney rebut (2 min)
  5. Question

How would ProcessMaker handle? Borrowing terminology from Bruce Silver’s BPMN Method & Style, this debate deals with event-triggered behavior, “process actions initiated immediately upon occurrence of a specific trigger signal.” The specific trigger signals include the question in (1), the end of 2 min in (2), the end of 4 min in (3), the end of 2 min in (4), and then the next question. Notice that no specific trigger signal includes ‘the end of a candidate’s argument.’ Part of effective argumentation is being concise. The parameters are such that if you cannot make your argument within the specified time frame, the process continues without your talking over Jim Lehrer — who is trying to transition.

How would ProcessMaker ensure the process continues without the candidates violating the time parameter? More BPMN Method & Style terminology, ProcessMaker would designate steps (2), (3), and (4) each as a timer boundary event, which “acts like a combination stopwatch and alarm clock.”

An activity “starts” when the sequence flow into it arrives, not when the performer decides to begin work on it. If the activity is not complete by the Timer event’s specified duration or date-time parameter, the alarm is triggered.” Bruce Silver, BPMN Method & Style

What’s the alarm? ProcessMaker is flexible. In this case, let’s say the alarm is defined as the muting of a candidate’s microphone. So if the microphone receives sound waves beyond the given timer boundary event, it shuts off. Just like that. The Great Debate continues.

And finally, when step (5) arrives, the next question, we don’t want the debate to end. Therefore, the process would specify a loop condition with an upper limit. What this achieves is a continuous loop of questions and answers abiding by the aforementioned assumptions. The upper limit indicates the end of the debate. Or perhaps it points to a new process in the Spin Room. Doesn’t matter. Our moderator can handle it, all through automation.

There is no ill-will towards Jim Lehrer, an exemplar of a great guy facing the limits of a non-automated process. But in the annals of great moderators we hold ProcessMaker as an exemplar of a great guy without the same problem. For Thursday’s Oct 11 Vice Presidential Debate at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, let’s hope ABC’s Martha Raddatz summons her inner-ProcessMaker. All viewers should love the debate like Creed Bratton did:


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