Saturday, May 19, 2007

Community Concept - Debate

I just read this quote after following a reddit link:

“I’d just like to see thinking come back in style. I haven’t heard a new idea in eight years. Let’s get ordinary people arguing and talking again. I want to trigger new circuits in their nervous systems. That’s the philosopher’s job and I am the most important philosopher at this time.”
- Timothy Leary

I've long held and idea I wanted to execute on, but like so many good ideas, I never got around to it. I've decided, since I probably will never get around to doing anything about it, I'd just talk about it instead.

In a nutshell, the idea is a virtual community built around the one thing everyone loves to do on the interweb - argue.

Debate was one of my favorite UIL events in high school. It was a structured way of having an argument and the victor was decided by a third party. I suppose high school debate is the breeding ground for many would-be politicians. Anyway, unlike your typical interweb argument, debate has structure.

Personally, I would model a debate site after the structure I used in high school UIL debate and modify the format a bit. This structure included opening remarks, rebuttals, cross examinations, and closing remarks. Where UIL limited participants in time, a good online tool would also limit them in word count. I suppose it would be even more interesting if such a site allowed for the use of video, but that's a tangent I haven't considered much.

All debates would be tied to topics. Just like UIL, each topic would be binary in that it would have two predefined sides. In UIL, the pro would support a notion such as, for example, the need to reduce the homeless population in the US. The pro would also be responsible for presenting a plan to do so. The other side can attack from any direction - either directly against the notion or just the proposed plan.

I would rank winners and losers in a typical tournament method with winners moving on and losers starting over. I think I might use a reddit style public (registered users public, that is) voting system to pick winners.

The weakness would be the bias for voters to vote their hearts on the issue, and not the debate skills of the participants. However, that might not be such a bad thing. The real motivation for a site like this isn't to find people who can argue well. The motivation is to create a virtual community where ideas are refined and the best ideas can float to the top. The dream is that something like this could spawn real change in the world. After all, we can't really change until we build consensus for change. We can't build consensus unless we have a way of sharing and refining ideas together.

1 comment:

inerte said...

Here's an idea:

Let users submit questions/topics, and let users submit answers to these questions.

For each question, two answers are shown. Users get to vote on which they preferred, and they might explain why they didn't choose an answer. This is very important, users won't explain why they've agreed with something, but instead, what's stopping them from agreeing with some other thing.

At any time, the author of an answer may:

1) Post rebuttals to user's votes. Users can change their votes.matches and post specific addendums which are only shown when his answer faces the same, other answer, again;

The website would feature rankings, based on how many points an author got. It also would feature the "most persuasive" author, that is, anyone who managed to make users change their votes.

It would also show the most controversial topics, using a very simple algorithm: User votes for answer "A" instead of "B", votes for "B" instead of "C", but votes for "C" instead of "A".

Contests should be held from time to time where the "winner" of a question/topic gets a prize.