April 23, 2007
I recently had an idea for an informed-debate website. Plenty of debate goes on in the world, but many of the arguments proposed are based on faith or are engineered to create an emotional effect. This would be fine as long as a place (better: many places) existed for informed discussion where people sited their sources and the validity of those sources were questioned. The academic scientific community is one such avenue, but it has insulated itself from the general public in the form of journals whose advantage is peer-review and disadvantage is a fee for casual observation. So assuming that a public forum does not currently exist that incites both fervor and reason, here is my blueprint for a debate site.
My image of the user experience begins with arriving at the site and seeing multiple discussion headings displayed on the front-page. Perhaps there is a featured discussion, highlighted as symbolic of the ideal. I click on the most interesting subject, Global Warming. I see a list of several points. Besides each point are a minimum of three sources. The first point is that global warming is man-made phenomenon. The counterpoint is that it is a natural phenomena. In counterpoint to both is the idea that it is a combination of the two. Next to the claim that global warming is a natural phenomena are three sources. Two of the studies are sponsored by the petroleum industry and have been tagged under “conflict of interest.” A new point has been raised in defense of one of the studies, and more sources have been cited in the new points defense. Admins do not move points into the central discussion unless the person gives three unique sources in their point’s defense.
This could give rise to admin abuse. To combat this, a reputation model allows a person to place a critique against the admin, but this also opens the judge to attack over the fairness of their statements. For example, in my hypothetical user experience I see the admin has a fairly good overall appraisal. There is one rather biting commentary, but the person who said it is rated as being very unfair.
Undoubtedly there are many holes in this system. How do you define a unique source? What if the community is temporarily or permanently homogeneous, skewing debate? What if people or organizations started paying admins for favors?
No matter what form it eventually evolves into it would have to keep these basic necessities in mind.
- Multiple points of view
- A tendency to resist (better: transform) spamesque flame wars
- Sited Sources
- Discussions of validity
- Conducive to progression
Hopefully I’ll be able to get to this project one day. It would be easy to create in Ruby on Rails.