Thursday, February 22, 2007

Talk amongst ... everybody

Wikipedia is known for several things - its free, its community driven, its credibility has been questioned (and found to be mostly OK) more times than anyone else's, and its wide-ranging. It also strives - HARD - to be neutral. Just the facts, ma'am.

So now there is debatepedia. Where strong arguments are cooperatively produced - or as the Future of the Book project calls it, "an encyclopedia of arguments." Want to know the arguments for and against the repeal of the U.S. Estate Tax? Here you go. Have some information or analysis to add to a debate on abolishing intellectual property rights - add them here.

What a wonderful tool for drawing in collective intelligence on the challenges and opportunities that philanthropy aims to address. Have information on building sustainable social justice enterprises? Strategies to better educate children? Delivery mechanisms for health care in rural communities? Looking at data from different vantage points, encouraging debate and considering alternative explanations should be a key part of making decisions about billions of dollars. Debatepedia shows that it can be done in an informed and gracious way (sort of like the debate on the Stern Review that the NY Times covered on Wednesday in the Economix column.)

Outline your argument, define success, encourage alternative view points to be aired and shared, and inform your decision and grant making. Cool.

1 comment:

danmanphishfan said...

seems like debatepedia is a great idea, but the UI needs to move away from (or improve upon) traditional wiki tools. For some users it's just fine: if you really want to get into the depths of an argument, it's all there for you. But if you are more of a casual user, who wants a quick summary, it seems like some kind of better visual model would help. I have no idea what; I'm just thinking of the example that the iPhone seems like a huge visual leap over most other cellphone UIs, and that can be the thing that really draws lots of users in. uses a back end called debate engine, and they are working on ways to improve the user experience with online debate.

One of the things I see potentially happening is an alteration to the current blog-commenting model, in which individual comments can be marked or flagged as “this is a specific instance of a well-established argument, see here” and then a link into debatepedia or other such tools.

Or other marks/flags such as: “this argument would not meet the generally established rules for online debate, as defined by:” and then a link into the debatepedia argument rules section (does such a thing exist? I haven’t gotten that far yet…). Examples could be: ad-hominem attacks; personal attacks; unsupported claim; logical flaw; etc etc.

- dan