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February 13, 2007

Debatepedia cures premature neutrality

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Posted by David Weinberger

Wikipedia’s policy of neutrality sometimes forces resolution when we’d rather have debate. Yes, competing sides get represented in the articles, and the discussion pages let us hear people arguing their points, but the arguments themselves are treated as stations on the way to neutral agreement.

So, there’s room for additional approaches that take the arguments themselves as their topics. That’s what Debatepedia.org does, and it looks like it’s on its way to being really useful.

Like Wikipedia, anyone can edit existing content. Unlike Wikipedia, its topics are all up for debate. Each topic presents both sides, structured into sub-questions, with a strong ethos of citation, factuality, and lack of flaming; the first of its Guiding Principles is “No personal opinion.” Rather, it attempts to present the best case and best evidence for each side.

Debatepedia limits itself to topics with yes-no alternatives and with clear pro and con cases. To start a debate, a user has to propose it and the editors (who seem to be the people who founded it…I couldn’t find info about them on the site) have to accept it. This keeps people from proposing stupid topics and boosts the likelihood that if you visit a listed debate, you’ll find content there. It also limits discussion to topics that have two and only two sides, which may turn out to be a serious limitation. But, we’ll see. And it can adapt as required.

Will Debatepedia take off? Who the hell knows. But it’s a welcome addition to the range of experiments in pulling ourselves together.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software


COMMENTS

1. Joseph Reagle on February 13, 2007 10:45 AM writes...

This sounds much like WikInfo.

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2. William Kelley on February 13, 2007 3:37 PM writes...

Hmm, I searched on Global Warming and it took me to a page titled Global Warming but it was about immigration reform. I guess they have a few bugs.

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3. Jochen Wittkamp on February 23, 2007 7:53 AM writes...

>I guess they have a few bugs.

There are several bugs like this - or you mean "searched" with a searchengine ?

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