Posts filed under ‘kudos’

Debatepedia

Debatepedia is an attempt to apply the wiki philosophy to debate. The site is less of a debate forum and more of a collaboration point for academic debate teams. That is probably the reason why the site hasn’t turned in to an enormous edit war.

The site has some interesting characteristics. It uses the same two-column design that Helium.com does for its debate pages. The content is good but compares neither to Wikipedia nor The Index of Creationist Claims.

I’d be interesting in seeing how far this site can go over time and with more users.

March 13, 2008 at 7:56 pm Leave a comment

Helium.com Debate Pages

I have a lot to say about Helium.com, a site where user-submitted articles are submitted and moderated by users.  The site has two features that I consider essential for debate; immutable posts and user moderation. Most of the site is dedicated to uncontroversial topics (example). These topics are organized if a fairly straightforward “Best Article at the Top” format.

Things get more interesting with their debate topics (example). On these topics the page is split down the middle with articles arguing for the proposition on one side and articles against the proposition on the other. Each side is moderated independently. The result of this design is as one would expect. The separated user moderation helps with the signal to noise ratio without resulting in noticeable shouting down. The immutable postings prevent the sort of edit warfare that we see on Wikipedia.

Yet despite all the potential I see here I must say that I am not impressed with the quality of the arguments made on this site. Many of the top arguments make outrageous or at least unproven claims as premises to their arguments. I can’t help but think that the absence of a rebuttal feature makes it possible for such claims to stand. Also, the moderation system seems to favor arguments that simply summarize many arguments in sort of a kitchen sink school of debate. These mini-arguments almost never back up their premises.

I also can’t help but think that the financial incentives (writers of top articles get a share of the ad revenue) put into the site has a corrupting effect on the moderation system. This is simply a sinking feeling that I cannot prove. However, credibility is hard to come by on the Internet and I can’t imagine nobody else will get the same impression.

February 27, 2008 at 10:50 pm Leave a comment

Lost Theories

As one of those condescending yuppies who doesn’t have a TV I’m at a loss to do any thoughtful analysis on this clever user moderated site about the TV show Lost. This is a shame because it has some unique properties. I can’t make sense of any of the content (which I’m told is an experience not too different from watching the show) or make any judgment as to its quality. I’d welcome any comments on this matter.

Most interesting is the section under the heading “debunked” for theories that have been disproved in some way. The mechanism to flagging something “debunked” appears to be from receiving a certain amount of “debunked” flags from readers. I’d be interested to know if there were theories the have been marked “debunked” yet a group of users continued to argue for it.

Will pop culture forums will lead us into the promised land of auto-moderated debate? If the ancient Kirk vs. Picard debate is ever resolved then stem cell research and global warming certainly can’t be far behind. Probably best not to hold our breaths though.

Thanks to Jeremiah Hansen making this odd connection.

February 23, 2008 at 6:46 pm Leave a comment

Wikipedias Most Pointless Edit Wars

You have to love the collective self-deprecating humor you find in some internet communities. The contributors to Wikipedia seem to have that quality and it is exemplified perfectly in their wiki page on their Lamest Edit Wars.

I’m on record as stating that Wikis are every bit as bad as forums at handling controversial content.  What the Lamest page illustrates to me is just how little controversy is required get an one of these Edit Wars started. I know this criticism is a little unfair I guess seeing as controversy isn’t what wikis were designed for. The problem is that nothing seems to be.

February 20, 2008 at 7:21 pm Leave a comment

The Index of Creationist Claims

The Index of Creationist Claims is a great site that demonstrates how useful it is to link arguments directly to rebuttals in a large repository. The Index is well organized and exhaustive. It’s a shame that systems don’t exist where the Creationist side could participate more directly. The site will always be vulnerable to the criticism that the Creationist arguments it rebuts are either out of date or straw man arguments.

One could argue the Index disproves one of my major premises, that forums are terrible for debate, seeing as the source for most of the content in the Index comes from the Talk.Origins newsgroup. I have four points in response to this criticism:

  1. Talk.Origins has been around since the 1986,. the Triassic by Internet time. Even with the classic signal to noise ratio of forums you can still manage to generate a body of useful content in that much time.
  2. The users on Talk.Origins though it was a good idea to create the index. Thus demonstrating that they weren’t completely satisfied with the forum system.
  3. Talk.Origins is hardly accessible to everyone. It’s 80,000+ posts are practically dark matter to search engines or browsing were it not for the Index.
  4. The index is an anomaly and probably couldn’t scale to more mundane controversies. The passion of its participants makes it work.

February 16, 2008 at 3:01 am Leave a comment


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