Internet Needs A Place for Debates

July 03 2015

TL : DR : online debate almost always goes wrong. This is not a small issue and I think there is some solutions.

- Why the fuck should I care about online debates ?

As Elon Musk said, Internet is like « the humanity’s nervous system ».
More and more, the decisions taken together will be discussed on the Internet. People will consult Internet to make their minds on gay mariage, nuclear power plants or [Insert an issue you care about here].
So, the way we manage debates on the Internet matters a lot, and its influence will only increase.

- Ok, and what is the problem with online debates actually ?

There is lots of problems.

First, it is rare when the conversation stays on the initial topic. If you’re familiar with reading forums, you probably know about the « Godwin Point ». It is when an online conversation goes so wrong that somebody talks about Hitler/Nazis. I’ve seen Godwin Points on subjects like « Is windows better than Linux ? ». Throught pages and pages of conversation, people totally forget about the initial question and the debate goes nuts.

Second, personnal attacks. When somebody holds an opposite view, the easiest way is to attack him. If you want to see this, just watch anything on Youtube and read the comments. One quarter is personnal attacks, an other quarter is….

Third, correcting spelling mistakes. When you are searching for relevant information, they are just noise.

Four, Trolls. An online conversation is very slippery by itself without people making fun of destabilize it.

Fifth, we always find the same points ! On gay mariage, for example, people will always have the same debate without any deepening in the subject.


- What solutions is there to enhance the level ?

I believe all these issues are problems of bad structure. The forum framework, with people talking one after another, is not fitted for debates. People tend to respond to each other but, with a hundred people, it cannot work at all.

Look at popular websites like Twitter, Quora or Stack Overflow. These websites are successful because they changed the structure of the conversation. Great containing attracts great content.

- What would be a good structure ?

I think the question should always be visible so people would stick more with it. The question should be as precise as possible.

Then, there is two columns : "yes" or "no". People are making points on one category or the other. Then, there is a system of votes for displaying the "best" arguments on the top of each column. This way, best arguments are always visible. There could be a characters' number limit, like in twitter, for readability.

This idea needs to be developped and I have a lot more to say about it.

I would love to have your feedbacks on it :
Do you think this is a good idea ? Could it be a great website ? Would you use something like this ?

Thanks for reading me !

P.S : I'm a young (future) engineer of a unique school (the ENSC) in Bordeaux, France.
It is a great city and a great school. If you are near, feel free to send me a message ! :-)

Mathieu Galle
[email protected]
Bordeaux, France

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