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Debatepedia:About

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Mission

Debatepedia is a wiki encyclopedia of debates, arguments, and supporting quotations. Its mission is to become "the Wikipedia of debates". It is a place where we can all work together as editors, via the same wiki technology driving Wikipedia, to frame the arguments in public debates that we all need to think through.
These are debates in our neighborhoods, cities, states and provinces, nations, and in an increasingly interconnected world. These are debates that we care deeply about because they matter to our lives, our neighbor's lives, and the lives of our children and the societies they inherit. Some of these debates are relevant to whether people live or die in wars or in our own societies. We need to take these debates seriously, and approach them with a fiercely critical eye. We need to fully weigh every pro and con within them, fully deliberate, take rational positions, and take action with conviction in our beliefs. Don't be complacent in your beliefs! Understand why you believe what you do and be ready to defend yourself. Debatepedia helps you do this. It helps you frame all the arguments and all the scholarly quotes in debates you care about in a simple pro/con "logic tree" structure so that you can fully deliberate, take a stand, take action, and defend yourself.

The problem is that this is currently far too difficult to do. Arguments, evidence, and quotes (important to our deliberations) are scattered across the web, newspapers, magazines, journals, and books. We, subsequently, cannot view this information in one place, where we can understand opposing arguments in one sitting, and deliberate through them toward a confident conclusion. Debatepedia solves this problem with the combination of a proven "logic tree" methodology and the wiki technology that allows masses of citizen-editors like you to collaborate on scale. Like with Wikipedia, our collective efforts will produce the greatest encyclopedia of debates and arguments the world has ever seen. Think of how "the Wikipedia of debate" would change the world and the way we think through the difficult challenges we face in the twenty first century. Join this community as an editor to help advance this mission, learn and fortify your beliefs, and help apply the lessons of Wikipedia to the realm of reason.

History

If one looks far back to the Socratic Dialectic and other ancient demonstrations of oppositional argumentation, then the presentation of debates as an educational tool has a history far wider than that of Debatepedia. Indeed, the iconic words of Bernard de Chartres, “standing on the shoulders of giants,” which echo through Sir Isaac Newton, is a suitable axiom for our times, the age of Wiki, when Wikipedia, the Internet, and multimedia sources of information provide average users with an electronic cornucopia of knowledge. Placing wider connections aside, without dismissing their intellectual value, Debatepedia’s developmental history merges the efforts of innovators from Georgetown University (in 2006) and the International Debate Education Association (IDEA) (in 1999 and 2007).

Georgetown’s Answer: While attempting to answer how “open-source” technology (the basis of Linux, Firefox, and Wikipedia) can be applied to debate and analysis, Georgetown graduate, Brooks Lindsay, and undergraduate student, William Wnekowicz, founded Debatepedia in the summer of 2006. A larger group of students and professors aided the development of Debatepedia, and, by the winter of 2006, the Georgetown team arrived at a working model based upon three foundational assumptions: (1) That unique arguments can be isolated and presented in an encyclopedia form. (2) That a wiki community can come to a consensus on rules designed to help regulate the presentation of these unique arguments. (3) That split-screen/question/subquestion "logic tree" method is ideal for framing debates, and that it is compatible with "wiki" technology.

Upon its launch in the summer of 2006, Debatepedia became a successful online resource, attracting users who were interested in provocative, timely, and well-researched arguments. Based on this success, the founders of Debatepedia incorporated Debatemedia Inc. in April 2007. Debatemedia Inc. was set to house both Debatepedia as well as parallel projects and software sales and services, based on its "logic tree" software (a "mashup" of MediaWiki software). At the same time, however, Debatemedia Inc. began meeting with the 501c3 non-profit the International Debate Education Association (IDEA), which espoused a similar commitment to the educational power of debate and argumentation. Their commitment to the mission underlying Debatepedia set the stage for a merger of Debatepedia under the International Education Association in the Summer of 2007.

IDEA’s Commitment: Established in 1999 to coordinate debate programs initiated by The Open Society Institute (OSI), the International Debate Education Association (IDEA) functions as a membership organization for debate clubs around the world that are interested in promoting cross-cultural understanding and democratic values globally, while engaging in topical discussions and active citizenship locally.

In May of 1999, IDEA’s commitment to the development and provision of debate and debate-related resources led to the creation of Debatabase ([1]). A precursor to the style of Debatemedia's Debatepedia and a bridge to the style of the older Pros and Cons series, Debatabase contains hundreds of topics, each with basic arguments for and against a controversial proposition, listed in adjacent affirmative and negative columns, much like the current Debatepedia style of adjacent Pro/Con columns. Debatabase's Commissioning Editor Alastair Endersby was a contributor to Pros and Cons: A Debater's Handbook, 18th Edition (ed. Sather, Routledge, 1999), a popular debate series, first published in 1896, with recent editions available from Routledge, at [2].

In the fall of 2006, through the efforts of Marjan Stojnev, Noel Selegzi, and Dalbir S. Sehmby, amongst others, IDEA began developing IDEAWiki, an online encyclomedia of educational debate and effective argumentation. In honour of Black History Month, IDEAWiki was officially launched in February of 2007, providing diverse articles on the history, terminology, and tools required by those committed to excellence in the field of critical thinking, communicating, debating, and upholding the democratic decision-making process.

The New Debatepedia: Open-Source for an Open Society: During the summer of 2007, Debatepedia began a merger with IDEA’s resources (such as IDEAWiki and Debatabase), in order to create one powerful online resource, the new Debatepedia. In essence, the new Debatepedia has three precursor's, Debatemedia Inc's Debatepedia (2006), IDEA's Debatabase (1999), and IDEAWiki (2007). Pooling their resources, the current international team of developers includes the original players from Georgetown (Brooks Lindsay and William Wnekowicz) and IDEAWiki (Marjan Stojnev, Noel Selegzi, and Dalbir S. Sehmby), while also adding the expertise of several newer team members. Most importantly, being a Wiki, Debatepedia also includes one other vital member on its development team: you.

Contributing and Editing on Debatepedia

Editors can do the following on Debatepedia:

  • Create new debate articles ("Yes"/"No" questions) on areas of interest.
  • Write argument summaries in debate articles.
  • Create evidence pages for specific arguments, and add supporting evidence endlessly in the form of facts, quotes, links to supporting articles, and more.
  • Write and re-arrange subquestions within debates.
  • Write descriptive pages on Debatepedia regarding debating methods, styles, history and more.

You can take ownership over everything on Debatepedia and edit anything, so long as your efforts can be argued as improving the resource and abiding by the Debatepedia editing policies and standards. We encourage you to be bold in joining in this cooperative effort, and to help develop quality articles on interest-areas of your choice and specialty. If this is your intention, please take a close look at the editing guide. We want Debatepedia to mirror the eclectic and energetic minds of its contributors, so please contribute your voice to this international educational encyclopedia. One need not fear accidentally damaging Debatepedia when adding or improving content on the site because other editors are always around to advise or correct obvious errors, and Debatepedia's software, known as MediaWiki, is carefully designed to allow easy reversal of editorial mistakes.

Debatepedia differs substantially from a paper-based reference source in important ways. Because all articles are user-generated and open to continued modification, articles can constantly be improved and updated by users. No article is ever considered definitely finalized, as new arguments, more refined language, or new pieces of information can always be presented. This is the philosophy that has lead to the always-improving utility of Wikipedia. It is also important to be aware that this generally means that older articles tend to be more comprehensive and balanced, while newer articles may contain no or little content and poorly conform with Debatepedia's high standards. For this reason, when reading through Debatepedia, make sure to retain a critical, and engaged eye, always looking for opportunities to click "edit" and correct errors and improve articles.

In order to edit on Debatepedia, you should first develop a good understanding of its Editing Policies. The rules all lead editors toward one objective: improving articles. Always keep this objective in mind. Debatepedia's rules do not demand neutral language from its editors in the presentation of arguments. Assertions can be made, but a variety of rules regulate the nature of that language, such as a rules demanding the dispassionate, fair, and balanced presentation of view points, and one banning clear Logical fallacies. It is also required that users cite supporting evidence to reliable sources. If the validity of evidence is challenged, and there is no citation to a reliable source, that evidence may be subject to deletion. Ultimately, users must be able to come to a consensus on what content meets Debatepedia's policies and belongs on the site, as well as what fails to meet Debatepedia's standards and does not belong on the site.

Debatepedia Editing Policies (Summary):

Main article: Debatepedia:Editing policies

Debatepedia contributors are expected to abide by and enforce the Debatepedia Guiding Principles. If a content conflict emerges in which two users disagree regarding an enforcement of these policies, an attempt should first be made to resolve the issue on the Discussion Page. If that does not occur, one of the parties should issue a complaint to Debatepedia Administrators, who will then arbitrate with finality based on their interpretation of the principles as they apply to the case.

  1. Articles must be encyclopedic - Debatepedia editors are involved in building a encyclopedia of debates, arguments, positions, and debate-related materials and information. Articles and content should give readers a full, round, and concise picture of a debate and its unique pro and con arguments and stances, avoiding too much length and detail. The essential essence of a debate should be the focus of the content appearing in articles. All additional content should be hyper-linked.
  2. Pro and con arguments on Debatepedia must follow the basic rules of argument structure and logical consistency: Editors (you) must present and isolate true arguments in the pro/con articles on Debatepedia. An argument involves a conclusion or claim (bolded) that is directly supported by premises, including such things as evidence. An argument on Debatepedia cannot contain premises tangential to the purpose of demonstrating or justifying the central conclusion or claim of the argument. Subsequently, editors are involved in separating unique arguments into, basically, isolated paragraphs. These argument paragraphs start, in the first "bolded" sentence, with the conclusion or summary of the unique argument. The rest of an argument paragraph is reserved for justifications for that specific conclusion or claim.
  3. Debatepedia only allows for arguments that can muster legitimate supporting evidence, derived from reliable sources: While their is no requirement or assurances on Debatepedia that an argument's conclusions are "true", it is required that supporting evidence be derived from and/or cited to reliable published sources. This policy is adopted from Wikipedia.[3] There is no need for a citation if a premise or argument is unlikely to be challenged or is axiomatic. Citing can be done easily on Debatepedia simply by cutting and pasting a url onto the Debatepedia editing page with a single bracket sandwiching the url on either side. The basic criteria for determining whether a published source is a reliable published source is the credibility of the editorial process involved in the publishing of materials (guidelines below).
  4. Arguments can be written with assertive and partial language, although the language must remain sober and dispassionate: Wikipedia demands that its content maintain neutral language (NPOV), Debatepedia has a more flexible policy. The purpose is to allow arguments to be presented in their natural, partial, assertive form.
  5. The ultimate goal of any given article is to achieve a fair and balanced presentation of view points.
  6. Argument pages should be created as a destination for the expansive presentation of supporting evidence on Debatepedia: Argument pages are a VERY important innovation and feature on Debatepedia.
  7. Debate questions and subquestions must use neutral language that gives no favor to either side of the debate: The main questions and subquestions of debates are important starting points for pro/con analysis. As such, they "sit on the fence", and must be presented neutrally, and without any language that could be interpreted as "loaded" or giving an advantage to either the pro or con side of a debate.
  8. Consensus must be formed around the acceptability of content on Debatepedia: - As a wiki, all content must be arrived at by consensus. While we may not be able to agree on the "truth" or validity of certain arguments, we can agree on the abidance of content on Debatepedia with Debatepedia's policies.

See Also

  • Debate in the Neighborhood Manual: Teaches youth (especially from disadvantaged backgrounds or environments) the empowering skills of debate and argumentation.
  • DebateTracker: International, online point system for debaters, coaches, and clubs. Registered users earn points for the various debate activities they are involved in. These points are used to earn various rewards. http://www.idebate.org/user_login.php
  • Discovering the World through Debate: An international handbook on the basics of argumentation, with a particular focus on Karl Popper debate, and debate in an international setting.
  • Educational debate: The direct use of debate as a means for skills-based education, employing and developing critical thinking, analysis, public speaking, and effective communication abilities.
  • European Youth Speak: An international forum focused on enhancing the voice of youth and the power of youth educators in Europe for the future development of Europe.
  • Hall of Fame: An online initiative to nominate and celebrate important and innovative people from the past who used debate to improve society.
  • IDEA Encyclomedia: An online multi-media resource focused on debate:http://www.idebate.org/portal/. Includes IDEA Radio, an online audio forum for youth citizen journalism, located at http://www.idebate.org/idearadio/
  • IDEA Youth Forum: The annual IDEA summer youth forum, which consists of three major parts. First, the foundation of the event is debate education, providing new and experienced debaters with the opportunity to engage with international trainers on the forum's tournament topics, debate/argumentation theory, and effective debate skills. Second, the forum is also the site of one of the world's largest debate tournaments for national teams, the Karl Popper World Championship. Finally, the forum is home to an innovation in global debate tournaments, the Mixed Team Championship. The Mixed Team Tournament makes use of debate as not only as an educational tool, but also as a means for cross-cultural cooperation.
  • Idea Houses: A program for developing centers where community members, especially youth, can gather to learn about debate, civic participation, and community building.
  • Idebate: An international magazine on debate and advocacy around the world: http://www.idebate.org/resources/publications/idebate_magazine.php?magazineID=1

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