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Debatepedia User Guide

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This guide will help you begin "clarifying public debates globally". Keep in mind, though, we learn by doing in this community, so jump in and start editing - we'll help you along.

Log in / create account

Click on the "log in / create account" button in the upper-right of your screen and enter your basic information. We encourage you to use your real name as your "user name". You can create a short bio on your user page so that other users can get to know you and communicate with you on your talk page.

Editing / jumping in

Once you're registered and signed in, click the "edit" tab or the "edit/pencil" buttons on any page and go for it. The important thing is that you just start editing and giving it a whirl. You'll make mistakes. But, that's completely fine. You'll learn by doing, and other editors will see your edits on recent changes and be able to help you out.

Editing with the mission in mind

Debatepedia's mission is to "clarify public debates globally" and act as an encyclopedia of pro and con arguments and quotations. This means that, in any given article you are editing, your primary objective is to document or outline every pro and con argument and all supporting quotations from leaders, authors, experts, columnists, op-ed writers, etc. You can also "make" original arguments and counter-arguments. We encourage this. But, remember, the idea is to "document" or "outline" lines of argumentation, not to "express" your "personal opinion" or personal anecdotal stories or research. Abortion, Single-payer universal health care, Animal testing are all pretty good models of this mission-focused editing.

Writing "feature quality" debate articles

Debatepedia editors are tasked with clarify public debates by moving pro/con articles to feature quality status. These are articles where nearly all the core arguments and supporting quotations are clearly and fairly presented.

The name of the game is reading as many pro and con articles, editorials, commentaries, essays, books, speeches etc... as you can, drawing arguments and quotations from them, and documenting or summarizing them in the pro/con article you are working on. Do this for the top 10 pro and con sources in a debate, and your article will probably be full of nearly all the unique pros and cons and will qualify to be "featured" on the main page. You can do this in a structured way by creating a "pro/con sources" section at the bottom of the debate article you are working on. Here's a good example of what this looks like.

Rewards/awards for good editorial work

Editors that create feature articles are rewarded by being featured with their article on Debatepedia's main page. They also receive a barnstar award on their users page (this can be awarded for other good editorial deeds as well). And, they are given administrator status and editorial privileges that allow them to, for example, move and delete articles and regulate and block misbehaving editors.

Editing policies

Feature articles (and editors themselves) must abide by Debatepedia's editing policies. These policies include:

  • Uphold the mission. The mission is to "clarify public debates globally". We are doing this by creating an encyclopedia of debates, arguments, and quotations. All edits must advance this mission.
  • Fair and balanced articles. As an encyclopedia, the ultimate goal is to achieve a fair and balanced presentation of a debate, its arguments, and the supporting evidence (quotes, articles, links) within.
  • Referencing. All facts and quotes must be appropriate cited and referenced.
  • Arguments must be logically consistent. Arguments must follow basic laws of logical consistency and validity.

If an editor violates these policies, you can modify their edits so that they fit within the policies.

Creating debate pages

Log in. Search for a debate topic in the search box in the upper left. If it doesn't exist yet, you can automatically create a new debate article by clicking on "Create a new debate page along with the pro/con 'logic tree' structure." Congratulations, you've created a new debate article. But, make sure that the words you use in your search are what you want to be the title of your new debate page... (ie. "Death penalty"). After creating your article, click edit and write a "yes/no" question that encapsulates the debate. Do so where it says "write main question here". Make sure to leave all the surrounding code untouched.

Writing pro and con arguments

Arguments are the basic units of a debate. You must know how to write good arguments and in Debatepedia's simple format. Here is what a good argument looks like on Debatepedia:

  • Offering drivers licenses to illegal immigrants will make roads safer in the US With millions of illegal immigrants lacking drivers licenses, there are millions of drivers on the road who have not taken a driver's license test and who probably do not know the traffic safety laws. Issuing driver's licenses to illegal aliens and requiring that they take a driving test would help resolve this safety hazard.

Or, you could use a supporting quotation to summarize the argument, making it look like this:

Key features of this model argument:

  • A bullet point - for visual reasons.
  • Argument title - a one sentence title or header for the argument. It must be very, very short - no more than 8 words - taking up no more than a single line on the pro or con side of a debate.
  • Argument summary - follows the argument "title" and flushes out the argument. Generally three to five sentences.
  • Or, summarizing quotation - a quotation from a leader, expert, columnist etc. that summarizes an argument. Can exist in place of an argument summary.
  • Link to an argument page - links to a separate argument page where all supporting quotations for the argument can be presented. (see below)

Creating argument pages

You can create argument pages very easily simply by putting "[[ ]]" around the argument title you've created on the debate page. Once you do this, and click save, you'll see that your argument title is red. Click on it and you will be taken to a the argument page, where you can expand the argument and document quotations that make the argument. See the above argument-page examples to get a sense of what this looks like.

BUT, we like to preface the title on these argument pages with "Argument:". So, actually, it is best to write your argument title in the debate page as '''[[Argument: Offering drivers licenses to illegal immigrants will make roads safer in the US| Offering drivers licenses to illegal immigrants will make roads safer in the US]]''' But, if you don't do this, you can also "move" (a tab at the top) to, for example, "Argument: Offering drivers licenses to illegal immigrants will make roads safer in the US"

See main article on this: Debatepedia:Argument pages

Manipulating the pro/con structure in debate articles

Debate pages on Debatepedia are based on a unique pro/con "logic tree" structure. We've created software to manipulate this structure. In our structure, debates start with a main "yes"/"no" question. The pros follow on the left and the cons on the right. Subdebate sections help break long list of pros and cons into clear argument-counterargument subsections. Our software allows you to manipulate this structure:

  • Shift up or down subdebate sections and their contents (arrow icons): This is important for structuring: moving around the subquestion, sub-debate sections so that the "logical" flow of a debate is maintained. Typically, the most important sub-debates within a larger debate should appear at the top.
  • Insert new subquestion sections (box icon): Because there are varying numbers of sub-debates within a debate, users must be able to add new subquestions sections. The box icon allows for this.
  • Delete old or unneeded subquestions (red icon): Users must also be able to delete old subquestion section shells that are no longer needed.

WARNING: Be aware of wiki code for pro/con structure

Debate pages have table code that creates the pro/con structure of these pages. Do not delete or alter this code. If you click on the editing pencil for the "yes" box, for example, you will see the table code for the "no" box on that page. Make sure to add content for the "yes" box above this table code. If you write content below this code, the content will actually appear in the "no" box.

Referencing and quoting styles - MLA

Referencing and quoting are very common and important on Debatepedia. We are generally using MLA style for this, but Debatepedia is flexible to other ways of introducing a supporting quotation when it is more natural and useful to the readers. Generally, when quoting from an article published in a newspaper or journal, the style is: Sam Gomez. "Should illegal immigrants be granted Driver Licenses in New York State?" Clarkson Integrator. 12 Dec. 2007 - "The last real benefit of the policy change is the most obvious; safer streets. We all remember taking driver ed, the signs, parallel parking, three point turns, the works. Obviously, people who do not have to pass that rigorous rite of passage known as 'the driving test' aren't going to be well equipped to handle driving on congested roads. Not knowing the rules of the road aside, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that unlicensed drivers are five times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident than validly licensed drivers. Clearly, safer roads would also be good for everybody."

But, there are many instances in which a more flexible approach is appropriate. If a famous person said a quote, you could do the following:

Albert Schweitzer - "It is the fate of every truth to be an object of ridicule when it is first acclaimed."[1]

It's also OK, if you really just don't want to be formal about it all, to just do whatever system works for you in quoting and referencing. As long as you are being productive on Debatepedia and adding valuable content, people will appreciate your work.

Using browser tabs in your researching/writing

The best logistical approach to researching and writing on Debatepedia is to utilize three primary tabs on your web browse. Use the first as your primary Debatepedia editing screen. Use the second as your pro/con resources tab, from which you can go through a list (that you or others have created) of pro and con articles to draw arguments and quotations from. Use your third and subsequent fourth and fifth tabs for reading actual articles. It's useful to keep your second tab on the pro/con resources section, and actually in the editing window of the section so that you can copy and paste article information (url, author, title...) to introduce quotes.

Communicating with other members of the community

We encourage you to communicate with other members of the community by writing comments, questions, requests on the community forum, the talk pages of articles, or to the user talk pages of other members.

We also encourage you to communicate directly with Brooks Lindsay the founder and chief editor of Debatepedia. You can write him at his email: brooks [at] debatepedia [dot] org.

Navigating Debatepedia

Everything on Debatepedia can be accessed through the main page or the "navigation" box in the upper left part of the screen as well as the toolbar on the upper right part of the screen.

Posting videos

See also

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