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Archive for May, 2008

More Accurate Scoring  

We just implemented a completely new algorithm to make the debate scoring system more accurate and more transparent.  When you add an argument you will now have the opportunity to explicitly identify the side where you’d like your argument’s votes to be allocated.

To make it as user-friendly as possible, CreateDebate will do its best to predict which view you support but the final call is up to you.  If you realize that you need to change where the points are being allocated, you can just edit your argument and switch it up (so as long as nobody else has voted or replied already).

Thanks for continuing to share your thoughts & suggestions!  As always, we’d love to hear what you think of this new improvement.

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Written by Loudacris

May 31st, 2008 at 5:05 pm

The Waterfall  

We’re happy to introduce another cool new feature: The Waterfall.  The Waterfall gives you an easy way to find the newest arguments that have just been posted to CreateDebate, looking across every debate.  We think you’ll find The Waterfall to be a great all-purpose landing page since it serves up all of the newest content on a silver platter.  We have also whipped up a new RSS feed that can deliver The Waterfall directly to your favorite reader.  For more information about the RSS feed you can read this.

Keep sending us your feedback!  What do you think of The Waterfall?

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Written by Loudacris

May 28th, 2008 at 9:21 pm

New & Improved Voting  

Just rolled out a much needed feature that I hope you’ll all enjoy!  Finally, the voting buttons have a brain.  Throughout the entire site you’ll now be able to see which arguments you’ve already voted on (and how you voted).  Feel free to change your up/down vote for any argument as much as you’d like.  If you’d like to retract your vote, you can do that too.

Thanks for all of your feedback.  In the next couple of weeks we’ll be dropping a bunch of new features that will address many of your comments.  As always, we’re looking to you for your thoughts on how CreateDebate should work, so keep sending us your ideas & suggestions!

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Written by Loudacris

May 22nd, 2008 at 6:51 pm

How to spot weak arguments  

When you’re debating, you’ll come up against many styles of arguing, based on all different levels of arguing.   If you’re in the debate to win, you’ll have to spot the flaws in opposing arguments and point them out, or exploit them like a weak spot.  Sometimes it’s as easy as listening for fuzzy words.  Here are some words and phrases that are easy indications of flaws: 

many, all, a lot, every, none, nobody, much, more – Solid arguments use actual numbers with references to their source.   These words can indicate implied statistics that show the debater is making up a fact rather than working off real data. Example: “Many Christians disagree”

never, always, usually, tend, trend – These may be blanket statements that imply cause and effect, or assumptions about overall responses and opinions that don’t hold up under scrutiny. Example: “the rich have always been getting richer”

I, I don’t think, I believe – including yourself in the argument can indicate thinking personal experience equals the overall trend. If the debate is not a poll or about individual views, this can be Hasty Generalization.  Here are some examples from CreateDebate:  From: Should the US have seatbelt laws?  Someone who manages to use words from two categories:”I always choose to wear one”  From: Man vs. Elephant : can you escape?“I am much more shifty than an elephant and would be able to escape if ONE was chasing me in a large field by cutting and weaving.”and one rebuttal that found the critical flaw:”Elephants charge at up to 25mph. Way faster than you can run…”

So next time you’re arguing with friends or proving your point in an online debate, listen in for these hints for weak arguments and when you make your response make it stronger by avoiding the same flaws.

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Written by Dan

May 14th, 2008 at 6:48 pm

Sort By New Activity  

CreateDebate Right Side MenuOne of the basic premises of CreateDebate is that it must be simple to find the debates that interest you. This is why we’ve spent so much time building the main Browse Debates view. We have always let you sort the debates (and your search results) in a number of ways. If you haven’t tried it already, go ahead and play around with the sorting options on the right side menu: you can pivot the debates in many ways. You can also sort within specific categories (sports, entertainment, politics, etc).

Today, we are happy to announce the addition of the New Activity sorting option. This algorithm allows you to see which debates have had new arguments added recently. This sorting option adds a “traditional forum” feeling to CreateDebate because the debates with the newest posts are bumped to the top. Using this sorting option is a great way to discover upcoming debates that were recently created but haven’t yet built the head-of-steam needed to become heated. It is also a great way to a rediscover older debates that have fallen of the Most Heated page but are still getting lots of attention and participation.

What do you think? We always love to hear your feedback!

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Written by Loudacris

May 8th, 2008 at 7:01 am

Listening to Customers is Hard, Hard, Hard  

I just finished reading a great article, written by Albert Wenger at his Continuations blog. Albert is a partner at Union Square Ventures and I’ve found his writings to be concise (always appreciated) and meaningful. Last week, he wrote about the importance and difficulty of listening to your customers. More food-for-thought than advice, the article throws out three questions and some common problems associated with each.

As we continue to build CreateDebate into a business, we have frequently found ourselves addressing these same questions. In the spirit of transparency, I thought I would take a crack at answering Albert’s questions from the current perspectives of the CreateDebate team.

Which customers should we listen to?

This question should probably read: Should we listen to our early-adopters or should we listen to what we believe to be our “mainstream” customers? We are about 1 week into our public beta and, fortunately, we already have a nice stable of committed early-adopters that have found real utility in using CreateDebate. We are thrilled about this and we are committed to rewarding our early-adopters with a feature set that over delivers on their requests. At the same time, however, we must remain fully-focused on building CreateDebate into a highly scalable decision-making tool that is capable of providing significant value to paying customers.

Paying Customers? Don’t worry, we’ll never charge you to use CreateDebate.com. Rather, at some point in the near future, we do expect to charge licensing fees in exchange for private use of the CreateDebate application software. We have already been contacted by several enterprise & governmental organizations interested in deploying our software and we think this business model has a significant amount of promise.

At the end of the day, the answer to this question isn’t as tricky as it seems. First and foremost, we are dedicated to building CreateDebate into a community. To be successful, we must embrace our early adopters and their new feature requests. We always discuss new feature requests as a team and do our best to prioritize and temper those requests against our vision of the “mainstream” customer. In a nutshell, our strategy is to grow our community by continually improving our software. By doing so, it is our hope that the CreateDebate application will become a powerful decision-making software package worth paying for.

How should we listen to our customers?

We get a lot of critical feedback and suggestions via email. At this stage in the game, virtually every email that we receive prompts a personal response. We alway log the comments and do our best to group and prioritize them. The problem with email feedback, though, is that it sometimes proves difficult to accurately deduce exactly what our community really needs, as opposed to what a small, vocal subset of our community thinks that it wants.

In light of this contradiction, our preferred forum for listening to our customers has become the website itself. Last week, one of the most popular debates on CreateDebate focused on the new features that people would like to see incorporated the site. The debate spurred lots of arguments and votes and gave us a much better perspective on the new features that our community needs. As a result, we went to work and delivered a bunch of new features over the weekend, including:

  • A new way to sort the arguments within a debate (“Sort By Newest”)
  • A better way to catch up on new activity (“New Activity Quick Glance”)
  • Permalinks for each argument to facilitate more sharing
  • RSS feeds for the Most Heated and Newest debates
  • A more secure Address Book

How should we reconcile listening to our customers with our strategy?

Our goal is to build an incredibly useful tool that will help groups of people to sort through issues, viewpoints and opinions so that better decisions can be made. I’ve already noted that our strategy is to grow our community by continually improving our software. This is a strategy that we fully believe in and are committed to following. To that end, we are dedicated to making listening to customers a priority and constant process as opposed to a one off exercise.

As far as the reconciliation process goes, I’m afraid that we haven’t yet fully figured it out. The good news, however, is that we are aware of the importance of the task at hand. I fully expect this year to be full of twists and turns as our community grows and our software becomes more sophisticated. Most of all, I hope that you will stay around to help us grow and let us know what we are doing right (and not-so-right). If you have feedback, please share!

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Written by Loudacris

May 5th, 2008 at 5:27 pm

Debate RSS Feeds  

We’ve been thinking about the feature suggestions everyone mentioned in the debate about What features should be added to CreateDebate. Loudacris already let everyone know that we added the date view to debates to view arguments arranged by date as well as the point view. This should make it easier to follow the logical flow of a debate, and to see what arguments might have influenced responses.

The second new feature from the feature requests is RSS feeds of the most recent debates and most heated debates, so you can keep track of the online debates on CreateDebate in your favorite RSS Reader. The About RSS page has the list of feeds we have set up, and more information about how to subscribe to RSS feeds. We’re still working on more of the features mentioned, so stay tuned.

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Written by Dan

May 5th, 2008 at 12:32 pm