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Archive for October, 2008

Karma Bombing and dealing with Trolls  

Recently on CreateDebate, we had a situation where a user, instead of attacking users’ arguments with logic and good rebuttals, decided it would be easier to try to karma bomb people they disagreed with.  They could have responded to specific points the users made, but instead went into the user’s post history and voted down almost 800 arguments of two users.

One of the statistics we use to judge the strength of a debater is the efficiency percent.  We calculate this by dividing your number of positive votes by the total number of votes.  Essentially, it shows if people think your arguments are solid, use good supporting evidence, and are well reasoned.  A recent look at some negatively scored arguments shows personal attacks, opinion without any reasoning behind it, and a few racist remarks.  The vote attack made the victim’s efficiency drop to the point that they looked like they were debating with the logic of a raving fanatic.

Any site that allows open debate or open posting where anyone can easily sign up and start putting their opinion online will inevitably get a few trolls.  Some sites deal with the problem by using moderators who vet every posting before they become visible on a site.  Some sites use moderators who watch and remove troll posts.  A more democratic version of the moderating system is to let everyone become a moderator, which is the system we’ve gone with.  Aside from showing which arguments are the best in a debate, the argument voting system allows people to vote down arguments by the trolls until they’re no longer visible, essentially making everyone a moderator.

The karma bomb we recently saw is a reflection of people using their power as a moderator to personally attack another user.  So in addition to rolling back the massive amount of downvotes, we put in place a system that watches for karma bombs like this one.  If a large number of votes are going to attack or artificially inflate people’s points, the vote system enforces a cool-down period.  The cool-down period should guide people instead to rebut arguments with well-developed arguments.

From watching the growth and evolution of many other websites who try to tackle the problem of trolls, it’s a constant battle between the “griefers” and the community.  Wikipedia, digg, reddit, mixx, facebook, myspace, and plenty of other social sites all have their own system for dealing with the problem, but it the more well developed sites all rely on the community to watch itself for trolls. We’re toying with some ideas from these sites, like how digg lets you see who voted on your arguments, or how twitter allows you to block users from showing up in your version of the site.  At the same time we need protection from trolls, we also don’t want to lose the core democratic debate process, where everyone has a say.

We’re constantly trying to make the debate experience better at CreateDebate, so let us know if the karma bomb protection is as annoying as airport security, and if you think it needs to be tweaked, or if it’s unobtrusive enough that the benefits we all get make it worth the effort.  We’re still thinking through changes to our overall points system, but this system should work in the meantime.  And as always, let us know what you think, either through site messages, or by using the feedback page.

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Written by Dan

October 15th, 2008 at 11:18 pm

Election Book Giveaway Contest  

With 3 weeks to go until the election, we’re happy to announce that we’ve teamed up with The Hachette Book Group to offer eleven great Election related books to our most active users.  We will be giving away all 11 of the following books to the 5 CreateDebate user’s who accumulate the most points from October 14th through November 4th.  Per Hachette, this contest is only available for people located in the US and Canada (no PO Boxes please). Each winner will receive one copy of ALL 11 books! (Audio books available instead as a prize where listed.)

  1. Mike’s Election Guide By Michael Moore
  2. It’s a great year to be an American and a voter. Don’t miss out on MIKE’S ELECTION GUIDE – the indispensable book that belongs in every American’s back pocket this season.- Also available as audio book  ISBN: 97804465462702.

  3. The Preacher and the Presidents By Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy.
  4. Reveals how the world’s most powerful men and world’s most famous evangelist, Billy Graham, knit faith and politics together.- Also available as audio book. ISBN: 97815999510413.

  5. Hard Call By John McCain.
  6. In Hard Call, acclaimed authors John McCain and Mark Salter describe the anatomy of great decisions in history by telling the remarkable stories of men and women who have exemplified composure, wisdom, and intellect in the face of life’s toughest decisions.- Also available as audio book.  ISBN: 97804466991124.

  7. The American Journey of Barack Obama By The Editors of Life Magazine
  8. Covers the candidate Barack Obama from his childhood and adolescence to his time as editor of The Harvard Law Review and his Chicago activist years, culminating with the excitement and fervor of the historic 2008 Democratic National Convention.  ISBN: 97803160456055.

  9. Goodnight Bush By Erich Origen and Gan Golan.
  10. A hilarious and poignant visual requiem for the Bush administration.  ISBN: 97803160404196.

  11. Takeover By Charlie Savage
  12. Takeover tells the story of how a group of true believers, led by VP Cheney, set out to establish near-monarchical executive powers that, in the words of one conservative critic, “will lie around like a loaded weapon” for any future president.  ISBN: 97803161180577.

  13. Her Way By Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta Jr.
  14. The first truly balanced investigation into the life and career of Hillary Rodham Clinton, Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta Jr.’s masterful biography.- Also available as audio book.  ISBN: 97803160174358.

  15. Dream in Color By Congresswoman Linda Sánchez and Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez.
  16. Often considered Congress’s Odd Couple, these warm witty sisters are not only perfect role models for young Latinas in the US, but for all young women looking to break out and create a brighter future for themselves.  ISBN: 97804465080499.

  17. From Hope to Higher Ground By Mike Huckabee
  18. In his insightful and plainspoken manner, Mike Huckabee carries hope to Americans and provides practical solutions to current problems in our nation.ISBN: 978159995155310.

  19. The Revolution By Ron Paul
  20. In this book, Texas congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul provides answers to questions that few even dare to ask.  ISBN: 978044653751311.

  21. What You Should Know About Politics . . . But Don’t: A Nonpartisan Guide to the Issues By Jessamyn Conrad.
  22. The first and only issue-based nonpartisan guide to contemporary American politics.

We look forward to seeing a lot of great arguments supporting your candidates in these next three weeks before the election.


With only 11 days to go until November 4th, here is how the contest is shaping up:

Contest Leaderboard:
1   Tamisan  +181 points
2   joecavalry  +164 points
3   Kuklapolitan  +97 points
4   Inkwell  +93 points
5   andsoccer16  +67 points
6   waaykuul  +67 points
7   ThePyg  +63 points
8   kirstie1126  +45 points
9   dcool15  +34 points
10 bmountain  +29 points

Remember, only the top 5 users that accumulate the most points will receive a prize!  BTW, wouldn’t it be sweet if you could view a leaderboard like this from the front page whenever you’d like? Stay tuned!

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Written by Bryan

October 13th, 2008 at 6:15 pm

New Debate Statistics page  

To give more insight into debates and a different sort of view of the arguments people are using in debates, we put together a debate stats page.  The statistics reflect the kind of language people are using to debate their points, including word length, readability scoring of the arguments, and a word frequency cloud.

We’ve been putting up the election debates, like tonight’s Vice Presidential Debate Transcript, and the VP debate stats show that Palin used more complicated phrasing than Biden.  We’re using a standard formula to rate the grade level of the arguments called the Flesh-Kincaid Readability Grade Level formula.  It takes into account the average length of sentences and the average number of syllables in those words to determine the readability of the arguments.

Since the graph of word lengths shows that Biden and Palin used about the same length words, that means her sentences were longer overall. The stats for the Presidential Foreign Policy Debate show that the language level McCain and Obama used was more similar.  Both spoke at an 11th grade level of understandability.

As always, let us know what you think about the stats page, and any suggestions about other sorts of info you would want to know about debates you’re participating in.

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Written by Dan

October 3rd, 2008 at 1:02 am