Archive for the ‘Random Musings’ Category
Came across this cool video today that perfectly reflects the goal behind our push to get teachers using CreateDebate in the Classroom. Are you a teacher interested in using a web-based virtual learning environment to increase participation, promote critical thinking, and improve the vocabulary and persuasive writing skills of your students? Get started now!
Watched a very funny VH1 show last night that deserves a shout out. The Greate Debate is a “Best Week Ever” type show where a motley crew of pop culture comedians crack rapid fire one-liners about intense pop culture debates…and hilarity ensues.
You really have to watch the video to appreciate it.
As 2008 comes to a close, it’s time to take a step back and look at the topics, news stories, and people that consumed our thoughts and passion throughout the year on CreateDebate. 2008 was a remarkable year in every sense of the word. From the launch of CreateDebate into the wild to a historic election, global economic meltdowns, and enough social issues to debate for eternity this year will certainly go down in history. To that end, CreateDebate would like to take a nostalgic look backwards at the topics that shaped our world in 2008.
Politics was at the top of everyone’s mind in 2008, a landmark US election year which was guaranteed to make history no matter who won the Presidential race. For the first time in history, an African-American was elected as President of the United States, thanks in large part to a phenomenal grassroots campaign leveraging the power of the Internet. People on all sides of the political spectrum were passionate about their candidates and issues and leveraged CreateDebate as a platform to make their case.
- Who is going to be the next president of the United States?
- Was Gov. Sarah Palin the right choice for McCain’s VP running mate?
- Capitalism vs. Socialism: Which economic theory is better?
- Are George Bush and Tony Blair guilty of war crimes?
- Who should I vote for in the 2008 New Mexico Senate Race?
Social Issues Debates
Social issues were also top of mind for many people in 2008. Many oft-debated topics such as abortion and gun rights surfaced as hot button issues, as well as more recent social issues such as gay marriage, global warming, and stem cell research.
- Should abortion be legal?
- Should guns be banned in America?
- Should the US government fund stem cell research?
- Are humans responsible for global warming?
- How can gay marriage hurt anyone?
Religion continued to be a popular subject to debate in 2008, from the very existence of a God (or gods) to interpretations of various religious doctrines, our users debated it all in 2008.
- Do you believe in God?
- Is homosexuality a sin?
- Has evolution been scientifically proven?
- Would the world be a better place without religions?
- Jesus Christ: Fact or Fiction?
The economy was on a lot of people’s minds this year as unprecedented turbulence in the financial markets wreaked havoc throughout the world. The US government intervened in ways not seen since the Great Depression, and people throughout the world saw the values of their homes and retirement portfolios plummet. Through it all, CreateDebate was there to capture the thoughts and passion of the people.
- Should the US government bail out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?
- Outsourcing of US jobs to foreign countries: bad or good?
- Do you want Congress to approve the $700B bailout?
- Should the US remove the ban on offshore drilling?
- Is a federal sales tax more fair than the current income tax?
2008 wasn’t all serious, and people took time away from worrying about the economy and politics to engage in debate about popular culture phenomena as well. Here’s a look at some of the top less serious debates.
- What’s the best band of all time?
- Will Mac ever beat PC?
- Who will be the winner of this debate?
- Bud Light or Miller Lite?
- What’s the funniest pick up line you’ve ever heard?
Most Popular Blog Posts
The CreateDebate blog gives us a great creative outlet to discuss life at CreateDebate, tout new features that we’ve rolled out, and a soapbox to voice our thoughts on different topics that shape our world. Several of our posts caused quite a stir this year, and we hope to continue stirring the pot in the years to come.
- The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Internet Users
- How to Write Strong Arguments
- How to Spot and Destroy Weak Arguments
- Top 10 Religion Debates of All Time
- Listening to Customers is Hard, Hard, Hard
About the 2008 Most Popular Methodology
To develop the CreateDebate Year in Review, our editors analyzed debate statistics based upon a number of factors, including traffic volume, argument volume, and diversity of participation to see which themes and trends bubble to the surface.
CreateDebate is the Internet’s leading social debating community that serves to help users make better decisions by understanding various viewpoints of a given issue. The community is built around ideas, discussion, and democracy. CreateDebate provides a framework that makes compelling and meaningful debates easy to create and fun to use.
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.
No friends, the revolution will be here, online, and soon it will be coming to you in the form of CreateDebate2008.com.
Those of you who have been frequenting CreateDebate already have a feel for how these arguments are designed to stimulate critical thought, engage users, and hopefully provide a platform for useful discussion. In and of itself this is a worthwhile goal, but in the context of an election, it is that much more significant.
Unless you’ve been living in a cave somewhere, then you know that these are very, very exciting times in United States politics. But excitement comes with a bit of peril, does it not?
War, potential recession, credit crunches, and housing bubbles are just a few of the things which have U.S. citizens poised to participate. People are eager to heighten their level of engagement. Citizens are clamoring for a voice and wanting to be heard upon acquiring that voice. And this is true on every side of the political spectrum.
The internet is a major part of this rising tide. For better or for worse, print media is going the way of the dinosaurs, and that leaves us with the internet. That leaves us with an opportunity to be one of the most informed voting populaces which has ever amassed to the polls. There simply are no more excuses!
Ever since mankind has been roaming the Earth, people have been philosophizing on the role of religion in their existence and wondering if there was an “intelligent being” that put them here on this Earth. Whether it was the Christian God, the Muslim Allah, the Supreme Being of Scientology, the Flying Spaghetti Monster of Pastafarianism, or the evolution of the Atheists, people will argue until they’re blue in the face about their religion. To me, only one thing is for sure, nobody really knows what happened because none of us were there. But don’t let that get you down, there are plenty of arguments for and against all sorts of different religious beliefs. From the highly believable to the “you can’t seriously believe that, can you?” and everywhere in between, CreateDebate presents to you the top 10 Religious Debates of All Time.
10. Was Ra, the Egyptian Sun God, the father of all the Pharaohs?
Ancient Egyptians believed that Ra was the Sun God, commander of the sky, earth, and underworld. He is the most central god of the Egyptian pantheon. Most Egyptians believed that Pharaohs were the sons of Ra and erected solar temples and obelisks in his honor. However, some Egyptians did not believe that Ra created the Earth but didn’t have an appropriate outlet to vent their frustrations (especially if they preferred their heads to remain attached to their body).
9. Was Haile Sellasie I, the former Emperor of Ethiopa God incarnate?
Rastafarians believe that Haile Sellasie I is the living God incarnate, or the Messiah, who will lead the people of Africa and African diaspora to freedom. Rastafarians believe that exiled Africans will one day return to Ethiopa with the help of the Messiah to escape the oppression caused by Babylon. The Rastafarians movement was started primarily in Jamaica, although the ranks of Rastafarians throughout the world is estimated to be near 1 million strong.
8. Is Scientology a cult?
The Church of Scientology, originally founded by L. Ron Hubbard, believes “that Man is basically good, that he is seeking to survive, [and] that his survival depends on himself and upon his fellows and his attainment of brotherhood with the universe” (from Church of Scientology’s statement of beliefs). However, many people believe that this Church is a cult that was set up as a tax shelter for Hubbard’s Dianetics book profits and that is primarily intended to extract large sums of money from their celebrity cult members.
7. Was Jesus married to Mary Magdalene?
This debate was popularized by the highly successful (and highly controversial) book “The DaVinci Code” by Dan Brown. The book claims that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, had a child, and the Church covered it up through the years for self-serving reasons. While Brown has stated that the book is fiction, it has caused much debate and controversy, especially within the Roman Catholic Church.
6. Are Mormons Christians?
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was founded by Joseph Smith, Jr. in the Spring of 1820 after publishing the Book of Mormon, one of the faith’s scriptures, which Joseph Smith said he translated from plates of gold that were buried near his home in a place shown to him by the angel Moroni. Many traditional Christians reject Mormonism as a Christian religion, claiming that the story of Joseph Smith and the Golden Plates is fiction and that he was not a prophet.
5. Was the Flying Spaghetti Monster responsible for intelligent design?
The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (CoFSM) was founded in 2005 by Bobby Henderson to protest the teaching of intelligent design in school. Bobby parodies the theory of an intelligent designer by professing belief in a supreme creator made of spaghetti and meatballs. The CoFSM has gained a huge following, primarily on the Internet in response to the Christian movement to teach intelligent design in classrooms.
4. Is Islam a religion of violence or a religion of peace?
This debate has received much attention, not only on CreateDebate but throughout much of the mainstream media since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. While Islam’s central tenets preach, several extremists have taken passages from the Qur’an such as, “Make war on them until idolatry shall cease and God’s religion shall reign supreme.” (8:39)” to mean that Muslims are called to kill any non-Muslim to ensure Islam is the supreme religion of the land.
3. Jesus Christ: Fact or Fiction?
Christianity claims that Jesus Christ was the Son of God who was sacrificed to absolve believer’s sins so that Christians could receive eternal life. The Christian Bible teaches of many miracles performed by Jesus of Nazareth and of his resurrection from the dead. However, many people dispute that he was the Son of God and that the writings of the Bible are embellished stories chosen by the Church to further their mission.
2. Was Mohammed a pedophile?
The Qur’an (Mohammed’s testimonies) and Hadiths (other’s reports on the life of Mohmmed) depict Mohammed marrying a 6 year old girl for his third marriage. Many people believe that this practice (uncommon in present day) should be viewed as pedophilia. What do you think?
1. Do you believe in God?
This debate still reigns as the Most Popular debate on CreateDebate thus far. Many people define themselves by their religious beliefs (or lack thereof), which is why it deserves the spot as the number one religious debate of all time. It seems to me that everyone, no matter what gender, nationality, ethnicity, or age has an opinion on this topic, and they love to share it.
At CreateDebate, we strive to offer an easy to use website to debate any topic that you want; whether it be religious, political, sports, or any other topic you’d like. We are quickly building a strong community and are rolling out new features almost daily. If you’re interested in online debating or just want to learn more about what people are arguing, check out CreateDebate.
After almost a month in Public Beta, we’ve noticed that some debates take off in popularity and remain in the Most Heated debates page for days, while others never even make it close. Many of you have asked what you can do to increase the chance that your debate gets noticed and gets the attention of other debaters. To that end, we present to you the Top 10 Tips for a Great Debate:
10. Make the debate title controversial. This probably seems rather obvious but having a controversial topic that stands out from the rest will encourage people to click on and debate it.
9. Choose the right type of debate. Is it a debate that can be broken down easily in two sides? If so, choose a 2-Sided Debate. If not, choose a Popularity Contest. Not setting up the debate properly is a recipe for an empty debate.
8. If it’s a two sided debate, pick clearly distinct points of view for each side. Yes vs. No, Black vs. White, Democrats vs. Republicans are just a few examples. Whatever you choose, make sure that they’re clearly opposing points of view.
7. Embed a link or a video as a central point for people to focus on during the debate. This will ensure the debate stays on topic and does not wander into oblivion. Make sure the link is from a reputable source so it will ground the debate in reality.
6. Invite your friends to the debate. Use the “Share This Debate” feature of CreateDebate to invite your Allies, Enemies, and anyone else in your Address Book. Inviting friends to a debate ensures they know about it right away and can be one of the first to post their opinion.
5. Add Research to the Debate. Use the Research feature of CreateDebate to add RSS feeds regarding the topic being discussed. This is a great way to inform your users of the various points of view on the topic being debated.
4. Add an Argument. Add an initial argument to one side of the debate that is well thought out and that clearly states why your side of the debate is the correct side. If you need help crafting a great argument, check out our previous blog post on How to Write Strong Arguments.
3. Proofread your argument for grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes. Nothing makes an argument weaker than a bunch of sentence fragments, misspelled words, and grammatical errors. Use the Spell Check feature of CreateDebate just to make sure your argument is correct before posting.
2. Add references. Back up your argument by citing reputable sources. Be sure to include a link to the source so others can view the entire text you’re referencing.
1. Build debate traffic. Submit your debate to the top social news sites (i.e. Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Mixx, del.icio.us, etc). CreateDebate makes it easy for you to share your debates by using the “Social Bookmarks” tab in each debate. Once you post the debate to the sites, leverage your network to move it in to the most popular categories where more people will view it and hopefully debate your topic. If you need help learning how to make stories popular on Digg, check out this article loaded with great advice.
Use these tips and you’ll be well on your way to getting a debate listed on this page.
Social content sites like Digg are the catalyst of viral marketing. If you write a blog or operate a website and your content makes the front page of Digg, you can expect lots of good things to happen: about 60,000 unique visitors in the first 24 hours, a hefty amount of referral traffic from secondary websites, and a large number of high quality editorial links that will boost your search rankings.
In a perfect world, interesting content would be all that it takes to become popular on Digg. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world. Unless you operate a large site with tons of traffic or your blog already has a loyal base of readers, you need to understand how to give your submission the right kind of nudge. You have to become familiar with the unwritten protocols and practices of Digg.
Since CreateDebate launched into public beta, we have been doing our best to execute a viral marketing plan. Our goal is to introduce new people to our site via relevant & interesting content. In the last 30 days, various content from our blog has landed on the front page of of Digg, reddit, delicious, Mixx, ShoutWire and StumbleUpon.
One of the things that we have learned is that when it comes to generating explosive traffic, Digg reigns king (at least until Yahoo!Buzz begins accepting content from new, smaller publishers). If your content becomes popular on Digg, it will almost assuredly become popular on several other social content sites. It doesn’t always work the other way around.
Digg is an ecosystem and in order to get something from it (traffic), you’ll need give something to it (interesting content, not advertisements). For all of the Digg noobs and budding social marketers out there, we thought it was time to share a few insights from our playbook. Here you go, the top 10 Digg tactics:
10. Join Digg – Yes, you should sign up for an account. To really join Digg, though, you need to read and participate on a daily basis. You should begin to track the popular content, especially in the topics where your content will compete. You may find the Digg RSS feeds to be helpful.
9. Monitor the Comments – Understanding the Digg culture is paramount. You should make it a habit to always read the first few comments every article that you check out. A well-planted, snarky comment can go a long way when you are trying to solicit diggs.
8. Learn How a Story Becomes Popular - The Digg upcoming section may seem daunting but understanding how it works is essential. In the base case, it takes about 24 hours for a submission to become popular. During that period, the submission will have the opportunity to achieve a number of milestones (i.e. becoming Hot in Topic). Each milestone will put the link in front of more people, thereby increasing its chance to be dugg.
7. Track Power Users – The power users, the people who use Digg the most, are the influencers. They aren’t hard to find, go to the front page and start checking out some profiles. On the bottom-right, you can see their stats. Find people have made at least 50 stories popular. Bookmark their profiles and check back frequently. Do your best to befriend them.
6. Become a Fan – Add friends, hundreds of them. Don’t do it all in one sitting, remember: Rome wasn’t built in a day. You should get in the habit of adding at least 20 new friends per week. Start by adding some power users, then add their friends and so on.
5. Build Your Buddy List – A lot of digg soliciting goes on behind the scenes, especially via IM. Coincidentally enough, many diggers list their IM information in the About blurb on their profile. Parse through a bunch of profiles and compile a list of screen names. Don’t just bombard these folks with digg requests though. Take the time to cultivate mutually beneficial relationships.
4. Build Your Profile – If you want to become a Digg power user, you need to look like one. Your profile should show lots of fans, friends & diggs. When people ask you to digg one of their submissions and it turns out to be interesting, take it a step further and make that story one of your favorites.
3. Submit Smart – Choose the topic that you will submit to wisely. Some topics are much more competitive than others. Of course, you need to make sure that you are submitting to an appropriate topic or casual web surfers may not have a chance to find your submission on their own. Analysis has also shown that when you submit also plays a key role.
2. Send Shouts – Digg shouts are the single best way to solicit diggs. Of course, you can’t just send shouts to anybody, that’s why you need to add friends to bolster your network. When you send shouts, remember, its a two-way street. If you expect others to digg your content, you’ll need to regularly check your shouts and digg the stories that you find interesting. Don’t be afraid to remind others that you have dugg their stories. Most importantly, don’t keep sending repetitive shouts. Nobody likes a pest.
1. Submit Interesting Content – All of the Digg tactics in the world won’t help you unless you have some worthwhile content to submit. At the end of the day, every digg that your submission receives will be from a intelligent, free-thinking individual. Nobody like to see crap hit the front page.
On a final, unrelated note, I’d like to give a quick shout-out to sarahintampa who maintains an interesting tech blog and wrote a great review of CreateDebate 2 weeks ago. If you haven’t already checked out CreateDebate, please do so. We are a new site, built from scratch on the ideals of collaboration and democracy, and our community is growing quickly!
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.
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!