Debatepedia User Guide
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This page is a tutorial on all of the basic, need-to-know things on Debatepedia. It will jump-start your ability to browse, edit, and engage with the Debatepedia community.
Registering and logging in
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 will be able to use your user page as a profile and bio page, so it may be worthwhile for you to provide a real name and build your actual profile.
"The Wikipedia of debate" - Debatepedia is a wiki community of editors like you
Debatepedia is a wiki, where you and anyone else in the World can edit anything and build content, with the only restriction that your contributions abide by the Debatepedia editing policies. A wiki allows you to edit any content that others have submitted and allows others, in turn, to edit what you have added. It is the most open and democratic editing environment in existence, and this is precisely why Wikipedia has become such a valuable public resource. Such openness is also why other open-source projects (where anyone can make improvements), such as Firefox and Linux, have been so amazingly successful. Debatepedia simply applies the same open-source, democratic principles and the same wiki technology powering Wikipedia to the most important practice of democracies - debate.
- See also Wikipedia's "Wiki" article
- Be bold and click edit. The most important thing to understand about Debatepedia is that it is a wiki that depends on you taking ownership over the site, clicking edit (once you've logged in), and building content. This means that you should be bold in making your edits. Don't hold back or hesitate out of concern for making mistakes. If you make a mistake you or others can revert it through the "history" tab. So don't be nervous to "save" your edits; we want them.
- Abide by the editing policies (below)
- What you can edit and do:
- Let your interests guide you: Start by editing on debates that you care most about. Your editing should be driven by your passions and interests. The best way to find debates of interest to you is to use the search box on the left tool bar or to go to the contents section of the site and look through the different categories there (some of these categories are listed on the home page.
- Improve existing content: You can simply edit what others have already added on Debatepedia. You can improve grammar, sentence structure, or the logical flow and presentation of existing arguments and cases. This is very important, as good writing is half "re-writing".
- Research and summarize arguments on debate pages: You can add content and arguments on Debatepedia. The best way to do this is to simply read widely on the debates you are interested in (with targeted Google searches), and to focus on summarizing the pro/con arguments you find on debate pages.
- Researching and presenting supporting evidence (mostly on argument pages): When you are reading about a debate topic and you find a great quote that makes a certain argument very well, you should consider that quote to be evidence that should be presented on Debatepedia. Supporting evidence gives support to an argument, typically adding weight or value to that argument. Supporting evidence can be presented on debate pages in small amounts, but can be presented in mass on argument pages, which are pages where a single argument and the mass of supporting evidence backing it can be presented (see below). Supporting evidence includes:
- Quotes, typically from authoritative sources, that express an argument.
- Links to full articles that focus on making (or covering) a specific argument within a debate.
- Studies that provide support to an argument.
- Create new debate, argument, and other pages. You can create both debate and argument pages on Debatepedia. There are different processes for doing both of these things (see the link), but you should keep in mind that you are free and encouraged to create new pages. If there is a notable public debate in the world that doesn't already exist on Debatepedia, you should create it. The same applies to argument pages.
You must abide by Debatepedia's editing policies. If your edits break these policies, other users have the right to delete or change what you have done into compliance with these policies. These policies include:
- Debatepedia is an encyclopedia of debates, arguments, and debate-related materials. Debatepedia is an encyclopedia for the documentation of existing, notable public debates and the primary pro/con arguments and evidence within them. Debatepedia does allow arguments to be presented in an assertive, biased form so that they read as if the author is making them. But, this is mainly for posterity, so that arguments are read in their more "natural" form (how you might hear them or make them).
- Sober language. While assertive language can be used, passionate language is not allowed.
- 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.
- Arguments must be based on and cited to reliable published sources: Arguments on Debatepedia must be back-up by supporting evidence that is derived from and cited to reliable published sources.
- Arguments must be logically consistent. Arguments must follow basic laws of logical consistency and validity, avoiding tangents, and staying focus on justifying the claim or conclusion that is being asserted (the "claim" should be a very short bolded sentence at the beginning of an argument that explains the jist of the argument).
Editing debate pages
Debate pages on Debatepedia are based on a unique pro/con "logic tree" structure. Debates start with a main "yes"/"no" question. The pro/"yes" and con/"no" arguments are then divided into a split screen. Subquestions help organize the pros and cons of often large debates into more chewable parts (economic, social, legal...). Subquestions are simply there for the purpose of organizing pros/cons within the larger debate or "yes"/"no" question; they are not there for opening tangential debates to the main debate/question.
Manipulating the Debatepedia "logic tree" structure and software: In coordination with IDEA, Debatemedia Inc. developed with a great Indian software firm called QuadOne special software so that you can effectively manipulate Debatepedia's unique "logic tree" architecture on debate pages. With this software, editors can:
- Shift up or down subquestion sections and their contents (arrow icons):
- Insert new subquestion sections (box icon):
- Delete old or unneeded subquestions (red icon):
You can make argument pages for the purpose of documenting a vast array of supporting evidence for a particular argument. Do this simply by placing two brackets around an argument on a debate page ([[ ]]), pressing save, and then by clicking on the now red argument, whereupon you will be taken to the new argument page where you can document supporting evidence.
Creating new debates and pages
You can create new pages whenever you want on Debatepedia. The basics are to think of a short debate title ("Capital Punishment") and question ("Is capital punishment justified"). Take the title and type it into the "Search Box" and press go. Make sure the debate doesn't already exist, and maybe search a couple similar titles to make sure. At the top of the search results for a page that is not found, you will be presented the option to create a regular page or to create a debate page with pro/con "logic tree" structure pick the later for a debate page or the former for regular pages (argument pages, position pages, encyclopedic articles on events in the debate world...)
Communicating with other members of the community
Debatepedia is a community of editors like you, and we encourage you to communicate with the rest of this community by going to the Main Page discussion page, the talk pages of articles, or to the user pages of other members of this community (user pages are best accessed by going to the "history" tab at the top of the screen and seeing who has contributed what to an article of interest to you). You are welcome to write almost anything on these pages (questions, comments, suggestions), as long as it's appropriate and relevant to the other user and the Debatepedia project.
We also encourage you to communicate directly with Brooks Lindsay the founder and chief editor of Debatepedia. You can also contact us by email or phone with any of your questions. We're here to answer your questions and help integrate you into the Debatepedia community, so really feel free to send us a message, email, or give us a phone call.
Almost everything on Debatepedia can be accessed through the "navigation" and "interactions" boxes in the upper left part of the screen as well as the toolbar on the upper right part of the screen.
- The contents page is your access portal to all categories, portal, articles, and other areas on the site.
- If you are looking for ways to contribute, go to the community portal, where tasks that need doing are listed.
The case for editing on Debatepedia
The first reason to join Debatepedia and begin editing is self-interested. Debatepedia is the ideal way to deliberate on the tough questions that surround us in society, so that we can take firm positions as citizens and vote effectively. This is not only in reading existing Debatepedia articles, but in using Debatepedia to frame the arguments and evidence we come across in newspapers, journals, books, and other places so that we can better deliberate, draw conclusions, assert personal positions effectively within our communities, and vote with confidence.
The second reason for joining Debatepedia as an editor is social. Just as you can benefit from reading pro/con articles and rataionlizing your own position, others benefit from this too. When you write pro/con articles and help break-down and frame a debate on Debatepedia, you are making it easier for other people to think-through that debate, draw conclusions, and act effectively as a citizen.
- See also the mission and vision of Debatepedia for a greater understanding of what we are after.
What are Debatepedia's standards
You and other editors are tasked with moving the articles that you engage on to feature article status. These are exemplary articles on Debatepedia, that abide by Debatepedia's editing policies, and uphold a variety of Debatepedia's highest quality standards. For debates, it's where all the core arguments are clearly and fairly presented, and the core supporting evidence, quotes, studies, and articles are presented as well on argument pages linked out from Debate pages. Feature articles should also have the positions of the all the key, relevant politicians, organizations and activist groups, country governments, and other stakeholders.
Editors that create feature articles are rewarded with awards on their users pages and possible being given administrator editorial privileges as well as having their article "featured" on the main page of Debatepedia and in the hall of feature articles. See Debatepedia Steward
- See Help:Editing, which acts as a full guide to editing on Debatepedia.
- Also see Wikipedia's tutorial on editing, which will help you learn the very basic and most important MediWiki (the software Wikipedia and Debatepedia uses) editing techniques and tools.