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 Goal: An encyclopedia of pros and cons and supporting quotations
Debatepedia's mission is to act as an encyclopedia of pro and con arguments and quotations in all major public debates around the world. This mean, in any given article, that the objective is to document every single pro and con argument and all supporting quotations from the key players in a debate and from the primary pro and con articles and essays. In order to achieve this mission, Debatepedia's utilizes wiki technology that enables anyone around the world to edit and collaborate. This is the same technology utilized by Wikipedia.
Editing basics - Taking a debate from start to finish
- Step 1: Compile a pro/con resources section This section is a split-screen section that should appear near the bottom of each article and which you will fill with the primary pro and con articles, essays, and cases in the public debate. These will be the resources that you will draw from and quote from in compiling pro/con arguments in your debates. You should search for these cases on Google, Google Scholar, Ask.com, Lexus Nexus (if you have access). Key word selection is fairly important. Some recommended search key words include:
- The topic: "Capital Punishment", "The Death Penalty", and iterations of the topic name.
- "The case for/against..."
- "Arguments for/against..."
- "Pro/cons of..."
- "Why ban assault weapons"
- Step 2: Draw arguments and quotations from articles you've compiled. Search for and isolate specific arguments made in these cases. Let's say you find an argument along the lines that US roads would be made safer by offering driver's licenses to illegal immigrants (above). The first thing you'll want to do is isolate and widdle down this "claim". So, "Offering drivers licenses to illegal immigrants will make roads safer in the US". Then, you would want to create a basic argument summary (above): "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." Now, imagining that you want to quote the specific argument made in the article you're reading as "evidence", you would have to create an argument page (described in the previous section). Once you've done this, you should create a "supporting evidence" section by writing "==Supporting Evidence==" into the editing window of your new argument page. Now, you can cut-and-paste a quote from one of your sources under this "supporting evidence" section. Next, you will have to make an external link to the resource that you are quoting.
- [http://blog.wired.com/cars/2007/10/illegal-immigra.html "Illegal Immigrants, Driver's License Crash Into American Consensus". Wired Magazine. October 04, 2007] - "New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer loves a fight. But his policy to allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses, announced just weeks ago, has even his closest loyalists in a sweat. His reasoning is that denying immigrants the legal right to drive hasn't stopped them from driving. After all, they're already breaking the law just by being here. By driving illegally, they don't have insurance, which has contributed to more hit-and-run accidents as well as higher insurance premiums for everyone else." Read through all the articles you've compiled and draw from them in documenting arguments and quoting and gathering supporting evidence.
- Step 3: Keep referring back to the model debate, attempting to make your debate look like the Model Feature Debate. Illegal immigrants and driver's licenses in the US
- 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.
See also Help:Editing
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 backed-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).
- Debate questions and subquestions must be neutral in orientation. Loaded questions and subquestions are not allowed on Debatepedia. A debate's main question should frame a public debate in a fair and balanced weigh. Subquestions should simply act as a way to break-down a debate into its more chewable subdebates (economic, social, legal pros and cons...).
See also Debatepedia:Editing policies
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 with pros on the left and cons on the right. 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): 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: Debate pages have table code that creates the pro/con structure of these pages. Do not delete or alter this code. Furthermore, 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 write 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.
Editing argument pages
On debate pages, arguments are presented that often have a vast array of supporting evidence in the form of quotes, links to articles making an argument, studies, or simply facts that can be reasonably brought together to support an argument. For this reason, we allow for argument pages to be created and linked-to from debate pages. Doing this is fairly simple. On debate pages, arguments are presented first by their "claim", which is a brief one sentence summary of an argument's main point. For example, "capital punishment deters crime" is a "claim", and this would be presented on a debate page at the beginning of a larger summary of that argument. This "claim" can be made into the title of its own argument page. Doing this is very simple. Once you have the "claim" on the debate page, all you have to do is click edit, place two brackets on both sides (two, not one on each side) of the argument "claim". Press save and click on the new red argument, whereupon you will be taken to the new argument page where you can document supporting evidence for the argument.
Creating new debate pages and regular pages (argument pages, organization pages...)
You can create new pages whenever you want on Debatepedia. Debate pages are pages with the pro/con "logic tree" structure. These pages also have the special QuadOne software that enables you to manipulate the Debatepedia structure effectively. Regular pages are ordinary blank pages. These are used for argument pages, administrative pages (like this one), regular encyclopedic articles (ones about a certain notable individual in the history of public debate and deliberation), and for a variety of other purposes.
Key editing tools and functionalities
- The toolbar at the top of an editing window. When you're in an editing window, put your cursor over the toolbar that appears just at the top of the window. These tools are very useful, and include bolding, italics, internal linking, external linking, and many other functionalities.
- Create internal links between pages on Debatepedia by placing "[[Title]]" around the title of a page you are trying to link to.
- Make an internal link, but with hyper-link in blue as different wording (maybe shorter or without caps) than the title you're linking to [[Title| desired wording]]
- Create external links by writing: "[url Wikipedia article on capital punishment]" (by creating a space between the end of the url and "Wikipedia article...", you will hyperlink "Wikipedia article..."). You'll often be hyperlinking an author, title of an article,... as an introduction to a quote.
- Making a bullet point. A bullet point can be used to start-off a unique argument. Use an asterix in an editing window to do this.
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.