Wikidebates:Comparison of Existing Debate Encyclopedias

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Wikidebates logo on the right, pictograms of pro and cons topics on the left

Wikidebates is not the only site which offers to regroup arguments or to summarise debates. Other sites, often in english, have a variety of ways of presenting different positions within a debate.

Some of these will have a table with two columns (“pro” and “con” arguments). Others use maps, boxes, or tree-like diagrams. Some debating platforms and sites such as Carneades, Truthsift, Debate and Dialoguea, similarly to Wikidebates' format, present arguments in a "linear" manner, grouping these in two separate categories : one for "pro/FOR" arguments, and a second for "con/AGAINST" arguments.

Such different interfaces allow for different possibilities. Depending on the site, arguments and claims may be regrouped by “family”, or be organised in main and sub-claims; they might be summarised by a title or be expanded upon in a dedicated page, or with quotations. Moreover, debates may or may not be interconnected, or offer links to outer ressources, in order to access extra information.

Different interfaces each have both their strengths and shortcomings, which impact the variety and resourcefulness of their presented debates. Some of these differences are detailed in the chart below.

Strengths and weaknesses

Name of the site Language Format Strengths Weaknesses
Kialo en Tree-like tables
  • Readable, clear interface
  • Ability to easily find arguments
  • Recursive “pros” and “cons”
  • Links between arguments
  • Flagging options (i.e. “Not clear”, “Duplicate claim”, “Unrelated”, etc.)
  • Arguments may be commented upon and shared
  • Multiple logical levels
  • Skeletal presentation
  • No quotes or citations
  • No named references
  • No additional informational ressources
  • Argument is displayed wether upvoted or downvoted
  • Content is not free of rights
Hyperdébat fr List
  • Multiple arguments and sub-arguments
  • Many quotations
  • Many added informational ressources
  • Relevant comments from the forum are added to the debate
  • Open-licence content
  • Offers texts in respect to the Methodical Debate
  • Page interface is austere and unpractical
  • No in-depth argumentation
DebateGraph en Card-based presentation
  • Card-shaped presentation
  • The display mode is entirely customisable
  • Many “for”/“against” sub-argument levels
  • Complexity of the interface
  • Slow navigation
  • Arguments are not detailed
  • Content is not free of rights
Proversi it Table
  • Visually appealing interface
  • Richness of argument descriptions
  • “Debate in 2 minutes” summary
  • Video responses by experts
  • Debates in the form of ebooks
  • Language level is very academic
  • Complex descriptive arguments
  • Debates are in the form of themes rather than questions
  • Debates are not interlinked
  • Ebooks are for sale, ie not free
  • Content is not free of rights
Debatepedia en Table
  • "For"/"Against" argument table
  • Argument and debate pages are separate
  • In-case argument quotes and citations
  • Numerous debate categories
  • Wikipedia-type interface
  • Copyright-free content
  • Arguments are too short
  • Arguments cannot be countered or objected to
  • Often more quotes than summarised arguments
  • Uninviting interface
Wikidebate en Box-based presentation
  • Wikiversity integrated
  • Clarity of summarised arguments.
  • Embedded box system
  • Content is copyright-free.
  • Lack of detail in arguments
  • Arguments without proponents
  • No quotes or citations.
  • No complimentary informative ressources
  • Same system for valid or refuted arguments
Idebate en Table
  • "Pro"/"Con" argument tree-like interface.
  • Aesthetically pleasing interface.
  • Lack of detail in arguments
  • Arguments without proponents
  • No quotes or citations.
  • Debate titles are not always very clear
  • There are no sub-categories to debates.
  • "All-in-one" site
  • Content is not free of rights
Debatewise en Table
  • In-depth arguments with examples
  • Column-based interface is problematic
  • No quotes or citations
  • Content is not free of rights
Riyarchy en Arborescent chart
  • Logical tree
  • Numerous sub-levels for arguments and objections
  • Aesthetically pleasing interface
  • Arguments are not family-grouped
  • Arguments lack detail/depth
  • Arguments are without proponents
  • No quotes or citations
  • No sources/references
  • No introductory paragraph to a debate
  • Sense of "irrefutable" argument
  • Content is not free of rights
Argüman en, es, fr, tr Arborescent chart
  • Logical tree
  • Numerous sub-levels for arguments and objections
  • Aesthetically pleasing interface
  • Arguments lack detail/depth
  • Arguments are without proponents
  • No quotes or citations
  • No introductory paragraph to a debate
  • No complimentary informative ressources
  • Content is not free of rights
Procon en Table
  • "For"/"Against" argument table
  • Numerous informative ressources
  • Numerous quotes and citations
  • Identity cards for proponents within a debate
  • Debates are grouped by topic
  • Arguments lack in depth/detail
  • No objections to arguments
  • Quotes and citations list is unorganized
  • Overloaded interface
  • Content is not free of rights
Argumentrix en Lists
  • "Pro" and "Con" sections for each argument
  • Proponents of an argument
  • Copyright-free content
  • Argument-oriented more than debate-oriented encyclopaedia
  • No entry guidelines for debates
  • No quotes or citations

Main problems

As detailed in the previous chart, existing encyclopaedias do have shortcomings, some of which can be explored here.

Arguments that are not grouped

One of the main things lacking in some of these encyclopaedias is that arguments are listed one after the other, without it being possible to group them by “family” when their content is similar. We end up with lists of ten to twenty (or more) arguments all presented at the same level. Grouping by family allows for more clarity and readability.

Single-level arguments

Very similarly, because arguments require being confirmed or completed by others, it is smarter to present then in arguments and sub-arguments (and even sub-sub arguments), each corresponding to different levels of the argumentative structure. Which is impossible for a majority of encyclopaedias which only present two things: the pro and con arguments, and for each their objections.

Arguments without objections

Some encyclopaedias don’t even show objections to an argument. An argument can always be countered or criticised. The lack of such a feature make such encyclopedias much less interesting.

Arguments that lack in depth or in detail

Likewise an argument’s description can’t always be stated in a couple of lines. Those based on examples or facts may, to be presented, require a long introduction or an ensemble of numbers or figures, without which the argument may be too broad, simple or unconvincing.

Arguments without quotations

To better understand an argument, or to better understand a point of view defending it, it is helpful to add quotations of references and figures of reference. Most encyclopedias do not allow this.

Arguments with no advocates

Knowing the names of the main proponents of a point of view, even having a short description of them, can help to better understand the arguments, and the debate. This is only the case in few encyclopaedias, and only one offers short biographies of referred proponents.

Arguments with no titles

Giving an argument a title means summarising it in a few words, allowing to grasp an immediate idea even after a quick overview. Some sites do not offer this possibility.

Debates which are not interlinked

A debate is always an ensemble of debates, because each argument builds on a set of considerations which themselves can be the object of a debate. One must usually dig-in to the sub-debates to form an opinion, and often switch from one debate to another. Hypertext architecture is useful to present briefly the complexity of the interweaving of debates. Only two sites make use of it.

Debates with little or no further information

Internet allows to interlink a vast amount of knowledge. Most encyclopedias offer links to further information. But these are often poor or lacking in quantity.

Copyrighted content and technology

Even though they are user-provided, a lot of contents and arguments become propriety of these websites and are thus not fully exploitable. Safe for Wikidebates, Debatepedia, Argumentrix and HyperDébat, of which the content is available through a Creative Commons licensing, all the work provided by the users on these websites is limited in its sharing and usage.

Overall Review

Family-grouped arguments Titled arguments Objections to arguments Sub-levels to arguments Detailed arguments Quotes and citations Ability to defend an argument Interlinking between different arguments Additional information and resources Copyright-free content
Wikidébats x x x x x x x x x x
Kialo x x x x
Hyperdébat x x x x x x x
DebateGraph x x x x x x x x
Proversi x x x x x x
Debatepedia x x x x x x
Wikidebate x x x x
Idebate x x x
Debatewise x x x x x
Riyarchy x x x
Argüman x x
Procon x x
Argumentrix x x x x x x

Learn more about these websites

Name Self-description Year of launch Current status
Wikidébats « L'encyclopédie des débats » 2016 Active
Kialo "A debate platform powered by reason" 2017 Active
Hyperdébat « Débattre avec méthode » 2002 Available for reading only since January 2017
DebateGraph "An award-winning web-platform for visualizing and sharing networks of thought" 2008 Active
Proversi « Une plateforme web de débat public »[1] 2015 Active
Debatepedia "The Wikipedia of debates - an encyclopedia of pro and con arguments and quotes on critical issues" 2007 Available for reading only since November 2011
Wikidebate "A collaborative project to develop structured debates and compute their conclusions using the dialectic algorithm" 2016 Active
Idebate "Debatabase" 2011 Active
Debatewise 2007 No longer updated
Riyarchy "A collaborative argument tree to which anyone can contribute" 2012 Closed in 2016
Argüman « Une plateforme d’argumentation » 2015 Active
Procon "Pros & Cons of Controversial Issues" 2004 Active
Argumentrix "A wiki of claims and rebuttals" 2011 Not updated since 2013

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References

  1. "Una piattaforma web di dibattito pubblico"