Debate tools

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Revision as of 07:36, 9 February 2010 by Vladimir Nesov (talk | contribs) (edited the summary, added "blog post" section; some more excessive formalization has to go before "cleanup" can be lifted.)
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An online debate tool facilitates the act of debating by helping to manage the structure of argumentation. This distinguishes it from general purpose communication tools such as wikis and forums. Some online debate tools provide graphical representations of arguments, but this is not a requirement.

This wiki page gives a list and characterization of debate tools. Debate tools were previously discussed on the blog.

Note: Perhaps discussion should go in the discussion page, or the comments thread of the original post.

List of debate tools


Summary: Argunet enables you to create argument maps of complex debates online or offline, on your own or in a team.

  • first mentioned:
  • pros:
    • collaboratively edit argument maps
  • cons:
    • not entirely straightforward to use, Morendil had trouble figuring out how to move boxes around.

bCisive Online

Summary: a simple canvas for creating a tree diagram of a debate.

TakeOnIt - A publicly editable database of expert opinions


  1. Every debate is expressed as a yes-no question.
  2. Every yes-no question has experts on both sides of the debate.
  3. Every debate can link to a sub-debate (recursively).


Summary: a specialized form of note taking called "flowing" within the policy/CEDA/NDT debate community.

  • first mentioned:
  • pros:
    • lots of people have used this technique, and it has been proven to work well
  • cons:
    • it requires a very specific format for the debate


Summary: a DSL in python for (non-recursive) Bayesian models and Bayesian probability computations.

  • first mentioned:
  • pros:
    • it does Bayesian calculations
  • cons:
    • requires literacy in python and bayesian statistics


Scott Aaronson's worldview manager

Summary: this is designed to point out hidden contradictions (or at least tensions) between one's beliefs, by using programmed in implications to exhibit (possibly long) inferential chains that demonstrate a contradiction.

Ideas for new tools

  • Based on MediaWiki, PHP, GraphViz, and maybe XML
  • Summary: a tool that we make ourselves, so that it works the way we want it to work
  • first mentioned:
  • pros:
    • we're writing it, so we can make it work how we want
  • cons:
    • we would need to write it from scratch
  • examples:

Other links

Features that a debate tool should have

  • from almost everyone:
    • an easy to use interface
  • from Morendil:
    • a conclusion or a decision, which is to be "tested" by the use of the tool
    • various hypotheses, which are offered in support or in opposition to the conclusion, with degrees of plausibility
    • logical structure, such as "X follows from Y"
    • challenges to logical structure, such as "X may not necessarily follow from Y, if you grant Z"
    • elements of evidence, which make hypotheses more or less probable
    • recursive relations between these elements
  • from PhilGoetz:
    • an XML-based representation of the data
  • from PeerInfinity
    • generates its results from an annotated log of a debate
    • collaboratively editable, possibly using MediaWiki
    • multiple outfut formats: graphs, tables, the raw data
  • from Johnicholas:
    • Compose in ordinary ASCII or UTF-8
    • Compose primarily a running-text argument, indicating the formal structure with annotations
    • Export as a prettified document, still mostly running text (html and LaTeX)
    • Export as a diagram (automatically layed out, perhaps by graphviz)
    • Export as a bayes net (in possibly several bayes net formats)
    • Export as a machine-checkable proof (in possibly several formats)
  • from Eliezer Yudkowsky:
    • prevents online arguments from retracing the same points over and over.
    • not just graphical with boxes, because that makes poor use of screen real estate.
    • not have lots of fancy argument types and patterns, because no one really uses that stuff
    • a karma system, because otherwise there's no way to find the good stuff.

(So, now that everything's all neatly arranged in a list, the next step is to decide whether we want to start using any of these tools, or if we want to create our own.)

Blog posts

Debate tools: an experience report by Morendil