Rational Debate on the Internet Today

Editors note (Nov 12, 2013) – since the release of TheRationalDebate 2.0 in November 2013, some of the features mentioned in this article are no longer supported on the site.  Specifically, the ability to debate issues by posting arguments and comments.  This post remains however – we can still apply these concepts to how we argue issues on the internet today.

Is rational debate possible on the internet today?  I think so.  Many people think that debating on the internet is pointless.  I agree that this is true in the case of message boards, YouTube comments, and Yahoo News or blog comments where people can post anonymously.  But the internet is changing.  Social networking websites like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ have made debating online better.  However, it’s still not ideal.  For example, the best type of Facebook debate (at least in my experience) goes something like this:

  1. Someone posts something that asks for friends’ opinions on a certain issue in the world today, either by writing a status post or by sharing a link.
  2. Friends and friends-of-friends post their thoughts and arguments in the comments.  This goes on for a while, usually between 5-10, maybe 15 comments.
  3. After a while the discussion falls off everyone’s feed.

Debating via social networking is a step in the right direction is because it’s rarely anonymous.  For the most part, people are who they say they are on Facebook and you may know the person you’re talking to personally.  That’s a lot different from getting into an argument with someone you’ve never met, with a made up user handle, on a site like YouTube or Yahoo.

But there are still problems with debating using social media.  In the scenario above, what happens when a month later you want to refer back to the debate?  Since the posts have fallen off your feed, it’s tough to link back to it.  More than likely, a month’s worth of Facebook activity has buried the debate.

Debates on social media are fragmented, spread out.  You can’t go to one spot to see all of the best arguments for all sides of the issue.  If you’re debating with your friends, there’s a good chance that since your friends are most likely similar to you, you’re not getting a good perspective on other positions in the issue.  With the rise of Google+ circles and Facebook lists, if you’re debating with only your close friends, it’s even more likely that you’re not getting a good perspective on the other side(s).

The Rational Debate – Making Internet Debates Better

This is why I’ve created TheRationalDebate: to make debating real issues better on the internet, and to provide one place where people can come to view the best arguments on all sides of an issue.  How does TheRationalDebate make debating better?  Most importantly, anonymous user handles are not allowed. All users must provide a first and last name.  Also, if you see an argument that’s not rational, you can mark it as an irrational argument.  You should do this when you see that the argument contains one or more fallacies, or doesn’t back up factual claims with credible sources.  If enough people do that, the argument is hidden from the site.  Don’t worry if this happens to one of your arguments – you can update your argument and make an appeal to a site administrator.  This way, you shouldn’t worry that your argument will be marked down simply because another user doesn’t agree with you.

My goal for TheRationalDebate.com is to provide one place where you can debate and read great arguments on real issues affecting the world today.   Once you’ve made up your mind, you can vote and share your favorite arguments and issues on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

The site just launched, so the next step is up to you.  Read the about page to see what the site is all about. If you have an argument for an issue that’s out there, sign up and add it.  If you want to debate and vote on an issue that isn’t created yet, you can create it.  If you don’t want to debate, you can just vote, but for the site to be successful, we need to have great arguments.

I’m planning on adding new features to the site in the coming weeks and months, so subscribe to this blog or like us on Facebook to keep informed!