Debate Map: tree-based mapping of arguments and evidence

The Debate Map project is a web platform aimed at improving the efficiency of discussion and debate. It’s crowd-sourced and open-source, and welcomes reader contributions.

Its primary improvements are (in short):

  • Restructuring dialogue to make use of both dimensions.
  • Breaking down lines of reasoning into single-sentence “nodes”.
  • Providing rich tools that operate on those nodes — such as rating, tagging, statistical analysis, and belief-tree sharing and comparison.

The website is located here:

The below is a screenshot from one of the debates:

The maps are constructed from “theses” (blue) which make claims, and “arguments” (green and red) which support/oppose those claims. This structure cuts down on reading time, and lets us focus on the underlying chains of reasoning instead of parsing statement meanings and connections.


Preserve response context

Problem: On heated topics, debates often involve many points being made and responded to in each post. Because traditional dialogue is linear, this creates a large gap between each point and its responses.

Solution: Make use of both dimensions: have points flow down, and responses flow to the right. Responses are now directly next to the points they’re made against.

Sort the arguments by strength

Problem: Topics under debate can be large, with dozens of points to consider. Thread-based mediums give no help in finding the strongest ones, forcing you to skim through them all.

Solution: Provide built-in voting on the strength of each point. Even if you don’t agree with the general population, the strongest points will still rise near to the top.

Reduce the power of rhetoric

Problem: The perception of who “won” a debate often depends more on how skilled the debaters are, than how strongly their views are backed by evidence.

Solution: Require points to be distilled to their simplest forms. “Weasel words”, exhaggerations, and other noise become easier to spot and point out. (just add a response right next to it!)

Don’t reinvent the wheel

Problem: Debates rage across the internet, with the same arguments being made hundreds, even thousands, of times. This means a lot of redundant thought and typing!

Solution: Break down arguments into their constituent parts, and let each part be connected anywhere in the tree where relevant. Also, provide tools to easily merge duplicates. Now whenever a response or other change is made, it becomes visible throughout the tree, wherever the parent point is connected.

Prevent burying of minority viewpoints

Problem: Some viewpoints encounter sharp resistance whenever attempted to be argued for. This discourages new ideas from being presented — and when they are presented, makes it harder for them to be heard, as they can be “buried” (or even blocked) by the more numerous majority.

Solution: Provide a level playing ground, with equal space for both sides: supporting arguments go above the line, and opposing ones below. No matter how great the majority, the minority viewpoint maintains its position at the table, allowing its strongest points to be directly compared with those of its opposition.

No time commitment

Problem: Engaging in traditional debate can be tiring, because once you start, you’re often pulled in and are required to invest hours to provide a fair defense of your viewpoint. This discourages many people from contributing at all, leaving debates only for the “hard-core”.

Solution: Because debates and arguments persist in the global debate map, you don’t need to “explain it all” for your viewpoint to be fairly represented. Instead, you can supply only what you see has not been added yet, letting you contribute often and on many topics.


Debate Map: Tree-based mapping of arguments and evidence