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Site Profile: Debate.org

In a Nutshell

  • Likely the largest debating community on the internet
  • Cool format for one on one text debates
  • Lots of outlets for more casual interaction and offering opinions on issues of the day

Dojo Rating:  Excellent (4 ninja stars)

Their Mission

Debate.org was founded in 2007 out of a special passion for politics and debate. The premise of the website was to enable a person of any creed, nationality, gender, or sexuality to have a platform to voice their opinions and to share ideas on any topic they choose. Open dialogue and honest debate are how great ideas are created, how democracies are developed and thrive, and how Debate.org came to life.

Here is what one of the debate challenges look like on Debate.Org.

What They Offer a Debater

Head to Head Debates

Debate.org has a well-developed technology and culture surrounding their head-to-head text debates. Debaters can propose resolutions along with a set of rules governing the ensuing arguments. Another debater can then accept the challenge and begin the debate. Each debate is divided into a number of rounds. In each round, the pro and con are allowed to make a single post. Time limits can be set for each round. When a debate is complete, others on the site can judge the debate. Judging can be on a win/loss basis or determined by judges awarding points to each debater in a number of judgment categories.

Opinions

Opinions on debate.org are open topics where anyone can vote “yes” or “no” and then leave a comment explaining their reason for voting as they did. As you can only leave one comment, it is not intended for back and forth dialogue, but for making a statement and registering your vote. It’s a good format for simply making a statement on an issue or reading the views of others without engaging in a debate.

Polls

The poll feature allows debaters to make or respond to survey style questions with a pre-determined set of answers. While you can leave comments on polls the purpose seems to be focused on the numerical response, rather than anyone’s reason for answering.

Forums

Debate.org maintains a forum for the site’s community of debaters. If you are a new member you will find a lot of good tutorial information there. You can also get a window into how the debaters there self-organize and maintain the site’s culture. Finally, you can join in more free-form debate and discussion on a range of topics. Forum games are also popular here, especially Mafia/Werewolf¬†games.

The polls and opinions features allow for more casual argument and voicing of opinions.

Debate Dojo Assessment

The most remarkable features of Debate.org are its highly structured head-to-head debates and the rich culture among its debaters. Many of its most prominent members are very dedicated to the site, and to maintaining its debate culture. While it is a for-profit site, run by a media conglomerate, the day to day operations of the site appear to be in the hands of its biggest fans. There is a large body of convention, vocabulary, and etiquette that exists as tribal knowledge and which has been recorded in their forums.

I have not engaged in a serious debate on the site as of yet, but I plan to try it out in the near future. Not every topic is treated with respect, and the quality of debate varies, but those who take it seriously are very dedicated to good argumentation and respectful debate. The site makes some allowances for debates intentionally labelled as Troll debates, which is to say they are intended for humour or to highlight less rigorous argument. If you look through the debates on offer, keep that in mind.

Probably the biggest strength they have is a healthy community size. There seem to be more active users at any given moment than any other site I have visited. You are very likely to find an opponent for nearly any topic you care to engage in.

The biggest weakness of the site is probably quality control. When I visited, spammers seemed to have taken over the “Opinions” section of the website and there were a number of new debates with some really sloppy argumentation and horribly worded topics. When you have a big audience, I think these kinds of challenges are bound to come up. Its new corporate owners don’t seem to take an especially active interest in the site.

Check it out!

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