It has been a while now, since the dotcom days in my career, that I’ve been dreaming of having an organized, aggregated way of looking at relevant conversations on the internet organized around topics of debate. A Fred Wilson recommended service such as Engag.io, however, seems to be in a good position to meet this need on a platform scale whilst primarily intending to provide the utility of “seeing all of your commenting activity in one place,” as their declared first premise.
As most conversations in comment systems tend to also be debates, I sent a comment to Engag.io’s post just thinking aloud, wondering or hoping they could eventually solve the challenge I’ve been thinking about:
IMHO there is no one crowdsource-friendly/non-partisan aggregating mechanism in the internet for people to be supported in arriving with a position or opinion based on a balanced and informed view and discussion of relevant information, facts and opinions with regards to a topic of debate.
Intense debate tries to do a good job at structuring debates and integrating themselves into content management systems as Disqus also does, while GrokLaw is more effective at the moderation and intelligence in collecting relevant factual information (like Techmeme to an extent) and facilitating discussions based on the same within a topic of interest. In the meantime, Slashdot is known for its engaged community and effective reputation mechanisms that make for not just informative, but enlightening or even delightfully humorous discussions or debates. Could it, perhaps, be just a matter of combining the essential capabilities of these services?
Ripe for change
Search has matured and people increasingly search for information online, the intelligent aggregation or collaborative filtering technology’s there or can be made to work so that it can be, there’s lots of content, well-thought out opinions or conversations available with the reputation mechanisms and processes to moderate it, there’s an abundance of news articles and facts in text or media that can be aggregated, and which can eventually even be double checked for truth through plugins/mechanisms that aim to do so. Additionally, perhaps the debate can also be presented as a mindmap.
In summary, people, process, technologies and information seem to be ripe enough to be able to empower people to be more informed and have constructive, productive debate–whether to strengthen democracies, enlighten and expand knowledge, or encourage deeper understanding of concepts, situations, or things in general.
Hopefully Engag.io or some other service, can help. For now, I continue to dream and think aloud, or wait until I force myself to finish learning to or actually write code myself and work with others and crowdfund it. (o: