Frequently Asked Questions

How do I start a new debate?

On the front page follow the link to Make a new claim, and enter the claim you want to debate. Make it a statement that people can agree or disagree with, not a question.

When you hit the Go button Reasonwell creates a new page for that claim. Share the URL of that page with people via email, Twitter, your blog etc to invite them to the debate.

What can I debate on Reasonwell?

Anything that can be discussed civilly and legally. You are welcome to start new debates on topics that would not be considered “public policy”.

What is the difference between a claim and an argument?

A claim is a single sentence that states a proposition. An example claim: “Bananas are yellow.”

An argument links claims together with some logical implication. An example argument: “Slavery should be abolished” because “Bananas are yellow”. That argument contains two claims - “Slavery should be abolished” is one claim, and “Bananas are yellow” is the other. This example argument is obviously flawed, to show that you might agree with both claims without necessarily accepting the argument’s reasoning.

Can I accept arguments for and against a claim at the same time?

Yes. Accepting an argument for a claim does not mean you must agree with the claim; accepting an argument against a claim does not mean you must disagree with it. You decide whether you agree or disagree with a claim. The arguments you accept indicate factors that you recognise as bearing upon your opinion, and sometimes you must weigh up competing arguments.

Can I attach documents, tables, charts etc to an argument?

No, but you can reference anything on the web with a URL. A facility for citing references is planned, but for the moment we recommend you include hyperlinks in the Comments section at the bottom of each page.

Can I view a whole tree of arguments as a diagrammatic argument map?

Not yet, but this is planned. We think a feature like this will help to navigate complex debates; we have experimented with one kind of visualisation, but it needs further work.

What happens over time as arguments get out of date?

Presumably people will change their opinions over time as circumstances change, new arguments are introduced and old ones no longer hold.

Does Reasonwell retain a history of my opinions when I change my mind?

Not deliberately, although evidence of old opinions may exist in logfiles, database backups, data retained by other systems that have crawled the site etc.

What happens if two people make equivalent claims using different wording?

They will be treated as distinct claims. If you notice two claims that seem to say the same thing, you can edit one to be the same as the other. Anyone who holds an opinion on the claim that you edited will be notified of your proposed edit, and they can choose to adopt or reject it.

How can I link to an existing claim in a new argument?

Just copy the claim (the sentence that states the claim) and paste it into the argument you are entering. Or start typing the claim, and select it from the list of suggestions that appears. The new argument will link to the existing claim, with its existing arguments for and against etc.

This means when you are building up a chain of reasoning, you can start entering claims before you have thought out the whole structure of how they relate; you need not start from the top. Just keep going back to the Make a new claim form to enter claims, and link them with arguments when you are ready.

How can I edit a claim?

On the page for the claim you want to edit, click the Edits tab.

How can I delete a claim?

You cannot, but that should not matter. You can delete your opinion from a claim by unchecking the Agree and Disagree checkboxes.

Why do my contributions appear as “proposed by user 123”?

You have not yet chosen a username. Choose Settings from the Me menu at the top-right of any page, and edit your profile details.

Is my real name required?

No, pseudonyms are welcome.

How can I ask a specific user for their opinion about something?

Try adding a comment at the bottom of the page for the claim or argument you are interested in, and mention the other user’s username to send them a notification, like this:

Hey @benw, what do you think about this?

Rather than being “undecided”, can I explicitly set my opinion on something to be “no opinion” or “not interested”?

No. But if you think Reasonwell needs this, please contact us and explain why.

Can I download or export an argument map?

Not yet, but this is planned. In the meantime if you would like something exported, please contact us and we’ll see what we can do.

Can I republish debate content from Reasonwell?

Yes. User-contributed public debate content is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license, see the page on attribution for details.