Great news! We have a new publication out today summarizing some of the work we’ve been doing in an online debate community (kialo.com). In particular, we discuss how conflict can serve as well as undermine the work that moderators do, and we highlight ways that UI design could be a scalable way to facilitate conflict management.
The text is free and open for anyone to read in First Monday. Check out the abstract below, and do go read the whole thing. We had a great time doing the research (virtual ethnographic work) and writing.
Abstract: Kialo is a novel peer production system focused on pro/con debate construction. Distributed moderator teams vet and accept claims submitted by writers. Moderators also edit and refactor debates as they grow. Thus, moderators play a critical role in cultivating and maintaining debates. Conflict between moderators is typical. It is a feature of argumentation and debate. However, not all conflict is productive. Conflict between moderators can undermine collaboration (by distracting from the task of managing debates) and drive attrition (by discouraging participation on the site altogether). Based on a ten-month participant observation on Kialo, we identify a common source of conflict between moderators: adversarial beliefs and values. Moderators are not neutral participants on Kialo. They take positions on debate topics. We suggest foregrounding these positions, which are potential sources of conflict, through interface design as a scalable way to facilitate conflict management.