Open Debate Engine: Blog
We have updated the Open Debate Engine system to add 'shortcodes' for simplified linkage and embedding of each of the core objects in this debate. Shortcodes are a common convention in publishing software that allows users to insert text or other objects with a few inline commands. The four shortcodes now live are:
- Embed: Embed an object inline
USAGE: [EMBED=<Object ID>]
- Footnote: Insert an embeded hover reference to a news article or citation
USAGE: [FOOTNOTE=<Object ID>]Footnote #[/FOOTNOTE]
- Link: Insert a hover link to a particular object (ex. news article or argument)
USAGE: [LINK=<Object ID>]YOUR TEXT HERE[/LINK]
- Definition: Insert a hover link to define a term in text.
[DEFINITION=Keyword]YOUR TEXT HERE[/DEFINITION]
You may have already seen some of these in action already on our evidence quotes. While entering quotes, we have tried to cross-reference existing citations that the quotes are relying on if they already exist in the system using the [FOOTNOTE] shortcode. For example, this quote references a couple of citations already indexed (hover over the bold blue footnotes)
To use a shortcode, you need to know either the object ID or the keyword you want to refer to. The object ID can be found in the URL of the item you want to refer to. For example, if I wanted to embed this citation:
I would need to use the EMBED shortcode with the object ID '1954' from the URL which would give us:
Of course this is less than ideal way to reference these objects and no one wants to keep track of dozens of object IDs so we are also working on simplified lookup tools and ways to drag and drop these entries from your bookmarks. At the moment, we haven't opened up any of these features except for our editors but will be releasing these shortly with the new case builder tools. In the meantime, we will continue to work through the existing objects and use these shortcodes to add as many links as available.
For more information and many more examples on these shortcodes, see our new guide in the documentation.
I’ve worked out the technical challenges (thank you, Batch API) for generating a ‘backfile’ of the entire argument tree at once and have included download links below. This is a massive file, at 750+ pages, and it took a good 8-10 minutes for the system to churn through the entire argument tree. Its written in HTML to allow for a table of contents and internal links but I’ve included both Word and PDF versions.
This is primarily intended for high school or college debaters, who are currently debating UNCLOS and other ocean issues with the 2014-15 resolution, “Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its non-military exploration and/or development of the Earth's oceans.”
Debaters - please send me any feedback about the formatting or structure of the file, I tried to make this as conducive to paperless debating as I could but am open to suggestions. I debated UNCLOS many times during my debate career but always using paper briefs and getting this file anywhere near a printer would incur the wrath of an angry treant.
Curious to see if others can find any utility with this format, I’ve already found it useful for debugging a few issues with some quotes and citations.
Just over a month ago, I flipped the switch and launched this site before embarking on a long holiday overseas (the launch itself a self-imposed pre-condition for getting on that first flight). I suspected it would be a quiet period with a few visitors and lots of googlebots, a ‘soft beta-launch’ that would give me plenty of time to catch up in the new year. The actual response has been very humbling and I’m grateful for everyone's interest and comments on this project.
I’m back online now and have worked through many of the bugs and performance issues that came up, thanks to everyone who reported these and for your patience as we work through them. I’m also working out some new functionality that I came up with over the break. I never bring a computer with me but had my notebook and a stack of law review articles for those long train rides and have pages of notes to implement for the new year.
One of theses new features is a restructuring of the various objects (ex. arguments, quotes, citations) to reflect major shifts in the debate. For example, in the UNCLOS debate, we should be able to separate or distinguish arguments made before UNCLOS was amended in 1994 from those made afterwards. This will likely have more application for other topics that have more frequent milestones (for example, the debate over the Iran agreement) but I hope to test this out here shortly before launching on these other topics.
We're working on a number of new features for the site, here's a look at our (tentative) roadmap for the next 3-6 months:
- Finalize the case-building tool: This will allow visitors to remix the existing arguments and quotes to create their own custom cases on the topic and help fill the gaps in the debate.
- Allow edits to arguments: Visitors will be able to make updates to existing arguments to help improve the reasoning or suggest different wording.
- Open up for user submissions: We're working out the process to allow users to contribute by adding citations, arguments, or other resources to the system.
- Launch next '-debate' site: The goal of this project has always been to create a system that could be used for debates on a number of topics and we worked towards that goal by building four different debate sites at the same time. Unclosdebate.org was first out the gate but we're racing to release Irandebate.org in time for the resumption of the Iran talks next summer. The original Spacedebate.org site is being reworked to use the new system and updated to reflect current events and we're starting a new site to debate the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty at CTBTdebate.org
- Release open source distribution of Open Debate Engine: Finally, after we have established that the system is robus enough to support multiple debates and had a chance to clean up the code, we're going to be releasing the whole suite as an open-source distribution on Drupal.org.
Welcome to the (beta-, pre-, soft-, robots only-) launch of UNCLOSdebate.org! There are a few more items on our roadmap to work through (more on that shortly) before we make a big push but for now we're live for Googlebots and intrepid and stylish web surfers such as yourselves.
You'll see some dust and broken links for a while as we continue to tighten up the arguments, write documentation, and add new functionality but please feel free to send in comments, questions, or suggestions. We're particularly behind on updating the Frequently Asked Questions list so you can get in on the ground floor by getting your questions in now.
Thanks for visiting and for your interest in this project!