|About Opiniopedia ||
The concept of Opiniopedia, as first envisioned by Roy Sherfan in 2006, is an attempt to provide the end user with a more efficient experience in the study, information input and contribution output of large-scale discussions over the Internet. Detailed discussion with many sub-points will usually require the conversation to branch off into many tangents and then resume the main point of discussion after the sub-points have been discussed. The conventional forum software with its one-post-after-another approach could handle the preliminary stages of serious discussion, but after that arose several key factors that limited its usefulness and practicality. When the debates escalated in complexity, the conventional forum format became cumbersome. Information relevant to all areas of discussion were not conveniently accessible. Arguments for and against were usually scattered in various parts of the thread as they often were contributed at different times - and thus - due to the nature of the chronological order of posts in the conventional forum, were not grouped together for easy reference and opportunities for users to contrast and juxtapose such references were missed.
The problems with conventional forums
- Thread hijacking - The discussions could be easily "lead" into other areas and stopped focusing on the topic at hand. This was known as thread "hijacking" and would happen in the best of circumstances, even unintentionally.
- Repeat posts - Another problem was with the large amount of information dealt with in some topics, there was an inevitable case of "repeat" posts on many questions. Contributors would inadvertantly contribute the same or similar pieces of advice frequently. This was because, unless the contributors read every piece of information thus far, there is no sure way of knowing if their input had already been posted by another contributor.
- Burying or killing conversations - The activity of many people would only focus on the most recent "page" of posts. Any person's point - however pertinent - would dread having their post be the last on a page only to have a new poster chime in moments after, inadvertently starting a "new" page and drawing the focus away from their post.
- Quoting systems - Posters would initiate debates between one another in a fairly straight forward manner if there were only two or three contributors. When the amount of contributors increases, or if a new user wishes to bring up a point further back, it usually became difficult for a conventional forum to "reference" the previous posters point. Forum software would mitigate this problem by "quoting" the other thread poster. This is fine for a time, but with users quoting and re-quoting and re-quoting over and over again, the amount of re-quoted material can quite easily turn into a ridiculous pile of redundant information, all for the sake of a user typing a simple line such as "yes, I agree!". This is exacerbated if the quoted section includes an array of photos or youtube exerpts.
- Dancing around arguments - Perhaps the biggest problem that conventional forum software has when dealing with large complicated debates is the way in which each side can "dance" around several key points with perhaps their wit, their ability to create a strawman argument and stick with it, or just basically the inability for conventional forum software to "hold" the focus of the discussion at any particular point. All it took were a few more posts, a few new posters to talk about some other aspect of the debate and the entire focus of the argument switches. Due to problems mentioned earlier, this could effectively "kill" all the previous work put in by the earlier posters as their debate is now buried in previous pages.
A new design
Opiniopedia was designed to address these types of issues. While this system does not promise a perfect answer to these problems of online discussion, it does help mitigate them under most circumstances.
- Thread hijack minimisation - The discussion focuses on one point at a time and "branches" depending on what people wish to say about a subject. Their opinion is either in approval, in disapproval or is neutral or commentary. This segregates the "wafflers" who simply want to say something or nothing at all in regards to the arguments at hand down the central column. They can't "lead" the topic elsewhere. The topic stays firmly focused on the original topic until the reader decides to dig deeper.
- Repeat poster minimisation - Repeat posts are usually in the form of a question such as "Why don't you do option A?" which may be a common knee-jerk reaction to the topic poster's predicament - but one which may already have been answered several times. Unless users read every single post in a conventional forum, they may miss out on this and "repeat" post. In Opiniopedia, the question or statement provided by the well-intentioned poster would always reside in the same location. They would, in the course of their logical following of the debate, read the question or advice that they themselves were going to contribute. Because Opiniopedia stores contributions based on their relationship with the other points within a debate, not simply one underneath the other, repeat posting is minimised.
- Quoting only required for accurate point discussion within posts - Another benefit of this particular type of storage and presentation is that it relegates "quoting" to a more personal accurate task of quoting pieces of information "within" a post, rather than used to "refer" to the post in its entirety - as is the case with conventional forums. In most circumstances you may not feel the need to even quote anything provided by the poster you are replying to. It keeps the flow of information clear and limits the amount of uneccessary repeat information.
- Preventing discussions from getting killed or buried - Since pages do not flip over after a set number posts, a strong debate presses on, regardless of where other contributors are focusing their attention. If you have made several contributions for or against another contributor - your posts STICK! Along with the rating system, other posters can mark your posts in a positive or negative light - much like how a crowd of onlookers can cheer or jeer a speaker. This allows the feedback of many people who haven't really anything more to "add" to the debate, but would like to side their opinion alongside or against your own. Opinion threads are shown in approval order, so the strongest threads with the most approval float to the top. This keeps the contributions that most people agree on near the top, concentrating the majority-view on subjects. Users who are keen on other points of view are free to continue to browse down the list of opinions - and just like in real life - if you want unique opinions on subjects in a large debate, you may have to do a bit of digging.
- Topic discussion dancing reduced - Finally, Opiniopedia goes to great lengths due to it's structure in preventing topic posters from using wit and point-dancing to weave their way around your arguments. If they re-visit a particular point, they "meet" their previous post - as the structure of the debate is already explored. Re-exploring that part of the debate and ignoring your points of view as can easily be done in conventional forum software is a lot more difficult. It isn't completely foolproof by any means - a dedicated user wishing to dodge your attacks may continue to post their cyclical points in "response" to your previous counter-arguments - but this will become evident in the contribution "view" as a recurring structure - so posters following your argument have a good chance of noticing this user is dancing around the same points over and over.
The project began in 2006 - the main conceptual tree-design and thread-engine were created. The project was then shelved due to time constraints and other projects until late 2008 when, due to the economic downturn of the economy and less time spent on other business websites, the project was reopened and all the major functionality requirements integrated into the design. The official beta release of Opiniopedia was 1st January 2009.
During the beta release, we will be working with end users on aspects such as useability and functionality. The amount of initial information upon launch was quite scarce, but with further user input, the Opiniopedia community has the potential to be a thriving vibrant online experience for all.
Does the world really change? If it does, can we influence that change? Or are we powerless when attempting to steer the course of our futures? Those are big questions that many people around the world ask themselves every day. Can we really make a difference to the way things are done, the way people think or the way people see things?
There are many social networks on the Internet today. We believe that Opiniopedia offers something unique in this arena. If we are able to discuss things better, we tend to discuss things further. Whether that be with language, imagery, evidence, references in history, mathematics, theories or logic. We work better if our opinions are given a fair chance to be heard. We would like this website to be used as such a tool in this vision. As a cornerstone reference for discussion on diverse topics ranging from war and peace to fashion and music. One of humanity's most treasured past times has been to exchange opinions with one another. Whether it be over which drink they prefer, which TV show is better, the soccer player they admire, how the economy is going. Whatever the case may be. When we meet with fiends, relatives or business colleagues - after the plesantries, we almost immediately begin doing what mankind has always done: exchange our opinions. It is the basis of conversation. It is the basis for socialising. It is the basis for business. It is what drives news, entertainment, gossip, the world markets, fashion, art and politics.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if you could find out what the world really thinks about your favourite celebrity, or what should be done about a natural disaster? What can be done to solve a crisis, or the points of view from around the world over abortion, euthenasia, racism, sexism or the many other seemily unanswerable questions of life, the universe and everything else.
At Opiniopedia, we wish to make those things happen. No matter where you are in the world or what language you speak, you have the chance to have your voice heard on here. All it takes is a statement or a question. Controversial? Insightful? Daring?
The world does change. It changes the way it's always changed. One opinion at a time.
So that brings me to my question to you: Can you change the world?
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