A late night back in 2011 I got caught up in the Chelsea Manning case.
(In case you haven’t followed it, Aclu.com has made a timeline of the case.)
In short, Chelsea Manning (formerly known as Bradley Manning) leaked nearly three-quarters of a million classified and sensitive military and diplomatic documents to Wikileaks in 2010. She was faced with 22 different charges – many under the espionage act and was facing up to 136 years in prison. But she wasn’t convicted of “aiding the enemy” which brought her sentence down to 35-years. But On May 17, Chelsea Manning was released from military prison after her sentence was commuted by former President Obama in his last week in office. She has been incarcerated for seven years — far less than the 35 years to which she was sentenced, but longer than any whistleblower in U.S. history..
After reading about the situation all night, I felt we needed a platform to discuss complex matters like this and let our voices be heard. It’s such a complicated case and it’s such a gray zone. Some people think Chelsea is a whistleblower who deserves a medal of honor while other people think she is a traitor who should be imprisoned for life.
I think we need is a platform to discuss relevant political subjects – and share the best for and against arguments.
So I sketched a website I think could:
- Help us understand what really happened in the Manning case (or any other subject)
- Give people a place to contribute with their point of views regarding the case (upvotes should give visibility, like Reddit).
- Give people an option to listen to the best argument for and against their own beliefs.
- Give people a place to make their voice and opinion be heard.
The sketch looked like this
(Bear in mind, I’m not a designer! The data is fake and the mockup is stolen from websites that had a design I think looked good for this type of website) Of course it should be redesigned if it was being built, but for now, I needed a way of quickly illustrating the concept) And of course a site like this will never be perfect – but some naive part of me thinks it could change society and specific cases, for the better.
The homepage could look something like this
(Mockup is stolen from Digg.com but it’s just a mockup to showcase the idea)
Which topics should be discussed?
Every relevant topic.
I think everyone should be able to submit topics to discuss and the most popular topics will be debated first. I know moderation sucks and is incredibly dangerous, but maybe it could be crowd-sourced or manage by trust-worthy people. I don’t know how to fix moderation, manipulation, and spam. But it would make a lot of sense to talk to Wikipedia and Reddit guys to learn how to handle it.
What happens when you click on a specific debate
This is what a debate page could look like. Again, this is a rough draft, to illustrate the idea.
Scrolling down, you could have an RSS-feed of news regarding the individual topic to get the latest news.
Also, I wanted to make it possible to subscribe to topics you truly care about and whenever there is news regarding topics you subscribe to, you’ll get a notification.
Why is there a need for a platform like this?
We need – or I really wish, we had a platform that goes in-depth about political topics that we care about. And the beauty of it is that I might not care about the same topics as you do, and vice versa, there for I won’t be subscribing to the same topics as you. But for the topics I care about, I’ll be able to discuss, subscribe and contribute with everyone else who also cares about this topic.
While we have the media, Wikipedia, Reddit, Quora and Petition sites etc, we don’t have a place that tackles both sides of each argument.
To illustrate my point, this is the platforms we have today, besides the media that is often one-sided.
I think all of us would benefit from hearing the best counter-argument against our own beliefs in order to understand the opposition. And I think petition-sites, Reddit, Wikipedia and the media can be great contributors to the website because they often have very good information and arguments.
I have a background in digital marketing and I’ve made a 10-page plan on how to launch and market the website, but I’ll get back to that.
The marketing of comes down to the quality of the website. If the debate is great, this will be the easiest thing to market. If they debate sucks, marketing won’t really matter. So in order to get a great debate, it might make sense to launch the site as an invite-only thing in the beginning, like Quora did or not, I’m not sure.
The business side of it
And I know it’s super-complex project and it should be simplified a lot. In terms of the business side of it, I don’t think profit should be involved. I think a site like this only works as a non-profit project because money will create a conflict of interest. But maybe it could also work as a for-profit.
In order to make this project you need capital for salaries and that’s it. You need to find the most talented product / UX designer, 1-2 developers, and a CEO, in my opinion.
The cool thing about creating this a non-profit is that companies like Google Grants give non-profits up to 10.000 USD to spent on Google Adwords every month. That’s between 50.000-100.000 free visits every month.
So when people Google “Travel Ban”, “Same-sex marriage”, “gun control”, or whatever topics that might be discussed, you can start generating a lot of visits from day 1.
The user hierarchy.
The best argument on each side of the debate should be the most noticeable and you shouldn’t get extra exposure or upvotes because you are a celebrity or a politician. And if you want to be anonymous, that should also be an option.
I don’t know if it makes sense, but I think it could be fun to visualize your political view, based on your upvotes and make it possible to compare your opinions and political view with your friends or other users.
Why I’m not creating the site
I asked myself this questions since I sketched the idea back in 2011 and I’ve shown all of this a bunch of times to my close friends, colleagues, and family who has mixed feelings about the project. Some really positive and some really skeptical.
But right now I’m building a company in Mexico that requires my full attention, so I thought it would make more sense to share this idea with the internetz.
And I know there are some sites out there like procon.org or debate.org – but none of them are close to something that makes sense.
Thanks for reading!
“Because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public”.
– Chelsea Manning.