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For the Public

Online comments today are increasingly disrespectful, divisive, and unproductive. We want commenting to be respectful, responsible and a little more rational especially on controversial issues.
Our objective introduction sets the facts straight (and you can add any new facts as they appear). The commenting system and peer moderation system both help improve the quality of comments. The auto-summary analyses the comments and provides data so you know where the majority stand, what the important minority views are, and where the key disagreements and consensus areas are.
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Do you support or oppose the decision to completely ban shisha?

60.8% OPPOSE
[09 Nov 2014]

Most Actively Discussed:
Ordinary Citizen
11 votes
16 votes
Business Owner100%0%
3 votes
Regulator / Policy Analyst31%69%
4 votes
10 votes
18 votes
26 votes

Key Disagreements

[pending more comment data]
The strongest point that argued on the side "support" came in the category of "ordinary citizen" from commenter Anonymous who said:

"This is in response to Anthony's point about how "The ban on shisha highlights the inconsistency of government policies". I do believe that the government has made it sufficiently clear that they are banning it, not because they see it as more harmful than drinking or smoking, more like they dont want it to become a culture entrenched in the country, and stop it before it starts to grow rooted in Singapore.

The writer has also downplayed the extremely negative health effects of shisha and seems to be arguing in a small scope and in an extremely biased state. This writer would encourage him to rethink his views."

On the other hand, the strongest point that argued on the side "oppose" came in the category of "regulator / policy analyst" from commenter aristoitle who said:

"Even if we accept that shisha is very unhealthy, a complete ban is an overreaction.

The appropriate reaction would have better balanced the two opposing principles at play here. On the one hand, people should be able to choose what they do. On the other, if those choices lead to harm to other people or other societal costs, the government may need to step in.

A complete ban basically tosses out the first principle in favor of the second. A more balanced reaction would have been, in order:

1) to educate the consumer about the dangers of shisha to himself and those near to him
2) to use other sorts of "nudges" to discourage shisha smoking, such as requiring the same gory images on cigarette packages to be displayed
3) to use taxation to make shisha smoking more expensive
4) to introduce a partial ban, either in terms of hours of location

Only after 1-4 is shown to be insufficient (because the public harm outweighed the private benefits) should a complete ban have been considered. We haven't even heard any reason why 1-4 wouldn't have worked. So the government has overreacted on this one."

Key Consensus Areas

[pending more comment data]
The least debated area was the category/perspective of business owner, which might indicate some consensus there.


More Issues

[21 Aug 2014]
Most Actively Discussed:
21 votes
16 votes
Taxi Industry36%64%
4 votes
7 votes
Observer, Analyst, Or Regulator61%39%
21 votes
13 votes
46 votes
36 votes

Key Disagreements

Customers were divided on whether Uber was as safe and reliable as regular taxis or not.
The strongest point that argued on the side "propose" came in the category of "Observer, Analyst, or Regulator" from commenter kennethkang who said: "As a concept, I support having more taxis on the road, as long as they are safe, of a predictable standard and drivers are competent / service oriented. Uber is able to facilitate that. As long as Uber is able to regulate its driver pool, in terms of the car that they drive, safety track record and service quality, these ad hoc drivers are in essence no different from licenced taxi drivers. Uber can subject its drivers to similar standards as licensed taxi drivers would. It is also in the interest of Uber to ensure their drivers are of quality, as consumers are unlikely to use the UberX service if they perceive ad hoc drivers to be unsafe. This is a situation where regulation can be relaxed (not neglected) to give more options for consumers."
On the other hand, the strongest point that argued on the side "oppose" came in the category of "Customer" from commenter sylvia who said: "These days drivers are getting distracted with their mobile phones – running multiple taxi booking apps, checking for location hotspots where there's customers, accepting next booking even if there's customer onboard the taxi. The introduction of Ubertaxi app adds on to the amount of distractions and compromises the safety of passengers."

Key Consensus Areas

Commenters generally agreed that the existing taxi services could be improved, in terms of the number of taxis available during peak hours.
The least debated area was the category/perspective of Taxi Industry, which might indicate some consensus there.

[09 Aug 2014]
Most Actively Discussed:
#1: Improve Dispute Resolution
21 votes
5 votes
#2: Create A Family Justice Court0%100%
14 votes
Broader Perspective0%0%
21 votes
19 votes

Key Disagreements

Commenters were divided on whether the reforms were sufficient to address the problems raised.
The strongest point that argued on the side "support" came in the category of "#1: Improve Dispute Resolution" from commenter gauravkeerthi who said:

"Dragging a family through a long, messy, and sometimes public dispute will never help them heal their wounds; it only widens the rifts. There must be better - and less messier - dispute mechanisms available to families. "

On the other hand, the strongest point that argued on the side "oppose" came in the category of "#2: Create a Family Justice Court" from commenter Anonymous who said:

"Also testing"

Key Consensus Areas

There was consensus that Recommendation #1 was worth pursuing.
The least debated area was the category/perspective of Broader Perspective, which might indicate some consensus there.

[21 May 2014]

We received 2 arguments and 26 votes, in these categories: public transport user, taxpayer, and observer / analyst.

Key Disagreements

Public Transport Users were divided on whether a private transport system would be more cost-effective or more costly.
The most hotly debated area was the category/perspective of public transport user.
The strongest point that argued on the side "support" came in the category of "public transport user" from commenter gauravkeerthi who said: "I think that the current train system is not sustainable and the only way to improv e it is through this method. [test synthesis ] "
On the other hand, the strongest point that argued on the side "oppose" came in the category of "taxpayer" from commenter Anonymous who said: "I totally love the trains in other countries. Why can't we have that same system here? [test comment]"

Key Consensus Areas

Commenters generally agreed that the public transportation system was inexpensive compared to other countries, but could be improved further.
The least debated area was the category/perspective of observer / analyst, which might indicate some consensus there.



Future Topics

These are some of the more popular potential topics:
  • We believe that doctors should be allowed to help terminally-ill patients end their lives. [Laws and Society]
  • We would make community service an alternative form of national service. [Laws and Society]
  • We believe that formal debates between candidates should be an integral part of all election campaigns. [Politics and International Affairs]
  • We believe in a legislated minimum wage. [Economics]
  • We would increase income tax and not the Goods & Services Tax. [Economics]
Propose a new topic [Voting for topics coming soon].


Understanding the Issue

Before you discuss a topic, you must understand what the topic means. The key terms, concepts, and context for the discussion must be clear. A specific and unambiguous topic allows people to focus their analysis and avoid going off on tangents. The topic affects different groups of people differently; each group has its own motivations and interests that need to be understood and respected. LEARN MORE

Logical Reasoning

An argument with clear structure is easier to understand. A thesis (or claim) introduces a reader to your general point. The reasoning (or logic) explains the cause-and-effect theoretical relationship that underlies your view. Arguments need to be substantiated with evidence in the form of examples or statistics. LEARN MORE

Persuasive Writing

A good argument is most effective when communicated with a persuasive writing style. Clear and simple language is better than fancy phrases and jargon. Use metaphors, similes, quotes, and other rhetorical devices to make your message more memorable and impactful. A persuasive communicator is likeable, earnest, humble, polite, funny, and confident. LEARN MORE

Responding to Others

Read carefully what the other person has said, and try to empathise with their perspective before you respond. Find and analyse the flaws in their understanding of the topic, their thesis or claim, their cause-and-effect logic, or their examples. Explain those flaws clearly and concisely, and provide an alternative explanation. Do not be disrespectful or aggressive, as that is not persuasive. LEARN MORE


Do you have questions about how to write a specific comment on a friend's post, a discussion forum, or a blog article? Would you like to come across as more persuasive in your argument? Ask us for advice, and our panel of persuasion experts will try to help you. Senior and Expert Users who have more than 200 reputation points can also answer questions in the forum. [Discussion forum coming soon - for now, use the contact form below].

The Importance of Disagreeing Better

Watch dialectic founder Gaurav Keerthi's TEDx video at Harvard to find out.

Download my technology study and negotiation analysis research papers at Harvard that catalysed this project. Learn more about how the dialectic works, our vision, and the technology [coming soon]. I want to reinvent how commenting is done on divisive issues, so that we can have better discussions.

Gaurav Keerthi

Dialectic Founder & Developer, Debate Educator, TV Host, Author

I have been a volunteer debate educator and organiser since 1997. I started off as a student debater, and quickly realised that the lesson to learn in debate is not how to argue or to win, but to learn how to disagree with someone without disrespecting them. This is not an easy task. We tried to teach this to students when I was the President of the Debate Association (Singapore); I hoped to reach out to a wider audience with my book on debate; I aimed to popularise debate with Singapore's first Emmy nominated TV show, The Arena and my Channel News Asia show Bridging Asia: The Singapore Debates. Now, I'm trying to improve online debates with The Dialectic. If you share my vision, please connect with me.