Managing conflict in online debate communities

Jordan Beck, Bikalpa Neupane, John M. Carroll


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.


peer production; debate; debate moderation; kialo; conflict

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