What Is Whysaurus?
Whysaurus is a place to enjoy a good argument, meet smart folks with new perspectives, and find the best arguments.
It’s designed to make online argument fun.
Argument stinks online and it’s getting worse offline.
This is bad — and the stakes are high:
Argument, based in evidence, is how we figure out answers to hard problems. The internet is our new public square, and for democracy to function, we desperately need a platform that cultivates good argument.
For more, check out our Manifesto.
What’s the goal?
To create a brilliant community and work together to create The Library of The Best Arguments for Every Idea.
What about the trolls?
Whysaurus' design uses principles from "structured argument" — this makes it way easier for us to filter trolling than traditional comment threads.
What is Evidence in Whysaurus?
Evidence on Whysaurus is a chain of bite-sized claims.
What are Claims in Whysaurus?
Claims can be:
- •Supported or countered by other claims
- •Rated with agree/disagree
- •Re-used (along with their networks of evidence!)
What are Sources in Whysaurus?
Each claim can link to sources. But remember — IRL and on Whysaurus — arguments work best when you explain the best claims made by your sources.
“Because they said so” doesn’t work when we don’t agree on who to trust. Plus, even the best sources are wrong sometimes.
The good news is that we can all get behind “show me the evidence!”
I want to state a “fact” — how do I do that in Whysaurus?
A fact is a claim with real strong evidence. So make your claim and back it up! No claims are sacred cows — we must protect the right to argue against any claim.
How are Claims scored in Whysaurus?
A claim’s score is based on:
- •The scores of its Evidence (multiplied by Relevance)
- •Agrees and Disagrees
Supporting evidence makes scores go up; counter evidence makes scores go down. The algorithm is a work-in-progress. Currently it only “looks” one level down. In the future, it will be possible to defend a claim by attacking its counter points!
What is Relevance and how’s it differ from Agree/Disagree?
Relevance is one of the most powerful weapons in Whysaurus.
The links between claim are rated with Relevance. If someone claims “Tom Brady is a cheater” and supports that with “Star Wars stole ideas from Asimov’s Foundation series”, you might click “agree” on both, but rate Relevance as 0%.
Claims with low relevance are hidden by default.
How does Relevance impact scores?
Relevance impacts scoring dramatically. For example:
a +10 Supporting claim with 20% Relevance adds only +2 to the claim above it (10 × 20% = 2).
When a piece of evidence is 0% Relevant, it has no effect on scores.
What if the score of a claim is wrong?
Set the record straight! Add evidence or counter evidence. Vote on relevance and click agree/ disagree. Share the argument with friends and ask them to do the same!
Why should I trust the crowd when it comes to truth?
So far, we’ve found that asking for evidence makes folks argue in good faith. Research by smart people at Harvard has shown that when you ask people to explain a problem, they take more moderate positions than they would otherwise.
That said, if we see crowds of users clicking agree/disagree on iffy claims, we reserve the right to ask for evidence before tallying those votes.
How will Whysaurus prevent arguments from being overrun by trolls, bots, demons and armies of special interest lemmings?
We can compare suspicious activity to known humans acting in good faith. Our estimations will get better as we grow — so help us slay trolls by adding your voice to arguments you dig!
How is Evidence sorted?
Supporting- and counter-claims are sorted by Relevance. So the most relevant claims rise to the top. In the case of ties, we look at scores.
Why are claims reusable and why is Whysaurus collaborative?
So you can build good arguments faster!
- 1. Gus argues “No one ever died from overdosing on marijuana” and adds evidence.
- 2. Later, Susannah argues “Marijuana is safer than alcohol” and links to Gus’s claim.
- 3. All of Gus’ supporting evidence comes in automatically.
Why should we start from scratch when we can stand on the shoulders of the best work thats been done so far?
How does Clarification work in Whysaurus?
Click the little speech bubble icon in the byline. That opens up the Meta-Discussion, where contributors can figure out the best way to phrase the claim.
If you don’t agree with how other users are framing an idea, start your own argument!
- •This is a civil community — be respectful.
- •No claims about other users.
- •Have fun!
Divide big ideas into multiple bite-sized claims
Make it easy for everyone to agree with the parts of your argument we all agree with, and zero in on the juicy stuff — the places where there’s conflict. Plus, your argument score will get higher faster with many short claims than it would with a few bloated ones.
Make sure everyone knows what you mean.
Use simple words
Only use big words when shorter synonyms don’t exist.
Life is short.
Write claims so that they can be re-used in multiple arguments (when you can)
Certain fundamental claims contribute to a variety big ideas. If your claim is written so that it can "stand alone" — i.e. it doesn't require the context of other claims in order to be understood — then other users can link to it in their own arguments.
Contest semantics only when the author’s intent is truly unclear
When a grammatical error or hasty word choice prevents a clear interpretation of a user’s intent, use the meta-discussion to iron it out. But if the intent of a claim can be understood by a reasonable person, there's no need to call in the semantics police.
What's up with with dinosaurs?
Dinosaurs are awesome.
Who made Whysaurus?
Whysaurus was founded by Joshua Frankel, an artist and designer, and Aaron Lifshin, a software engineer.
I’ve got an idea that could make Whysaurus better, how can I share it with you?
Contact us here. Bonus points if you create a Whysaurus argument to back-up your suggestion!