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Frustrated by filter bubbles and the general state of online debate, especially on Twitter, I made Debubble.

It’s a publishing tool that will let you challenge another Twitter user to a debate. If they accept, the two of you will be able to engage in a public but distraction-free conversation. Debubble will make sure you wait for your turn before you can deliver your arguments. It will also limit each response to 1500 characters (roughly one page) and the entire debate to 12 turns. Instead of cheering for their side like sports fans, registered readers will be able to signal the value they got from your conversation by starring the whole debate.

I haven’t properly tried to launch it yet, as my day job and kids are keeping me very busy at the moment.

I really like your 'starring whole debate' mechanism, that seems like huge innovation.

The trend is to just reuse the standard up/down voting comments without realizing implications. Yes, if you do this and sort comments by votes you will on average get higher quality user-curated content. OTOH small piece of UI is using reward system to condition users to seek attention, and it sets the tone for whole discussion.

There are no easy solutions here. Everyone wants their opinion to be heard (even if somebody already expressed same thing). That will sometimes mean aligning your opinion to masses so that your content gets proper visibility, which leads to echo chambers and bubbles. Your take forces users to bring attention to all of debate and not just to one side's arguments. Clever.

Thank you for the positive feedback. That's pretty much where I'm coming from: "likes" have created an unhealthy dynamic in online conversations and I was wondering if there could be a hack around that.

I find the idea very interesting. But what if people leaning on one side of the argument stars a debate because the outcome ended up favoring their side?

Makes me wonder if having votes trickle _up_ the thread that produced them would make for a useful experiment?

HN will probably find this interesting, so when you launch it, please post it as a Show HN. You can email hn@ycombinator.com for some tips about how to present it if you want (same goes for anyone—just realize that we can't always reply quickly).

Thanks! I’ll definitely take you up on that offer.

Your execution is great!

I have been working on something very similar but with less of a focus on debating (https://taaalk.co). (Indefinite chats, any number of participants.)

Some friends and I started it a few years ago stopped working on it, so I decided to rebuild it over the last few months. Some of the old Taaalks are still on there:


Thank you for your compliments! And best of luck with Taaalk. I am also a fan of chess :)

Thank you.

Moving the voting mechanism 'up' the hierarchy makes it more vague. People aren't going to bother reading individual comments to find the value, they'll just skim and get a gist of who won. These debates are built on conflict, and having a blow-by-blow (individual comment) voting system will always be more engaging and fun.

Cutting out the plebs makes it less rewarding to read the debate. Celebrity debaters will be required to overcome the lack of organic pull into the conversation. Why not just watch an interview between the two people?

What you are (correctly) describing is the status quo. But that is precisely what motivated me to try something different, even if it does end up utopian.

I'm not saying it will be a utopia, I'm saying it will kill the status quo. Which you will likely succeed at because the fire & flames that made the status quo popular is receding under the label of toxic and (soon to be) rude. You are in effect chasing the value of debates up into the smoke.

I think this can have a hand in directly correcting Twitter's toxicity problem- I hope this grows!!

My hopes exactly! I use Twitter a lot and its toxicity has been the main driver behind Debubble. Thank you for your support!

I love the idea, looks like it requires a very large amount of twitter permissions on login though?


The app lets users send tweets or DMs and I didn’t find an obvious way to narrow the required permissions down to just that. But a few people have now pointed this issue out and I think I will just remove that functionality and require only read permissions.

You can also send users back through the oauth flow to up their permissions the first time they try to use the feature.

Thanks for the tip. If I end up keeping that feature, that seems to be a smart way to go about it. Due to time constraints, I was trying to keep it simple. Perhaps too simple.

This is super neat! Looking forward to seeing it in use. I noticed during the signup flow where the user enters their email and accepts the terms, it won't actually open the terms – the confirmation screen hijacks it. Cheers!

Thanks. I will look into it. And let’s just say I’m not too proud of the test coverage :)

I really like the idea, but it's a shame I can't see some other people's debates without signing in - or are they 'stored'/posted actually on Twitter, it sounds like it isn't, by the 1500ch limit?

Thank you for this feedback. To be honest, there aren't any noteworthy debates at the moment. One recent tweet and this comment on HN are literally the only promotion the app has had, so the first users have just started signing up. If and when debates appear, I will definitely think of a way to make them more accessible.

It's a cool idea, but you should ask a lot less permissions. No way am I giving you permission to make changes to my account, like follow/unfollow people for me.

True, that issue has been raised before: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23176527

I will probably just get rid of the features that require write permissions. They aren't essential.

I really like the part about marking the entire conversation. Very innovative and simple enough to catch on. Where can I follow your developments? Thanks!

Thank you for the positive feedback!

I've registered this Twitter account: https://twitter.com/DebubbleMe. There is nothing on it for now, but if Debubble takes off in any shape or form, that's where I'll be posting the updates.

That is really smart.

Will you be summarizing some of the best debubbles? The reminds me of that subreddit ... changemyview?

Thanks. If it takes off in any shape or form, I will definitely make the best debates more easily discoverable.

This is an interesting approach, but I suspect it won't work as intended.

After reading "How to Have Impossible Conversations" (which was recommended by someone on HN a few weeks back), I've come to understand that the toxicity of social media has more to do with the lack of social cues, rapport building, and consequences than the details of the platform.

Also, "staring" conversations rather than "liking" comments still results in the same "sort by controversial" phenomenon: https://slatestarcodex.com/2018/10/30/sort-by-controversial/

Thank you for the honest feedback. I don't disagree. I see social media as a complex system that is based on a few simple rules that have allowed it to evolve quickly, but not necessarily the way we would like.

Since ancient times, two philosophers would often have a debate by exchanging letters. The goal was not publicity, though many of such correspondences eventually became public. The goal, as I see it, was simply searching for truth. I wonder if it's possible to build a platform for something similar today. Even if it never becomes as popular as social media, I hope it could at least create a clear distinction between entertainment and actual conversation.

Love this idea!

Do I need to sign in to see any of the debates?

Thanks! Debates are public and accessible to anyone with a link. Since the app hasn't really had any promotion until now, the first users are just signing up and there aren't really any noteworthy debates yet. If and when more debates are started, I'll find a way to make them discoverable.

This is an awesome idea. Nice work.

Thank you!

Neat project - seems much like the SSC "Adversarial Collaboration" which I found interesting as well:


Very interesting, thanks.

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