Managing conflict in online debate communities


  • Jordan Beck The Pennsylvania State University
  • Bikalpa Neupane The Pennsylvania State University
  • John M. Carroll The Pennsylvania State University



peer production, debate, debate moderation, kialo, conflict


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.

Author Biographies

Jordan Beck, The Pennsylvania State University

Assistant Research Professor, College of Information Sciences and Technology

Bikalpa Neupane, The Pennsylvania State University

PhD Candidate, College of Information Sciences and Technology

John M. Carroll, The Pennsylvania State University

Distinguished Professor of Information Sciences and Technology, College of Information Sciences and Technology




How to Cite

Beck, J., Neupane, B., & Carroll, J. M. (2019). Managing conflict in online debate communities. First Monday, 24(7).