Great, now we’ve got another place to argue on the web. OutQuib is a new site that allows you to have discussions about any topic that interests you, with a social network built around those debates. It’s kind of like existing site Essembly without the explicitly political focus.
But it’s the debate on Outquib, not its social network, that is the real selling point — even though the site hasn’t officially had its public launch, early testers are already engaged in rich discussions on a wide range of topics, and those discussions can all be accessed in OutQuib’s archives.
The idea, says co-founder Suhail Doshi, is to create a “Wikipedia for opinions.” Rather than storing “just the facts”, OutQuib will become a repository for arguments and positions. The site inverts the traditional structure found on Wikipedia, Digg and elsewhere online, where there’s a single entry or article that dominates, while the comments are relegated to the background (or, in Wikipedia’s case, to the “Talk” page). On OutQuib, the comments are the main attraction.
The site has a very clean interface (see screenshot below), with colors indicating your position on an issue. A rating system, through which you can weigh-in on a comment’s value, creates an incentive for thoughtful discussion. The creator of each debate will also have the authority to “gray out” particularly inflammatory or off-topic posts. It seems to be working so far — I wasted a good chunk of my afternoon reading people’s opinions on whether humans are “the most valuable organisms on the planet,” (I’m not sure myself …) and I was stunned to see that the Windows vs. Mac debate didn’t degenerate into a flame war. OutQuib will probably struggle to maintain that quality as it grows.
The company is based in Tempe, Ariz. and hopes to eventually make money from contextualized advertising. Assuming OutQuib can attract an audience, it’s an approach that could pay off, since the ads will be targeted to reach people interested in specific issues. On the other hand, the site is launching at a time when there’s debate about whether companies want to place their ads next to potentially controversial opinions, targeted or not.
Is such a site is needed? Related site Essembly has languished. OutQuib’s Doshi blames Essembly’s underwhelming performance on founder Jon Green’s focus on Project Agape (which created the Facebook application Causes), while we suggested Essembly’s “virtual town hall” concept is too broad. Why go to a general debate site when there are plenty of specialized forums and pages? OutQuib is even less focused and could face the same challenge attracting users.
I’m also not sure the “debate” format is the best way to get an overview of the different opinions on a topic. Some Wikipedia pages, for example, already boil down the opinions surrounding their respective topics, and they’re much quicker to read than a long discussion thread. A site called Helium also features a debate section, but the arguments are in-depth articles, rather than OutQuib’s relatively short posts.
Despite my reservations, I’m still enthusiastic about the site. The simple fact is that thoughtful, interesting debate is one of the most valuable things online and elsewhere. OutQuib is a place where that’s happening already, and there’s promise of future growth. (Doshi says the company will be adding some new social features too.) Wikipedia is more useful, but OutQuib could be more fun.