Consumers and companies alike have come to depend on crowdsourced content as input for decision making. From product reviews on Amazon to biography searches on Wikipedia or commentary boxes on news sites, the input of a wide audience helps inform our judgement, for better or worse. While “liking” and average star ratings have helped users to draw conclusions from user input, much of online debate is lost in the weeds. Major news sites have taken measures to address it. The Times implementing a new Google-led system called Moderator in 2017 after it struggled to keep up with reviewing the 12,000 comments per day posted on the site. A debate on a meaty discussion topic can often dissolve into shouting as balanced conversion remains elusive. Kialo was designed to change that. In 2017, after six years of development, Errikos Pitsos launched an online debate platform “powered by reason”. Kialo aims to be “a simple yet powerful tool for critical thinking, serious discussion, and decision-making”. Far from wanting to avoid disagreement, Kialo wants to embrace it. It shifts the focus of online debate from winning the argument to providing different viewpoints. Whatever side of the argument the user sits, Kialo aims to make them better informed.
The immediate focus of Kialo has been on designing features to keep the conversation in the spirit of self-moderation. A conversation begins with one user posting a thesis, typically structured as a question. For example, “Do we need nuclear power for sustainable energy production?” The conversation opens for others to provide input as claims, with additional points falling distinctly into either a pros or cons list. The arguments build out in an interactive tree structure allowing users to visualize the layers of debate and contrasting arguments. The broadest claims start at the top and proceeding claims fall relevant to the parent. Kialo removes clutter as users no longer struggle to filter through comments to find the thread. Users have the option of creating private or public discussions to make the scope for input as broad or as narrow as they wish. Kialo has integrated many features now taken for granted in online conversations such as the ability to vote and comment, as well as flag potentially redundant comments. Admins and owners moderate the discussion with considerable control and re-arrangement of the discussion trees remains one of the more controversial features with users. Kialo puts this responsibility on invited users, removing the administrative burden of monitoring for trolls which many other sites face.
Over the next few years, management will face decisions on the use cases of Kialo – where can it add value to online debate and what’s the business model? It is already exploring sectors where internal discussion requires input from large groups. If one of the aspirations of Kialo is to make the world more thoughtful, education seems like a natural arena to play in. The company has already partnered with universities to beta test use in the classroom. Several of Kialo’s top tips for contribution overlap with HBS’s guidance on classroom case participation from presenting concise claims to avoiding duplication. A platform like Kialo can allow companies to embrace open innovation by testing out hypotheses with a broad user base and gain feedback in a clean structure. Regardless of industry, it offers a fresh and efficient way to gain team input while saving time on long email threads or rambling meetings. My challenge to management would be to explore the ways Kialo’s architecture can be added as a tool to online platforms users already love. While the level-headed debate enthusiast might turn to Kialo.com, the moments where reasoned debate is most needed, users may not turn to search for it. Unless the Kialo architecture can become integrated like more mainstream tools like Moderator, its influence on online debate could remain limited.
Does Kialo’s reasoned debate architecture have a roll to play in social media? Do we lose any value by removing emotion and opinion from debates? Are there lessons to be taken from the HBS case structure that can inform the design and use cases for Kialo, or vice versa?
 Bassey Etim, “The Times Sharply Increases Articles Open for Comments, Using Google’s Technology”, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/13/insider/have-a-comment-leave-a-comment.html, accessed November 2018.
 Jonathan Margolis, “Meet the start-up that wants to sell you civilised debate”, https://www.ft.com/content/4c19005c-ff5f-11e7-9e12-af73e8db3c71, accessed November 2018.
 Medium, “KialoHQ”, https://medium.com/@KialoHQ, accessed November 2018.
 Audrey Williams, “How to Promote Enlightened Debate Online”, https://www.chronicle.com/article/How-to-Promote-Enlightened, accessed November 2018.
 Gregory Kohs, “Why Kialo is not for me”, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-kialo-me-gregory-kohs/, accessed November 2018.
 Kialo, “Tour” https://www.kialo.com/tour, accessed November 2018.
 Stephen Chaudoin, Jacob Shapiro, Dustin Tingley, “Revolutionizing Teaching and Research, with a Structured Debate Platform”, https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/dtingley/files/structureddebate.pdf, accessed November 2018.
 Kialo, “Top Tips”, https://support.kialo.com/hc/en-us/articles/115000761972-Top-Tips, accessed November 2018.