Most forms of online discourse is done via comment threads that are either linear (this forum) or hierarchical (e.g. Reddit). Comment threads are well-suited to general conversation, but are a rather poor tool to have real structured discussion especially when the threads get longer and veer off-topic.
What alternatives exist, are they used in actual implementation, and are they effective?
I think for humanetech and HTC it is interesting to collect these alternatives. I recently bumped into a free software project that uses Argument Maps to guide a discussion:
Wikipedia: Argument maps are commonly used in the context of teaching and applying critical thinking. The purpose of mapping is to uncover the logical structure of arguments, identify unstated assumptions, evaluate the support an argument offers for a conclusion, and aid understanding of debates. Argument maps are often designed to support deliberation of issues, ideas and arguments in wicked problems.
In our current post-truth era anything that encourages critical thinking online is a good thing, so this fits well with humane tech.
The software I found was Arguman:
arguman.org is an argument analysis platform. […]
Argument mapping improves our ability to articulate, comprehend and communicate reasoning, thereby promoting critical thinking. […]
Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.
And, as said, Arguman is free and open source software: https://github.com/arguman
Here is an basic argument map which demonstrates the concepts (some maps are way more elaborate):
Last but not least I want to add a link to Argdown. Argdown is an extension to Markdown (the same text-based formatting language you use in this forum when posting). With Argdown this text:
[Argdown is the best]: Argdown is the best tool for analyzing complex argumentation and creating argument maps. - <Editors easier>: Argument map editors are way easier to use. #pro-editor + <WYSIWYG>: In argument map editors what you see during editing is what you get at the end: an argument map. #pro-editor + <Pure Data>: With Argdown no user interface gets in your way. You can focus on writing without getting distracted.
Is transformed to this map: