Re: [unrev-II] Re: Can IBIS be useful for individual/asynchronous collaboration?

From: Jeff Conklin (
Date: Thu Nov 08 2001 - 18:25:41 PST

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    I've been thrilled to see the excellent discussion threads around IBIS, but
    too busy with deadlines to put my oar in the water. A couple of times I've
    started to write a response, had to shelve it, and then come back to find
    that Al or Simon or someone else had said what I wanted to, usually better.
     There are a few odd comments I would still like to make:

    1. On Arguments as Pro or Con. The case for putting the pro/con semantics
    on the links is that you might want an argument to do double duty,
    supporting some ideas and objecting to others. Turns out that this is
    mostly a red herring, and grammatically problematic. Say I have two idea
    nodes, say "Build" and "Buy", and I want to support the "Build" idea with
    the argument "We'll get more precisely what we want". Now say I also want
    to object to "Buy" with the same argument. I can't just link that argument
    node as a con to "Buy" because the wording of the argument is as a pro to
    "Build". I have to reword the argument into more neutral terms in order to
    have it make sense, something like "We'll get more precisely what we want
    if we build". By the time I've fixed the argument to make sure that its
    wording works with all of the pro and con links, it would have been easier
    to simply create a separate argument as a con.

    2. On weighting Arguments. As Al and Simon have pointed out, it's a
    tradeoff between usability/learnability and expressive power. There have
    been many experiments over the years that sought to add to the expressive
    power of IBIS by providing ways of classifying or weighting the arguments
    (or even putting them into a truth-maintenance system!). Indeed, it is a
    slippery slope, leading to the "morass of weighting dimensions depending on
    the range of sets of criteria involved" that Peter mentioned.

    But there's another aspect. The problem for all decision support systems
    (because the multi-criteria decision matrix systems have been dealing with
    weights/costs/probabilities for decades) is ... Whose weight do you use?
    Living in a democracy, it's tempting to just take the group average of the
    weight for each argument, but that just puts the problem off one level, to
    ... Who do you invite to weighting process? (With wicked problems the very
    definition of the problem depends on who you ask ... getting such a group
    to align on criterial weights is nigh on impossible.)

    There is a place for weighting/ranking/voting: as an interim way to expose
    major differences in beliefs among the participants. Having used the
    quantitative techniques to discover the hot spots, you have to role up your
    sleeves and go back into qualitative discussion/argumentation to make sense
    of the differences.

    3. On the QuestMap GUI. There are tons of things that could be done
    differently and better. The pre-QuestMap GUI of gIBIS (in UNIX in the late
    80's) was more complex and sophisticated. It all depends on who you're
    trying to get to use it. If you're building a power tool for a highly
    trained facilitator, go ahead and load it up with features! If you want
    something that the average computer user can pick up and use ... that's a
    whole different game. QuestMap tried to be both, and it reflects this
    confusion of design goals.

    Anyway, I mostly wanted to chime in with my $.02 and go on record as
    thoroughly enjoying these threads!


    PS ... and being painfully aware of how fragmenting and debilitating this
    discourse tool/environment is for the conversation we're trying to have!!


    Dr. Jeff Conklin <> CogNexus Institute ... Collaborative Display, Collective Intelligence Phone/Fax: 410-798-4495 304 Arbutus Dr., Edgewater, MD 21037 USA

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