SharePoint, Debategraph and Copenhagen 2009 – Collaboration on a global scale

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Note: For those of you who do not wish to read my usual verbose writing, then skip to the last section where there is a free web part to download and try out.

Unless you are a complete SharePoint nerd and world events don’t interest you while you spend your hours in a darkened room playing with the SP2010 beta, you would no doubt be aware that one of the most significant collaborative events in the world is currently taking place.

The United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen this month is one of the most important world gatherings of our time. You might wonder why, as a SharePoint centric blog, I am writing about this. The simple answer is that this conference in which the world will come together to negotiate and agree on one of the toughest wicked problems of our time. How to tackle international climate change in a coordinated global way. As I write this, things do not seem to be going so well :-(.


Climate change cuts to the heart of the wellbeing expected by every one of us. Whether you live in an affluent country or a developing nation, the stakes are high and the issues at hand are incredibly complex and tightly intertwined. It might all seem far away and out of sight/out of mind, but it is clear that we will all be affected by the outcomes for better and worse. The spectre of the diminishing window of opportunity to deal with this issue means that an unprecedented scale of international cooperation will be required to produce an outcome that can satisfy all stakeholders in an environmentally, economically and social bottom line.

Can it be done? For readers who are practitioners of SharePoint solutions, you should have an appreciation of the difficulty that a supposedly “collaborative tool” actually is to improve collaboration. Therefore, I want you to imagine your most difficult, dysfunctional project that you have ever encountered and just try and now multiply it by a million, gazzilion times. If there are ever lessons to be learned about effective collaboration among a large, diverse group on a hugely difficult issue, then surely it is this issue and this event.

Our contribution

My colleagues and I became interested in sense-making and collaboration on wicked problems some time back, and through the craft of Dialogue Mapping, we have had the opportunity to help diverse groups successfully work through some very challenging local issues. I need to make it clear that much of what we do in this area is far beyond SharePoint in terms of project difficulty, and in fact we often deal with non IT projects and problems that have significant social complexity.

Working with people like city planners, organisational psychologists, environmental scientists and community leaders to name a few, has rubbed off on myself and my colleagues. Through the sense-making process that we practice with these groups, we have started to see a glimpse of the world through their eyes. For me in particular, it has challenged my values, social conscience and changed the entire trajectory of where I thought my career would go. I feel that the experience has made me a much better practitioner of collaborative tools like SharePoint and I am a textbook case of the the notion that the key to improving in your own discipline, is to learn from people outside of it.

We have now become part of a global sense-making community, much like the global SharePoint community in a way. A group of diverse people that come together via common interest. To that end, my colleague at Seven Sigma, Chris Tomich has embarked on a wonderful initiative that I hope you may find of interest. He has enlisted the help of several world renowned sense-makers, such as Jeff Conklin of Cognexus and David Price of Debategraph, and created a site,, where we will attempt to create a global issue map of the various sessions and talks at the Copenhagen summit. The aim of this exercise is to try and help interested people cut through the fog of issues and understand the points of view of the participants. We are utilising IBIS, the grammar behind dialogue mapping, and the DebateGraph tool for the shared display.


How you can help

If you feel that issue mapping is for you, then I encourage you to sign up to Debategraph and help contribute to the Copenhagen debate by mapping the dialogue of the online sessions (which you can view from the site).

Otherwise, Chris has written a simple, free web part, specifically for Copenhagen which can be downloaded “Mapping tools” section of the Copenhagen site. The idea is that if you or your organisation wish to keep up with the latest information from the conference, then installing this web part onto your site, will allow all of your staff to see the Copenhagen debate unfold live via your SharePoint portal. Given that SharePoint is particularly powerful at surfacing data for business intelligence, think of this web part as a means to display global intelligence (or lack thereof, depending on your political view 🙂 ).

Installing is the usual process for a SharePoint solution file. Add the solution to central admin, deploy it to your web application of choice and then activate the site collection scoped feature called “Seven Sigma Debategraph Components”. The web part will be then available to add to a page layout or web part page.


The properties of this web part allow you some fine grained control over how the Debategraph map renders inside SharePoint. The default is to show the Debategraph stream view, which is a twitter style view of the recent updates as shown in the example below.


Stream view is not the only view available. Detail view is also very useful for rationale that has supplementary information, as shown in the example below.


By the way, you can use this web part to display any Debategraph debate – not just Copenhagen. The Debategraph map to display is also controlled via the web part properties.

For information on how to change the default map, then check out this webcast I recorded for the previous version here.

I hope that some of you find this web part of use and look forward to any feedback.


Kind regards


Paul Culmsee

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The practice of Dialogue Mapping – Part 4

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series DM
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Three weeks ago my plasma TV broke, freeing the family from the magic spell of hi-def television. My family took the loss in different ways. My four year old was devastated at the lack of Nintendo Wii, and constantly whined about being bored. My ten year old is a bookworm anyway, and continued to be one. I suddenly found mountains of time to write, churning out three Dialogue Mapping articles that I had been meaning to write for ages.

Today the repair man came and fixed the TV. I expect that the glow of the plasma screen will once again induce that zombie-like state, where my work-rate is dependant on what show happens to be on at the time (NCIS as I write this). Luckily, this is the last article of this particular series on Dialogue Mapping for now and I might have enough active brain cells to hang on long enough to squeeze this article out.

This article builds on the last section of part three that was entitled “Nurture the holding environment”. In that section, I introduced the concept of the “holding environment” and I offered a basic example (the bus trip that was conducted prior to the Dialogue Mapping session). This concept is so fundamental and important to the success of Dialogue Mapping and projects more broadly that I want to do it proper justice here in part four.

The paradox of individuality

Put a bunch of right-brained geeks in a room to solve a problem and you will probably find that they get on relatively well. Put a bunch of creative left-brained marketing people in a room to solve a problem and you might expect the same thing. The solutions offered, when compared to each other, are likely to be quite different and will also likely be sub-optimal. For a truly good solution, we need diversity in perspectives and, although this pains me to say, marketing people are therefore actually needed. This creates a bit of a problem though with the paradox of individuality because, as geeks, we all know the notion of marketing people being needed goes against everything we stand for.

I first read about the paradox of individuality in a book called Team Talk: The Power of Language in Team Dynamics and it was described as follows:

The only way for a group to become a group is for individuals to express their individuality, yet the only way for individuals is to become fully individuated is to accept and develop more fully, their connections to the group.

What? Geeks and marketing people accepting each other as equals? Unifying the laws of physics will come sooner and this is a classic example of what Conklin calls “social complexity”. Of course, social complexity goes much deeper than geeks vs. marketing people, but one of the effects of social complexity is a distinct lack of direct communication between parties. This is because conflict is not fun and avoidance is a natural reaction to situations that are not fun.

The idea of the “holding environment” is best summed up with the image below. Here, you can see that we have an area set aside for kids to play in a safe, controlled environment.


A holding environment for an organisation or a team is actually not that dissimilar to the example above. You are attempting to create a state where participants can step out of their comfort zones, but at the same time, are shielded from counter productive tensions that cause paralysis, chaos and pullback.

For this reason I maintain that beer is one of the best holding environments available and it forms a key part of my professional skill set 😉

As I stated in part 1 of this series, Dialogue Mapping is a very useful holding environment on its own, but it can be augmented with other things as well and you should always be on the lookout for complimentary tools and techniques. In the following sections, I will outline where Dialogue Mapping has augmented another method, or where we have augmented Dialogue Mapping itself with another method.

Information gathering for 40+ people

There are practical limits to how many people should be involved in a standard Dialogue Mapping session. Mind you, there are practical limits for how many people should attend a meeting too and that limit seems to be any more than one person :-).

By “standard”, I mean the sort of session illustrated below. The exact number that test the limits of Dialogue Mapping varies because it really depends on the wickedness of the problem being discussed and the past history of the group. For example, one of the teams I map for consists of around fifteen to eighteen members. They are working on a particularly wicked problem, yet I can work with this group alone quite easily. This is because over time, the group has worked out their decorum for the Dialogue Mapping sessions that work for all concerned. I also know everybody on a first name basis and some of the group have become personal friends of mine outside of work. In short, people are comfortable with each other and the process, and despite things getting heated people know that it is not personal. This is a simple, yet effective, example of a working holding environment.


A while back, my client invited representatives from academia, charities as well as various public sector government departments, to a half day workshop on the topic of social sustainability as part of a significant redevelopment project. There were approximately 40-45 attendees who were there for the first time. There was no way we would be able to cover off the required topics using a standard Dialogue Mapping set-up. With so many people, it would be hard for all attendees to have a say in the allotted time, let alone set up the room to handle that number of people for the process.

The way we got around this issue was to run a pre-workshop session among a much smaller group, to create a series of “seed maps” for each of the sub-areas of social sustainability. By the end of this process, we had around a dozen maps on various subtopics with a few questions, ideas, pros and cons. These maps were not complete at all, but that was not the aim. Instead they were well formed IBIS argumentations.

We then printed each of these maps out at large size. Initially each map was pinned to display boards, and when the attendees arrived they spent time wandering from map to map, examining the argumentation while mingling with other attendees. Below is a photo showing some of the seed maps prior to the attendees arriving.


Below is a diagram representing the table arrangement for the workshop. We started with a half hour overview and introduction as to the purpose of the workshop and why they had been invited. At this point, we removed four of the maps from the display boards above, and put a map on each table. We explained to the group that each table had a unique map on it and each map was on a particular topic. At this point attendees had the opportunity to move to a table where the topic was of most relevance or interest to them.


Each table contained copious amounts of marker pens. I then took the stage and explained the basics of IBIS grammar to the attendees and explained to them that we wanted them to start adding ideas to the existing maps. I did not belabour the grammar, nor did I expect them to suddenly know how to do IBIS properly, but what I made clear, was that I was going to walk from table to table and interrupt if I felt the additions to the map made no sense or were ambiguous in some way.

The group had just under an hour to work on each map and at the end of the hour, we removed the updated paper maps and replaced them with the next four from the display boards. The process was then repeated and I walked from table to table, asking for clarification or calling out implied questions on parts of the maps that made no sense to me. Interestingly, IBIS novices seemed to have little problems with the usage of ideas, pros and cons, but they would forget to make the underlying question explicit. I would ask them what was the question being answered by a particular idea and would write the question into the map and redraw the lines.

After the third iteration of this process we were done. The last half an hour was a “Where to from here?” session and an opportunity for the group to provide feedback to the organisers of the workshop.

After the workshop was completed, I took all of the updated paper maps and added the additional rationales into the seed maps in Compendium. The process was surprisingly quick because the majority of the additional argumentations that were added were actually pretty good IBIS form. I think that having existing argumentations on the seed maps made it easier for attendees to add rationales that looked similar to what was there already. It wasn’t perfect IBIS by any means, but it was not a difficult task for me to refactor the additional information without losing any of the intent behind the rationales.

For the record, additional workshops were conducted, but these reverted to standard Dialogue Mapping workshops with a subset of the attendees who had specialised skills and knowledge in the topic area. But what this particular process demonstrated was that with a little planning a single Dialogue Mapper could still manage to capture quality rationales from a very large group in a short space of time.

Dialogue Mapping with a facilitator

Dialogue mapping for a large group can be augmented with a facilitator and I have done this a few times. For a large group, this can be very helpful because the mapper can concentrate on capturing the dialogue and less on directing the meeting. Equally though, a facilitator can actually make the process more difficult. The key to a facilitator situation working is when the facilitator either knows IBIS or has been present in a number of Dialogue Mapping workshops and understands how the process works. This is because the facilitator is usually facing the group like the mapper, asking probing questions, directing the course of conversation and therefore is not looking at the map or listening in terms of IBIS translation of the dialogue. As a Dialogue Mapper, it is important for participants to verify what you have captured is correct, and if the facilitators are not following the map, they can easily get in the way of this verification process.

Facilitators can also get you into trouble at times because they can sometimes be conditioned to traditional meeting decorum where topics are allocated at particular times with an agenda that can preclude deeper exploration of a topic. Dialogue Mapping is a rich enough container to allow a group that deeper exploration, but this is not something that some facilitators are used to. One prime example that sticks out in my mind to this day was a workshop where we had a lot of options to explore. Conscious of the agenda, in an attempt to make the process more efficient, the facilitator asked the group whether any of the options had any “fatal flaws” that enabled that option to be quickly discounted. It soon became apparent (in a negative way) that one person’s “fatal flaw” was diametrically opposed to another person’s “fatal flaw”. This attempt to shortcut deliberations backfired badly and resulted in this line of question being completely abandoned.

This is a great example of the importance of nurturing the holding environment (lesson nine from part 3). After this “fatal flaws” episode, I deliberately stopped mapping while the group resolved the fatal flaw issue and resolved to try a different approach. This subsequent approach proved to be much more successful and we never deviated from it after that. “No fatal flaws” became a bit of a mantra among this group.

A key to working with a facilitator is to remember the lesson on confidence and assertiveness from part 3. Just because a facilitator is directing the meeting and influencing the direction of the conversation, it doesn’t mean that the mapper is purely a scribe. Work out a system with the facilitator where, if you raise your hand or signal in some way, you are not ready to move on straight away. Another technique that I have used in a large group situation was to assign someone else the traffic warden role, where if I am having trouble keeping up with the various conversations, and my eyes are on the map, they can call the group to order.

Dialogue Mapping, in tandem with another Dialogue Mapper ,can work very well and I have done many times with my colleagues at Seven Sigma. In this situation, you are both thinking in the IBIS grammar and both of you are mentally unpacking the conversation, although only one of you is actually performing the mapping. We have used this technique with particularly good results in SharePoint requirement gathering workshops, where one of us asks the questions and the other performs the mapping.

Dialogue Mapping and Debategraph

Compendium is one of several tools that can be used to create and render argument grammar like IBIS. For me, Compendium is the absolute best for Dialogue Mapping. Being a desktop application, I do not need internet access and once you are proficient with it, Compendium is very fast. This is of course, the biggest factor for Dialogue Mapping live. You do not want to be hindered by the limitations of the software tool that you are using.

I noticed that some CleverworkArounds readers created IBIS maps in Visio and were also using mind mapping tools after I published the “One best practice” series. But the problem is, although you can technically make an IBIS map, those tools would never work in a live session because of how slow it would be to add rationales to the map. Seriously guys, it might be technically possibly but do not attempt to use those tools live.

One size does not fit all and this is especially true of sense making tools. There are actually two main audiences for maps like this. Those who create the maps and those who consume the maps. The key point is that the ultimate audience for any map is quite often not the group creating the map in the first place. The whole point of capturing rationale is to make visible the process that a group went through when working on a problem, which ultimately shows why a particular decision was made or why a course of action was taken. Those who want to review the rationales are a very different audience to those who made the decision and wish to demonstrate justification. Just because the tool works well for the problem solving process, does not automatically assume that the tool is then best suited to the communication of that rationale to a wider audience.

Compendium maps work brilliantly well during the Dialogue Mapping process and from a broader communication point of view, work exceptionally well when detailed maps are printed onto large sized paper. But as a communication and distribution tool, Compendium is weaker than some of the alternatives. Compendium maps do not translate overly well to the web at this point, and asking all interested parties to install compendium is out of the question. For the sake of article length, I will not go into detail why this is, but to appease the Compendium fanbois, this is direct feedback from my clients and not just my opinionated rant.

For communicating the rationale that has come from Dialogue Mapping sessions to a wider audience, Debategraph is ideal. Unlike Compendium, Debategraph is a cloud based argument visualisation tool, designed to leverage the freeform updating capabilities of a wiki, along with the rigor of an argument grammar much like IBIS. Debategraph does not use a top down or left to right visualisation method. Instead each node is at the centre of the screen and surrounding issues, ideas, pros and cons surround the node, requiring the user to click nodes to explore further argumentation.

The beauty of Debategraph is the combination of its argument navigation, along with the streaming view of related content as shown below. My clients absolutely love the stream view because it is so simple for people to explore and work with. The ability to embed a map at any point in the debate on any web site is also pretty handy and I have pasted a sample map below to illustrate this. Click a node on the left pane (the “*” means there are sub arguments) and the content in the right window will change, based on which argument node is currently being examined.

Compare this to Compendium maps, where additional rich content like images, documents and the like are treated as additional nodes in the map. As you can see in the example below, it is possible to integrate rich content into the map very easily, but that rich content is linked in the same manner as the argumentation itself. Debategraph on the other hard, separates the argumentation from the supporting content and I think that this works much better and supports a richer form of argument based content delivery.


But once again, use the best tool that fits the purpose. From a dialogue and rationales collection point of view, Debategraph is an excellent way for a bunch of geographically dispersed people to debate a particular issue because the map will refactor on the fly as people self-contribute to it. But I personally would not use Debategraph for the Dialogue Mapping process, because it is not as fast as compendium and it is not as easy to view the map in full context as shown above. The over-arching point with all of this is that if the rationale has been captured in the first place, there are many ways to make creative use of it.

Note: To be fair on the Compendium makers there are many excellent examples of Compendium being used for some pretty impressive things. I am talking here specifically about online collaboration and communication to a wider audience.


This series of posts has examined the practical aspects of Dialogue Mapping, explored some of the techniques that I have used to augment it. Although I do not intend to write any more articles on this topic right now, the series is by no means complete. This is an ongoing learning process for all practitioners of this craft and I am sure that other Dialogue Mappers have tried different techniques than those that I have covered. (Some interesting things are happening on the SharePoint integration front too, which should enrich this experience even further, but that is a whole separate topic 🙂 )

But one final request. If you have used techniques such as these to enrich the experience for participants, then I’d love to hear from you. Even if it is not for Dialogue Mapping, any technique that is inclusive and augments the holding environment, please drop me a line or leave a comment.

Thanks for reading

Paul Culmsee

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Core Principles for User Engagement – a must read …er… explore!

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I listened to Steve Smith talk about user engagement on the SharePoint Pod Show today and found myself nodding in strong agreement with many points that he made. So while in that mood of stakeholder engagement and how to achieve it, twitter made me aware of a really terrific Debategraph map on the topic of “Core Principles of Public Engagements” and think it is mandatory learning material for any SharePoint architect/collaboration consultant/business analyst/business improvement specialists/<insert title here>.

The map above, came from a collaborative effort called the “Public Engagement Principals Project”. This is a recent project (February 2009) and the aim was to “create clarity in our field about what we consider to be the fundamental components of quality public engagement”. The outcome of this project are seven recommendations that reflect the common beliefs and understandings of those working in the fields of public engagement, conflict resolution, and collaboration.

1. Careful Planning and Preparation
Through adequate and inclusive planning, ensure that the design, organization, and convening of the process serve both a clearly defined purpose and the needs of the participants.

2. Inclusion and Demographic Diversity
Equitably incorporate diverse people, voices, ideas, and information to lay the groundwork for quality outcomes and democratic legitimacy.

3. Collaboration and Shared Purpose
Support and encourage participants, government and community institutions, and others to work together to advance the common good.

4. Openness and Learning
Help all involved listen to each other, explore new ideas unconstrained by predetermined outcomes, learn and apply information in ways that generate new options, and rigorously evaluate public engagement activities for effectiveness.

5. Transparency and Trust
Be clear and open about the process, and provide a public record of the organizers, sponsors, outcomes, and range of views and ideas expressed.

6. Impact and Action
Ensure each participatory effort has real potential to make a difference, and that participants are aware of that potential.

7. Sustained Engagement and Participatory Culture
Promote a culture of participation with programs and institutions that support ongoing quality public engagement.

Despite the fact this map is all about public engagement, this material is absolutely the best advice you could ever get for dealing with user engagement in your SharePoint endeavours. If you have any interest whatsoever in the mystical arts of getting true understanding and buy-in among your organisational stakeholder group, then this map (and its underlying documents), is for you.

Also, be sure to use the Debategraph toolbar to explore the detailed information in the root node. There is a lot of supplementary information in this map that you can easily access by clicking on the “Show detailed text and comments” icon (highlighted below).


If you are using the Seven Sigma Web Part for Debategraph, the Map ID is 16220 and you can incorporate this map into your broader governance site. I’ll be linking this map into my SharePoint governance map later as I think it complements, and expands upon the information contained there.

I think these seven principles make a terrific starting point for developing your own guiding principles around user-engagement as part of your governance efforts.

Finally, if you want more detailed information about how this map came to be, then consult the links below


Thanks for reading

Paul Culmsee

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SharePoint Governance – Debategraph style

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Quick note: This is another of the sort of posts where I cannot help but feel that some readers will wonder what I have been smoking. It is not essential, but reading the “one best practice” series will provide a lot of background to this post.

imageOn the grand scale of world problems, your average messed up SharePoint project would not be considered particularly “wicked”. If you compare a haywire SharePoint project to the truly *global* wicked problems, such as global warming, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and Tom Cruise, then it kind of makes you realise just how good we SharePoint architects, developers and engineers have it. I mean, hey, if a bunch of nerds can’t make little ol’ SharePoint a success, what hope do we have for the big issues like making Tom Cruise less of a tool?

I know some people who have left SharePoint architecture work because of all the “people crap”. If you think “people crap” is bad in IT, imagine trying to mediate between the myriad of stakeholders involved in, say, cuts to carbon dioxide emissions. That is a world of hurt that is so huge that it pains my brain just to imagine it.

Last year when I was learning the dark Jedi arts of dialogue mapping I got to know David Price, one of my fellow students who operated in that world of hurt. David is a very smart man indeed, with a Ph.D in organisational learning and environmental policy. His career has included public policy consultancy, TV documentary production, academic research and mediation.

It was during that training course that David introduced me to a joint venture that he started with another scarily smart man named Peter Baldwin. Peter is an Australian who had a 15 year career in national politics, including six years as a federal minister in the Australian government. Unlike many Australian pollies, his background was engineering. After leaving politics, with a keen interest in how the web could “raise the quality of debate about public policy issues,” he cranked out visual studio and got down to some coding.

The “baby” from this collaboration between David and Peter is a unique tool called Debategraph and it is a very interesting tool indeed.


DebateGraph was conceived as a tool to improve the quality of public debate on contentious or complex issues. Public debate, in general, is usually pretty awful. David and Peter explain why this is the case pretty comprehensively below.

Public debates tend to be complex; with multiple data sources and perspectives and conflicting demands and values. In complex debates, the volume of information and arguments can seem like an overwhelming obstacle to someone, trying to develop a comprehensive understanding of the essential arguments advanced by all sides.

Public debate is all too often characterized by repetitive contributions, digressions, argumentative fallacies, rhetorical flourishes, manipulative framing, obfuscation and personal attacks that result in a high noise-to-signal ratio and confusion rather than clarity.

Conventional media reporting of public policy debates often struggles with the challenge of conveying nuanced, reasoned positions in a compressed linear form, when simple heated oppositions deliver a more dramatic and rewarding effect.

This, in turn, makes it harder for established public figures to think tentatively and creatively in public about new policy approaches and to acknowledge strengths and common ground in opponents’ positions.

We are talking about wicked problems here a lot of the time since public policy debates by definition respond to problems or questions where the general public are stakeholders. This means that there are a lot of varied stakeholders with even more varied world views and frames of reference. By creating a tool to improve the quality of a public policy discussion, DebateGraph is a tool that helps to deal with wicked problems themselves. What is interesting about DebateGraph is that like the IBIS based issue mapping that I practice, it is a visual, map based approach, yet it was developed independently from Conklin, Compendium or anything else in the space.


DebateGraph is a free online service. It allows the global community to collaboratively build maps of complex debates that accurately present all sides of the debate from a neutral standpoint, free of repetitive clutter and ‘noise’. Like a wiki, all aspects of the debate maps, both their content and structure, are continuously open to revision, refinement, comment, and evaluation by anyone who wants to join the community of thought. Each map is a cumulative work in progress.

Readers and editors of the maps can explore the top-level structure of debates and delve into specific strands or sub-structures of a debate. What interested me was the fact that the debate maps can be embedded into other websites; with changes made to the map on one site updating immediately across every site on which it appears.

DebateGraph also has RSS and email alerting like SharePoint, as well as a unique rating system where users can specify how much they relate to, or believe in a particular argument. The map then self reconfigures based on what arguments are considered the strongest. In effect, the map becomes a multi-dimensional poll or decision making tool.

“Although consensus can emerge from such a process, not least because it promotes the discovery of previously unidentified options, our hope is as much that the people who continue to disagree will do so on the basis of an enriched understanding of the reasons for their disagreement and having had the chance to test each other’s reasoning to the fullest.”

How DebateGraph works

Using DebateGraph is pretty easy, given that you can embed it into other web sites as I have done here in this post. From the hundreds of maps that I can choose, I’ve decided to embed the map of the global financial crisis for you to explore. Click on the bubbles below and move them around. You will find that like bubble-wrap, you will spend your first few minutes immersing yourself in moving nodes around and navigating here and there. Go ahead and have a play – I’m patient – I’ll wait for you 🙂

Right! I’m guessing around seven minutes have passed. Now that you’ve had a play, click on the first arrow, below the map and above the bottom toolbar. This will take you back to the top level financial crisis map. Let’s take a closer look at what is going on here.

Attached to this “Global Financial Crisis” map is several root questions covering the cause, consequences, triggers and response to this problem. If you hover your mouse over any of the nodes, you will find a more detailed view of the question. Hover your mouse over the arrows between nodes, and you will find that the questions “arise from” the central “global financial crisis” node.

Also, note the thickness of the arrows between nodes. The width represents the importance placed on this node by the community of users that have developed this map.

The node colours are important too. Click on the “Long term causes of the financial crisis?” node above, and it will break out to a sub-map. Here the nodes are blue, rather than orange as shown below. The difference in colour is because these nodes are possible responses to the question “Long term causes of the financial crisis?” Once again, the width of the arrows indicate the community’s view of the validity of the responses. Now let’s look at a response that would potentially be divisive. One of the potential answers to the long term causes of the current crisis is “Natural financial dynamics of the baby boom generation.” So, it’s all the baby boomers fault, is it? 😉


Clicking on the “Natural financial dynamics of the baby boom generation” and we see a map with a few different coloured nodes. This is because there are some supporting and opposing arguments to this idea. The green nodes support the idea and the red nodes oppose the idea. This is the essence of the pro and con type arguments used when you create IBIS maps.


There are also some other nodes where the direction of the arrow is the opposite to the ones we have examined so far. These are links to other maps, and if you highlight the outward arrows, you can see that our current map relates to nodes in completely separate maps.

This highlights a really important point about DebateGraph. It links related issues into a “web” of argumentation allowing readers to fully explore the myriad of interlocking issues that make up complex problems without “drowning” in information overload.

Contributing to debates

If you feel strongly on a particular subject then you are free to contribute to the debate. All DebateGraph maps have a toolbar that allows you to perform more advanced activities.


From left to right, the icons perform the following tasks

  • Open the DebateGraph home page
  • Show detailed text and comments for the currently selected item
  • Add comments to the selected item
  • Open this map in mapper (map edit) view
  • Edit this map in mapper (map edit) view
  • Search all DebateGraph maps for a given term
  • Share this map view or embed it in your own site
  • View the map in full screen mode
  • Key and explanatory notes for maps

SharePoint Governance?

Andrew Woodward suggested that I should create a DebateGraph map for us all to collectively explore how we could save Tom Cruise from complete agonising lameness. I chose not to do this for three reasons.

  1. Tom Cruise cannot be saved
  2. Tom Cruise’s lawyers would sue my ass
  3. There are more important topics to explore

Let’s instead talk about a pet topic of mine: SharePoint governance.

Governance in SharePoint is pretty misunderstood. There are many definitions of governance and they are all equally right, when judged through the lens of the person defining it. I have my own interpretation of governance (which is, of course, the definitive and completely correct one! – hehe). Maybe we should debate the issue?

Joel talks about a SharePoint governance plan needing to be a ‘living’ document and in fact he states this explicitly in the sample governance plan that he did for Microsoft. I agree wholeheartedly on this notion. The reality is that documents like MSWord documents are not overly conducive to this ideal. The paradox is that the bigger and more comprehensive the governance plan is initially, the harder it can be to maintain and manage over time, and therefore, the greater the likelihood that it can go out of date or fall into disrepair over time.

As a result, it occurred to me some time back that a DebateGraph map is the sort of “living” document that a governance plan really aspires to be. So, I roped in a couple of friends, most notably Andrew Jolly and Ruven Gotz, and together we experimented with DebateGraph to explore our own questions and ideas on the topic of SharePoint governance. The result is the map below which you can explore.

Seven Sigma web part for DebateGraph

It then occurred to me that others could benefit from this experimental exploration of the topic of SharePoint governance. This gave me the idea that having a “SharePoint governance web part” that could be added to any enterprise SharePoint portal would be a really great way to augment internal governance efforts. Additionally, one of my clients is responsible for conservation and sustainability at a local level in the community. They loved the DebateGraph debates around environmental, social and economic sustainability and this web part idea would work equally well for them.

Accordingly, my company, Seven Sigma, has just released a free webpart for SharePoint that allows you to embed DebateGraph debate maps into your SharePoint sites and tune their display to fit into enterprise SharePoint portals. The default debate is the SharePoint Governance debate shown above, but you can view any of the many Debategraph maps via the web part properties.

I have recorded a couple of webcasts, covering the installation and usage of the web part which can be viewed below. Otherwise, click here to download this free web part from the Seven Sigma web site.

dginstall  dgusage


This new web part and the SharePoint governance debate, are essentially an experiment in trying to tackle collaboration a novel way. Like any wiki, to make it truly “living”, the maps need contributions from people who have something to offer on the topic. I fully accept that this initiative is not going to be everybody’s cup of tea, but I hope that it might get people to think about the sort of possibilities presented by this sort of wiki based display. The fact that all of the issues, ideas and argumentation can so easily be made available to a wide audience via a simple web part I think is unique.

Thus, if you would like to contribute to this SharePoint governance debate sign up to Debategraph and we will add you to the governance debate.

I think that DebateGraph, and applications like it, may well represent the next step in the evolution of collaborative applications. While Twitter and Facebook have found interesting ways to bring people together, those applications aren’t exactly going to provide you with the sort of ‘container’ required to tackle really wicked problems. I foresee a lot of development in this sub-genre of collaborative applications in the future.

In other words, watch this space!

Thanks for reading

Paul Culmsee

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