Debate Mailing List

The debate mailing list is a second list at dedicated to conversation. It is a sibling list to chit-chat, and was split off from that list in spring 2003. This page describes how the two lists work; if you are joining either chit-chat or debate, you should probably read it. If you see any inaccuracies on this page, please inform the webmaster.

What is the debate list, and how does it differ from chit-chat? Debate, like chit-chat, is a mailing list at It is designed as a place for threads or partial threads which are basically debates to occur. The split between threads on chat and threads on debate is based on tonal differences (debate vs. non-debate), rather than on content differences.

How do i subscribe to debate? Send e-mail to debate-request at with the word "subscribe" in the subject or body of the message.

What's a debate? We are using the word "debate" here to mean a conversation which takes place in a certain tone, generally characterised by some of:

Debate among friends tends to focus exclusively on ideas, while other conversation among friends is more likely to focus on individuals and their experiences as well.

Are all political threads necessarily debates? This question was brought up several times during the trial period. The short answer is "no". However, political threads often start in a debatish tone, and very often become debatish quickly. This is especially true during periods when people are more-than-usually passionate about current events (wars, election seasons, etc). One suggestion: think about why you're posting your message. If you're angry about something and want to share your outrage, or are trying to prove a point about something, or are trying to persuade people of something, or would reasonably expect that others on the list will respond to your message in one of those ways, you probably shouldn't post it to chit-chat.

Why was the chit-chat list split? Before the split, a lot of debate conversations took place on chat. These conversations had reasonably wide participation, and a lot of people enjoyed them. However, by their nature, these threads tended to be long, and tended to dominate chat traffic. Many people felt that this caused problems:

The creation of a separate list is intended to provide a place for debates to happen, while allowing chat to have its own less-debatish tone.

How should chat subscribers deal with individual threads which have both debate and non-debate elements? This is not an exact science, and there have been many suggestions. Debate-ish threads may be started on debate itself, instead of on chat. News articles may be posted to chat with a debate "Reply-To" header, if they are of general interest, but likely to spark only debate. Conversations in progress may be moved to debate, either by the participants or at the request of someone else on chat. Occasionally, conversations may be moved back to chat by someone who has an anecdotal or silly response to a thread already in progress on debate. (However, if you are moving a thread back to chat, please note that you should remove the [DEBATE] tag from the subject by hand, since chat has a filter in place to prevent accidental thread return.) We hope that thread transition will become easy as people get used to the two lists.

Please send all comments or questions to webmaster at