Posts Tagged ‘pilot projects’

NASA and Local OpenGov Innovation Summits

March 18, 2011

Recently, we’ve been involved with two great initiatives to increase transparency, public participation, can collaboration in government:

Later this month we are facilitating the remote participation process for the NASA Open Source Summit at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA.  If you’re interested in open source software or changing government policy to accommodate open source software, please do sign up.

Also, under the banner of, we also began preparations for 100+ local summits where members of the open government community could help their local public officials navigate the waters of public participation and transparency.  We found local organizers in 40 cities in a dozen countries, but that didn’t reach critical mass of 100 cities.  We are adjusting the plan and will launch the next iteration of the plan with some additional partners in a few weeks.

It’s wonderful to see the energy across the open gov community.  Here is a map of the locations where organizers did sign up (click to see details and zoom in):


“Apps for Innovation” 3rd Place Finalist!

January 10, 2010

We’re very excited to announce that AthenaBridge’s OnlineTownhalls tool won third place in the Consumer Electronics Association’s Apps for Innovation Contest.

The purpose of the contest was to evaluate software applications that can help the members of the Innovation Movement advance policy goals that support innovation.

OnlineTownhalls (OTH) garnered attention because leaders of the Innovation Movement can use it to identify the strongest ideas from among its members and then convert those ideas into action.

The Innovation Movement can also use OTH to put a bright spotlight on existing policies and regulations, which stifle innovation, by allowing them to be debated line-by-line. This transparent marketplace of ideas can reveal the weaknesses of these policies and provide highly competitive alternatives that make a strong case for innovation.

We’re reinvesting the prize money into R&D so we can continue to improve our technology.

What the students say about AthenaBridge

June 8, 2009

Here is a brief and informal video of what 11th grade students think about using AthenaBridge (formerly DeepDebate) in the classroom.

This pilot project took place at Upper Merion High School in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. Upper Merion is a fantastic school with very enthusiastic teachers and students who know how to employ technology in the classroom.

If you’d like to bring AthenaBridge to your classroom, please contact us and we will be happy to get you started.

Here’s a related article about feedback from teachers after they’ve used AthenaBridge.

Feedback from Teachers!

June 8, 2009

paIn association with the Pennsylvania Department of Education we opened our software up to feedback from dozens of teachers across the state.  They provided keen insight into how AthenaBridge (formerly DeepDebate) can be used in the classroom in many subject areas in addition to those that we mentioned before.

Here are some of the positive comments:

“This is an effective way to visualize and organize student opinion.

“At first it was a bit confusing to navigate through the options. However, after a few moments I got the hang of it. It was easy to respond to a specific point someone was making… Once I understood how the website worked, I found it easy to engage in discussion on different points of the debate.”

“I liked that you can continue discussions on topics. I also like the idea of being able to rate/evaluate someone’s opinion. I really like the ability for people to log in anonymously to have a say. This allows someone to really express themselves without the fear of judgment.”

“I liked the idea of AthenaBridge. It offers many possibilities for my classroom.”

“I am going to try to use this with my students.”

“Everyday, there would be a new topic for the students to debate to get them ready for the day’s lesson.”

“I could definitely hold back-and-forth debates connecting social issues to literature that we are reading. We could run polls in order to get primary research from students during research projects. Most importantly, though, I would use this program to communicate with students in other classes/ disciplines. I would love to have my English students debate/ converse with social studies students when we read To Kill a Mockingbird. We could even open debates across grade levels and use this for tutoring help and things of that nature. I love this program and would love to start using it ASAP.”

Here are some of the comments suggesting improvement:

“A simple task made too complicated.” (Our thoughts: “Yes, for simple conversations of just a few people it’s best to use standard forum software.  AthenaBridge is most valuable in situations where participants will respond to each other’s ideas and engage in an ongoing conversation.”)

“I liked reading the other responses, but should not have had to double click on them. All responses should be visible. I can limit from there.” (Our thoughts: “We’ve incorporated this feedback into the most recent version of the software.”)

I thought the layout was a little confusing. Also, there were no directions on how to use the interface.”  (Our thoughts: “The new design of the software has been fully field-tested and is fairly intuitive for the average sixth grader.”)

We thoroughly enjoyed this project, because we learned a great deal about how our software can be useful for teachers and students.  We’ll also be able to address many of the excellent suggestions as we build version 2.0 of the software.

We look forward to working with the State of Pennsylvania and the creative ways teachers will use AthenaBridge in the future.  As we hear of other innovative ways to use AthenaBridge in the classroom, we”ll be sure to share them here on this blog.

Contact Us

If you’d like to bring AthenaBridge to your school district or organization, be sure to reach out and let us know!

How to handle large conversations online

May 18, 2009
Standard layout of blog comments

Typical layout of blog comments, representing the 120 comments to this article

Same blog comments with color. Same color indicates agreement.

Same 120 blog comments with color added (Same color = agreement.)

Same blog comments mapped in DeepDebate

Compress the blank space top-to-bottom and it looks similar to our style of maps.



This is what the same 120 comments actually look like in a AthenaBridge conversation map. This looks complex, but compared to the comment section of this blog, which has the same 120 comments, it only takes up 4% of the vertical space. Most importantly, related comments are displayed right next to each other, to make browsing more efficient.


Blog comments cannot handle large conversations. The above images make a side-by-side comparison possible to see what the same conversation from the comment section of this blog looks like in an AthenaBridge conversation map.

There are several significant advantages of AthenaBridge over the format of blog comments:

  • Blog comments are trapped in the vertical dimension. They do not take advantage of the horizontal dimension, and therefore take up much more space on the screen (see the images above). In this particular example the AthenaBridge conversation map displayed the same amount of information while only using 1/25th of the space.
  • AthenaBridge conversation maps preserve context; related ideas are right next to each other. With blog comments, often related ideas are pushed so far apart from each other, they won’t even show on the same screen.
  • Blog comments are not color-coded to indicate agreement or disagreement. Color coding provides an executive-level overview to understand which comments are in agreement with each other even before you read them.
  • Unlike AthenaBridge, blog comments do not ask participants for a summary of their comment. Having summaries makes browsing the conversation much more efficient.
  • Blog comments are free-form and do not challenge the user to categorize their response. Simply asking participants in a conversation whether they agree or disagree helps to limit out irrelevant responses. This can significantly increase the quality of conversation.
  • The comment software on this blog does not have a rating function so, unlike with AthenaBridge, a reader has no way of differentiating between the best comments and all the others.

Case Study: 12 Angry Men

Image from Wikipedia

Image from Wikipedia

The conversation that we used in this case study comes from the iconic movie entitled 12 Angry Men (1957). This movie documents a jury’s deliberations in a murder trial. The movie provides a powerful example of what one person with conviction and logic can do to change the course of a life-and-death decision.

(Interestingly, the idea of a completely male jury wouldn’t have raised any eyebrows in 1957. It wasn’t until 1975 that the Supreme Court ruled that women should be allowed to serve on juries.)

The proposition– or topic sentence– in this debate is “The defendant in 12 Angry Men is guilty of murder.” There are eight primary arguments which support this proposition:

  1. The lady across the street saw the defendant stab the victim.
  2. The man living below the victim’s apartment heard the argument and identified the defendant running down the stairs.
  3. The defendant had a motive to stab the victim.
  4. The victim was stabbed in the chest with a knife that is traceable to the defendant.
  5. The defendant has no alibi, therefore he must be guilty.
  6. The defendant’s background indicates he is likely to be guilty.
  7. The evidence is sufficient to remove all reasonable doubt.
  8. The defendant had sufficiently competent legal representation to ensure a fair trial.

In total, there are 120 comments in this conversation and the entire conversation is displayed in the comment section of this blog. You’ll see a few of the comments multiple times because they are applicable in more than one place.

Once you’ve skimmed the comment section, you might want to look at the same 120 comments displayed in this AthenaBridge conversation map to experience the difference firsthand.

Also, you may be interested in these other articles about the AthenaBridge Philosophy.