[eDebate] Video Blogging

Alfred Snider alfred.snider
Fri Apr 7 08:56:47 CDT 2006

 From http://web.mac.com/doctortuna/

Check it when you want to know what is happening in the world of debate
-- at least from my point of view.


How would you like to be able to easily debate against any debate team
in any part of the world for no cost? How about if anyone in the world
can watch it who wants to?

Very well, I have long been a champion of streaming internet video
debating. My original artiucle in the NFL?s magazine THE ROSTRUM
describes how, as of 2000, teams in remote parts of the world can debate
each other, see their opponents as well as hear them, and judges at
third locations can see and hear them in order to judge the debate.
However, even though I have been able to have a number of these debates
it just doesn?t seem to really get off the ground.

Why? The reasons seem manifold.

First, everyone has to have the technology. There needs to be a digital
camera, an encoding computer, a major server, a strong Internet
connection, and everything has to work at once. Many people do not have
these resources.

Second, the technology has to interface properly. If we were all Mac
users it would be easy. Mac uses QuickTime, which allows more than one
window to be open at once. Thus, viewers can see both teams at once.
However, the software for QuickTime Broadcaster is available free, but
only on Macs. RealPlayer and WIndows Media Player cannot have two
windows open at once, so it is very difficult to get people to watch. If
one party is Mac and the other Windows it is fine, but two Windows users
are a challenge.

Third, it all has to be synced to a central server. Sure, we have such a
server here at the University of Vermont, the university is cooperative
enough, and my tech guru Wesley Wright is even willing to advise people
on settings and parameters, and he has set up the requisite web page
(see http://www.uvm.edu/debate_theater/), but people have to all
interface with it.

Fourth, it has to all work at the same time. technology at both remote
locations (such as Slovenia and Vermont) has to be working at the same
time and then any error or problem makes the event not happen.

Fifth, the nature of the planet interferes. Time zones make it difficult
to coordinate teams. With a six hour different with Europe one group
debates at 7 PM and the other at Noon. Time differences with Asia, such
as China and Korea, make it even more difficult.

Sixth, viewers have to pick a time to watch the event. Unless you want
to just debate for yourselves (which few want to with all the above
hassle) you have to pick a time when one continent can conveniently
watch and the other cannot.

Seventh, it is difficult to archive these two different streams so that
people can watch the debate on demand later when they wish to. In order
to watch the debate after it has happened and on-demand you have to
switch back and forth between two streams. You could solve this by doing
a lot of fancy editing, but if Internet debating is to be widespread and
popular this just cannot happen.

Eighth, the space has to be scheduled. The pages such as the
Slovenia-Vermont page above have to be created and scheduled and people
have to be guided there to watch it. Each web page has to be configured
for the specific participants.

Ninth, there is a lot of technophobia in debate, and once there is a
hint of complexity and challenge most people simply say ?no thank you?
or else say they will and then they don?t. I have scheduled several
events, and even tournaments, and after strong vows to ?really do it?
everyone backs out.

Now we have a solution. I am certainly not surprised that I did not
think of it. I thought I had a model, but now that I see the nine
problems with that model I am not surprised that I failed. Enter Vedran
Vucic of Serbia, who besides being a clever and creative debate coach is
also extremely Internet savvy and is involved in the use of Linux
servers and technology in Serbia as well as being involved in the
Association for Creative Communication and Debate, a Serbian NGO. God
bless you, Vedran. We are going to make this happen because you are
smart and I am stubborn.

Video blogging.

It works like this:
1. Serbia decides to have a debate against Vermont. We agree on a format
and topic. We agree on sides. We decide who will be the judges.
2. The first team (affirmative or government) tapes their speech using a
digital camera. They turn it into a video file of whatever type they
want, a QuickTinme file (.mov), a Windows Media Player file (.wmv) or a
RealPlayer file (.rm).
3. They upload to a blog site. The blog site has the capacity to accept
video file or there can be a simple link to where the file ius storeds,
and at the blog site they just list the topic, the team, the topic, and
the format. This is the first speech.
4. Vermont watches the first speech and takes a while to come up with a
response. When we have it together we tape our responding speech. We can
even tape it more than once until we have one that we like. We encode it
to one of these formats. We upload it. This is done within a set period
of time (or not) such as two or three days.
5. Serbia watches our responding speech and prepares their own. They
tape the next speech, encode it and upload it.
6. This process continues until the debate is over.
7. Assigned judges then watch the whole debate at once, clicking from
speech to speech, and then send in a ballot. Or, the judges could tape a
reason for decision and upload it. It could be just text or video.
8. Viewers could watch the debate whenever they wish. Or, the viewers
could be the audience, and people might have a set period of time (like
a week) to view and vote. So we might have to find a way to make sure
they viewed the whole thing to avoid ballot stuffing, but if you are
worried about that just pick three neutral judges and give them a week.
9. Announce the decision. the debate could be a one-off or part of a
larger tournament. It could take place over a sborter or longer period
of time.
10. The debate remains available on the videoblog for as long as
desired, and people can watch it whenever they want.

I think this is a fairly elegant solution as global low tech
communication goes. It is not perfect, but I think it avoids almost all
of the problems of the previous Internet debating system. Let?s review them:
1. Have the tech? Many people have access to a digital camera and a
computer to convert the tape to one of the formats. If you have a slow
connection speed it just takes a little longer to upload. Whatever
encoding tech you have works just fine.
2. Tech interface? Not needed, as people can use whatever tech they have
and it doesn?t need to interface.
3. Central server? Well, I can still provide that, and most universities
have some server space. There are also lots of freely available storage
areas that can be used. All we need is a link to wherever you are
storing the video files.
4. Must work at the same time? Nope. You have a few days to make it
work. It only needs to work at one site at a time.
5. Time zones? Nope. Tape it when you want and people can watch it when
they want.
6. Viewers available? People can watch it whenever they want.
7. Archiving? It is automatic. When you upload it and provide a link
everything is set.
8. Space schedule? New blog technology makes it easy and automatic to
post new entries and responses. Current free software can do that
easily. Vedran and I will be setting up a central site that will do that
for you.
9. Technophobia? Yes, well, some barriers cannot be overcome. If you
don?t want to debate against teams from all parts of the world because
you are afraid of a laptop and a digital camera, then there isn?t much
we can do for you.

The advantages seem huge. We can dissolve the tyranny of distance and
time to bring us together at almost no cost. If you have a laptop, a
computer and a video camera you are all set. This means that China can
debate Poland and Chile can debate Scotland. Chile can debate Spain in
Spanish. China can debate China in Chinese. Portugal can debate Brazil
in Portuguese.

We can have a global debate community.

We can organize international tournaments even for those without
substantial funding. You do not even have to be a team to get involved.
One lone person in Croatia can decide to debate one lone person in
Alaska. As long as you can agree on a language, a topic and a format you
are ready to go. Central meeting spots could be created for people to go
to to find opponents with similar interests.

The possibilities are endless and I don?t want to go too far in
imagining the future because it might frighten some of you off. Let?s
just say you can try it and then see.

Stay tuned for the site creation coming soon. Vedran Vucic and I are
going to make it happen.

We hope.

Please send comments to alfred.snider at uvm.edu .

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