[eDebate] A different kind of elephant

NEIL BERCH berchnorto
Tue Apr 18 12:41:52 CDT 2006

I agree with Jim that most people like at least some aspect of the status quo, but I feel compelled to touch on two of the other things that Gary mentioned.  People could coach their teams 15 minutes less per round (that's an hour saved per day); it's not like they listen to you anyway!  And judges could decide rounds more quickly.  Even those who believe that taking longer increases accuracy (there are those who suggest that after a certain point, it has a negative impact on accuracy) would probably agree to the following:
1.  There are diminishing returns to the time spent deciding (the incremental increase in accuracy for the first 5 minutes is greater than it is for each succeeding 5 minutes).
2.  There comes a point where increased certainty trades off with other considerations.
3.  If it's a round that is complicated enough for you to have to take more than a few minutes, you will never achieve 100% certainty.

Thus, the only question becomes where one consideration outweighs the other.  I would argue that most critics would agree in theory that it happens earlier rather than later.  However, they are so concerned with their image as careful judges that they won't follow through on that notion in practice.  Again, however, if the last ballot came in 15 minutes earlier each round, that would be another 45 minutes saved at the end of the day (it only matters to the tab room when the last ballot comes in for the last round of the day).

--Neil Berch
West Virginia University
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Jim Hanson<mailto:hansonjb at whitman.edu> 
  To: EDebate Listserv<mailto:edebate at ndtceda.com> 
  Sent: Tuesday, April 18, 2006 1:28 PM
  Subject: Re: [eDebate] A different kind of elephant

  what gary says below is right. unfortunately, i'm not sure what we can do
  about it. the "solutions" have drawbacks that the community, including me,
  would oppose. and, frankly, that is the problem with these kinds of issues.
  enough people like aspects of things as they are that they aren't willing to
  change (see hotel thread, see tournament fees thread, see . . .). so, yea,
  i'm part of the problem but i do offer a suggestion below. of course, enough
  people will oppose my suggestion and enough will, i'm guessing, oppose other
  "solutions" or "ideas," so nothing will really be done even though i'm also
  guessing virtually everyone responded to gary's message by saying, at least
  in part, "yea, days are really long at these tournaments." and, so we will
  continue doing what we do with its costs intact.

  --ending oral decisions would undermine that educational and very popular
  aspect (written ballots just do not replace oral decisions)--and i'm not
  sure that is an even large part of the problem, since, after the last ballot
  is in, 5+ minutes later, the pairing is out and the teams start moving to
  their next round so the oral decision is truncated in those late rounds
  anyway. (gary just pointed this out as i was writing this)

  --returning to 8-3-5-8 prep. let's see the groundswell of support for that.
  :) i remember being at the ceda exec meeting where we voted to switch to
  9-3-6-10 and there were multiple promises that we could just make things
  more efficient and thereby not increase the length of the day. yea. that
  move, while having its rationale, means an extra 48 minutes a day with a 4
  round tournament.

  --having 6 round tournaments. that can be good--but not for ceda nats, the
  ndt, nor mega tournaments with 100+ teams. you need to sort teams out with
  powermatching and make the long day of travel worth it to go to that

  --i will throw in my semi-annual comment on this subject: start days later.
  i can handle 13-14 hour days. i cannot handle 13-14 hour days with the
  massive switch in timing i undergo at national tournaments. i'm not
  alone--though like i said above . . .

  anyway, why do we have pairings at 7am (and even earlier)? for those of us
  from the west--that is 4 or 5am our time at east coast/midwest tournaments.
  we are then expected to handle these 13 to 14 hour days. it is very, very
  tough. what students are regularly up at 6am anyway? what students are
  regularly up at 4am? are most coaches up at these hours normally? why do we
  do this to ourselves? wouldn't a schedule starting at 10am--even though
  ending nearer to midnight each day--with food available be much better
  attuned to our normal sleeping schedules? (and if food is your issue, let's
  be honest--getting food after the last round of the day with the current
  schedules is already pretty much confined to pizza or fast food anyway)

  i know i am talking into the wind--i couldn't even get a rule for ceda nats
  that pairings wouldn't be released before 7am/8am passed (it ended in a
  tie). but, i'm saying it again because i believe it.

  jim :)
  hansonjb at whitman.edu<mailto:hansonjb at whitman.edu>
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: "Gary Larson" <Gary.N.Larson at wheaton.edu<mailto:Gary.N.Larson at wheaton.edu>>
  To: <edebate at ndtceda.com<mailto:edebate at ndtceda.com>>
  Sent: Tuesday, April 18, 2006 9:29 AM
  Subject: [eDebate] A different kind of elephant

  While we're talking about elephants, let me identify another one that
  adds immensely to the costs in both financial and human terms.

  Every part of the tournament debating experience from pre-round
  preparation, in-round speaking and preparation, post-round
  decision-making and disclosure to all-night online research has
  inexorably increased over the years.  Once upon a time, tabroom
  activities were the biggest cause of tournament length, often leading to
  pervasive lagged-paired rounds.  But even though those tab activities
  have been radically shortened so that at CEDA Nats we only take about 5
  minutes from the receipt of the last ballot to the release of the next
  round pairing, the overall length of the day continues to increase.

  At the NDT it takes us four full days to complete 13 rounds.  At CEDA
  it takes 4 very long days to complete 15 rounds.  At most national
  circuit tournaments it takes 3 unbelievably long days to complete 12 or
  13 rounds.  Each of those days are so long that travel almost
  necessarily consumes a full day on either side.

  While the time limits haven't been increased for years, everything
  still takes longer.  At CEDA we identified 2:45 from the announced start
  time as the drop dead coin-flipping point for a decision.  Just a couple
  of years ago we expected all decisions within 2:30.  But even with 2:45
  we bumped up against or exceeded it almost every round.  So where did
  the time go?  With a continuously running clock a debate should consume
  92 minutes (yeah right).  At the beginning of the round, perceived
  coaching demands delay the start time with delays inevitably cascading
  through the tournament.  In-round activities also keep getting longer.
  As a tabroom person who has to predict when ballots will start coming
  in, it's remarkable that 2:00 after the announced start time, the doors
  start opening and rounds start ending.  And then once the round ends,
  it's almost a badge of honor to be the judge that deliberates for
  30-45-60 minutes on the decision in an important round.  And once the
  clock starts slipping from scheduled times, the delays often start
  multiplying.  Once pairings get released, teams now have a pretty strong
  expectation that they should have at least 45 minutes and preferably an
  hour to prepare for the next debate when once we thought we were hitting
  the mark with 30 minutes.

  On the last day at CEDA Nats, it was not that long ago that we believed
  that the final round could confidently be scheduled between 6 and 7 PM.
  This year's final round decision came well after midnight.

  So days routinely last 13-14 hours for four debate rounds.  And that's
  without formal breaks for any meals so squads are still finding
  restaurants that will serve at 10:00 PM.  Once teams are back in the
  hotel rooms, the day has only begun for some of our coaches and

  It's one thing to say that tournaments should be careful about fees,
  food and hotel costs.  I agree that they should.  But the five-day
  gauntlet is the principal source of financial cost, not to mention the
  enormous human toll that it takes on all of our participants.

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