[eDebate] Worker Rule

Charles Olney olneyce
Fri Apr 21 03:28:58 CDT 2006

Some scattered thoughts on this subject.

Something which has been mentioned, but I'm not sure has been
emphasized enough: these big work-squads are composed of real people,
members of our community.  The people who come to work do it because
we love debate and we love the debaters.  I mean, this rule, if
implemented for 2006, would have prevented Ace from coming to the NDT.
 And, while I recognize this links to the Garen-prolif DA, I don't
think there's anyone who could say that Ace doesn't love the activity.
 The same is true for MANY of the people who form these work-teams. 
We should be lamenting the fact that these people aren't at EVERY
tournament, not trying to drive them away from the one they do come

On the question of "the best being the enemy of the good..." Should
something be done? Perhaps.  Steve, Josh, Ross, etc. make some good
arguments in favor of change.  I find myself more in Hester's camp
(let everyone use all their resources and we'll use ours, too, and may
the best team win), but I could very definitely be persuaded that some
kind of reform would be a good idea.

That said, I don't think the current proposal is that good idea.

We've got plenty of time before the upcoming NDT, and plenty of NDTs
after that.  Let's not rush into a rule that people can't agree on the
interpretation of, had little chance to discuss before it was passed,
has clear material costs (worse arguments, extreme overwork for those
designated researchers, denying a role for quite a few graduated
debaters who only have time to come back for one tournament a year)
and marginal, at best, benefits.

Repealing, for now, this amendment would not inhibit future reform. 
If anything, having an amendment on the books might inhibit future
reform since "we've already dealt with that."  Or, if it goes poorly
(as I think it will), it could cause a backlash against any other kind
of reform.  If you believe there are resource disparities, but do not
think this is the right solution, work to come up with a better
solution, don't just take this as 'better than nothing." After all,
"try or die" only makes sense if there isn't a counterplan.

And, the big thing I wanted to talk about...  One thing that I don't
think has been discussed is what all these extra workers are actually

Something that Steve said made me think about this:

> Maybe we should just give in and say that the rules of the NDT should
> be whatever works best for MSU, Emory, Harvard, Wake Forest, Kansas,
> and a few others, since (wink, wink) it's really a tournament just
> about them anyhow.

I'm going to try to say this as clearly as I can, because I don't want
this to come out the wrong way.  While Steve has phrased this in the
most negative-sounding way, I think there is a kernel of truth here. 
Here's what I mean: the work produced by these extra people at the
"big" schools rarely ends up being used against teams who do not
possess retinues of a similar nature.

Some background that might help explain...

I've worked with MSU, Harvard, and Dartmouth.  All three are
presumably among the big schools at whom this rule is targeted.  All
three certainly had more than just two workers each year.

The HUGE amount of work that was done each year was directed at a very
small number of other teams.  This year, I spent almost all of my time
at the NDT working on an aff meant to be read against Northwestern BC,
or someone else late in the elims (that only got read because the Ceda
was afterwards this year).  The previous year, I spent most of my time
writing a neg strategy against Dartmouth BeMa, writing a neg strategy
against MSU BH, and writing an aff meant to be read in the elims
against Berkeley NW or a couple other teams.  These were all first
round teams.

This year, the other folks Dartmouth had working for them were, for
the most part, similarly focused.  Ace was working on new aff stuff
for Monday, writing a neg against Harvard's new case, writing a neg
against George Washington, and scouting the first rounds.  John was
working on getting ready to debate Idaho State, Wayne St,
Northwestern, etc.  Slusher was working on Harvard's affs, writing 2AC
stuff for our new elim affs, etc.  And so on.

The HUGE majority of this work a) never got used and b) even if it was
used, was not used against the teams ostensibly meant to be protected
by this rule.

This DOES NOT NOT NOT mean that the NDT is just a tournament for the
"big schools."  It does not mean that things will be easy for teams
who are somewhere in between "big" and "small" - I came from Whitman,
believe me, I understand.

What it does mean is that the calculations of the "big" teams most
often will be to save their work from their staffs for the teams they
consider to be major threats, which (often, but certainly not always)
will be similarly equipped.  Given that, a very large percentage of
this work never even gets used.

Some examples of how the huge work-teams don't really have that much
effect on the debates between "big" and "small" teams (though this
will also demonstrate that the division between the two is very
unclear, as a number of those labelled as beneficiaries have pointed

-this year, round 1, Dartmouth CS is aff against Wyoming JS.  We had a
number of new affs but decided to read our old aquaculture aff (and
hold out the new stuff for later debates).  We ran into a strategy we
had few answers to, scrambled the whole debate, and won on a narrow

-last year, in the doubles, Harvard KT (still holding onto several new
affs) decided to read the same old cap-and-trade aff against UMKC CG. 
Lost on a 3-2.

I'm sure there are lots of counter-examples, but I think that this
should at least demonstrates that the disparity ends up not being
nearly as large as the numbers alone might suggest.  I don't mean to
suggest the teams with these resources have no comparative advantage. 
Of course they do.  But I just think it may not be nearly as large or
catastrophic as some people might think.

A final thought: I don't have time right now to check this, though I
might do so later.  But at least anecdotally, it has always seemed to
me that a LOT of teams end up clearing at the NDT who rarely cleared
during the year.  I don't mean to suggest there are no disparity
issues - obviously there are - but fixating on rulemaking for the NDT
doesn't seem like the best way to go about resolving that.

Just my thoughts.  Hope I've been able to make the war rooms seem a
little less Borg-like.  Remember, these are real people who care a lot
about what they're doing.  They're part of the community, too.  It may
be the case that we need to restrict them.  But I think we should
seriously consider how and why we're going to do it.

Thanks for listening,


And I just can't help believing
Though believing sees me cursed
--Johnny Boy
"You Are the Generation Who Bought More Shoes and You Get What You Deserve"

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