[eDebate] CEDA Backfile project

Mikedavis13 at aol.com Mikedavis13
Thu Oct 5 14:26:27 CDT 2006

Not sure why it was sent as an attachment, but here is the e-mail  again.
From: Andrew Barnes <barnesad at jmu.edu>
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To: Michael Davis  <davismk at JMU.EDU>
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It was recently mentioned to me that I have made  several attempts to 
collect backfiles from the from the community but I have  not presented 
an argument as to why people would have incentive to  contribute to the 
backfile project. So, for those of you who are not  persuaded at this 
time to contribute please let me suggest some reasons as  to why it would 
be beneficial for you, your squad and the community to  participate in 
this project.

Recent census data from our community  indicates that there is a serious 
problem  with not only the resources  of particular programs but also in 
retention of programs. Many people have  speculated and studied a myriad 
of causes for this problem. Among these  causes is what the community has 
termed "resource disparity". Many programs  that have abandoned policy 
debate have indicated that they have done so due  to their concerns over 
their inability to keep up with competition that have  the ability to do 
more research. Smaller and/or lesser experienced programs  also have 
specific difficulty in keeping up with larger and/or established  
programs because the smaller institutions usually find it necessary to  
conduct extensive backfile work as well as topic specific work. Our  
ability to address this problem could be easily resolved through the  
implementation of a universal distribution of community donated  
backfiles. The incentive to participate is two fold: 1) you will be  
doing the entire community a service because you will be helping teams  
compete which is good for everyone [no competition = no debate] and 2)  
you will have access to backfiles that your squad does not currently  
have access to.

Some people have argued that there could be several  problems 1) people 
won't contribute to maintain a competitive advantage visa  vi the rest of 
the community and 2) there were be free-riders. It is  entirely possible 
and probable that squads across the nation will not donate  ALL of their 
backfiles immediately. Nor should they. The project right now  is focused 
on collecting all camp backfiles and whatever else squads want to  submit 
at this point. It is hoped that this creates a norm throughout the  
community to donate to the backfile project so that future requests will  
be met with a positive response. At this point, a wait and see approach  
is also best because it is not known what will be contributed. After we  
have a baseline collection then and only then can specific requests be  
made to fill in the gaps. Additionally, people will only donate what  
they are comfortable donating and I for one am uncomfortable asking for  
more than that at this time. There might be squads out there that rely  
on a certain set of arguments that they do not want to share for various  
reasons. And that is fine. However, that doesn't mean that they won't  
contribute other files. And I suspect that they will. That brings me to  
the second counterargument. It is my opinion that the gravity of the  
situation created by the problem this project seeks to partially resolve  
means that we must adopt an attitude of positivism rather than  
skepticism. Some schools will take longer to submit files because they  
are not scanned. Some schools will have trouble organizing the files  
that they want to submit because lets face it, students and debate  
administrators are all equally busy. The point of all this is that if we  
as a community adopt an attitude whereby we refuse to contribute until  
others have or because we are worried about free-riders, the project  
will never get off of the ground. However, if we all put our faith in  
the community, which we do so often for personal or other reasons, I  
think this project will be a success. So, ultimately no one can  
guarantee that there won't be any free riders but I can guarantee that  
at this time I can't for the life of me come up with a reason why every  
squad in the country couldn't donate at least one file. And with that in  
mind, I will do my damnedest to keep track of every squad that has  
donated, and what they have donated so that I can petition those that  

I do recognize that this project will take awhile to get  running. I have 
to collect all of the files, establish hosting capabilities  with CEDA, 
create a webpage and then upload all of the information. However,  it is 
a project that can be fully operational by the second semester at the  
earliest and the summer at the latest. I also recognize that it won't  
solve all of the problems that we currently face in terms of retention  
but I do think that it is a good faith effort by the community to  
demonstrate that we care about all programs and that the community  
itself is dedicated to fairness and strong competition. If anyone would  
like to discuss the matter with me further please do not hesitate to  
contact me. Thank you for your time and I look forward to your  
cooperation and contributions.


Andrew D.  Barnes
2268 Harrison Hall
MSC 2106
James Madison  University
Harrisonburg, VA 22807
barnesad at jmu.edu
(540)  568-1738

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