[eDebate] 50 points Repko, Larson and others

Ross Smith smithr
Fri Nov 2 14:18:28 CDT 2007

Larson addresses the idea of career or season-long datasets to compute 
z-scores, proving that a Wizard of Oz solution with reduced, not 
improved, validity:
"Additionally, the whole premise of variance is that the observed is 
held constant and we are measuring and correcting variability among the 
observers. Rather than improving reliability by increasing the sample 
size, we decrease reliability by radically decreasing the comparability 
of the samples of debates seen by each of the observers."

Furthermore, it's not as if this idea was really publicly vetted, or 
perceived as imminent. I am as "in the loop" as just about anyone on tab 
procedures and did not know GSU and Southern Cal were really about to 
embark on a variance experiment and that the Wake 50 point scale would 
be getting in the way. There is no such thing as alternate actor fiat. 
Wake should act on the basis of what we perceive others are likely to 
do, not on the basis of what we wish they would do.

Otherwise, I could just wave my magic Hoe fiat wand and argue the 50 
point scale should be rejected because judges "should" just use the 20 
point scale better. I can and did consider persuading them to do so, but 
have witnessed the inefficacy of that approach over the years. Adoption 
of a different scale is a persuasive technique in and of itself, which 
brings me to the final little point of this particular post . . .

My description of how one might conceive the 50 point scale was meant to 
be the start of a discussion, not the end of it. For instance, Will said 
he would likely give "zero or next-to-zero 49's or 50's. More likely the 
former. It's fairly easy to 'imagine a better performance'." My word 
choice was, perhaps, unfortunate. To me, there are a decent, if small, 
number of "hard to imagine better" performances. But that's because I 
mean something more like "hard to imagine a real live mortal college 
student doing *better*" or "*unlikely* to be more than a handful of 
performances that good."

But that's just my personal view that has a lot to do with my own 
opinion that "perfect" is a stupid category. For instance, I have seen 
some speeches (all in elims) that I would assign a 31 or 32 to on a 30 
point scale because they really were that much better than the 29 point 
speeches. No speech is "perfect" but some might be enough better than 
the speeches that are a half point below the top of the scale as to 
warrant giving maximum points.

Again, that's just me. I kind of proferred my grades analogy way of 
describing my idea of how to use the 50 point scale to my 
subjective/impressionistic list that I plunked at the bottom of that 
original post.

I hope people offer amendments and other ways of interpreting the scale 
that make sense. I will then try to reformulate the "suggested use" 
guidelines to reflect what people think makes sense.

I especially appreciate Will's engagement and emphasis on the idea that 
it is worse than unhelpful to just reject the attempt at a shared 
standard. I also appreciate people's nervousness with change and the 
overwhelmingly conservative nature of our community (culture is 
conservative, by definition). I would not "shake things up" just for the 
hell of it. Were the SQ not so broken, we would not just "experiment" on 


Ross K. Smith
Director of Debate
Wake Forest University

336-251-2076 (c)
336-758-5268 (o)


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