[eDebate] Defending edebate and Phil Kerpen

Josh Branson harobran
Wed Apr 2 18:17:47 CDT 2008


I agree with most of what Kacey says on this. While Hester's points are well-taken (and in line with what I generally think about things), I think there are a few problems 
 
1. There's no offense to the removal of certain posts from google's search capacities. There's simply no good reason I can think of that we should leave some of these posts up there. I'll answer the two main counter-arguments 
 
A) "Employers don't care." Hester may be right that some employers won't care about this stuff, but that's obviously not something that he nor anyone on this list can divine as being true in all circumstances. Let's face it, a lot of debaters go to top-tier law schools, and a lot of them end up applying to VERY HIGHLY COMPETITIVE jobs. While no, I'm not sure that some dumbass post on edebate will be the decisive factor in many job interviews, it certainly does not help the ex-debater in any way. There are two ways I can certainly see this playing out, and one of them has already happened to me, and I haven't really even applied for real jobs yet. 
 
i. Your ethos is damaged by these search results appealing in a search about your name. Am I thrilled that when you google my name, the first hit is my high school DCA bio with all the ridiculousness that comes with that? Not really, and as far as projecting an image of professionalism and intellectual acuity, having every other searchhit filtered through the lens of the often offensive and goofy crap that comes up on a DCA bio does not help. I know that this may sound like a small factor, but if you're applying for a very highly competitive job in which you are competing with other amazing candidates who can match your credentials but who projects a largely more favorable impression when googled, it can make a difference. Surely, as debate coaches who all have taken basic persuasion classes and can drone on and on about ethos, pathos, and logos, can see how these archives can be counterproductive. 
 
ii. Interview distractions. Do you really want debaters to have to explain away old posts? As unreal as this is, I found myself talking about some stupid post that someone (not a friend) made about me on edebate during one firm interview. That essentially puts the debater in a purely defensive position, and although it may be a totally stupid post at which most people in our community just roll their eyes and move on, that is very difficult to explain to outsiders. Just the mere fact of being forced to be on the defensive like that undercuts the rhythm of interviews and can make a real difference. 
 
iii. It makes our activity look dumb to outsiders. When people do searches about debate, I think we ALL have an interest in them seeing some of the good stuff that we do, so having them be pointed to thoughtful edebate posts or to WFU's NDT history page is great stuff. But when they are trying to figure out why debate should or should not qualify a candidate for a job, do we really want the first thing they see to be dumbass DCA posts, sexist/offensive comments, or someone babbling on about how i'm a liar and a racist because of some argument I made against a Fullerton team once? That stuff reflects on all of us, not just the specific people involved.  
 
And Hester, while I appreciate the Dubya reference, there are obvious differences. As young graduates entering the workforce, I don't think people like Kacey have an army of PR people and spin-control artists to take care of their prior indiscretions. Kacey can't just say "either hire me or you're with the terrorists" and have her potential employers totally forget about everything else and hire her. For the same reason that the CSTV people signed a contract to suppress all the tape they got during NDT that wasn't used, I think that college kids should have a capacity to be college kids without knowing that one anti-PR misstep might come back to negatively impact them. 
 
B) Censorship. I just don't think that it's censorship if we just flag pages upon request to remove them from google. If people within debate still really really want to see a classic Schiros post, they'll be able to by looking it up manually, but there is just NO GOOD REASON why an employer should do a search and have that come up anywhere near the top of the list. 
 
2. This is a new problem. Let's face it, the google age is upon us and is a relatively recent phenomenon, so although debaters have been going into high profile positions for decades, I think this problem is only going to get worse and worse. Like it or not, at every single law school career advice thing that I go to, the advisors all beat it into the ground that we "should not post dumb things online, it comes back to hurt you, employers DO google you and it DOES matter." While no I don't think it's the biggest deal in the world, I do think that if there is a simple technological fix to this, we should do it. 
 
3. I don't agree that Phil Kerpen sucks. I agree edebate is awesome, it's a great service, and I love his free market principles. But I do strongly think that these posts should be dealt with. 
 
Basically, i think it's unfair to punish kids, even at the margin, for these posts, I think it creates bad incentives because it will make people err away from using edebate, and keeping this stuff archived for all time serves no good purpose in most instances (caselists and other very valuable uses of edebate notwithstanding, obviously). 
 
JB 
 
 
 
 
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