[eDebate] Technology, Tubs and Other Such Fun

James Maritato james.maritato
Tue Jul 22 13:57:59 CDT 2008

Well it seems I now have to break my summerlong commitment not to post on
edebate because we are having a discussion of technology.

Veronica describes Denver's use of jumpdrives as part of their way to manage
equity in rounds and I feel the need to chime in here to say that those USB
drives are likely the BEST solution for debate programs.  Implementations of
wireless, databases, etc. are all excess, contribute to higher costs to run
rounds, increase hardware overhead, and take far longer to develop than
technology that already exists.

A few arguments for jumpdrives:

1.  You will be extremely hard pressed to find any piece of technology that
is more portable or universally accepted across computing platforms than a
USB jump drive.  You don't even need to pack it in a bag, or your carry-on.
It fits in your pocket.
2.  Jumpdrives are resilient.  I know MANY of you on this list who have done
unthinkable things to your jumpdrives (washed them, dropped them in beer,
let a debate partner chew on them, dropped them in the toilet, etc. etc.)
The complete lack of moving parts in a jump drive basically guarantee that
if you let it dry out it will still work.
3.  If you need a laptop to access some wifi based network for evidence
sharing, you ALREADY HAVE everything you need to read files from a jumpdrive
in front of you.
4.  If you are concerned about not having to jump files between computers,
bring in the extra laptop some have already mentioned and plug each team's
jump drive into it.  Poof -- same centralized evidence sharing technology,
no networking.
5.  Most college IT departments will hammer you if you set up rogue wireless
LANS -- even if they don't connect to the campus network.  This is
6.  The more wireless traffic you create, the shittier the service gets
regardless of what LAN you are associated to.  The 2.4 Ghz band has 11
channels.  Too much wireless traffic = packet collision, signal loss, and
7.  Jump drives are cheap cheap cheap.  I challenge you to find a
wifi/database based set up that costs as much (or less) to setup, use, and
maintain - both in terms of time and money.
8.  So-called "netbooks" that simply run Operating Systems like Ubuntu or
Linux are now on the market for less than $400, as are Net tablets.  If you
are really that hung up on having another computer for the sake of equity
you can easily acquire one of these machines on ebay for even less.  They
don't run Windows, but they do have PDF capability and local copies of
Google Docs and Spreadsheets installed.  Put your jump drive in, load up
your files, and read them right off a tablet you can hand to the other
team.  The reality is, 99% of debaters do not need today's top of the line
hardware to debate.  You can get cheap hardware that will do the job just
fine.  Whether that's the same machine you play Unreal Tournament on at home
is a completely different situation.
9.  Building materials and design affect WiFi coverage.  WiFi drifts down,
not up, and is stopped by all sorts of things (concrete, thick plaster,
certain metals create a "Faraday Cage" effect that traps the signal in drop
ceilings).  Someone on your debate team had better spend some time doing
coverage mapping before the tournament so you know where there is WiFi and
where there isn't.

Now, a few questions for all of you:

1.  Who are the teams with the magical ability to produce everything they do
in OCR?  We at Marist are not fortunate enough to have an army of people who
can do this with our backfiles, or who can consistently do it (without
fixing plenty of spelling errors created by crappy OCR software!) on a
reasonable timetable.  How are you making this happen?  What magical piece
of technology can I requisition that will cost me less than $5000 that will
do this with books and not barf over the bends in the book spine?
2.  How do you account for the amount of time that needs to be invested in a
browser based solution that will work across all browsers and follow update
practices by major OS developers?  I am not trying to nay-say Jim Hanson's
idea, but I can only see something like this working in a world where there
is an active development team in place to correct bugs/issues, etc. that
will arise when Internet Explorer 7 Service Pack 1B (or whatever) comes out
and alters some functionality of the software.  Web browsers, even within
platform, are notoriously non-compliant to HTML and W3C standards.
3.  Who will provide the on-site tech support for students attempting to
access these wifi based solutions?  Would each tournament director need to
work with their Information Technology department (that at many unis wants
to bill the requesting department or program) to make sure all ran correctly
on the technical side of things?  Will each tournament director need to
build in some sort of redundant network such that if the evidence sharing
network dies they have a fall back?  Who funds and maintains that?
4.  Why does answering any of these questions make sense in a world where we
already have a cheap and effective way of moving files?

Implement Jim Hansonesque genius in the long term -- and use the jumpdrives
in the short term folks.

-actually has a degree in this crap
-has been the network administrator of an Urgent Care Clinic for over ten
-bills out heavily for this kind of knowledge
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