[eDebate] Quick reaction on two tub experiment

Jim Hanson hansonjb
Tue Jul 22 11:54:35 CDT 2008

I have been working on a paperless debating system for several years and it 
unfortunately keeps getting delayed.

we did do a bunch of tests of it in april and may and it is getting closer 
but it is not quite there.

the basics of it:
--each debater has a laptop connected to another laptop (used to share 
evidence with the other team).
--you organize and read your evidence on your laptop and when you finish 
reading a position (a document), you press a key and it transfers the 
document to the other laptop
--of course, all files are electronic (although, if you wanted, you could 
have some files be paper, eg ones you use frequently)

the problems:
--organizing the files so that they can be easily updated for the whole team 
when new research comes in
--the macro for the key and its wireless connectivity needs to be 
bulletproofed; that is what is stalled right now
--organizing the files when preparing for the speeches--windows does not 
make organizing open files easy (we are using taskbar shuffle which is 
--various and sundry other items

cost issues:
--the files are standard word documents (you can ocr files and make them 
text documents)
--you do not need expensive hardware; windows xp and 512mb ram will do you 
--the extra laptop can be an old duster
--new, quite decent laptops can be got for $500 to $600 these days--compare 
to the costs of traveling tubs/printing/larger rental vehicle costs over a 2 
to 3 year period of owning that laptop

tech backup issues during the round
--yep, you'll need to have extension cords, surge protectors, backup plans 
for failure, etc.

if I could get our tech services to finish the macro and I could get a 
program that will organize the open files and then if I can get time to test 
this out, in my opinion, we will be ready to go in 2009. my team may not 
agree with that assessment :) but that's my view.

jim :)
hansonjb at whitman.edu

From: "Paul Johnson" <paulj567 at yahoo.com>
Sent: Tuesday, July 22, 2008 9:18 AM
To: <edebate at ndtceda.com>; "William J Repko" <repkowil at msu.edu>
Subject: Re: [eDebate] Quick reaction on two tub experiment

Funny this comes up now, it was the topic of conversation between the Miami 
staff for an hour long drive to a Reds game. In other news, the Miami staff 
is extremely lame.

BUT I think the tub crunch issue is a helpful spot at which to articulate 
the collision that is occurring in contemporary debate- one that finds the 
arc of ultra-competitiveness clashing with the arc of financial and 
institutional concerns. We have never before been able to produce so much 
evidence because of the "digital turn" in debate. However, travel costs are 
skyrocketing as never before with no end in sight (airlines are poorly run, 
oil prices are high, we don't have the necessary travel infrastructure 
developed for reasonable alternatives, like regional rail).

Simply put, cost overruns with new baggage policies and rising ticket prices 
will prove disastrous. This is also not an issue that only affects small 
schools- bigger squads have bigger costs, and when the economy contracts 
everyone's funding is, by and large, less secure. The real different in 
effect is geographic- schools that can drive to more tournaments, by and 
large, feel this squeeze less than a squad that has to fly everywhere.

Could the digital revolution provide the answer? Numbers need to be 
crunched. Specifically, how much in terms of printer, paper, and computer 
costs does a team incur going almost digital? Are the savings radical? When 
you consider each team travels with probable a minimum of 3 tubs in the 
status quo, with escalating costs for each, will printing expenses for a 
squad of three teams exceed the costs of luggage? American for example 
charges a total of 40 dollars for two bags- if this squad has two teams, one 
with say, 3 tubs and one with 4, you're looking at an additional 135 

A whole ream of paper costs what, 30 bucks? Pick up a standard brother 
printer and assume since you're going totally digital you'll need several 
cartridges. thats prolly about 135 there, with cartridges and paper 
together. Right now, thats kind of a wash.

Also carts- will we still need those? One idea is to just have everyone toss 
into a general fund for the schools that host tournaments to just purchase 
carts. If you figure out room moves and have a competent tournament staff on 
site carting could get it done.

I'm more confident office supply prices will remain steady while luggage 
prices and fees will rapidly escalate as the airlines feel the burn. Going 
completely digital doesn't necessarily provide the answer even then though, 
because you know what files you HAVE to have. So people will still bring 
some tubs, and pay for some luggage. I would love for someone with more 
hands on experience procuring supplies and doing the numbers on printers 
etc. to come up with some more exact numbers.

Whats the real solution? I agree with Will's "more prep" suggestion (indeed, 
its one we also brainstormed the other day independently). I think the 
counterbalance is fewer rounds that last longer, completely necessary when 
you consider how four rounds already usually takes us well into the evening. 
This is one area in which the clash between competition and economics is 
revealed- no one wants fewer debates because they provide a worse measure of 
how good a team is and introduce more statistical variance and luck into the 

In general the community privileges competition and the resulting argument 
quality that develops as a result of debate. This is no surprise. People 
enjoy winning. People like to be pushed. Suggestions for measures to make 
debate a little less competitive fall prey to several arguments

A) A hobbesian dilemma- if everyone else is working all the time, you too 
must also, otherwise your elim day stay will be nasty, poor, brutish and 

B) The digital genie is out of the analog bottle- now that we can research 
all the time anywhere, its going to happen. Debate now has much more and 
quality on site work than it did in the past.

The ethos of competitiveness that underlines are community can be seen in 
the travel schedules- many teams privilege large national tournaments with 
the best competition and center their season around those tournaments, round 
robins, first round opportunities etc. Combine the thirst for victory with 
easily available Internet Tubes for extensive research opportunities and we 
have, in some senses, a perfect storm in our community pushing us ever 
closer to professionalization.

Therefore we don't want to do ANYTHING that cuts down on our argument 
quality and our chance of success. We invest our entire days and college 
careers and professional careers into this activity. Fewer tubs, more 
printers, less rounds, fewer national tournaments all DIRECTLY threaten to 
water down the competititiveness which we have recently obtained at an 
unprecedented level. There is a reason it was so good to be Aff back in the 
day- a dumb aff could not as easily be immediately destroyed with one 
competent researcher and a WiFi connection. I've made comments to people in 
the past about how I think debate isn't quite social enough but I'm willing 
to admit: it won't ever be as social as it was, and thats ok! But we still 
have to do something to make travel more affordable.

If we dont want to cut down on our argument quality, I think there is one 
solution. Make divisions. Bring back a sense of pride and community and 
belonging at a more local level to refuse the Prisoner's Dilemma that makes 
most regional touraments less competitive. All it takes is one team deciding 
that the regional that weekend is less appealing than another tournament 
farther away to evacuate that regional tournament. We could on any given 
weekend have 3 or 4 highly competitive good tournaments instead of one 
really good one.

So here's an admittedly immodest proposal, but one that, at first blush, I 
think holds a lot of appeal:

Cut down on major national tournaments. Maybe only two in the first semester 
instead of the 4 we have now?

Turn other major national tournaments into "super regionals" and get 
together various consortiums, or divisions that will agree to all travel to 
the same tournaments.

So instead of the GSU and Gonzaga sort of split along with UNI on the first 
couple weeks of the season, you could do maybe 4 tournaments:

One out West
One at GSU
One in the Midwest
One on the upper east coast.

Figuring out where to site these tournaments to maximize drivability would 
seem imperative.

So then maybe a couple weekends later you have the first national 
tournament. The regional tournaments were places for teams to get a feel, 
get some debates in.

A couple weekends later do another regional.

Then finish the semester up with another national.

If its financially doable to keep our current travel schedule, I'm for it. I 
think its great. There are opportunities for regional travel that some teams 
take advantage of, and more should. But if the current nationally focused 
travel schedule becomes a financial burden for too many squads, we should 
think about a national scale down and an emphasis on regionalism to cut 
costs. The competitive expense will, I think, be less than everyone 
anticipates. Look at the D3 tournament every year- that thing is savage. 
Imagine a few larger scale tournaments like that that included first round 
candidates. Northeast tournaments with Towson, Dartmouth, Harvard, Mary 
Washington, Richmond, NY schools, Rochester, Vermont and many other teams 
from those districts. Midwest tournaments with throwdowns between Iowa, MSU, 
Kansas, NU, UNI, Conc, Minny, Auggie, Kstate, Emporia, and many more. Great 
Western competitiions between Gonzaga, Berkeley, Chico, Fullerton, UNLV, 
 USC etc.

What does everyone think?


--- On Tue, 7/22/08, William J Repko <repkowil at msu.edu> wrote:

> From: William J Repko <repkowil at msu.edu>
> Subject: [eDebate] Quick reaction on two tub experiment
> To: edebate at ndtceda.com
> Date: Tuesday, July 22, 2008, 9:46 AM
> ...busy at debate camp, but wanted to quickly chime-in .
> 1. Kudos to Ryan -- airline developments are going to hit
> our debate
> community like a ton of bricks. We tend to "steal good
> ideas" from one
> another in a very ad-hoc, slow way.
> If there's a silver bullet that can cut-down costs,
> please share.
> ... if this discussion helps formulate one, then it's
> more-than worth it.
> 2. Not to place a sour note on Ryan's post (it's
> important and I am a fan),
> but I wanted to react to the portion of his email that
> spoke to an episode
> involving the MSU team. Specifically, I caution folks
> against citing MSU as
> a model of "a team that did just fine without
> tubs".
> Background:
> a) Were all 29 of MSU's tubs temporarily lost in
> transit to Austin ?..
>    Yes
> b) Was MSU able to "get by" ?...
>    ...umm...sorta...
> c) Why doesn't this provide concrete proof that the
> community could operate
> w/o tubs or solely with electronic resources ?...
> First -- It's taxing in many little ways.
> printers only go so fast; printers enjoy jamming and
> breaking; the office
> supply center opens at 8am (not 7am when cartridge # 5 runs
> out); opponents
> can only disclose so much (in the status quo); teams worry
> about many
> contingencies -- so too much pre-round time is spent
> printing instead of
> coaching /prepping.
> I would go so far as to say that the first day of UT-A --
> while enjoyably
> challenging in a sick sort of way -- would be a very bad
> blueprint for
> professional sanity. It may have been the most trying day
> of my debate life
> and I am positive the other MSU coaches and students would
> echo that
> sentiment. Needing to print or "produce" a file
> before everyone would drive
> a lot of either towards hyper-generics or from the activity
> altogether.
> Second -- I'm not sure we could have done it all on Day
> two or three.
> 4 *pre-sets* made things feasible.... When things are not
> pre-set, then
> every debate without tubs becomes that way you feel when
> you dashing to
> print off that preposterous request right before an elim
> round.
> Third-- Having a larger team was an asset -- more teammates
> to borrow
> from... more people to aid with printing ,etc.
> Truth be told, I don't think it's a very workable
> adjustment under the
> current set of norms.
> *If* the community is forced by the market to go
> "tubless", then we may need
> to consider adding the following items to the discussion:
> a) Do we need to add considerably more prep time into the
> debate itself ?..
> This might be used for printing ev, jumping ev to the
> opponent, finding the
> paper file that stored in the "common ev room",
> etc.
> This could have the positive externality of allowing
> debaters (not coaches)
> to research wildly-untrue arguments during the debate --
> tempering the
> concern that many have about new Affs, silly
> hyper-generics, etc.
> b) In an era of Aff bias, should we re-visit the norm of
> neg disclosure ?..
> This would be a huge adjustment -- fraught with problems.
> But, it would
> hedge against team A trying to manipulate the fact that
> Team B is "unlikely
> to have a paper copy of X"....
> ... More generally, I encourage people to view the
> "tub-crunch" as an
> opportunity -- not just a burden. It could constitute an
> opportunity to
> improve certain things about the activity -- but only to
> the extent that the
> community can agree on what our activity should look like,
> which we often
> cannot.
> Back to cap-and-trade,
>  Will
> _______________________________________________
> eDebate mailing list
> eDebate at www.ndtceda.com
> http://www.ndtceda.com/mailman/listinfo/edebate

eDebate mailing list
eDebate at www.ndtceda.com

More information about the Mailman mailing list