[eDebate] Reactions to these threads

William J Repko repkowil
Thu Oct 23 16:54:31 CDT 2008

Good Discussion so far. 

Some reactions: 

1. Forum 

Conversation is also happening on the cedablog ? in fact more discussion 
of the MPJ/mutuality conversation is happening there. 

Now is a good time figure out how to use that site (administrator?s code, 
etc). Positive externalities ensue. 

While it's new and different, doesn?t it make structural sense for the 
organization to have a channel for discussions of this sort ?... 

Your participation (at that site) aids that effort. 


2. About 6 v. 8 

a) Ross = right about history. 

B. Hall once posted an anecdote about how it was shocking when Zarefsky took 
20 minutes to decide the semis of the NDT (b/c it took so *long*). Much has 
changed -- as nearly all NDT semis take much longer than 20 minutes to 

The point is not the specific issue of decision length -- it's the broader 
idea that we're currently using a schedule that is well-designed for 1983. 

Over the ensuing 25 years, when GOOD evolutions have been suggested (more 
feedback, more pre-round prep, etc), the remedy has been to slightly 
lengthen the day. Something probably has to give. If so, then the 
meta-question is whether the change should come in practice or in 
scheduling. Wake, at a minimum, seems a very positive experiment. 

b) My own experience 

I remember the first time we went to Cal (6 rd tourney). As a card-carrying 
member of the "debate-all-the-time, being-nuts-is-good" club, I shared the 
reservations that are currently being placed on the table. 

...However, I was shocked at how much I enjoyed the 6 round format. I was 
shocked at how much THE STUDENTS enjoyed it. I was shocked at how much it 
improved everyone's mood. 

The slight tweak I'd recommend to Kevin's call for a referendum is to 
consider having said referendum AFTER we've lived through the world of 2 
less debates. The hidden upsides might surprise us. 

c) Quality of Process/Life. 

I don't judge as well at the end of long days. I don't coach as well either. 
My debaters debate considerably worse in rounds 5 and 8. 

I attribute much of this to exhaustion. 

Try the following experiment -- look for little moments of exhaustion that 
can reasonably be attributed to lengthy days. When I have looked for this, 
I've noticed: my own irritation at the little things and (bad) hasty 
decisions by judges or debaters that are looking for some way to shorten the 

This is particularly true during elim # 5... but is not untrue for prelim 

d) Phillips says: "Walk it off"... 

My concern is "drive it off". 

It sounds like one of those annoying high-ground appeals -- but the truth is 
that safe driving may well be the most important part of my job. Driving 
back from UK (conventional 8 rd. schedule) was not safe. A long Sat, Sun, 
and Monday all contributed to that. 

e) The specific context of Wake 

Concerns that 25% fewer debates hurts the development of younger debaters 
are understandable. But, I think some of these reservations do not 
contextualize as well to the WFU tourney -- here's why: 

1. Wake is clearing at least 20% of the frosh-soph pool -- maybe as much as 
a full octa, and almost certainly all of the 3-3 teams (with this 

The return/expansion of this separate elim bracket is only feasible in a 
world where CLASSROOMS (instead of conference rooms) are in play. Scheduling 
the 1st wave of elims on the campus facilitates this. I would add that the 
community needs mechanisms to "positively track" younger students from 
schools of all sizes. An elim of any kind generates exposure and hallway 
buzz. I feel the conversation has, up to this point, under-estimated how 
Ross's scheduling adjustment has facilitated the growth of these "break-out" 

2. Wake has qualification procedures -- making it, overall, less of a 
"developmental" pool. 

MSU -- for the first time since 1996 -- is taking only two teams to the WFU 
tourney. That's b/c we have only two teams that fulfilled their "must break 
at two tourneys requirement". 

To the extent that I am concerned about 25% fewer debates, it's a 
developmental concern for our teams that are currently not able to clear in 
varsity divisions. Those teams, however, don't pass the entry hoop. 

I am not writing to rail against those requirements -- they're a necessary 
evil for a very popular tourney. And, I do understand that not all teams 
have to meet those requirements (two team guarantee, etc). 

But, if there were a spectrum, WFU's entry requirements slightly tilt the 
composition of the pool away from "developmental" and slightly towards "the 
most experienced teams that participating schools can possibly bring". 

To make a long story short -- I'd err towards supporting an 8 rd tourney 
when it is a novice/JV division. Quantity is at a higher premium. 

But, when the pool is less-developmental, quality may be at a higher 
premium. "Quality" means a lot of things but likely includes items that make 
the day longer (pre-round prep, longer decisions, longer oral critiques, 

Given that the composition of the WFU tourney is ultimately somewhat 
heterogeneous -- expansion of breakout divisions, coupled with sacrifices 
that allow for (time consuming) "quality of debate issues" to continue seems 
to be a pretty good permutation. 

 -- Will 

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