[eDebate] Whitman and Paperless

Aaron Hardy spoon_22
Sat Sep 13 23:58:56 CDT 2008



This evening at Gonzaga, seven Whitman teams completed their
first day of completely paperless debating. 
As far as I know, this is the first experiment with paperless debating
on such a large scale ? I?m happy to report that it went extremely well, and
despite some very minor hiccups, didn?t present a problem for anyone
involved.  Overall, our feedback has been
positive, and we?re confident enough in our system that this will be a
permanent change.


The purpose of this post is two-fold:

a)  To let the community
at large know that we?re doing this ? now that we?ve got 20+ competition rounds
under our collective belt, we?re prepared to answer questions, reflect on our
experiences, etc?

b)  To solicit
feedback on any concerns people have, ideas for improvement, or to answer
questions for anyone else considering making a similar switch.  We?re especially interested in getting
feedback on our ?proposed norms? below.


For anyone keeping track of developments in this arena ?
this system is NOT based on the system which Hanson has been developing which
was discussed in some detail on e-debate over the last couple months.  It?s a completely new system I designed to
address some of the technical difficulties inherent in previous designs.  Jim may continue his separate track of
development as the technology needed matures ? but for now, our system is a
separate entity.


I?d be happy to consult with
anyone who wants more of the nuts and bolts?


There are a number of motivations for our switch ? but the
proximate cause should be obvious. 
Rising travel costs (especially for checked bags) have led us to believe
that the only sustainable alternative is a system which doesn?t involve lugging
tubs around the country.


At Gonzaga, our teams are handing out a document which explains
how our system works and tries to answer some questions ? it?s reproduced below
for everyone else?


First, a preface ? we recognize that this is a fairly big shift for some members of the debate community (including some of us).  There will doubtlessly be problems during the
transition, especially early in the year, and we apologize in advance for any
difficulties we cause.  This was not a
decision entered into without significant trepidation on our part ? but after
much debate and testing, we ultimately determined that the benefits clearly
outweigh the costs.


With that proviso, we want to make this as easy as possible
for everyone involved, and we?d love feedback on anything we can do to make it
easier to debate against us.  Lastly,
we?d humbly appeal to the debate community at large for a collective degree of
patience and willingness to try it out before passing judgment ? we really
think that it?s worth all the headaches.


description of the system


Each Whitman team will be carrying three laptops.  The debaters will each use a laptop to
prepare speeches with, placing all cards that will be read into one Word
document.  Immediately prior to speaking,
the debater will place their entire upcoming speech on a USB jump drive and
give it to the opposing team.  If the other
team has their own laptop(s), they?re welcome to use them to view the
file.  If not, Whitman will use their
third backup laptop as a ?viewing? computer for the other teams use for the
whole debate.  If for some reason the
other team needs a second ?viewing? computer, Whitman will let the other team
use one of their other laptops during their prep time.  The same will repeat for each speech.  After the debate, the judge is obviously free
to use either their own laptop or one of Whitman?s to look at the evidence.


(Requested) Community Norms


Since this is (largely) uncharted waters, we recognize that
it brings with it a new set of questions, concerns, and impacts on the debating
process.  Many of these have already been discussed by others on e-debate over the past few months.  We?ve tried to think out as
many of these as possible and design our system to be as accommodating as is
feasible, but there will doubtless be issues which arise that we have to deal
with on an ad-hoc basis.  That being
said, we?d like to propose two ?community norms? as it relates to paperless
debating in an effort to facilitate fairness. 
These function as no more than a request ? we?re willing to accept that
if people disagree with us or refuse to honor these requests, that we bear the
complete share of responsibility for accommodation.  Nonetheless, we feel the following practices
would be best for competitive equity:

1)  As we?ll be
providing a complete copy of all the evidence read in a speech prior to the
speech starting, it would be nice if the opposing team made an effort to
minimize ?looking ahead? in the word document to try and gain a competitive
advantage by figuring out what we?ll read later in the speech.  This is obviously only so practicable, but we
feel that an honest attempt is still better than nothing.

2)  We would prefer
that opposing teams or judges who opt to transfer the ?Speech? document to
their personal computers during the debate delete them at the conclusion of the
debate.  While we?d be happy to provide
cites for every card read in the debate within a matter of minutes (it?s built
into our system) to anyone interested in them, we think that taking evidence
wholesale is the equivalent of taking a paper file.  While unenforceable, we?d hope the majority
of the community would agree that stealing files crosses the line, especially
given the easy availability of cites.


If anyone has any questions,
feel free to ask me, or any member of the Whitman squad.





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