[eDebate] Whitman and Paperless

Paul Leader leaderdb8
Sun Sep 14 11:46:13 CDT 2008

ThanX for the well-thought out comments.  I particularly applaud Whitman for the effort and expense of having extra laptops available for the opposition. A couple of thoughts on your comments;
2)  I completely agree that it can be equally an issue with paper.
3) Not so sure I agree here.  Flowing should be one skill of a good debater--and mastering the skill will produce its own reward (extra wins).  This is not really a tech-only issue.  I have been irritated in recent years as it has become more evident that many debaters no longer even bother to flow...back in the "stone ages" of my era, a quality team would make sure that AT LEAST one of the two team members had a good flow--and franklly it was better if both did, as while pulling response shells, etc., you are bound to miss something.  I am not so sure we should reward debaters by filling in the gaps in their flows for them.  Also, many of us judges have encountered a situation where debaters became very confrontational if they had even a whiff or hint that we might have missed something on our flow...shouldn't they meet the same high standard ?  As I said though, not really an issue that is unique to tech.
4)  Think you have some well reasoned responses on equity issues...and cost savings is certainly appealing.  One other thought, I wonder, overall, whether more paper--or more computers--would prove to be--again overall-- more "green" friendly.
Again, thanx for your thoughts

From: spoon_22 at hotmail.com
To: edebate at ndtceda.com
Date: Sun, 14 Sep 2008 06:04:11 +0000
Subject: Re: [eDebate] Whitman and Paperless


Good question -- in practice, we've found that the most frequent 
situation where this arises is when the speaker "marks" a card by 
putting in a few hard returns where they stopped, but the "jumped" 
version doesn't have the marks.  Then, there are obviously situations 
like the one you describe where more cards have been jumped than were 
actually read in the debate.

A few thoughts:

1)  My students have all been instructed that if there are changes from 
what was given before the speech, they should re-save their file with 
the marks and give the other team the more accurate version.  If the 
edits are very minor (like 1 or 2 marked cards), they can do it manually 
on the "viewing" laptop for the other team.  The pre-speech jumped 
document isn't represented as "accurate" per se -- it's more akin to 
handing a copy of all the blocks on paper you'll likely read to the 
other team to facilitate sharing, rather than an attempt to be a 
transcription.  Overall, we've found in practice that problems 
associated with this aren't very frequent or large in magnitude.

2)  One thing that occurs to me is that this problem is not really 
distinct from debating with paper -- it's fairly frequent that a 2AC 
might only read the top card on a page but give the other team a whole 
block, necessitating clarification on what was actually read.  If the 
2AC is unable to remember, it seems unlikely they'd remember in either a 
paperless or paper system.  On the converse, paperless may actually make 
this type of situation less likely -- the feedback I've been receiving 
from our opponents is that they find it much easier to "follow along" 
with the speech document while flowing, ensuring a much more accurate 
flow than the usual circumstance of needing to run up to the podium 
several times a speech and sort out the chaotic mess of thrown cards.

3)  To directly address your  "judge intervention" question -- I 
personally don't have much problem with offering clarifications to the 
debaters on what I have on my flow.  I'm called upon to do so fairly 
frequently...and feel that it facilitates better debating for a pretty 
minimal amount of "intervention" since it benefits both teams equally.  
In situations where judges prefer not to do so, I'd say that the 
offending team should probably need to presume that the card wasn't read 
at all if it's impossible to sort out amongst the debaters.

4)  "Tech is an issue" -- my students have all been instructed to be as 
polite and accomodating as possible with a team uncomfortable with the 
situation -- although we obviously can't provide printed copies.  I 
think we've reached a point where we're comfortable with defending that 
the advantages to our approach outweigh this discomfort -- and that 
anyone who tries it out with an open mind has been a "convert."  As for 
the elitism/equity concerns, I think it's fairly simple to defend our 
alternative as being a massive cost savings, and hence substantially 
more "open" than the current system.  We'll save thousands of dollars 
this year because of the switch -- any team on a budget would be far 
better off under our system, despite increased tech needs.  In a more 
direct way, we've taken great pains to make this accessible to teams 
with zero tech infrastructure -- we're carrying a ton of extra laptops 
and other tech to help other teams out when needed.  So far, we've had 
no complaints.

Hopefully this hopes clarify some of your questions.  Please feel free 
to continue providing feedback -- it's much appreciated.


From: leaderdb8 at hotmail.com
To: spoon_22 at hotmail.com; edebate at ndtceda.com
Subject: RE: [eDebate] Whitman and Paperless
Date: Sat, 13 Sep 2008 23:20:36 -0600

I have a question about how you plan to handle during speech "editing." It is prompted by a debate I judged between Denver and Wyoming two years ago, where one team was operating "paperless."  A file or speech was provided to the other team by jump drive. I think the issue was with a 1ac, but don't remember precisely.  In CX and later speeches a minor issue developed as to what was actually read.  It appeared that none of the debaters really had a written detailed flow sufficient to clarify the issue among themselves.  It was an elim, and I could tell from my flow, as I am sure the other judges could as well.
What thoughts-plans have you made for such circumstances ?  Just curious...also, thoughts on whether this almost would invite judge intervention to clarify (which we chose not to do) to avoid creating a sort of false issue?  If the debater represents the jumped speech as "accurate" which was certainly implicitly the case in this CX, is that an issue?
A second possible question-issue, what if a team makes the tech an issue...i.e. (we are more comfortable-efficient reviewing your evidence on paper-so this is unfair; or we can't afford your level of tech, so similarly unfair).
I am just curious on these questions-issues, as the tech trend is not going to go away, and may be inevitable--and curious as to what sorts of new norms, standards, and issues this raised.
Good Luck
Paul Leader

From: spoon_22 at hotmail.com
To: edebate at ndtceda.com
Date: Sun, 14 Sep 2008 04:58:56 +0000
Subject: [eDebate] Whitman and Paperless



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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