[eDebate] Debate Central website celebrates 15th birthday
Alfred C Snider
Tue Sep 1 10:49:38 CDT 2009
The DEBATE CENTRAL website at http://debate.uvm.edu today celebrates its
15th year on the Internet.
It may very well have trained more debaters in that time than any other
website in the world.
DEBATE CENTRAL is a non-profit service of the Lawrence Debate Union and
the University of Vermont, and is designed to promote debating at all
levels, in all languages, and all around the world. Our server is
provided by the University of Vermont. The System Operator is Alfred
C."Tuna"Snider. The Technical Advisers are Andrew Hendrickson and Wesley
Wright. The Business Manager is Lionel Palardy.
Debate Central was born as an idea in 1993 when it became obvious that
debaters, ever voracious for information, were increasingly taking
advantage of the internet. The way in which debate information
circulated was about to change.
Likewise, it would soon be relatively easy for coaches and students to
reach huge bodies of information they needed but had been unable to
access: educational materials, organizational information, addresses,
theory discussions, argument lists, scholarship and program
opportunities, graduate assistant opportunities, job openings, and much
At the Kansas Speech Communication Association Convention in May, 1994,
Prof. A. C. Snider of the University of Vermont met with a number of
high school debate coaches who expressed a need to get educational
debate information to help strengthen existing programs, attract new
ones, help new debaters, and especially to help new coaches. Most had
modems and inexpensive computers.
At the University of Vermont there was a move to find some economical
way to make such information available for free over phone lines or the
internet. However, the costs were too high.
It was a shareware breakthrough in Spring, 1994 which made the
difference. FTPd, a shareware program (Ask Peter about it!), allowed any
Mac (including a very slow and stupid one at the University of Vermont
called "The Brigadier") to become a gopher server.
A basic set of materials were assembled and on September 1, 1994 Debate
Central was turned on at a cost of less than $100.
Within two months America Online had chosen Debate Central as one of its
featured educational internet sites and the rush was on. During the
1994-95 school year DC logins and downloads increased steadily to a
level of between 35-55 different users a day.
Getting the machines to run was the easy part. It became clear that many
internet locations are not "stops" on the information superhighway
because there is very little to stop there for. They were often just
intersections where one could catch a link to somewhere else. To be
useful, Debate Central needed to be constantly adding materials and
Although the data acquisition phase has been difficult, many people have
helped contribute to a systematic build up of materials. Listserv
archives, address lists, argument lists, job offerings, and many other
items have been added regularly. Each month the newsletter NEW ON DEBATE
CENTRAL was, at this time, circulated through the debate listservs and
is posted at the entrance to the main Debate Central Library. Debate
Central has now been recognized by other debate internet sites as the
most complete depository of debate related information on the internet.
In the Summer of 1995 another shareware breakthrough took place. Debate
Central wanted a presence on the world wide web but could not afford it
and the SysOp had no time to learn HyperText Markup Language.
Fortunately, the shareware program HTML Web Weaver (Contact Robert Best
about it) allowed even this SysOp to format in HTML. Also, another
shareware program, MacHTTP, allowed the same "stupid Mac" (the
Brigadier) to operate as a WWW server (for more information contact
StarNine Technologies). We love StarNine so much we later switched to
proudly run WebStar as our web server.
In Early 1999 DC began to offer streaming internet videos using
RealPlayer. In December, 1999 DC hosted the first live internet video
distance debate between Vermont and Cornell using Apple's QuickTime and
Sorenson Broadcaster. Read about the first debate: Cornell vs. Vermont
In December, 1999 DC had its first major facelift since 1996, changing
from a geographical model to an action model of web site design. In
February of 2000 the original gopher server was finally turned off.
WebStar has integrated a www server and a gopher server and an ftp
server into one program. This allowed our trusty server (PowerMac
WorkGroup Server 7250/120) the Matrix to serve documents much faster.
As of February, 2000 DC averaged about 2800 users a day and about 15,000
hits a day. Whew, we came a long way from our little gopher server in 1994.
In 2002 the site was moved to the central servers at the University of
Vermont to improve response and archiving. The video library continued
Debate Central continued to grow in terms of content as the 21st Century
became a reality. The video system was switched to QuickTime as
bandwidth increased for users and as it became the dominant application
for video. In 2006 the format for all new videos became podcast to
improve the ability of users to make these videos portable yet large and
In 2006 a group of related websites were created to explore a new
project - documenting debate news from around the world and sharing it.
Thus, the Global Debate Blog was both. At first it was an iWeb site
housed at the University of Vermont, and that continued since its
founding in March 2006. The 2006 Global Debate Blog archives can be
found at http://debate.uvm.edu/debateblog/doctortuna/Blog2006/Archive.html.
In the middle of 2007 it became clear that the traffic and the need for
constant posting made it clear that iWeb was not practical. The Global
Debate Blog fled from iWeb, and the 2007 archives are at
In July 2007 the Global Debate Blog went to its new home at
Now there are a wide assortment of websites associated with Debate
Central. They live on the blogspot.com service for easy updating,
although there are a few iWeb sites..
Here is a fairly complete listing of what we are calling THE FIRST
FAMILY OF DEBATE WEBSITES.
Main page http://debate.uvm.edu/
Learn to Debate
Video Instruction and Debate Video Library
Purchase Debate Training Materials
Debate Related Books We Endorse
Old Global Debate Blog
World Debate Institute Summer Program (USA)
International Debate Academy (Europe)
Asian Debate Institute (Korea)
DebateNews (Google robots find debate in the news)
Lawrence Debate Union, University of Vermont
Voice of Edwin (Lawrence Debate Union Newsletter)
Flashpoint Debate Television Program Videos
Alfred C. Snider aka Tuna
Edwin Lawrence Professor of Forensics
University of Vermont
Huber House, 475 Main Street, UVM, Burlington, VT 05405 USA
Lawrence Debate Union http://debate.uvm.edu/debateblog/LDU/
Global Debate Blog http://globaldebateblog.blogspot.com
Debate Central http://debate.uvm.edu
802-656-0097 office telephone
802-656-4275 office fax
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