[eDebate] Debate Central website celebrates 15th birthday

Alfred C Snider alfred.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 
more.

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 
updating information.

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 
to grow.

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 
vivid.

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 
http://debate.uvm.edu/debateblog/doctortuna/Blog/Archive.html

In July 2007 the Global Debate Blog went to its new home at 
http://globaldebateblog.blogspot.com/

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.

Debate Central
Main page http://debate.uvm.edu/
Learn to Debate
http://debate.uvm.edu/learndebate.html
Video Instruction and Debate Video Library
http://debate.uvm.edu/watch.html
Purchase Debate Training Materials
http://debate.uvm.edu/ee.html
Debate Related Books We Endorse
http://debate.uvm.edu/shoptext.html

Old Global Debate Blog
http://debate.uvm.edu/debateblog/doctortuna/Blog/Blog.html

DebateVideoBlog
http://debatevideoblog.blogspot.com/

Instructional Programs
World Debate Institute Summer Program (USA)
http://learn.uvm.edu/wdi/
International Debate Academy (Europe)
http://debate.uvm.edu/idas2007.html
Asian Debate Institute (Korea)
http://debatekorea.blogspirit.com/

Other Websites
DebateNews (Google robots find debate in the news)
http://debatenews.blogspot.com/
Lawrence Debate Union, University of Vermont
http://debate.uvm.edu/ldu.html
Voice of Edwin (Lawrence Debate Union Newsletter)
http://debate.uvm.edu/debateblog/LDU/Voice%20of%20Edwin/Voice%20of%20Edwin.html
Flashpoint Debate Television Program Videos
http://flashpointtv.blogspot.com/

-- 
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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