Thoughts on Paperless 2

1. You don’t need to see your opponents evidence until after the speech- I’m sure this will be controversial as every time I mention this in polite conversation I’m blasted for it. People seem to be very concerned with how paperless squads will get evidence to the other team for reading/if they give it all to them at the beginning won’t the other team cheat and look ahead etc. I think it should work like this: at the end of your speech, you hand the other team either a jump drive with the speech on it, or a computer with the document open (they can pick). Here are my arguments for this system:

A. There is no “need” to immediately read the other teams evidence- even for the next immediate speech (2NC) you can read them during CX or prep time. To prep a speech you generally need to flow, right some responses, pull some evidence, and read the other teams ev(not in that order necessarily). You can’t do them all at once. Why would you want to do the reading of evidence part during the speech? I guess the “logical” claim would be “you should read the evidence before you formulate answers”. I think that you only need to do this if

-the other team tags their evidence poorly

-the other debater is unclear so you can’t hear the tag/evience

If neither of those happens you should have a good enough idea to start formulating your responses. So do the other parts of prep, and read the cards later.

B. Every time I hear a discussion of which way someone is going to flip, can they flip left, no they don’t like flipping left, ok now wait while I move a chair to flip stuff onto blah blah blah it makes me die a little bit inside. Seriously it should not be that difficult to move the sheet of paper you already read to a new spot so that you can read the next sheet. Even if you debate on paper I think just flip wherever you want, hand it to them when you are done. People who are in your face about taking evidence away the nano second that you finished reading it need to take some stress management classes.

C. Flowing is a dying art- as is line by line. I won’t go on a rant here as others can do it better than I- but you can see people not flowing as they read the other teams evidence during the speech. There seems to be a huge assumption amongst debaters today that they can just “get the block” and reconstruct the speech later without flowing. As a result I have seen a lot of people drop arguments that weren’t on the block, answer arguments that are on the block but weren’t read, and in general not have anything close to the order the 2AC said them in.

2. Standing while speaking- I think this needs to go the way of the dinosaurs. I tried to think of what the arguments where for standing while speaking and I couldn’t come up with many:

-its tradition/it seems more formal- lame

-You sound better/breathe better etc- I have to disagree here on all counts. Prof. musicians who play wind instruments do not stand when they perform. I tried looking for some kind of study or something that would offer insight into my intuition here but didn’t find anything really useful so I am just going to assert this- if you sit up straight you can breathe as well and project your voice as loudly as if you stand. Here is why standing is stupid

A. People have a million annoying tics like dancing around and banging tubs etc. While this could continue while sitting, I don’t really remember anyone who sits while speaking doing these things (ok not true I do remember 1). Obviously people will say this isn’t a causal thing but I think it is- when you are sitting you are more relaxed, you aren’t pacing etc.

B. Time spent constructing speaking stands- seems trivial. But in college debate there are serious discussions about making tournaments have less rounds because the days are getting to long. So this summer I judged about 80 debates. When I remembered (which was only about 10) I opened an extra timer and counted up all the time that was spent with stupid crap like making speaking stands, looking for evidence and lost flows etc. It averaged to about 17 minutes*(side note below). 17 times 4 is 68. That means at a 4 round /day tournament you are making your day an hour longer with these shenanigans.

C. A table has way more surface area than any stand. This allows you to spread out and organize things if you use paper, or to use a full size mouse and not be cramped if you are reading off a computer.

People of various heights (esp the tall) may have an objection about this but they are lame- every day when you use a computer its at the same height it would be when you are reading from a computer in a debate.

An ancillary benefit of paperless related to this is tournament hosting- if every debater sits when speaking, and is paperless there would no longer be a need to re-arrange rooms or pick up a crapload of trash.  This is significant as anyone who has ever worked at at tournament knows- literally thousands of hours of people’s time are spent every year cleaning and fixing rooms. The opportunity costs to this are huge.

Also- as a judge- the sheer fact that paperless means you never have to sit there waiting for people to find evidence that is lost (either to give it to you or the other team) is pretty awesome.

3. Not really a point about paperless but just something to throw out there- more HS tournaments should have wifi. When this started becoming the norm in college I found I was cutting additional cards before virtually every debate either because I knew there was something we didn’t have answers to or because we needed newer uniqueness etc. With corporations like comcast willing to sponsor tournaments and provide it for free there seems to be no downside. But more than that, a lot of schools already have it but don’t give out codes at their tournaments which seems silly. Obviously there are downsides/potential problems- but college clearly shows that it is workable and no major incidents have arisen.

4. Group buys- if we could somehow organize enough people I bet we could get big discounts on netbooks/jumpdrives/power strips the way we get hotel block discounts for rooms now. Either state organizations or even the NDCA/NFL – groups with large memberships- would have some leverage when buying 500 laptops at a time the same way schools do. This could even be combined with some kind of charity effort like the OLPC give one get one program (which currently is on pause but I read is coming back).

*sidenote- I also added up the amount of “stolen” prep in about a dozen debates. I counted time when no one was using prep or speech time or cx(where a lot of teams seem to think they can ask several questions before officially starting cx) and this was about 12 minutes per debate, so almost 2 hours of lost time during the debate.

7 thoughts on “Thoughts on Paperless 2

  1. Joseph Carver

    Our goal is to provide all of the evidence before the speech however, it is a courtesy. Scott is dead on that it is not an entitlement. If a team reciprocates and will not share their evidence on paper until after that is reasonable. We are knowingly giving an advantage to our opponents by providing the speech upfront but people should know that the speech may change and it would be a shame for your order etc to be jacked up because you HAD to read ahead.

  2. observer

    I agree that no one’s entitled to their opponents cards during a speech, and I know sometimes technical issues make this a hassle for paperless teams. but I am really glad that most/all paperless teams are willing to find a way to make their evidence available as soon as its read or before, and I can see why it’s important to people that they get to read the cards during the speech. Flowing may be a lost art, but when you’re in-round and you miss something you want to be able to get it on your flow as soon as possible. Some speakers aren’t clear, so in practice it’s helpful to be able to read things as they’re flipped. Plus, not being able to see the cards until the speech ends practically forces you to either take prep time before cross-x or not ask specific questions about cards, because you can’t read the un-underlined parts of cards during the speech.

  3. Scott Phillips

    Observer,
    1. It is impossible during the speech or prep time to read ALL the non-underlined portions of evidence read in an average speech. Furthermore, very rarely is this crucial.Debaters would definitely be better served doing other things with this time.
    2. You can look at their screen if you just need to get an argument you missed.
    3. Unclear debaters should be forced to speak more clearly.

  4. TimAlderete

    “C. Flowing is a dying art- as is line by line. I won’t go on a rant here”

    I will. When did debaters stop flowing? I’ve complained to my debaters, lab students, and in my judging philosophy for years that debaters need to sit down and flow. I used to think that I was just getting old, mistakenly thinking that people used to flow better back in the day. But after watching closely for the last year, and listening to other lab leaders over the summer, I now think that this is actually a problem.

    For a long time, I’ve thought that debaters were flowing less, and consequently following an organized line by line structure less. Increasingly, time is spent wandering around the room, picking up each card as it is read, reading over the shoulder of the reader, and reading the evidence that the other team reads. All of those things, if done right, are important to debating effectively. However, none of them should occur at the expense of having an accurate flow. Getting down an accurate flow has become an exercise in copying from blocks, asking in cross-ex, or abandoned entirely as you can just bring their block up with you to make answers. Why?

    1. Someone cool told them to. I’ve had students come back from institute saying that they were done flowing – that it was better to use that time to read their evidence to find flaws and write out answers to the warrants in that evidence. This was the explicit instruction from camp. Other students have been told not to flow their opponents’ speeches; instead use the time to write out their own answers. They are told either by varsity debaters, or college debaters, that this is how Experienced Debaters do it. In a sense, this is all true. The better you get at debate, the less time it takes you to keep an accurate flow, and so the more time can be spent reading opponents evidence or writing out your 1AR answers. The better you get at debate, the less detail you need to have written down on your flow to remain organized. Two things get lost in the translation, however. First, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also flow – it just means that very good debaters can do it quicker and more efficiently. Second, it is something for the End of a debate career, not for the kids who are mimicking it. Every young debater who hears this assumes that if they do this, they will Become a better debater. The Contrapositive is true – they have to Become a better debater in order to be able to do this. This should be the goal for the senior year of your College career, if that is in your plans. I have never seen a high school debater who was good enough to get away with not flowing. None. Not if they started in 6th grade, not if they won the TOC, not if they continue winning despite it. If you think that you are the exception, you aren’t. No matter how cool the people are who are telling you. Every single high school debater would be better if they flowed the debate accurately. Along with reading evidence and writing out their arguments, to be certain, but not so much that it prevents flowing.

    2. Calling for cards/blocks has replaced flowing those cards/blocks. Sometimes it is a soft trade off – debaters don’t flow because they know that they can get the block later. Sometimes it is a hard trade off – it is physically impossible to flow if you are constantly walking up to the speaker to get their evidence or read over their shoulder. Getting a block during the speech, in Cross Ex, or during prep, inherently has to come later than flowing it as it is Spoken. It often misses arguments that are added in or not read. It often becomes a replacement to writing down the arguments entirely, which leave huge gaps in a flow for later in the debate, and means that the numbering and organization are less accurate. People stop even Trying to flow, saying to themselves “I can just get it later”, meaning that they have to reconstruct the entire speech in Cross Ex or Prep, which leaves a lot less time for preparation. For many students right now, it has meant that they have Lost the Ability to flow. It means writing down your first impressions as answers, rather than having some time to critically think about the best arguments or answers. I don’t think that this is a function of technology – people did this long before cards and blocks were read off laptops. But the technology has made exchanging cards and blocks easier. And it very easily could be used in the opposite direction – to keep flows more accurate and organized.

    The problem with this is that later in the debate, organization collapses. Teams don’t have their opponent’s arguments down, and then cannot have their arguments written down either. Debaters end up following the structure of last speech, and only the last speech. They focus on the arguments that the speech before them focused on, missing arguments that might have been dropped by their opponents. Debaters end up bailing out on an organized structure and replace it with an extended overview, or add multiple new pages for “theory” or “perms” or “framework.” Debaters get frustrated after the round when judges cannot or will not match up their answers with their opponents’ arguments, because it is hard to decipher what applies to what. Ironically, by attempting to emphasize substance over form, more and more debates are decided by dropped or disorganized arguments.

    Also – Sidenote. Even if wandering around the room didn’t distract debaters from flowing, it would Still be annoying. Wandering around, moving chairs and desks, reading over people’s shoulders, grabbing evidence early, asking for cards from the speaker’s partner – all of this makes it harder for the rest of us to pay attention as well. This is not a decorum issue, it’s a volume issue. It is hard to hear the debate over all of the activity.

    So, to sum up. Sit down and Flow.

  5. Nand

    I get number 1,3, and 4. I don’t get number 2. I understand that sitting down and speaking is better overall for organization etc., but I have not come across a judge that does not get angry when I attempt to give a speech sitting down. Also, I have not seen any debate in the past few years in which the debaters gave a speech sitting down.

  6. Nand

    I speak from watching debates at Woodward, while I was running ballots at the Greenhill Classic, and while watching videos of the 2009 TOC.

    Anyways, thanks for teaching me about the benefits of sitting down. I’ll try this during my next tournament.

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