Some Judge Philosophy Updates

I have decided to try and use speaker points as an incentive to encourage practices I think are good for debate. I think the way most people use points is to punish people who do things they don’t like. However, a cursory reading of any psychology literature will reveal that punishment is a terrible way to change behavior- only rewarding the desired behavior really works….

First, I will implement none of these things unilaterally- in order for any of them to take effect in the round the other team must bring them up and win the argument. If they don’t bring it up or don’t win that it is a legitimate argument/win its merits then it will have no effect.

Second, I think all of these things improve the quality of debate (in terms of competition and education) but am open to arguments to the contrary. Therefore, if one of these does not work out or I am convinced it is a bad idea I will change it rather than clinging to it dogmatically.

Third, when I discuss bonus points below what I mean is that I will try and figure out what points I would have given you prior to my bonus system, and then add the bonus. Obviously this means if you get a 30 you will be unable to get the bonus- sorry 🙁

So, the following are all issues that I think should be brought up and argued in debates by the debaters. If a side successfully brings up one of these issues (brings it up and wins that it is a good argument) each debater will receive an additional .5 speaker points. If one of these arguments is brought up and “turned” (will become clear below) then the other side will get an additional .5 speaker points per debater.(on the 100 point scale you will get 2 extra points)

So, onto the issues

1. Case book disclosure- if you debate in front of me and you have done a better job of disclosing to the NDCA wiki than your opponents, make an argument in the debate that you have done so . If you win that disclosure is good and that the other team has done a worse job of it you will be rewarded. At a minimum you must have your 1AC and a generous amount of neg arguments on there- having one thing when your opponent has none will not cut it.

2. Author qualifications- if you successfully argue that another team’s key piece of evidence (something that matters at the end of the debate) is unqualified, win that qualifications are important, and you yourself have a qualified piece of evidence on the issue- bonus points.

3. Incomplete citations- if the other teams evidence is not fully cited (author, publication, page, full date) and yours is- bonus points. Just because something is a .pdf doesn’t mean you don’t need the page number- same with ebooks and google books.

4. Clarity- if you successfully argue that the other team was unclear (which should be easy if it was the case) and you and your partner are both clear (which may be harder) bonus points.  Let me be clear- I think speed is still the most important debate resource. I don’t think Battermans Mom should be able to follow a good debate anymore than I would expect Roy to pass drivers ed. Debate is a specialized activity, and one of the specialties is speed. However, you unclear schmucks are ruining the good name of speed for the rest of us.

5. Case specific strategies- if you read one on the negative- bonus points. Some people think “case specific” is not a black and white issue and that having specific states CP solvency and politics links is case specific. I don’t.

6. Smart impact comparison- not just “time frame probability magnitude”- if you actually get in depth and do it well- bonus points.

7. Going for theory on the aff- I realize this isn’t reciprocal for the neg- and I would be open to potential remedies /things I could give the neg to make it reciprocal. But I will add these caveats- the neg strategy must be egregious in terms of either multiple conditional options, or a cp/alt that severely abuses fiat in a non reciprocal way. If the neg has done these things, then I will have no qualms. I think a potential remedy could be if the neg successfully defends theory, but that seems prone to abuse as the aff rarely extends it. So I think provisionally if the neg does an “awesome” job on theory that the aff goes for competently they can get the bonus.

8. Not a points thing- at the end of the round I may say something like “give me all your link cards”. This is most likely because I am looking for evidence that I can steal. FOR MY DECISION- I will not be counting any evidence that was not either extended specifically by citation or explained well in the final rebuttal. I don’t necessarily think you have to do both- if smith 09 slips your mind but you in detail explain the warrants in the evidence and refer to it as “our key solvency card” that is enough for me, but you definitely need to do more than “extend our link wall” or some such nonsense.

Why give points to both debaters?

Because I want the incentive to be more meaningful. Giving the points to both obviously magnifies the effects- and for teams who are on the cusp of clearing, who are some of the teams I think most need to make some reforms, more points as a bonus will make the argument choice more appealing.

12 thoughts on “Some Judge Philosophy Updates

  1. Scott Phillips

    Did you have this same arg with ace? I guess initially- why NOT include the page number? But second, sometimes you fancy pants Dartmouth kids get a .pdf from like sage or ingenta and then when I track it down and get it from a different source, or god forbid get a hard copy in a library, its not searchable.

  2. Kade

    Our library is terrible. the pdf vs. having to get a hard makes sense though. Another benefit is if you put the page numbers people will think its an image and will be too lazy get the card.

  3. Kevin Hirn

    How would a debater bring up issue #1? I would like to think that my partner and I have disclosed an adequate amount of information on our wiki, but it seems challenging to bring up in a round. For example, on the affirmative, would you structure the aff like "Inherency, Plan, Advantages/Solvency, and "we disclosed more than you – disclosure is crucial for in-depth pre-round necessary to garner research skills requisite both later in life and in contemporary educational practice – it's a speaker point issue"".

  4. Scott Phillips

    You don't have to bring it up in the 1AC, though I like the idea of treating it like a stock issue. Just at any point slip it in, like

    "winners win… and their disclosure sucks- its as uneducational as a Roy post… fiat takes out the link"

  5. Vinay

    I don't really understand how that's an effective theory arg at all…it seems like it would be more strategic to use it to mitigate offense on a broader theory debate, ie if they make a predictability argument against an abusive CP, or in answering the stock "aff=infinite prep" argument. You could make it offensive in a topicality debate, if they refuse to disclose/publish their 1ac outline, I guess… but I don't see the utility in making it this blippy arg in the 2ac when full disclosure on the wiki's not yet a community standard and there's no tangible impact to it- if they are the kind of team that refuses to disclose, you're probably not going to be forced into a position to go for theory.

  6. Scott Phillips

    It's not a theory argument period- you have missed the point. It has nothing to do with the debate, its just an argument that teams who do a good job of maintaining an up to date disclosure policy should be rewarded. Its not a VI. Obviously my example was not word for word what you would say, so in practice it should not be blippy.

  7. Michael Antonucci

    re: 1 –

    a. Is there a ceiling?

    If a team fully open sources their evidence, would they receive a proportionately higher reward than a team that thoroughly discloses first and last word?

    b. Not all teams that you judge are scouted as intensively – often local teams simply aren't on the radar. If you judge a very intensely scouted team vs. a local team, are you really going to punish (er, deprive of opportunity for reward?) the local team that may not be aware of either the wiki or your bro blog?

  8. Scott Phillips


    Interesting points.

    As of right now I am capping the reward at .5, although for a truly open source team I could be persuaded to go higher.

    As for scouting- I guess what I am trying to get at is that there is an onus on the team themselves to disclose things and not rely on scouts. Obviously this is a lot dicier and hard to sniff the truth out of. I guess if local team argued that they were unaware etc. that could be successful to defeat the argument.

    Ignorance of the 3nr would result in you getting zero points, and may god have mercy on your soul.

  9. Michael Antonucci

    That's fair – I do think that the pedagogical philosophy and the intended effect might be in conflict.

    I can't imagine a local team rebuffing the other team's request for speaker points. If someone says "reward me" and they say "NO – GIVE THEM NOTHING"…aren't they just sort of being douches for no reason? You haven't set up a zero-sum game, so there's no debater responsibility to rebut teams going for the bonus, aside from sheer pettiness.

    The real problem arises because they don't have an opportunity for reward.

    I get the sense, although it might be wrong, that what you really want to do is punish teams who know about disclosure and either slack or deliberately buck the norm.

    I understand the conflict with reward psychology, though; I don't have a good answer because it's a tricky conflict.

  10. Grant Peretz

    I like the general direction of this idea and I agree with the aims of most of your points, but I don’t like the idea of using points as the incentive.

    1) The impact on the teams you don’t judge isn’t really accounted for in your post. Even if the teams you judge deserve to have their points boosted for good practices, there are probably several other teams debating at the same time who meet at least one of your standards but won’t get rewarded for it. This is an unavoidable punishment for teams that don’t get you in the back during prelims, even if they pref you high. And at the area of the bracket where you think this will have the most effect (teams on the cusp of clearing), the impact to this becomes even more acute since other teams can lose a total point against the teams that you judge even if they’re also fighting the good fight.

    2) I think the 0.5 ceiling that you imposed limits the effectiveness of your effort. While a team MIGHT display all or most of the practices above in one round in an attempt to get the bonus, their motivation would probably only extend far enough to do the minimum and therefore most of the things you want to see would go by the wayside, especially if a team already has info on the caselist. For example, let’s say that a team normally engages in none of the practices that you outlined above. If they want to see their point reward, they just have to remember to speak extra clear or find one of their opponents authors who isn’t qualified and they’ll probably get it. Conversely, teams that do normally exhibit these practices or have a genuine desire to try would be motivated to do them anyways, in which case the incentive does nothing to achieve the desired change. But if you try to remedy this by increasing the point incentives, then you run the risk of magnifying the effect on teams you dont’ judge. In other words, if you want to see improvement in ALL of these areas, I think there might be better ways to spread the word. Which brings me to…

    3) The counterplan: use other means of influence to create change. I’m not particularly well-read in psychology, but I imagine there must be other ways to change behavior than JUST small point rewards. Use your influence as a lab leader, along with the collective influence of your friends and colleagues that you can persuade, to teach kids at summer camp to follow these practices. I see this more and more every summer, a batch of kids leaves a particular lab with a brand new product of 4-7 weeks of groupthink and that practice hits as the new fad for the year. Make disclosure and author qualifications this year’s “politics is not intrinsic” fad. Rinse and repeat every year, maybe eventually you’ll create a norm. In addition to camps, you can teach it to your debaters, recommend it be taught elsewhere, preach it when you judge, and perhaps give small point rewards for exemplary debaters and small point deductions to egregious violators. That combination as a whole seems equally effective, but less disadvantageous than the point reward approach.

    Just my two cents,

  11. Michael Antonucci

    Very well-reasoned and articulate post, Mr. Peretz. I still tend to agree with Scott's approach, though, for a couple of reasons.

    First, he isn't necessarily positioning himself as just a "change agent" or an "activist." Maybe he wants to reward people for clarity, let's say, because those are less-annoying debates he wants to see. There's nothing wrong with debate elders being a little selfish to preserve their sanity.

    Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, many of the issues addressed in his philosophy are "collective action dilemmas" – so they aren't really easily resolved by creating horrible camp cults of personality. Politics intrinsicness received a lot of airplay *as a way to win.* Absent a competitive incentive, though, reminders about clarity and fairplay don't attract the same fanbase as shortcuts. Teenagers love shortcuts.

    Underdisclosing probably does help you competitively. It also means you're a big douche. Ergo, SP's solution.

    Finally, judges aren't uniform. You can't solve for slightly differential point scales, and I doubt that SP's alteration would put him in outlier territory – especially as I think he's on the lower side of the bell curve already. In fact, I think it'd put him more in the middle, which I guess would be more fair?

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