Collaborative research- FAQ

1. Why?

Why not? It is only natural for like minded individuals to band together I think, no reason for that to end arbitrarily at the end of the summer. When I was in high school I collaborated in an ad hoc fashion with kids from a few other schools- we would share case negs against the evil established debate programs and then lose to them anyway. In thinking about that recently I came to a few conclusions

– a lot of people waste a lot of time on debate. I don’t mean waste like time spent watching Buffy is “wasted”. I mean there are at any given point dozens of people doing the exact same thing. Take an aff for example- if a top 10 school reads a new aff after the tournament 10’s if not 20’s of people will spend a bunch of time doing the exact same thing- tracking down their cites, formulating a strategy, cutting the same link cards and advantage takeouts etc. How many people cut that Robinson article to answer zizek since it was first discovered? Hundreds. How many people have thrown away a weekend cutting answers to con con? Thousands. Now obviously there are next order problems created by collaboration- the team running con con will know all your answers and how would anyone break anything new etc. So i thought about what would be the best thing to demonstrate the effectiveness of collaboration on- and came to the conclusion that it would be impact defense simply because its easy, the args you are attacking are popular and stupid so there would be a lot of use to the file, and its not something super secret that people would be loathe to share. Think about if no debater for the next 3 years had to cut cards to answer Kagan/hegemony advantages- how many hours of time would be freed up for other ends- debate or non debate. Antonuchi’s point about cite robots is true I believe- but can go even further- what is the value of having hundreds of people research answers to tyranny of survival or predictions fail? Sure those specific people will have some useless knowledge that will never come up again in their lives, but most people will just under highlight a few of the cards they cut and read them without thinking anyway.

-research and argument construction skills- after a long period of bashing the kind of work that gets done I feel like it is put up or shut up time- so I hope that the work I personally generate from this will be helpful for kids wanting to get better at research or block writing. Particularly for kids who may not have an experienced full time coach I am hoping that even if they don’t participate in this they can look at some of the final product and gain some insight/tips on how to improve their own work. If this works out well phase 2 could be writing case negatives or entire off case positions.

-argument innovation- I have some tricks up my sleeve here , hopefully this can get them a wider audience than me just telling them to my kids.

2. Why make everything public?

I don’t really think there is a good way to figure out of this “works” otherwise. The more people who get the file and get out and try it the more feedback there will be. The more people who see it the more will benefit (hopefully).  I don’t really think debate work is zero sum- I don’t think making it public will decrease the success rate of those who did the work- hopefully they will have learned a skill set and that skill set will help advance their cause. Maybe someone who’s not in the group will now have a little extra time to do some work and the cites from that work will help someone in the group at a later date. its hard to say what will happen because as we all know predictions fail.

3. Why use synergy?

Well to start with, one of the things that wastes thousands of lab leader time every summer is kids not using the same template. Then things lose formatting when cut and pasted, pages don’t turn out right etc etc. Its a huge tragedy of the commons.  So we gotta use a unified template. At that point- why not synergy? It will be a learning experience for me as well- Gulakov is probably about ready to shoot me after the dozens of pestering emails I have sent him. But some of the features I think are going to be great for the process including card ratings which I intend to use heavily. Also this means the end product can be used in e-tub form by anyone who gets it without having to convert it helping to advance the paperless cause.

And seriously- do you people know he made a macro to fix the document map when microsoft word for no reason makes crap that wasn’t a header appear in there as if it was a header?? There have been times when I would have paid a thousand dollars for such a macro. Now that I have it for free I will spend that money on video games- its win win people.

4. I’m not very experienced/good/afraid to participate

Honestly when I thought of this I didn’t really think of good people signing up. The idea was more for people who needed a lot of improvement. Now that some competent people have volunteered I will have to up my game as cheap parlor tricks will no longer be as impressive. That being said- its 5 pages. You don’t need to be a Roy Levkovitz level researcher to pull that off. Wait, I meant a Bill Batterman level researcher- Roy feel free to sign up. Any one of any level will be fine if they are willing to put in the time. A few hours a week should be enough.

One thought on “Collaborative research- FAQ

  1. gulakov

    I really hope that debate camp instructors consider standardizing or at least recommending Debate Synergy among their group this summer. ( )

    Three reasons—

    a) From the interest of those that use files: global styles. Debate Synergy is the first template to use global styles; the benefit of this why you must install DS as the default template. “Global styles” is a term I made up to refer to the way that when using any style macro, DS always synchronizes that style with the styleset you have in your default Normal.dotm file.

    Why this matters: Debate camps and teams (and sometimes team members) all use different styles for files. This presents obvious difficulties for compatibility across multiple users’ preferences. Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone just used the exact same font and size for everything? Maybe, but that obviously wouldn’t be agreed upon, as Hasnas said one shoe doesn’t fit all. 😉 So why not agree on common names for three styles, that every one uses but will see displayed differently? DS does that with Underline (F1), Normal (F2), and Heading 1 (F3). For example, lets say one debate camp makes a file that’s all in Garamond 11 for normal text, and Garamond 15 centered bold underlined for Headings. But you on your squad like to have all your files in Times 10 with Times 14 bold with borders for Headings. You have customized your three DS Styles to be just that way. So when you open up that camp file, it will first be displayed in their format, but if you start editing and working with it (ie, you run any style macro) DS knows that you’d like that file’s look synchronized with your preferred look. If you’re working with a camp file that wasn’t created with the DS template, you can run the “Reformat in template default” macro and DS will figure out what is supposed to be what style. You can reformat a mass amount of files by turning on Caps Lock and opening all those files. But the process obviously runs much faster if the file creator just used DS in the first place.

    b) From the interest of those in your group: collaboration tools. First, SP has mentioned the card ratings system above. While that may not be as useful for this project where everyone works on different things, when you have thirty pages of aff solvency cut by five different people, it can come in handy to quickly sort out which cards should be in the 1ac. You can also do a service to those people who use the file later: they may not have the time to read every card in your file but would like to quickly see the ten cards that are actually good. Second, as I hoped some of you would figure out, the Expandos system can be used with DropBox for collaborative file editing of a single file. Simply have everyone set their Expandos folders to a shared DropBox folder, and have them drop their cards to pockets in that file. Again might not be as useful for this project, but if everyone was working on the same aff, then they could upload the inherency cards to one pocket and their solvency cards to another. Finally, there are some other great aspects of DS that I hope you will discover. For example, some camps convert all their files to .pdfs, so I made the “Convert to PDF” macro create a bookmark system in the PDF that mirrors the document map layout of the Word file.

    c) From your self-interest: novices. In getting familiar with software, you might have gotten used to dropdown text menus or memorizing your version of macro shortcut keys, but trust me on this: people mostly just like to hit big buttons with pictures. There are five big buttons on a very user-friendly toolbar that you will have to teach the novice how to hit, and these buttons are boxed in red on the last page of the manual, the novice handout page. Do not underestimate the significance of having a toolbar with big buttons—it might save you the time of having to explain how things work in Word.

    One caveat—

    Macs. Mac laptop users need to use Parallels or Bootcamp to run Windows alongside their Mac operating system. I’ve had to respond to many emails this way and it’s rather disappointing. There is no way to make DS work on Mac Office 2008, but hopefully the next version of Mac Office will include the necessary support. That may be out in a year or two, but who knows maybe the Microsoft-based DS will be outdated by that point because we’ll be all running Google OS, using Google Docs for files, Google Wave for flowing, and Google Chrome addons for research. We’ll create assignment lists with Google Tasks and cut cards from the Google Web search, Google Books, or Google News, then talk to each other about them via Google Mail or Google Chat.

    PS. The next version of the Firefox addon ( ) is going to have some sweet new features, for example when you select a word and right click on it, it’ll have the top ten Google results for that word as links in the right click menu—so make sure you’ve switched to Firefox and have installed the addon.

Comments are closed.