Full Text Disclosure: Good, Bad, or Ugly?

The winners of last year’s inaugural 3NR Spirit of Disclosure Award—Bronx Science’s Zack Elias & Andrew Markoff—set a new standard for comprehensive disclosure in high school policy debate. Instead of posting only the tags, citations, and first-and-last words of the evidence they read in debates, Bronx disclosed the full text of their evidence on the NDCA Wiki. While others feared that doing so would put them at a competitive disadvantage, Zack and Andrew were pioneers that racked up an impressive array of accomplishments despite raising the bar for openness and transparency. By winning the NDCA Championships, reaching the quarterfinals of the TOC, and finishing fourth in the Baker Award standings, Bronx put to rest the notion that a top-tier team can’t stay competitive using an open-source-after-the-fact model.

On the heels of Bronx’s trend-setting approach to disclosure, many teams are now considering a move to full text disclosure. At the college level, Jarrod Atchison announced today that the Demon Deacons will be participating in the Wake Forest Open Source Project beginning with this weekend’s Georgia State tournament. Atchison’s announcement outlines the scope of the project:

At the conclusion of each tournament we attend this year, JP Lacy will post the full text of all cards read by Wake Forest University debaters. In this first version of the initiative, JP will not post the theory or analytic arguments made by the debaters just the evidence.

Wake is the first squad to formalize a procedure for full text disclosure but, as Atchison notes, “the Gonzaga caselist shows that other teams are already posting full text on the college caselist.”

At the high school level, many teams have begun to post the full text of at least some of their evidence (most commonly the 1AC) on the wiki. A few teams—most notably St. Mark’s, last year’s TOC finalists—have committed to full disclosure of all of their evidence.

While many have celebrated this move toward oppenness and transparency, others have expressed fears that this degree of disclosure will promote laziness as debaters cease conducting original research and simply “steal” cards from the wiki. Even if the effect is small and some original research is replaced by “wiki research”, are the benefits of full text disclosure worth the risk? Are students better served without this “shortcut”? Or should the community seek to move toward a new norm that encourages full text disclosure?

For those teams that do choose to disclose the full text of their evidence, I have used St. Mark’s as an example of the way the additional content should be organized. Instead of keeping all affirmative and negative disclosure on a single wiki page, the team’s main wiki page should be used as a springboard with links to specific affirmative and negative pages for each tournament. Teams wishing to experiment with this model are welcome to do so; organizing pages by argument type/genre, for example, might result in a more useful set of pages.

One thing that I encourage all teams who are disclosing the full text of their evidence to do is to maintain a round-by-round list of their negative strategies on their main page. Doing so allows others who are scouting the team to do so efficiently without digging through hundreds or even thousands of cards. If they need more information about a particular argument, they can then know which tournament’s page to view in order to track it down.

So: what do you think about full text disclosure? We haven’t had a good 3NR discussion in a few months so bring your “A” game and let’s get started.

43 thoughts on “Full Text Disclosure: Good, Bad, or Ugly?

  1. Trevor Aufderheide

    While full text disclosure is certainly admirable, I would be more in favor of a system of limited full disclosure. By this I mean it would be nice if teams disclosed the full text of articles that are either from books or from restricted online journals. This accomplishes a couple things. First, it achieves one of the main goals of the wiki; to lessen the gap between teams with many resources and teams with a less coaching and fewer debaters. It would make life a lot easier for teams that don't have ready access to a well-stocked library or a university database. Secondly, it avoids part of the problem you isolated with full text disclosure – laziness. Teams would still have to look up online articles that they can access and cut the cards themselves. Additionally, it would remedy any organizational issues or "wiki overload" from having an excess amount of text on a certain team's page.

    1. Bill Batterman Post author

      This gets into the realm of copyright law, something that we probably need to discuss for any full text disclosure system. I would certainly support providing open access to scholarly publications that require subscriptions, but doing so would run afoul of copyright agreements and could get us into trouble.

      Any experts on this stuff out there?

      1. Sarah Spring

        Bill's right – the posting of full text, especially for restricted books and articles, may raise some concerns about "fair use."
        The amount of text is not the only question when considering copyright restrictions. The "fair use" doctrine relies on 4 distinct factors that are balanced – the key question in this case I think is profitability. These open access postings of evidence (just portions of articles) aren't sold. This should (but its hard to know for sure) mean that open access would avoid copyright problems. The evidence production sites that do sell evidence might not be in the same position. There was some discussion about this problem about 10 years ago when these sites came into existence, but the fact that there have been no legal suits doesn't mean that it might not be found to violate fair use.

        1. Michael Antonucci

          In truth, I really doubt those pay sites would survive a serious legal attack, but they don't make enough money to justify the expense of complex litigation.

          Going after an open source debate site such as deaconsource would probably be incorrect on the merits, show no profit, and might even attract some free legal resources for the defense. I view any legal action on this – at all – as a less-than-fractional risk.

          The possibility of legal repercussions should, however, deter:

          a. any "linkage" between these resources and organizational membership fees (you have to pay CEDA / NDCA for access)

          b. some sort of article database

          As a side note, why is everyone so committed to vanishingly small half-measures on these projects? Either you think this sort of thing is good for debate or not. The arguments have been out there for seven years – probably time to either vote or flip a coin.

      2. Pete Nikolai

        Sarah's analysis of the issue is spot-on. Publishing the full-text of copyrighted articles would push the limits of a "fair use" defense. Just slapping up the entire copyrighted work on the wiki would destroy the work's value in such a way that you would be inviting problems.

  2. Scott Phillips Post author

    Dividing up by tournaments doesn't seem to serve any useful function, and definitely makes it more tedious to sift through after a few tournaments. The college wiki was organized that way for years and that is the major reason the high school wiki was much better/easier to use.

    1. Bill Batterman Post author

      I think it makes sense for the negative, especially if the main page for the team has their round-by-round negative strategies listed. It solves the "what have you been reading lately?" issue — if you want to know what a team said at the last tournament, just look at their last tournament page.

      I don't think this is necessarily better or worse than dividing it by argument. If a team opts to divide by argument, I think it is important that they indicate what is "new" in some way (probably by subdividing the pages by tournament). Either way, some chronological organization is a must.

      For the aff, I agree. One page per aff case, maybe?

      1. Thomas Hodgman

        I agree, I like having everything on one page, separating it out by tournament would both make it really tedious to check everything a team has said by the end of the year, and would either
        A. Cause redundancy if a team posted up something they read at tournament A and B on both pages, or
        B. Leave a lot of gaps on later tournaments if only new items were posted then.
        Is it possible that the main page could still have a master index that linked to every item, even if that lead to individual tournament pages?

        1. Bill Batterman Post author

          Take a look at St. Mark's page again — it isn't a very user-friendly process, but I figured out how to create a list of links to the headers in another page. Would this structure work? Does it balance the giant page vs. hard to find problem?

  3. Bill Batterman Post author

    By the way, if anyone is an expert wikispaces user and wants to volunteer some time to work on the NDCA wiki, I'd be happy to have your help — email me and I'll make you an organizer / discuss ways you can contribute.

  4. John Tryneski

    Never mind the idea of "lazieness" (a problem that is both inevitable as well as self-correcting, in terms of competitive success), I think that the big problem with full text disclosure is that it denies debaters research opportunities. This is, after all an educational activity and actual research gives students not just more contextual knowledge of their subjects, but also valuable research skills.

    Of course, given open ev, it's still hypothetically possible to just copy and paste your way to a full set of files, but the topic moves fast enough to make that a less-appealing strategy. Now with constant updates I'm worried that we'll see more Thursday-filesque use of evidence stolen from better teams.

    The more debaters do their own research the more they learn and, not unimportantly, the better rounds are to judge.

  5. miles

    i think sp's idea about having a link to a word DOC per 'header' (ie – prolif good is a separate word doc, 1ac is a separate word doc, etc…)
    is that possible?

  6. Nathan Ketsdever

    Sara knows far more than me.

    However, it seems that in addition to the non-commercial use that the educational intent/use would be a factor. This seems like the parallel of academic publishing, who use block quotes all the time.

    Do academic publishers have to get LN, Proquest, and EbscoHost to re-approve every single site they make in a 150 to 250 footnote paper?

    As a side note, it also seems pretty absurd that say Lexis "owns" the words from Khalilzhad or Mead. and if I have posted that said Kinkaid read Khalilizhd/Mead that I've committed a copyright violation–but rather just reported the history of what happened. (another layer of the education argument). My argument is their interpretation of fair use and copyright would moot history or certainly warp it. (I realize this argument could be spin the other way–but **only** if entire articles were read in full).

    Further, is their any protection to the issue of d re-mix or re-appropriation in the fair use or academic context??? In other words "We are not the original" but have a distinctly different message–our intellectual labor (& IP) has been added. I realize in commercial music space that this defense is pretty much moot.

    I do agree, that some attempt at investigation of the issues involved would be smart.

    I think this answers the above question about citations (crazy): http://fairuse.stanford.edu/Copyright_and_Fair_Us

    If you search "education and copyright" the goverment wrote a 300 page document back in 1999 on the topic of "Distance Education and Copyright" which is probably fairly analogous (by distance they probably meant the e-learning & internet context).

    1. Pete Nikolai

      Nathan, most of your analysis is correct if people just post their cards, or cites + first and last sentences. However, if we started using the wiki like lexis/nexis or EbscoHost that is when the NDCA would get in trouble.

      Those cites pay the copyright holders a royalty to use their materials (that's why those services are expensive).

      None of the factors weighed when considering whether a use is "fair" are determinative, and you have to weigh them relative to one another. In this case the best thing that can be done is to limit the amount of text used from the copyrighted work to avoid liability. I think that "first and last sentences" is the safest bet, but we can probably get away with posting "cards". Posting the full article would be asking for trouble.

      1. Nathan Ketsdever

        However, if we started using the wiki like lexis/nexis or EbscoHost that is when the NDCA would get in trouble.

        No academic is going to see those and say "oh I can stop using LN, I'll just go to the wiki for all future research on the military, politics, and life." And very few high schools have actual paid accounts–they still have to do economy, politics, and country specific updates or they will flat out lose (unless they are a K team).

        I don't think anyone is suggesting full articles.

        1. Pete Nikolai

          That's not my point. If you post the entire Khalizad article, then the copyright holder would probably come knocking.

          Also, see the very first comment on this thread. Trevor suggested that we post full articles of "hard to find" works. That is what I am advising against.

    2. Anik Chaudhry

      Note: The scholarly articles with footnotes do not take direct text they simply say where they found out that source of information with a paraphrase of the article.

      1. Nathan Ketsdever

        What scholarly journals are you reading?!?!?! They use synopsis, short quotes, and block quotes. Although, the level of block quoting is notably different from our use.

        Alternatively, this may be a hang up, which I included at the end my earlier post. http://fairuse.stanford.edu/Copyright_and_Fair_Us

        A collective Drop Box folder (or similar application) with just 1A & 1N would solve almost 100% of the risk. It wouldn't be easy–but not all that much different from what they would do with an email system–but it would save 300 to 600 teams a lot of update work.

  7. Anik Chaudhry

    It seems to me that a good solution would be for teams to write at the top of their wiki whether or not they are willing to share the full text over email with their email address. If it is handled over email the NDCA doesn't get into any trouble and since email is private (at least Gmail is, I wont speak for Yahoo and other companies).

    1. Adam

      I think the email solution is a great idea, I think if the community stepped up it could go a step further, sort of like an NDCA Gmail or dropbox for teams who choose to post full text/articles can upload their stuff. It seems that a nationwide gmail would be complicated, so it could possibly be seperated by each team has a gmail for their articles and full text cards.

  8. Joshua Gonzalez

    As far as copyright law goes, I'm not sure that there's any unique violation involved in posting the evidence. Once you cut the card and use it in a debate, your fair use rights have been asserted. If copyright is violated by cards, we engage in a practice involving massive liability on a daily basis.

    1. Nathan Ketsdever

      Agreed. If I can't quote 1/15th or even 1/10th of the Khalilzhad article and it be a legitimate use of free speech (fair use, education, whatever)…it seems to stop academia and free speech pretty dead in its tracks.

      You haven't stolen Khalilzhad's ideas here as much as borrowed one of many. And you certainly haven't profited off them directly.

      Ironically, Lexis and EBSCO themslves wouldn't have 1/4 of their articles if it weren't for academics using this exact practice (or a rather similar one) in their papers.

      Our own government couldn't quote and post such things. A truly absurd, chilling, and procrustean result. As a side note, I'm not sure how the use of "permission" might enter into this discussion–in terms of the parallels to academia.

      If anything, we're saving LN & EBSCO et al
      a ton of customer service time by not asking them about every single article. I realize thats not a legal argument, but a pretty compelling economic and pragmatic one.

    2. Pete Nikolai

      Posting full 1ACs with evidence is probably permissible in most cases. First, the work is transformative especially where the 1AC restructures the arguments, puts their own spin on the quotes via the tags and adopts a unique structure. Typical in most debates. Second, typically the cards used to construct a 1ac (or any debate argument) are non-fictional and their nature lends themselves to fair use. Third, as Nathan points out below where you are only taking portions of the copyrighted work(s) to construct your 1ac, posting these arguments online for the purpose of debate seems fair. Finally, 1AC's do not decrease demand for the copyrighted product. If anything, they increase the demand.

      In short: posting entire 1ACs, shells, and frontlines is permissible; posting whole articles is probably impermissible.

  9. Jake

    Full text is unequivocally a good thing-the DA’s to it seem to be either a) true of the sqo or b) massively smaller than the possible benefits.
    Look-if people wanted to, they could just get cites, do the tedious copy-paste first-5 last 5, get the card, and do no original research. The community as a whole has decided that disclosure results in better debates, gets rid of bad cards, etc-why impose arbitrary restrictions on the freedom to access that? How many more random loops should we force people to jump through to make sure they get access, just not “too much”? 2), to have any moderate success, it is simply not sustainable to only cite steal-yes, it can be a great base, especially from top tier teams, but think of how many cards in a certain file don’t get read but *are ready* to be read-if no extra research is done by the cite taking team, when the 2AC makes one of those args, they will not have the A2, etc, and fail. Miserably. This means that full text disclosure increases research opportunity, because time that would otherwise be devoted to simply creating a good base of research can now be devoted to complementing said base. If one is so concerned with “doing their own research”, it seems that even going to get cites is a violation of this code.
    A2: Bad cards-
    I don’t know about others, but I have 1 of two goals when I go to a team’s wiki-either a) I’m doing a case neg and am reading the entirety of the teams cards to find alt causes, CP’s, etc, which one obviously still does in a world of full text, the url is still there-or b) I am trying to get the text of the card as quickly as possible, get my base going, etc, which means i copy and paste the first 5/last 5, ctrl-f, boom, done. a) guarantees that bad cards are still called out, and people who for b) would also check for context still have the full ability to do so-I doubt many who wouldn’t still do so in a world of full text *are doing that now*-i.e. people check for context now, but wouldn’t in full text.
    A2: Too big for wiki-seems like there are a lot of ways of dealing with this. Tech geeks rule the world, they can find a way to circumvent this-this is a roadblock, not a gigantic hole in the road.

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  11. Anik Chaudhry

    Just a note:
    The new wiki, because it is a wikispace, allows embedding Scribd articles. If people upload fulltext sites in word documents to Scribd and them embed them into the wikispace the NDCA wont have any liability.

      1. Anik Chaudhry

        It seems like it formatting works better through scribd because the word fromatting remains the same.

      2. Tim Alderete

        Is there a tutorial for how to set one up like this – or someone who could demonstrate it? B/C I like this (Scribd) format.

        1. Anik Chaudhry

          It is relatively simple:
          a. Format the word document however you want the table of contents to appear. I personally do it Heading one: aff/neg heading. Heading 2: the specific arguments that the cards apply to.
          b. Then just upload it to Scribd. I am not sure if it has to be public but I just leave mine public I don't see any disadvantages to making it public.
          c. Go onto the wiki, click edit. In the top bar there is a button that says widget. If you click on that go to the document tab and click Scribd. Then simply follow the instructions provided.

          There are also a bunch of other cool features you can checkout in the widgets menu. My personal favorite is the spreadsheet app. I am using it to post every round with what aff was read and what the neg strat was.

          1. Noah

            I Know the St. Marks method makes it really hard to download the Wiki. How do theses different methods such as Scibd effect downloading the Wiki?

          2. Anik Chaudhry

            It will effect downloading the wiki negatively because it requires internet. But if the wiki is somehow reformed to Scribd only where everyone email their cites to a single person and that person uploads the cites to Scribd it will become fairly easy.

  12. Liam Hancock

    Are there any sort of limitations that should be observed when posting full text cards? For example, should they remain underlined and/or highlighted? Should there be a different policy for posting evidence that the team itself cut versus evidence gotten from camps?

  13. Anon

    Not underlining ensures that they actually read the card instead of copy+pasting directly from the wiki. Posting camp evidence is a waste of space, just the citation should be fine. Maybe they should put the name of the camp in the citation?

  14. Jeremy

    I understand why it makes debate better and I think that is pretty unanswerably true, but I don't understand why a team should care. From the perspective of a debater, my only goal is to win, not have a better round…I wouldn't even disclose my aff if the social stigma (which hurts you in terms of judging) didn't outweigh the cost of telling them.

    Yes, some highly successful teams have done it, but they are successful in spite of it not because. Most teams are so lazy and/or committed to going for Consult NATO that they won't even research the wiki for cards. But its pretty obvious that it helps your opponents at the margins: by saving them time on researching whatever you posted, they now have more time to cut a case neg to your aff. The effect might be small, but this is war and in the long run the little things add up.

    Maybe, the answer is for judges to create a social stigma for full text disclosure so that teams have an incentive too, but for everyone debating right that doesn't exist, so you would be stupid to do so. The smart thing to do is to provide a Quid Pro Quo over email with the best researched teams in the country (you send them your full text in exchange for all your cards). Thats whats Winners care about: Winning.

    Then again I don't really care and am just bored by this bad speech I am supposed to be judging.

    1. Carl

      I think that full text is good for evidence production but makes debate as a whole a lot worse.

      Coming from a small school, copying Wake's cards seems like it'd make debate easier for us, but in practice it makes it so much harder. Especially if highlighting is included, it's too tempting to just copy and paste the cards and only read over the Bold/Underlined stuff and not bother reading the not-underlined stuff much less the full article. Understanding the context of the evidence you're reading, especially 1AC/1NC evidence is really important for giving fully developed and warranted 2As/2Ns.
      I can cut cards off the case list as it is right now just fine, but it hasn't been until I slowed down, read the articles, figured out the context of the card and whether or not it was actually worth reading, that my knowledge of the arguments got better.
      Research isn't just good because it teachers you research skills, it's good because it forces you to read more than you usually would about things that you normally wouldn't. Full text kills a lot of that.

  15. CJ Clevenger

    I have thought about this for sometime. I think the question has to be asked that since debate is an educational activity, where should we place our focus for this education and how should it be weighted. I contend that the most educational aspect of debate is the research aspect. I am not a fan of full text disclosure becuase it does in fact create an environment that allows people to avoid the reading and cutting of full articles. Now, I agree whole heartedly that full text diclosure does not force them not to read and recut those artices. What I do believe, as indicated throughout this section, that when given the opportunity, people will avoid work. I think that Carl, above, hits the nail on the head on this one.
    The second question is what makes a better debate? I am not really sure that I can buy into the model that the more prescripted we can make the debate the better. When it comes to the educational aspect of actually debating, the more prescripted we make the debates, the less "critical thinking" skills we lose. I can agree that for coaching purposes it makes life grand to be able to read another teams evidence and point out the flaws. But the ability to do those things in round, were things I always thought really defined the good teams from the great ones.
    Now, I know some have said that first and last v. full text disclosure is the same, and I would agree. But with first and last, since you have already pulled up the article you are more likely to read it. Additionally, why put first and last in anyways. Why not just tag and citation? I will agree that I am probably outside the community norm on this one. Do I think that teams should disclose…sure. I think that we need to limit what is being done.
    Now my favorite argument on this issue is Big v. Small programs. Beleive it or not, disclosure does not bridge the gap between these. All it does in the long run is create a gap somewhere else. While it is great to know what everyone is saying, you are still a small team with limited people to prep all of those, and a big squad can still be more prepared. All we are changing is how that gap works. The reason that I say this is important, is that we have created an idea that we need to bridge this gap but have lost sight of the education that we would end up depriving those programs from the research aspect. I have coached both large and small (1 team) programs. We still had to do research.
    In the end, if this is the trend, so be it, but as a coach I still at the end of the day have an responsibility as an educator to ensure that my students are getting what I would consider a well rounded educational experience from debate. I am just hard pressed to see the educational benefits from more prescripted debates and less research. cjc

  16. Jake

    A@ CJ-
    I think you're missing a key point-people *don't* have any incentive to read the article in the sqo-people are time-crunched, and when they go to find an article from the cite, they copy-paste 1st/last 5, then move on. The people who feel they *should* read context, for educational purposes, to make sure the card isn't cut out of context, etc, are STILL going to do that. There is a finite amount of time people will spend on debate-its a question of whether or not you want them wasting that trying to get around pay walls, using the ctrl-f function, or researching NEW evidence to supplement, the BASE they get from the caselist.

    1. CJ Clevenger

      This seems to me to be a reason that disclosure is bad. Again I know I am outside the norm, but for educational purposes I would prefer to just see Tags and cites with no fist and last 5. Clearly based on this post you think that the value of debate lies in the competative aspect of actually debating rather in the competative aspect of driving people to research and read. I just disagree. I say this becuase you frame this as
      "its a question of whether or not you want them wasting that trying to get around pay walls, using the ctrl-f function, or researching NEW evidence to supplement, the BASE they get from the caselist"
      And this is where I really disagree. The caselist should not be a "base". The case list should rather be a starting point for research and thought for preparation. The open evidence project does plenty for creating a base. I mean really, how many teams are running an origional aff that was not cut from a camp. Or an origional neg that was not cut from camp. There is not alot of origional thought going on right now. (I realize that the topic dictates alot of that) And there have been some spins and new things out but the amount is limited. Again, I think you are missing the point. This is not a time issue, this is a willingness issue. On that we agree to a degree. The time that they don't spend reading and cutting articles, is time that they attempt to pre-script the debate even further. Again, if that is the goal, I just disagree. Because that goal places the emphasis of education on the actual process of debate not the research aspect and I think there needs to be a balance. I agree the SQ does not work, we just disagree on the direction.

  17. Michael Antonucci

    This debate over how much open source promotes or discourages work is 7+ years old and, frankly, played out. Reread all the original threads and such.

    This argument's been won so many times that it's clearly akin to arguing with Glenn Beck people (some rationalistic forms slapped on clearly emotive content.)

    Two answers that circumvent the internal link turn debate:

    1. Impact

    Decreasing entry barriers outweighs some top team laziness. Will 5-10 teams coast a little easier? Maybe. Who cares? Get over it. They won't win it all, and if one new squad can start up a little easier, it massively outweighs.

    Please compare uniqueness directions on:

    policy participation vs.

    policy evidence quality at the top.

    One is quite good and improving. One is very bad and worsening.

    2. Wake.

    If you're correct, then presumably Wake Forest will see a decline in their work quality and/or expected competitive success.

    Let's see how that works out. I know where my bet is. Why speculate when you have a test case?

    One might say that the plethora of squads who have some work done for them via assistants, yet seem to derive many benefits from the activity, already provide this test case. Perhaps you consider that analogy strained, so I won't press the point.

  18. Anon

    Does anyone know of a way to combine categories on the wiki so that you can get a list of Recent Changes for a specific tournament?

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