Streamlining the paperless process for judges

While we (ok, mostly me) vent about the struggles debaters have with the paperless process (no need to really rehash them all is there?), there is one facet of the debate that we haven’t talked about much, post round decision time.

In theory having all or most of the evidence electronically should streamline decision times.  Only one person can read a paper card at a time but multiple people can have a document with the same card open.  Unfortunately what I’ve found in the debates I’ve judged or waited for decisions on, is that the opposite is the case.  Laptops are constantly being exchanged, evidence is being added to documents, more word files are being opened, etc etc.

There is an easy solution to this problem that I think could drastically reduce decision times and make the post round process much more efficient.  Paperless teams at the conclusion of the debate should compile all the evidence they read into a single word document, and organize / sort them by appropriate headers.  When a judge calls for X or Y piece of evidence, the debater can either provide them their laptop with all the cards there or jump them the document with all the cards read in the debate on it and let the judge find the cards in the word document.

I’m guessing some teams do this already but ALL teams definitely do not do this.  The laptop merry go round is too inefficient a process to continue especially on elim day where people are constantly stressed about making flights and decisions taking a long time anyhow.

9 thoughts on “Streamlining the paperless process for judges

  1. Melanie Johnson

    In rounds where all or most judges have laptops and the tournament is happening at a school or location with reliable wireless internet access, debaters should just email the judges their evidence. A lot of teams and/or panels were doing this at the UMich tourney a few weeks ago. One document, one e-mail, no flashing or passing of computers. Westminster did this for me (and other judges on the panels) in Doubles and Octas and organized their evidence exactly as described above and it worked well and saved time.

  2. anon

    should all evidence be compiled, or just the evidence one deems relevant to the final rebuttal decisions?

    1. Bruce

      I have a habit of asking for "all evidence you think you extended". That way I don't have to jump 3 or 4 files or open 3 or 4 emails. I don't mind calling for paper cards individually, but passing the jump drive or laptop back and forth a half dozen times can be tedious

  3. Tucker Boyce

    I think emailing could be a process that could work well if there is internet–I saw teams use it at an Octas round at Michigan where they just emailed the appropriate cards to judges.

  4. Josh Brown

    I think the one-document thing has some definite advantages – time spent fussing with computers/flash drives etc. being the biggest one. Another (maybe irrelevant) advantage but still one that seems important is that it would eliminate the need for judging *asking* for evidence at all. I've often thought (especially with more inexperienced panels) that judges start calling for certain pieces of evidence because other judges do – if we had less evidence being talked about, this might lead to judges making more independent decisions.

    One disadvantage (related to the above) might be an increased desire by judges to read more evidence, since it would be easier for them to just look at all of it without even having to overcome the sort of minimum threshold they need to overcome now by actually having to ask for it. I think this might further increase the tendency in some judges to evaluate debates on account of evidence read, and not arguments made. Obviously, to some extent, that ship has sailed, but it might be important to think about the long-term effects of such a move.

  5. Jon Voss

    Roy's right – reading evidence after paperless debates *can* and *should* be much easier than the days of musical evidence around a ballroom table. There's no reason judges shouldn't be pushing for an approach like the ones outlined above by Melanie and/or Roy. I know a number of judges have already started asking that debaters jump them speeches during the debates or share the ad-hoc connection on which evidence is transferred. Others have (in debates in which a lot of evidence will need to be read) begun to ask debaters to "jump me an organized file with every piece of evidence you think you extended in the 2NR/2AR." Having all of the evidence in a single document, organized by headings that are recognized by the document map, makes things a lot easier.

    Josh outlines – as far as I can tell – the *only conceivable* disadvantage to the "jump me everything" approach. But I think he answers his own concern; judges already call for tons of evidence when they don't need to. Moreover, "judges read too much ev" is obviously not a concern germane to paperless debate – I'm sure the judges that request debaters give them all the evidence they think they extended would do so regardless of the presence of a few laptops. Plus, there's not a very high "threshold" for asking for evidence. I have been in the room plenty of times for conversations that resemble the following:
    Judge: "I need your link evidence"
    Debater: "Did you mean the Smith evidence, the Davis evidence, or the Lukas evidence from the 1NR?"
    Judge: "Uh…just give me everything. I'll figure it out."
    Is this model perfect? Obviously not. But the issue raised by Roy's original post was not the desirability of judges' reliance on evidence for their decisions, but rather the inefficiency of reading evidence in paperless debates.

    I guess I view this issue the same way as I do most of the frustrating things that some debate teams do – the problem and the solution lies with the debaters. Before paperless, it was a nightmare to read a lot of evidence in a debate between two disorganized teams; this hasn't changed. Conversely, reading evidence from two organized, efficient teams wasn't a big deal. The teams on top of their game would extend evidence by author name, make it clear to the judge which cards mattered and which ones did not, and had no problem finding evidence after the round. This is an old problem with a new twist – teams that can't figure out how to jump judges evidence that could help decide the round in their favor *today* are the same teams that would lose the piece of paper with the link evidence on which they banked the round and then disappear before the judges could ask for it.

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