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Paperless debate

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For those that don't follow it, Aaron Hardy from Whitman recently posted the following on eDebate:

 

All,

This evening at Gonzaga, seven Whitman teams completed their first day of completely paperless debating. As far as I know, this is the first experiment with paperless debating on such a large scale – I’m happy to report that it went extremely well, and despite some very minor hiccups, didn’t present a problem for anyone involved. Overall, our feedback has been positive, and we’re confident enough in our system that this will be a permanent change.

The purpose of this post is two-fold:

a) To let the community at large know that we’re doing this – now that we’ve got 20+ competition rounds under our collective belt, we’re prepared to answer questions, reflect on our experiences, etc…

B) To solicit feedback on any concerns people have, ideas for improvement, or to answer questions for anyone else considering making a similar switch. We’re especially interested in getting feedback on our “proposed norms” below.

For anyone keeping track of developments in this arena – this system is NOT based on the system which Hanson has been developing which was discussed in some detail on e-debate over the last couple months. It’s a completely new system I designed to address some of the technical difficulties inherent in previous designs. Jim may continue his separate track of development as the technology needed matures – but for now, our system is a separate entity.

 

I’d be happy to consult with anyone who wants more of the nuts and bolts…

 

There are a number of motivations for our switch – but the proximate cause should be obvious. Rising travel costs (especially for checked bags) have led us to believe that the only sustainable alternative is a system which doesn’t involve lugging tubs around the country.

 

At Gonzaga, our teams are handing out a document which explains how our system works and tries to answer some questions – it’s reproduced below for everyone else…

 

First, a preface – we recognize that this is a fairly big shift for some members of the debate community (including some of us). There will doubtlessly be problems during the transition, especially early in the year, and we apologize in advance for any difficulties we cause. This was not a decision entered into without significant trepidation on our part – but after much debate and testing, we ultimately determined that the benefits clearly outweigh the costs.

 

With that proviso, we want to make this as easy as possible for everyone involved, and we’d love feedback on anything we can do to make it easier to debate against us. Lastly, we’d humbly appeal to the debate community at large for a collective degree of patience and willingness to try it out before passing judgment – we really think that it’s worth all the headaches.

 

Basic description of the system

 

Each Whitman team will be carrying three laptops. The debaters will each use a laptop to prepare speeches with, placing all cards that will be read into one Word document. Immediately prior to speaking, the debater will place their entire upcoming speech on a USB jump drive and give it to the opposing team. If the other team has their own laptop(s), they’re welcome to use them to view the file. If not, Whitman will use their third backup laptop as a “viewing” computer for the other teams use for the whole debate. If for some reason the other team needs a second “viewing” computer, Whitman will let the other team use one of their other laptops during their prep time. The same will repeat for each speech. After the debate, the judge is obviously free to use either their own laptop or one of Whitman’s to look at the evidence.

 

Proposed (Requested) Community Norms

Since this is (largely) uncharted waters, we recognize that it brings with it a new set of questions, concerns, and impacts on the debating process. Many of these have already been discussed by others on e-debate over the past few months. We’ve tried to think out as many of these as possible and design our system to be as accommodating as is feasible, but there will doubtless be issues which arise that we have to deal with on an ad-hoc basis. That being said, we’d like to propose two “community norms” as it relates to paperless debating in an effort to facilitate fairness.

These function as no more than a request – we’re willing to accept that

if people disagree with us or refuse to honor these requests, that we bear the complete share of responsibility for accommodation. Nonetheless, we feel the following practices would be best for competitive equity:

1) As we’ll be providing a complete copy of all the evidence read in a speech prior to the speech starting, it would be nice if the opposing team made an effort to minimize “looking ahead” in the word document to try and gain a competitive advantage by figuring out what we’ll read later in the speech. This is obviously only so practicable, but we feel that an honest attempt is still better than nothing.

2) We would prefer that opposing teams or judges who opt to transfer the “Speech” document to their personal computers during the debate delete them at the conclusion of the debate. While we’d be happy to provide

cites for every card read in the debate within a matter of minutes (it’s built

into our system) to anyone interested in them, we think that taking evidence wholesale is the equivalent of taking a paper file. While unenforceable, we’d hope the majority of the community would agree that stealing files crosses the line, especially given the easy availability of cites.

 

If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask me, or any member of the Whitman squad.

Best,

hardy

Thoughts? Personally I don't see this becoming possible at the high school level, given that a majority of high school debaters around the country (and perhaps even those at the national circuit level) don't have their own laptop, so it just wouldn't be accessible, at least until technology becomes widespread enough for even us poor high schoolers to afford it.

 

In the meantime, it's a cool idea and definitely useful for those that need to adjust for rising traveling costs.

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I've been watching the Gonzaga tournament and watched a round with Whitman going paperless yesterday. I have to admit it's pretty cool but the other team seemed very frustrated with the whole system. Several problems like finding cards or other things like that. It looks like it'll have some problems in the beginning but hopefully the system will resolve itself because I think it'll benefit teams with smaller budgets in the future.

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Not going to happen at the HS level unless both debaters have laptops...which is rare. Honestly I have tried the paperless deal and it never works out all that well - exp. in terms of reading the 1AC. It is much faster to flip to the next paper than wait 5 seconds to scroll down to the next card.

 

All in all, if it cuts down travel costs than awesome. May be this will become standard in college at some point - but it would take a long ass time for this to become standard in HS.

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It's an interesting idea but I don't think it will take off.

 

1) The temptation to steal cards and look ahead in a speech will probably overcome the integrity of the system.

 

2) Software crashes/USB incompatibility could ruin a debate. While this is an acceptable risk for flowing, it's not for access to evidence. Teams could also claim that the system broke in order to avoid showing evidence after the fact to an opponent/judge.

 

3) Laptops are expensive, not everyone can buy 3. People can just cut down on the amount of paper they bring to tournaments instead - buy a printer and try to print as much as you can at the tournament. Not environmentally friendly, but then again, neither is flying across the country to go to debate tournaments.

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2) Software crashes/USB incompatibility could ruin a debate.

 

Amen. My partner's computer has crashed multiple times in the middle of her 2AR's. ...it's not fun. :(

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Amen. My partner's computer has crashed multiple times in the middle of her 2AR's. ...it's not fun. :(

 

You'd think that after the first time, maybe you'd figure out what was wrong or just stop using a laptop.

 

Anyway, this sounds like an intriguing idea. However, aside from the concerns that Jason brought up (which I agree with), I don't know how big of a money saver this would be anyway, comparing the costs/maintenance of three laptops and multiple jumpdrives with that of just printing off the evidence.

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You forgot to add the costs of the airline fees for three or four tubs per team in your comparison. That's where it becomes obvious that paperless debate has to be made to work.

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My experience with computer use was never particularly positive. Scrolling through evidence and flows is much slower then flipping paper or looking down the flow. Small mishaps and typos can waste time during a speech. I've also found it more difficult to keep my flows clearly organized despite the ability to copy and paste. And while I've never had my computer shut down on me in a round I could imagine it being quite a catastrophe.

 

That being said my laptop has proven useful for carrying random answers to things in back files. While I think there will be a long trend toward the use of laptops, I think that it will take at least another debate generation (4-8 years) for the practice to become common even on the college level. Both the cost and the ramifications will prove a deterrent at least until the tech catches up or the financial pressures increase.

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For those saying it takes forever to scroll:

 

Whenever I'm reading off a laptop I put all my stuff into one new word doc and then I switch to "full screen reading" which can be found in the bottom right corner next to the zoom bar (in word 07, I believe it's in the same place in 03). Then the full page will be scaled to your laptop and to get to a new page you just press the down arrow once. Extremely convenient.

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You'd think that after the first time, maybe you'd figure out what was wrong or just stop using a laptop.

 

We were at camp. And all of our blocks were on her computer.

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essentially i think this is inevitable in the long term and switching now might be key, but it should probably be only a partial switch for now. use some tubs and also print the cards with analytics before the speech (you wouldn't print late rebuttals). this actually makes constructives and politics 1nrs a lot easier because of how it lets you compile assortments of cards into single documents. it doesn't take that long to print and you have considerable prep/cx time. i'm think that there's a real depth to how the ability to copy & paste various blocks could improve your speech structure and tailor your answers to their specific cards, not just to the name of the argument. bottom line the main advantage is a leap in speech preparation, the main disad is tech failure. i'm not entirely convinced either way but i think right now the DA outweighs

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I was in a round at camp this year where this one kid could not spread for shit and you couldn't really understand him. All of his blocks were on his computer. I don't think it was very fair because we had to waste our prep getting the blocks from him rather than actually prep.

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I was in a round at camp this year where this one kid could not spread for shit and you couldn't really understand him. All of his blocks were on his computer. I don't think it was very fair because we had to waste our prep getting the blocks from him rather than actually prep.

 

yeah, so hard to beat those completely incomprehensible kids.

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I was in a round at camp this year where this one kid could not spread for shit and you couldn't really understand him. All of his blocks were on his computer. I don't think it was very fair because we had to waste our prep getting the blocks from him rather than actually prep.

 

the whitman system seems to be pretty streamlined, all the blocks are transferred before/as the speech begins so that isn't a problem

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Thos seems like it could be great in college, but in high school some states like Oklahoma,Kansas etc. arent even allowed to use laptops much less go paperless.

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that full screen reading really does help

anyway though..paperless debate does save trees.

i wonder if there could be theory/argument for the paperless debate, that if the other team uses paper by the hundreds, they kill so many trees that whatever environmental impacts or whatever they claim fall, due to hypocrisy bad.

 

lol

 

but seriously, paperless debate can exist if it has it's own event, it's own little place in the circuit

for instance under the sign-up for tournaments, the categories under CX can go, NCX, CCX.

CCX A.-Normal

CCX B. -Paperless

that way it's ensured that everyone has a laptop

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one of the Whitman teams made it to semis at GSU this past weekend.

 

Im friends with one of them and he said although he is still getting used to it, it isn't too bad and asides from some obvious frustrations, most teams were supportive of their new style.

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I'm supportive of this concept. Personally, I've started using a laptop in my debate rounds and I found it has greatly helped, if only because I have horrible handwriting. Typing flows is faster and easier for my partner and myself to refer back to clearly. It allows me to keep everything organized and effective, and I can carry a lot of files that I really don't want to carry around all the time, especially extensive theory files that rely on mostly analytics anyways.

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It's obviously impossible at the high school level (at least in the short term, outside the circuit), but it's a great idea that will probably catch on in the next few years as technology becomes so widespread and cheap.

 

Deus: Not a bad idea, although if your judge is also using paper, you're calling your judge's thought-processes into question as well. Plus the fact that the tournament you're at probably posts with paper, etc. Bottom line is that hypocrisy always cuts both ways.

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my partner and i use our laptps for everything. We have only 1 crate with shells to all of our main args, and our aff stuff, but we have at least 950 files on our laptops, and at least for us, it works much better. I miss my crte though

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wat about the prep time it takes in order to switch cards into one doc and then put it on a usb. it is much more efficient to pull out paper from a section in an expando. also if cards are pdf they cant be highlighted

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I agree with canesfan's problem with highlighting the PDF. It isn't possible, and if a software were to come out were you could, it would just be tedious.

 

Inevitably, this war will have a PC vs. Mac battle, so I'll settle it right now. I've used both (I have a VAIO, my partner has a MacBook) in debates and both are nearly impossible. The PC has the right-side scroll on the touch pad that is impossible to locate while spreading through a card. The two-finger scroll business on the MacBook doesn't move quickly enough. The "Page Down" and "Ctrl-Down" functions are too sloppy and difficult for the eyes to catch up with. Wireless mice don't really make a difference either.

 

And the whole "saving trees" notion is weird. They toss out anything they print at a tournament, which could be up to 200 pages, just so they don't have to travel with it. Sure, you save the travel costs, but idk how much of the rainforest you're saving.

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Inevitably, this war will have a PC vs. Mac battle, so I'll settle it right now. I've used both (I have a VAIO, my partner has a MacBook) in debates and both are nearly impossible. The PC has the right-side scroll on the touch pad that is impossible to locate while spreading through a card. The two-finger scroll business on the MacBook doesn't move quickly enough. The "Page Down" and "Ctrl-Down" functions are too sloppy and difficult for the eyes to catch up with. Wireless mice don't really make a difference either.

lots of people use a small wireless mouse for smooth scrolling. it works wonders.

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You'd think that after the first time, maybe you'd figure out what was wrong or just stop using a laptop.

 

Anyway, this sounds like an intriguing idea. However, aside from the concerns that Jason brought up (which I agree with), I don't know how big of a money saver this would be anyway, comparing the costs/maintenance of three laptops and multiple jumpdrives with that of just printing off the evidence.

the funny part is that all the files i'm cutting for you are paperless. haha.

 

/edit/

 

is there a specific system that they use? a program? if not, just cards that are orc'd or whatnot?

Edited by Karl Rove

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