I didn't judge or watch any of the debates that took place. I have less to muse about than usual. RR's are funny because there is so much of the tournament you don't have to directly care about on that weekend given the pairings. But here is the story from my point of view.
New Affs went 4-2. Pretty good, but not a blowout. Three treaties, two trade and a deference. If you were sitting on an INF Aff the cat is out of the bag. One T 2NR went Aff. Dartmouth read what one would consider a big treaty Aff. We read "arms control treaties." Emory read just INF. The trade and deference Affs were small. Prep accordingly! With these small ass Affs + the logic of operational changes + the logic behind the sanctions good Affs it is going to be the wild wild west the rest of the semester.
Politics DA's suck. No 2NR was an agenda DA. 2020 lost. Court politics went 1-1. Yuck. I am curious to see how Neg teams will innovate given the above trend and how unreliable politics is.
Old Affs are still pretty good going 3-1 on the weekend.
Oklahoma had a 1NC that had a Calum, Lundberg and Ben Meiches card in it. That was pretty funny.
It snowed like a foot It sucked. Hopefully NU avoids such a fate.
Dartmouth hosts a good event, very enjoyable.
1. Regional Debate is Fun for Rivalries
One of the many virtues of regional debate is that the fields are smaller. That means the odds of debating a team of similar caliber to you in the prelims and elims greatly increases. National tournaments are not a reliable way to get head to heads against any particular team. It helps that regional tournaments are usually inter-district affairs so you have that rivalry angle as well. I think debates are a bit more fun when the teams have some familiarity and try to throw team specific curveballs at one another.
2. Pre Round Prep
Few things here. One, the prep for every debate should be the same. Two, there should not be an hour of prep before round 1 and 5. Push back start times and let people sleep. Three, regional tournaments should do thirty minutes of prep before a debate.
3. How Many Rounds Should Regional Tournaments Be?
One school of thought when looking at tournaments is a "bang for your buck" school. They take how much a tournament costs, divide it by how many rounds they get and the smaller the number the better.
That's not an unreasonable way of going about things, but there are other virtues that could be maximized. One is making debate feel like less of slog. In that spirit I propose regionals be 6 rounds and break to octas unless they exceed 44 teams. This could let you do a pretty chill 3-3-4 schedule which is pretty nice.
The reason 3-3-4 is because it creates chill days for everyone and a normal length day just for those two teams who make it to finals. Schedules should always be slanted this way where benefits are spread to everyone in the prelims and elim days are longer for the teams that make the finals. It's fine, one of them will get a trophy at the end.
Alternatively, you can do a 6 round schedule that maximizes people's ability to not miss class. Tournaments that start on Saturday avoid Friday classes (since we are talking regional tournament and the participants will mostly be driving). Then you could do 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 where most elims are over on Sunday (if you only break to octas) and people can go home if needed.
I am just saying, I went to MBA and they did 3-3-4 and it was pretty deece.
4. Open Source, Let's Be Real
First, we all knew who got to what first. MSU read Scarry 14 at GSU. Northwestern said this NDAA solvency deficit thing first even including the weird do you read or not read the bill part of the block. So like we know where shit comes from.
Second, people take other people's shit. That's fine. That's how it is supposed to go. If we collectively decide that the best answer to ESR is NFU operational changes + NDAA solvency deficit + NOT reading the text of the bill out loud so be it.
HOWEVER, can we PLEASE stop fronting with the citations. I see two ways out of this dilemma. One, we can all format cards the same so things more seamlessly go in each other's files and it doesn't create eye sores. Or two, just copy and paste the card and own up to you didn't get it first.
I would also accept having to say thank you after you read the tag of a card you copy and pasted. That would be pretty funny too.
5. Spicing Up Debate
Another fun part of regional debate is it is less of a death march and people float ideas a lot more. One topic of conversation was making debate more fun by making one change to it.
Example that is pretty realistic---elim debates settled by challenges. Emporia State still does this I think. I haven't heard much first hand feedback but the idea sounds awesome.
You get all 32 seeds in a room and the top seed gets to call out who they want to debate. Then you do that a bunch. And just keep doing that every elim.
My idea---there is a quota on how often you can read an argument. So you can read ESR but only in two thirds of your NEG debates or w/e. It would be great
a. variety is the spice of life
b. if you take someone's trade Aff and your opponents take someone's trade Neg due to open source that is fine, but like you have to read other shit eventually. If open source arrives at "solutions" to best versions of things then people should be forced to branch out.
c. AT---I am a small school, you suck for proposing an idea that is more work. I don't have a good answer really. There is really no redistribution to make the game equitable for small schools now and this is a symmetrical rule so how bad could it be in practice? idk.
6. Longest CP on Record
MSU read one that was 298 words. That seemed pretty long to me. There were no repetitive phrases either. Word efficiency was trying to be maximized. Not sure what the longest one on record is. Let me know before Buntin goes on some rant about CP's back in his day were like 750 words and had 12 DA's to go with them and something about peaches too.
I didn't participate in Arms Sales vs. Nukes. People made the obvious observation the wording on the nukes topic was broad and presumed that was always a bad thing. My experience with nukes topics is its literature base is so good it's fine if everyone has to research every side of everything. Debaters will be better for it and the lit supports it. Just felt like that should be said out loud.
The objection that college is doing nukes stuff now is harder to answer, but more a personal preference thing than a damning critique. To each their own. Not really here nor there since nukes lost, but I didn't see that strong a case for arms sales in its own right.
Given the experience on education and immigration (and topics in general probably, but the last two years really stand out in my mind) there are going to be some serious knee jerk reactions to a topic like this.
Answers to your burning questions:
1. Should you read framing pages?----NO
2. Will there be NEG arguments?----Yes, defense industrial base, fill in, interoperability, relations, condition CP's. That's a fine base.
Did you know there are a lot of cards about who is in charge of this shit between State, Defense and Commerce? Did you know that will produce ground for both sides? You didn't?? Did you come up with an opinion on a subject you don't know anything about anyway??? You did!? Great!!
3. But like is this good NEG ground?----The last two topics have demonstrated that people don't know reasonable arguments if it bit them on the ass so I can't really say. Look at your 1NC's from the last two years. If you are three T violations, an agent CP and three politics DA kid. . .burn your tub, start over and actually go where the cards take you. The issue hasn't been the topics, it has been you.
4. What about the AFF though?----Will always find a way. They'll read some link uniqueness, everyone will think all DA's are dead and people will go for the K or something.
Once we get past the point where some folks read T violations (always referenced by the author name of the random card, never by the word defined) that tries to get people to be multiple countries at once, the Neg loses that gambit and we settle in for like 3-6 countries that have intrinsic US advantages everything will be fine.
So don't worry folks, focus on still figuring out immigration (the parole CP I think has turned some people's brains into pudding) and just leave your preconceived notions that are informed from the last two topics behind you when you get to this one.
1. Debaters handing judges their computer to type in emails.
Yuck. No thanks. Not really a time saver. Don't know where your computer has been. Most judges have this information in their philosophies now. Just copy and paste it.
2. Pausing the debate for marked cards.
A few things are going on. One, people are reasonable at declaring marks, but don't actually mark anything in the speech. That is bad. Two, other team always says "can we get the marks?" no matter what. Never impacts cross-x, seldom comes up speeches.
I feel like this is a classic debate copycat thing like asking "Is anyone not ready?" Debaters don't care about the marks, but hey I have legitimate grounds to say it so why not?
The remedy is that the prep timer should keep running for the team that marked cards. They should do it in the speech so all they have to do is save and resend instead of this thing where all the marks happen when the clock is not running. Ultimately it is the fault of the team with the marks, but the opponents demanding marks and it never mattering is annoying.
3. Three advantages in the 1AC is optimal
One plus framing is terrible (more on that later). Three stems is harder for the NEG to deal with than two even if two advantages may end up with more terminal impacts from time to time. I don't have a very comprehensive reason for this, but think it is right.
4. Critical Affs with terminal impacts
No good. Policies being ableist is a good enough reason to reject them. You don't need to solve broader ableism or say Islamophobia justifies genocide. These structures are bad. Eliminating a policy that is an example of those bad structures doesn't get rid of the structures. None of these Affs institutes a mechanism that could cause broad structural change. But it is ok because these impacts claims are unnecessary! The policy is bad enough in its own right.
5. Open Source is Good
The MBA tournament does a tournament wide Dropbox that collects and shares all the documents at the tournament. This is a cool feature that is obviously difficult to achieve at larger tournaments with less minions running around.
It is very hard to emphasize enough how different high school debate could be with better wiki practices. A baseline would be having people get closer to having entries for each of their debates. High school falls woefully short of this standard.
The next thing is that people only post 1AC and 1NC's. This combined with people posting only cites leads to very shallow understanding before tournaments and debates. I have never found the pro-cites argument that compelling because you are free to look up people's open source card and googling article titles doesn't reall teach you that much about doing searches. Reading articles and figuring out what words people use does which open source facilitates.
Let's breakdown this cites only thing more and why it is not as good as open source:
a. Forcing other people to look up the original is none of your business, it is their problem if they are depriving themselves the debate training associated with going through the motions.
b. Round reports solve figuring out rounds at a glance. Or you could do open source and cites.
c. People stealing cards is outweighed by other consideratons. Why post cites at all? Transparency is a thing, just a question of degree. Open source improves equity because the schools that benefit disproportionately are the ones with less resources, AND this is actually a mechanism by which people are incentivized to stay on the bleeding edge because arguments depreciate faster so you have to do more work to have an advantage.
But what posting cites does do, especially in high school, is create a transaction cost that prevents people from engaging with evidence at all and being ignorant of the depth of a given a position. The result is people take everything at face value and only focus on the tags of arguments. This is obviously a terrible result.
So people should stop being scared and do open source. It will make debate so much better.
6. Framing pages are still bad
Over the last two years many high school squads have decided to read 1AC's that contain framing pages. I do not think I have seen one of these be the most strategic way to deploy a given Aff over that time. Let's go through it.
One claim forwarded on these pages is util bad. This is always quickly abandoned when forwarded. I wouldn't say this argument is super popular, but everytime it comes up it is jettisoned very fast.
A second kind of claim is about probability. This generally is supported by evidence relating to cognitive biases and decision making. One main issue with this style of argument is that while DA's might link more the Aff probably links sufficiently. Imperfect information, an uncertain future and policymaking always make for a problematiccombination. These cards are usually broad enough to indict the fallibility of decision making in general, not just "DA logic."
A second issue is that these considerations usually beg the question of the DA proper. The link to the DA might be pretty intrinsic, or r the subsequent debating might make the DA risk high. In either case this bias argument is too conditional to put in a 1AC.
The third issue is it tradesoff with a better class of argument. The big idea behind a claim like this revolves around threat exaggeration. But the main issue with threat construction and immigration policy is not the conjunctive fallacy. It is other stuff. But no on reads cards about the media, or people profiting off alarmism or ideology. They just read this damn conjunctive fallacy stuff and it always sucks.
A third claim is no war or something. This has always been a not great argument, but I can't believe people claim this after 2016. Don't know if you are aware but Trump is president and has released like a million policy documents about why great power competition with Russia and China is a big deal. Also, surprisingly, the NEG can read not war impacts as a DA impact. Also when your Aff impacts at best tens of thousands of people the Neg doesn't have to necessarily get to a war that involves Russia, China and the US nuking each other to outweigh. 175k people died in Iraq since 2003.
Affs should be doing two things mainly:
1. Describe a logic of policy making that informs/shapes/led to the policy you are getting rid of and say we need new frames of understanding. Neolib, security, racism. . .whatever. Say justificatons matter. Say this logic leads to threat exaggeration in x, y, z, way. That means the DA is suspect for hopefully more empirical reasons + CP's are worse because their justifications are all wrong ( but not omg you have a net benefit ergo you link to our nonexistent 1AC K).
Example---lots of law reviews write this kind of stuff with respect to equal protection cases---can’t justify originally racist policies by retroactively making up justifications. This can sort of be deployed as an AFF intrinsicness argument. For instance if an AFF gets rid of a racist inadmissibility standard, and the NEG says doing that would increase the population, this type of claim could support a re-raise that says, yes you are right, but if you are a policymaker trying to limit the population, inadmissibility standards are a very silly way to do that when you can set numerical caps, so population control cannot be an argument for retaining this particular restriction.
2. Establish some sort of framework that reduces the salience of politics and backlash arguments. This is obviously the most useful if you picked your Aff to minimize DA ground in the first place.
Doing these two things would make the entire 1AC relevant across many pieces of paper and it would make the Neg reckon with 8 minutes of arguments instead of 3.
7. MBA=Best Trophies in the Game
A lot of the tournaments I have been too have really strong trophies. I like St. Marks and the Texas plaques. I like the Glenbrooks and their big classy trophies (but this may just start at semifinals, I can't remember). But the bells are just too good. They look great and they make noise. They are fun and classy. They draw eyes on a trophy shelf/case better than others. The cannons for octafinals are also really strong. Tournaments don't usually hook up that level of elim.
No long introduction for this one. Saying things candidly and in public still makes me laugh and boy oh boy is this post going to be candid.
1. Spectrum of Nukes AFFs
A handful of mechanisms exist to restrict first use authority. They are not all the same. They are not all NFU. You can’t read NFU good cards if your plan is not NFU. Thank you for coming to this Ted talk that should be appropriate for 4th graders, not necessary for college people.
2. Restrictions now cards are bad
That Donnelley card sucks, says nothing. It does not implicate war powers. Broader inter-branch conflict arguments are obviously heading into rocky waters with a Democratic House. But saying “things are happening now/checks on Trump” doesn’t necessarily implicate the office of the President or foreign policy in a super negative way like NEG cards describe.
AFFs should have real cards about this or stop wasting their time.
3. Day 1 schedule sucked.
Too much downtime. What did you actually do during round 2 prep that went on for what felt like 2 hours? Never been a lunch before 11AM person but reasonable people can disagree. Do enjoy 40-45 mins pre-round. It takes too much time to move and get everyone settled before the real stuff begins. Day 2 schedule seemed more reasonable (minus the part about gathering outside in 30 degree weather at 10PM).
4. 2:15 decision time always
It is REALLY good. I like the extra hour it gives. I like how it could force debaters to manage their time more carefully with post round docs and silly breaks. I like knowing things faster. I think a lot of judges in the status quo get done somewhere between 2:15 and 2:30. Not a lot are deciding in the 2:00 to 2:15 range. So feeling like you go to decision time with 2:15 is weird when you never decide under 2:30, I get that. But I don’t think that necessarily means you are being rushed.
If debaters tighten up and judges do a little more focusing in the round and break the habit of endlessly going back and forth when the decision arrow has been pointing to one team since 5 minutes after the 2AR ended, I think debate will be better for it.
I think this was pretty successful for the first go. Thank you to everyone who participated and was diligent about adding this to their routine. Hopefully, debaters had to type fewer emails and fewer people came up to them pre-round. Hopefully, coaches had to do less walking around pre-round to get on threads. Hopefully, squads had access to some information they didn’t normally have.
If you want to join all you have to do is make sure your wiki is up-to-date then email me.
Folks who are already in, please ensure your wiki is up to date! That resource should not suffer.
I will say one thing that was suboptimal. Participating teams always sent out stuff when they were AFF, but it was more dicey when they were NEG. NEG teams should feel fine asking 1A’s to put whomever on the email chain. Do it more! Be bold! You already have to give them your email! I want all the docs not just most of the docs.
News flash to teams that don’t really use the wiki, asked if this was the PRL, said this was surveillance, or said they only like sending cards to people in the debate… if someone wants to beat you, they are going to get your docs. You can create transaction costs which is annoying, but ultimately that strategy will not stop people from getting your docs.
The only thing that strategy accomplishes is reducing your access to the same amount of information as people in debatedocs. I get a lot of threads. I know a lot about people’s arguments. I did not go seeking out a single thread that was not in debatedocs. That could be you too for the low, low cost of not being a coward and being more transparent with your arguments.
6. Say more not less
When you are AFF and someone is breaking a new-ish argument against you and your answers are not that hot, do you think you should say more or say less on those pages? Most people say less when the obvious answer is to say more. Spam whatever you gotta do. Different impact defense args, impact uq, add-ons that don’t really have to do with anything but crowd the page, way more analytics, etc.
7. Path dependency is a problem
Somewhat related, when you are NEG and read a new argument you do not have to go for it. If you put something in the 1NC you should be confident going for it. You should be even more confident if the 2AC makes 4 answers or fewer. Does that lead to weird blocks where you are talking about striking aliens and fusion power or consulting NATO and war powers? Yes, it does. Is it easier to win with that block if the AFF takes the advice above and spams all over your new thing and functionally drops positions? Yes.
8. Ayush, CP’s and New AFFs
Let’s fucking talk about this. Harvard CM has had a new AFF read on them 4 times. Kentucky Rule of 2 AFF, Cal conflict of interest AFF, Indiana psychological evaluation AFF and Kansas South Korea tariffs AFF.
The last one being a trade AFF where they just go for the cap K every time (despite having a team that reads a trade AFF, weird.), in the other 3 1NC’s there was a total of 11 CP’s (4, 2, 5). How many of these CP’s made it into the block? TEN OF THEM. He kicked one CP in the block against Indiana and that was it. How many cards were there total for these CP’s? I think 4 or something.
Harvard is 4-0 against new AFFs this year by my count. Not my Plutonic ideal of beating a new AFF, but pretty funny nonetheless.
9. Who gets to go to the Dartmouth RR?
I think there are three obvious includes: Kentucky BT, Harvard CM and Georgia AR. I think the most satisfying way of picking RR participants is to generate the most competitive field possible. That means you don’t want a team that is going to go 1-5 or 0-6. They have to demonstrate some ability to beat teams that are going to be included.
Elim depth is a coward’s metric. Winning elims is harder than winning prelims. Convincing more people you are right is harder than convincing one person. However, the caliber of the competition still matters more. Particularly for deciding a RR field. I don’t think this idea is too far out of the mainstream because if you look to recent first round voting over the last 3 to 4 topics it seems head to head wins is a more important metric than “deep runs” at tournaments.
That leads to another tier of team: Oklahoma JS, Berkeley FG and Emory GS. These teams have wins against the three listed above.
Who is the last team (assuming Dartmouth does not invite themselves?). I see four contenders (because OU PW and UGA RS can’t be considered): Iowa GL, NU JW, UNLV HS, Wake EW. Caring less about elimination depth reveals UNLV and Wake’s head to head competition to be a bit worse than Iowa and NU’s.
Northwestern has beaten Wake, OU JS, Emory GS, UNLV HS and Berkeley this year. Iowa GL has beaten NU (twice), UGA RS, UNLV (twice), OU PW and Wake.
So that is a pretty tough call. Iowa with two head to head wins. Northwestern punching above their weight better with wins against teams I think are clear includes. Tough choice! Glad I do not have to make it.
A note for people who might get upset about whatever they get upset about. One, people think this stuff already, I am just saying it out loud. What are the best metrics to determine RR fields? Not an unreasonable public discussion. Two, all these teams are good. Trying to determine the precise top 7 is very tricky. Obviously all the teams I mentioned above are top 10 caliber teams that would have a reasonable shot at winning a given debate against the other ones mentioned. There are no slights here. Finally, the sample size is always smaller than folks want it to be. Makes the decisions tough.
10. The First Semester AFF Power Rankings
I have it at 39ish AFFs with plans read in the 1st semester. Things I thought about while looking over the whole board:
Does the best AFF in a non-nukes area compare to the worst nukes AFF? I do believe some trade AFFs clear that bar.
Should deference AFFs just be better than trade AFFs because it is harder to write a deference NEG? I think so but some deference AFFs are just not there card wise.
The market has to count for something. How many people read it? Has it survived sophisticated strategies? Does it win a lot?
Does it pass the ESR test?
Tier 1--Top Shelf Prime AFFs
I think these are the best AFFs. NSA’s had a very good semester, good job Georgia. Losing an impact turn debate at Wake vs Harvard isn’t too surprising. With an AFF like that which can survive the T challenge the most likely thing to lose to is something you grant the link to. Should that really even happen because of infinite prep? No, but it does.
Iran is great fun although I don’t know if UNLV appreciates what it has. It’s so good, cut more cards about it. Don’t lose to ESR and politics. That makes us both look bad.
NFU, good AFF 8 years ago. Still good AFF. Lots of advantages, lots of link turns, good CP answers. Good clean fun.
Tier 2--Ham Sandwiches of AFFs
Rule of 2
North Korea and China are adv’s not AFFs. NFU for K reasons is just worse than NFU because you link to stuff, you restrain what advantages you can read and it is not worth the K args you can make in the 2AC.
Operational NFU is an extra topical over correction to a not that threatening set of negative arguments. ICBM bad lit is ok, but not hot enough to deviate.
Is there another trade AFF better than a nukes AFF?
I think, maybe. GMU’s business about national security exceptions and the WTO is probably the best version of the general Congress trade AFF I have seen.
Authorize first use in declaration of wars and court NFU are tough sells. I don’t think the existing versions are very strong. Both are too generally about nukes and NFU and not tailored enough from top to bottom.
Are they worse than trade or deference AFFs? I don’t think so, but it is a closer call.
One nukes AFF that is worse than trade is psychological evaluation. I am not trading T and the ableism K to read the white supremacists storm the nuke silos advantage. NO THANKS.
Trade AFF’s ranked
Iran then a big gap. Then GMU national security business emerges from a scrum of Congress tariff AFFs. Then everyone else’s Congress tariff AFF stuff. Then Cal’s TPA business. Then OFAC. Then sanction NK. Then sanction SCS. Then that court non-del thing UGA read. Then if another trade AFF exists no thank you.
You have to win a debate or get launched into the sun: do you read trade or deference
Phew, this is a tough question (obviously bracketing Iran sanctions). There are many issues with the way deference has been written to date.
One, the impacts are too easy to CP out of with ESR and Congress. Like that FAA thing about flight sharing? Not so much with the court key warrants.
Two, deference teams think their shit is magic. Like ok deference teams I get it. You’re edgy. You’re nerds. You love law reviews. You think you are so clever. But you can’t just come up with a legal abstraction then cut a bunch of cards that sounds like the same general concept and call it an AFF. You are a deference AFF, you aren’t God. You can’t solve with “legal standards” or “regulatory certainty” and just plug and chug whatever you want.
Three, answers to court DA’s suck which is weird because court DA’s suck (unless they are about national security/foreign affairs).
So NO I would not risk getting shot into the sun with deference AFFs to date. Have fun melting suckers.
I guess this Emory Curtis-Wright thing is the best one? Maybe?
Somebody had to do it (no, they actually didn’t, but debate is predictable this way). At the end of the day the marketplace of ideas has to tell you something about surveillance and treaty AFFs. They don’t punch above their weight, they are not read very often, they don’t win a lot. Maybe sometime, but not in the first semester.
If only someone had told me about all the ways to "borrow" research materials earlier. I hope this post helps high schoolers, small schools, colleges without fancy libraries etc. I barely even use UK library resources anymore because one of these methods usually works.
1. Library Genesis Project (http://libgen.io/)
Or can be found at: http://gen.lib.rus.ec/
This is a very strong database for "borrowing" books
2. Sci-Hub ( http://sci-hub.tw/ )
This is for articles. The best way to search it is with the DOI number. So for instances this article: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10736700.2018.1430552?src=recsys&journalCode=rnpr20
You can see the following below the title:
Just pop the numbers "10.1080/10736700.2018.1430552" into sci-hub and see what happens.
Spoiler: it lets you "borrow" the article for free instantaneously
3. BookSC (http://booksc.org/)
Little bit worse than Sci-Hub, but same basic premise.
4. Ebook Farm ( https://ebook.farm/)
This is one of the biggest collections of books to "borrow" from, but it isn't free. You have to feed it bitcoins or amazon gift cards to download books, but it is dirt cheap and will have most of what you want. The average book will be between $0.20 and $1.00
sometimes the formats for all of these are weird which you can fix here - https://www.online-convert.com/
or if it's secured go here - https://smallpdf.com/unlock-pdf
5. .acsm files or any encrpyted PDF.
When you borrow from a library (not to be confused with "borrowing") the download format is some sort of encrypted business. If you want a file you can save and store you need this https://epubee.com/epub-drm-removal-program.htm to make a permanent PDF.
Sometimes the decrypted file will not have highlight-able text in it. You need to OCR it. The gold standard is this: https://www.abbyy.com/en-us/finereader/. A worse version is this: https://www.onlineocr.net/
Happy "borrowing." If there is a method I missed let me know.
One of my goals at the moment is to be placed on email chains without having to ask to be put on them. Unfortunately, this desire alone has not been enough to result in a flood of email chains. I appreciate the folks who are sharing threads with me (and all the folks who put me on threads when I had to ask). This project is designed to lower the transaction costs of project #GetLincolnAlltheDocs (thanks to the handful of people who suggested it).
There is now a google group called email@example.com. The purpose of this email is to make it easier to setup email threads before debates. Instead of the same group of people asking the same group of debaters for threads and having to type in double digit emails you can now capture all that with one email entry. This model has proven successful at round robins.
Another benefit of a system like this is how it helps smaller schools. With smaller staffs it is harder to go around to a bunch of debates and get on the threads. Big schools with multiple coaches will get on the threads anyway. Or they will just contact me since everyone assumes I have all that shit anyway (which isn't wrong).
One casualty with the round robin experience has been updating the wiki. That might not be unique to the google group way of organizing round robin docs (people just generally focus on the round robin and post stuff later if they do instead of the normal post round you see at tournaments where judges give decisions at the time). I am hoping to avoid this problem with the implementation of this google group.
How to Join?
1. Email me the emails you want me to add to the group.
2. There are two conditions for me adding those emails to the group:
A. If you are a debater you have to participate by adding firstname.lastname@example.org to your future email threads. If you are a coach, you have to ensure your debaters use the group.
B. You use the wiki. Use the wiki means there is an entry after each one of your debates and you have included evidence from ALL your speeches in those entries (not just the 1AC or 1NC). It does not matter if it is full text or cites either is fine.
Debaters who want to join are only responsible for their own wiki, not teammates. Coaches are responsible for all their teams.
Why am I being a wiki fascist? One, sorry you hate using the wiki or making your teams use it. But good wiki practice is more important than streamlining email threads. Two, the first mover advantage here is huge. Are you going to go start your own google group? Then we have like six different google groups instead of entering like ten different emails? You won't. You're scared. Just use the wiki, use this google group and like it.
How to Subject Email Threads
There is no great way to ensure this, but it is STRONGLY encouraged to use a uniform naming system for later searches.
Tournament Name-Round Number-AFF Team vs NEG Team
Example: Shirley-Round 2-Northwestern CE vs Georgetown KL
How do I turn off getting real-time copies of everything?
Go to your own google groups page - there should be a drop-down menu regarding email options on the right. You can set it to "no email" or "digest email". No means none. Digest means you get them all at the end of the day.
I've turned off the emails, but now how do I get to the docs?
Change the email settings + create email filters to help prevent inbox flooding if you do not like that.
Feel free to reach out with any questions.
College debate is funny and weird in how discussions about it go down. Nobody likes to say anything in too public of a setting. It is either because transparency is viewed as a strategic liabiltiy or people are worried about internet opinions getting litigated in rounds. So what is left is saying everything in an adversarial format dominated by technicalities and offense/defense. Then judges may be candid after the round, but they might not. They may tailor what they say to the audience and share more genuine opinions in a more private setting.
This obviously sucks for two reasons. First, people have opinions about what are good and bad arguments and approaches to debate, but they don't refine them by exposing them to a wider group of people beyond their preferred clique. Second, we really can talk about debate in a way where people don't feel awkward or heated, but it is a muscle that requires development.
This is all a long way of saying that I have some takes from the Gonzaga tournament, I am going to say them out loud, this may be outside the norm and I do not give a fuck.
1. Pacific Northwest + Blackbird
I want to thank the Gonzaga crew for hosting a great tournament. The weather and scenery were incredible. I know Harvard is going to put on a good show next year, but Gonzaga may have some natural advantages that are hard to overcome.
One in particular is the restaurant Blackbird right next to the tournament hotel. It is GOOD. Bacon fat popcorn, deviled eggs, cheese fries, pulled pork, brisket, buttermilk pie, peach fruit crisp, huckleberry lemonade. . .they make all kinds of food and they do it all INCREDIBLY.
2. War Inevitable Strategies
These are mostly the AFF's fault for not being prepared. Whether it is through poor 1AC construction or not knowing exactly what to put in the 2AC it is the affirmative team that is making these strategies look better than they are. The biggest issue is when the NEG says a war is inevitable, the AFF better answer that.
I think this gets missed because it requires a different class of "impact defense." Your typical no China war card is not going to implicate status competition escalates. I would suggest adding "peaceful coexistence" to your impact defense run when you go about researching wars with countries the US thinks are adversaries.
Other ideas: care more about the nuclear taboo, don't make your 1AC internal links too narrow, cut cards that say don't trust war mongers, say blowing each other up is not sufficient to resolve the reasons they said war inevitable (kind of like how you say degrowth fails when someone is de-deving you).
3. Shortening Zivitosky to Ziv or Zivy
Hell no, get that out of here.
4. Vertical Debates are Hard for the AFF
When I say vertical debates I mean the ones that are not many pieces of paper, multiple links, some of those links have their own impacts, NEG has more than one card that says "we get offense, but the AFF doesn't." This is contrasted with horizontal debates which is spread out across many pieces of paper and not much is being said on any given one.
This is hard for the AFF. They don't happen as often. They place high burdens on the 2AC and 1AR. 2AC's aren't used to making so many viable threads of argument. 1AR’s are not used to talking about NEG evidence as much as is required in these situations. 1AC construction sometimes hurts the AFF here too with not enough impacts or too many stemming from the same internal link.
Pre-tournament prep is the main remedy. The military topic had a lot of these with deterrence, healthcare topic with economy and blowing up other countries on this topic. AFFs need to pay the necessary attention to detail.
5. Vertical Debates are Boring for the NEG
Let’s be real, your position is not fancy enough or have enough moving parts to justify the block being like 2 or 3 pieces of paper (including talking about AFF advantages). These debates are littered with repetition and cards that qualify as more evidence and not really adding anything unique. One 2NR world in the block SUCKS.
6. Michigan GW and Berkeley FG
They kick ass. They put me on email chains proactively without me asking. There is plenty of room on this bandwagon if other teams want to hop on. If these two teams want to yell at 1A’s they debate to include me on chains that would be sick too.
I will not rest until I am just on every chain without having to ask. I at least have goal to keep striving towards.
7. 2:15 Decision Time
It is good. Through the first three tournaments of the year I think days are ending noticeably earlier. Debaters need to do more to cooperate. You have to use the last minutes of prep to set up emails and stands. Stop taking random bathroom and water breaks, you can manage that better. Put together your post round docs much faster. Some debates by the time I received docs I had 20ish minutes. Other ones I had 30+. So it can be all upside for how tournaments run if people focus.
8. Interesting AFF Choices
Two intriguing set of decisions:
First, UNLV HS. Being the sanctions good team is funny. Coming from the squad that has the “starting wars” team I enjoy a unique ethos. Why the Iran AFF is not being read is beyond me. It is very good. Read it twice, went 2-0. Korea was ok, not bad but not great. China island building sanctions was obviously flying too close to the sun. Can’t win em all. Unless you read the Iran AFF.
Second, UGA AR in the octas of Gonzaga. Debating a trade team breaks a trade AFF. However, UGA AR and RS are something like 20-2 with the NSA’s AFF. AR switched back in quarters against Michigan and won with NSA’s. What was the process behind that octa’s decision I wonder?
9. Trade Sucks. Long Live Deference
Can we please start having deference debates now so the NDT doesn’t get stupid because no one knows how legal stuff works? Please!
10. Why flip NEG?
We flipped NEG against Liberty HT and right after that the question was posed as to why? I said because being NEG is fun. This argument usually goes why would you flip NEG if you have nothing to say. At first blush that makes sense, but doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.
Framework says there is a good way to debate, the AFF deviates from that which makes it worse than other alternatives. That is an argument about why the AFF is bad. People can flip NEG to say the AFF is bad, that’s the point.
This idea also begs the question of whether the NEG has a link, and of topicality in general. If one could move far outside the topic to nullify ground and no one could flip NEG to call it out, that would compound the advantage by guaranteeing that one team gets NEG debates forever. Obviously debating about degrees removed from the topic and what is reasonable is a better option.
Also, being NEG is fun and shouldn’t be discouraged. The epitome of debate is thwarting the new AFF which can only happen on the NEG. People should flip NEG all the time.
11. Topical Versions of the AFF
I will talk more about this at length another time but for now I have two points. One, people care way more about this on the AFF and NEG than they should. Like way way too much. Two, saying topical version of the AFF or TVA for short makes everything sound dumber. I hate TVA. I hate how mainstream it is. I hate how much it colors people’s thinking. And I hate how it is probably way too late for me to do anything about it.
12. New AFF’s
They sucked. And that isn’t me just saying that. Like they lost a lot:
1. Cal’s conflict of interest AFF lost to Harvard.
2. Harvard’s China NFU lost to BT.
3. UNLV’s China sanctions AFF lost to Berkeley and UGA AR
4. Emory’s consult Congress trade AFF (which I can only assume was new because they lost the file in the preseason and found it before the semi’s) did work against UGA AR but not in the finals.
5. UGA AR’s nondel trade AFF did win the octa’s
6. Michigan GW’s Brand X AFF did win the octas against NU BY.
Pretty mixed bag. 2A’s need to step their game up.
If you have any takes from the Gonzaga tournament I would love to hear them.
Some things are hard to figure out without a second person there to point out mistakes and provide guidance. The issue is you are with yourself, your thoughts and your speeches a much larger portion of time than you are with someone who is smarter than you and wants to help you out.
Do not despair. Here are some methods and benchmarks you can employ to judge and improve your speeches on your own.
1. Record Yourself
I am not starting off with particularly novel advice, but it is still very effective. Helps with clarity and smoothing out clumsy delivery like no other. Attempting to flow yourself is not just a question of delivery. It also implicates how you structure and phrase your ideas which is much more substantive than the yes/no question of whether the judge can hear your words. If they are hard to write down the judge has less time to appreciate the full nuance of your argument.
2. Ask Why
When you write an extension of an argument ask yourself why the statement you wrote is true. If the reason is not contained in the statement or the very next sentence you have a problem. Comb the speech you have written asking why after everything you write. After all, it is what the judge will be asking themselves the entire time you are talking.
3. Pretend you are Having a Conversation
Sometimes speeches are too jargon-filled and technical. Sometimes they are too abstract, while other times they miss the forest for the trees. To refocus your efforts, one method is to pretend you are having a conversation with a person that you are trying to convince. Sometimes things in the moment are too distorted by debate conventions or technical line by line coverage.
But when you are preparing you want to have a simple and direct command of the issues at play. So what would a non-debate person who is evaluating your arguments think and care about? Most people care about how many arguments you have, types of proof, sources, etc. This will lead to bonuses like realizing you don't need to say "takes out" or "internal link" as much.
4. Numbers and Labels
This isn't really an internal dialogue thing like the last two, but I bet your speech doesn't have nearly enough numbering or labels for your arguments. It is more a yes/no question, but one people don't bother with enough despite its overwhelming potential to improve your speech.
5. When an Issue Comes Up Deal With it in One Place
It is generally always a better rule of thumb to fully unpack an issue in the first place it is applicable on the line by line and then say "dealt with above" on subsequent arguments. Instead of this, people often say they will deal with it later. Dealing with it later means you deal with it a little the first time, then you said that transition statement and you probably won't fully develop the necessary ideas when you get to it later (if you remember).
This is easy to operationalize. Are you splitting the explanation of an argument into too many discrete places on the line by line?
6. Offense vs Defense Phrasing
It is easy to make a responsive argument but water down its potency by poor phrasing. This happens the most in critical debates when disussing alternatives on the AFF or extending the link when NEG. You want to double check that the focus of your speech is being maintained on the end goal: saying your opponents' position is bad. There are many indirect ways people go about doing this instead of just being direct the whole time.
7. Are Your Arguments Couched in Terms of the Speech that Preceded Yours?
This obviously matters for every kind of speech, but there are two scenarios where this has a premium. One is the 2AC on the case. The other is being NEG vs a planless AFF. Both situations are prone to pre-scripted rants that contradict the other team, but don't necessarily clash. It is a better idea to write those general blocks and explanations of your position as more of a reminder than a script (and a way to internalize what you are arguing about). But when it comes to speeh time you always want to be speaking to the warrant behind your opponent's argument.
Saying "yes nuke terror, our evidence says thefts of material are high and ISIS said they want to do it" does extend your impact, but when the NEG's evidence said no delivery systems and lots of points of the plot can be foiled. . .you have not moved the needle very much.