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What is a debate? - open letter to DDO

larztheloser
Posts: 857
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6/7/2012 7:39:17 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
Hello DDO,

I just thought I'd share some of my views with the community about what debating actually means.

Debating can be roughly defined as the process of formal argument, and various dictionaries will give various variations on that. It follows that if one has skill at debating, one is skilled at constructing and presenting a formally-arranged and articulated case (which I use to denote a series of arguments supporting the debater's side on the proposition). That skill must be general - a person who knows and presents only a single case cannot be said to be a skilled debater, even if that argument is very very good. That's the difference between debate and rhetoric - in rhetoric you simply must convince an audience that you're a good rhetoritician, thus using the same case in every speech you give is fine.

It was my presumption, on first joining the site, that people knew and understood that. Debates are about who can present the better argument, which is judged through the mechanism of burden of proof. At the time voters did not give reasons for their adjudications as that functionality wasn't there yet, so I just assumed that this was what everyone was doing. After some time, to my disappointment, I began to recognise that certain debaters would only seem to do certain types of motions. I was horrified to learn that some debaters turned down debates because they disagreed with the resolution. As a real-life debater, I could barely imagine that - a team forfeiting because they didn't agree? Half the debates would end in forfeits!

To make matters worse, when comments began coming around in the judging field, I noticed very few actually made reference to the arguments that were raised in the debate. People have sent me praise for my in-depth adjudications, but by real-life standards my adjudications would be about as shallow as would be permissible. Those that did usually did so on quite arbitrary criteria. I've even had people vote against me because they thought my arguments were devil's advocate arguments (meaning arguing on other side of the debate than one's personal beliefs). All of these behaviours are fully supported by the site code of conduct (http://www.debate.org...). Indeed the site about page seems to suggest voters should vote based on the validity of arguments, regardless of whether the issues of validity came up in the debate at all (http://www.debate.org...).

I've even had many people who tried to tell me burden of proof is irrelevant to debating or voting, and that it's all about who's right or wrong.

What's more troubling about this is that most people will agree debating is about improvement. How can somebody improve when they're not being told what they need to do to improve. Be honest - how many votes have you actually seen that have described WHY one argument won out over another, if the arguments were even touched upon, and how many of those used a "why" actually given in the debate? I just did a quick survey of my three most recent debates. Of the 13 votes cast, only three met this basic standard. One of those three incorrectly placed the burden of proof. All three ignored key arguments on both sides. And of course, of the three debates, one of them may not have happened if my opponent had known I was playing the devil's advocate.

I mentioned this briefly in one of my recent debates but I think the discussion is probably better-suited to the forum - this site is designed in such a way that undermines debating and encourages dull rhetoric and non-constructive votes. There I was saying it in the context of the big issues - even if they encourage debates, the debates they encourage are based on personal beliefs. Same thing with most of the personal details boxes, such as religion or candidate. Users encourage others to identify when they are devil's advocating. There are even devil's advocate tournaments I've seen for this purpose. That's a problem because lots of users are here to try to find out the "truth" rather than merely challenge each other to debates. What they do is type up their own beliefs, wait for somebody else to type out theirs, and then pit them against each other to a voter crowd that won't take much notice of their arguments anyway. Usually, these members leave after less than a year, but a few still hang around. You know who you are. I'd say the majority of debaters on this site fall into that category. What they fail to recognise that these debates never establish any truth, making it all a bit of a waste of time. Still, none of these debaters would ever accept a devil's advocate challenge.

I know that DDO is not equivalent to real-life debating, but if you've ever wondered why so few truly good real-life debaters come on to this site, then take a look at yourselves. I'll give you an example. In a few weeks I'm heading off to Australs, which as some of you may know is the second-largest debate tournament in the world. Universities from around the Asia-Pacific region allow up to 15 of their top debaters to attend. Of the hundreds of attendees, each comprising the best of their best debaters, I wonder how many use this site? Last time I went to Australs in 2010 the number was zero (I was a judge so don't count). This year I've met one other guy on this site who was hoping to be selected into his university's top 15, but he left pretty fast. I wonder how many debaters on this site have ever been to Worlds or Australs, yet alone broken at it?

Real-life debating is set up like that for a reason, and that's to ensure that debating remains about the arguments. It's fair, it's tried and it's tested. Besides that, it's a lot of fun!

So what am I advocating? Three things - first, I'd like everyone to reflect critically on what a debate really is and what it's supposed to achieve. Second, I'd like everybody who hasn't already to try a devil's advocate debate. Third, I'd like all voters to try their best to mention all of the major points in the debate, using nothing but evidence from the debate itself to describe which debater won that point. If judges could give any additional feedback to the debaters then I'd encourage that too. On a site level, this may require more characters for describing a judge's reason for voting. I'd also support a clarification to the site code of conduct that all votes need to consider arguments raised by both sides, and for the code of conduct to be made more apparent to new debaters, perhaps through a link on the about or terms page.

I know that many users on this site will see this as an attack on their freedom to debate or judge however they see fit. Fact is, though, that real-life debaters don't have a problem with it. Different judging styles and debating styles can all be accommodated easily within this framework. Of course many debaters will take no notice of this and will keep debating and judging like they always have. I appreciate that problem but think we ought to have constructive discussion around how to resolve it. A good starting point would be if more of us tried it ourselves so we can more clearly appreciate what the obstacles are. I don't know why people don't do it - as I described, I came on to the site with an understanding that everyone already did. I have some theories but I'm too short on characters to explain them all fairly.

I hope that members of the community will reflect on this with sincerity. I'm also open to alternative understandings of what a debate means and how that is best reflected on a debate website, so feel free to send me your criticisms, praise and comments. Especially the criticisms.

Thanks for your consideration,
Larztheloser
Nur-Ab-Sal
Posts: 1,637
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6/8/2012 6:58:13 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
I'm guilty of a few things you mentioned, but I agree with pretty much all of it, although I've never been in a debate team.
Genesis I. And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them.
TUF
Posts: 21,297
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6/8/2012 7:23:22 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
Tl;dr, buti agree with doing devils advocate debates. It is a great way to open up to new ideals and beliefs. My views have changed a ton since coming here.
"I've got to go and grab a shirt" ~ Airmax1227
Stephen_Hawkins
Posts: 5,316
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6/8/2012 7:35:54 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
Shall I do a defence, as a real debater? No, because I am lazy. But mostly, I do not do debates on issues which I am against in the majority of cases because the majority of debates I do will never be a real topic. For example, I am doing a debate on the Kalam argument. That will never come up in a debate. Ever. Not in any of the three tournaments i am doing.

However, recently I have done more complex motions, but even then at the vaguest of possibilities, such as "Torture is never justified". I've only seen that resolution once.

Yet still, I understand where this comes from. So, in the interest of fairness, I'll accept any debate with a resolution of more than 100 characters now, if it holds some degree of complexity whilst being easy to research: so a classic debate motion. Some examples:

This House would send soldiers to Libya.
This House would give subsidies to teenagers to have abortions.
This house would reduce the salary of the Prime Minister to the minimum wage.
This House would classify female genital mutilation as a Category 1 GBH.
This house would those who leave the United Kingdom to commit FGM abroad.
This House believes that Scotland should call a referendum next week on independence.
Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. Teach him how to be Gay, he'll positively influence the GDP.

Social Contract Theory debate: http://www.debate.org...
Logic_on_rails
Posts: 2,445
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6/8/2012 7:50:08 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
Larz, you are quite right in much of what you say. However, one must take into account the nature of debating online vs. real life, although this is only a mitigating factor in my opinion.

For instance, I am quite guilty of debating that which I support, however, prior to the debate instigation I am never immovable in my belief, nor are my debates 'run of the mill' typically (as our debate showcases) . One reason I do debates I support is because I'm particularly interested in the topic, and if I'm going to use my free time debating I'd like to spend it on topics of interest. Now, I can understand if you don't consider this debating per se, but I limit my topic choices for a reason.

As for voter feedback, it is a serious problem. Your suggestion of a longer RFD box is definitely accurate. I like to take around 1000-2000 characters evaluating a debate and pointing out the reasons for my decision. Even that can be insufficient to be truly accurate. For that reason I tend to not leave comments (I can't vote points) - it's a time consuming endeavour and my vote doesn't actually count.

One final point in my reply - I wholeheartedly agree with you on the whole validity / burden of proof point. That people simply vote for somebody based on the mere mention of an argument is ridiculous. Debaters must elaborate on their arguments, refute counterarguments and link to the resolution among other things. Merely voting for somebody for raising an idea is preposterous, yet it happens so often. I do believe that it's appropriate to presume a certain amount of prior knowledge on the audience's part, and this amount varies depending on the complexity of the resolution, but this is again only a minor mitigating factor - it does not explain the culture of voting in and of itself.
"Tis not in mortals to command success
But we"ll do more, Sempronius, we"ll deserve it
YYW
Posts: 36,263
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6/8/2012 8:44:18 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
This is perhaps the most constructive post I have seen in some time. I would submit that perhaps the reason why rhetoric takes the place of substantive debate is because of the way the "ballot" is construed. The questions are asinine.

"Do you agree or disagree before v. after?"

Of what practical value is a question like this to a ballot? The object of debate isn't to persuade, it's to debate!

"Conduct?"

Conduct doesn't mean a win or a loss, it means conduct! The two are separate! I can be an @sshole and submit better arguments, in the same rite a person can be lovely and nice, but argue like a fool!

"Spelling/Grammar?"

So long as the points are clear, what should this matter? And moreover, isn't this conduct too?

"More convincing arguments?"

The phraseology of this metric is perhaps my single greatest contention with DDO, and largely the reason that I left this site for months a while back. Every time I read an RFD that says "I don't buy [point x, y or z]" I cringe. Why? Because it's not about wether the individual judge was themselves persuaded, but rather who proffered the superior argument! The phraseology of this (the most heavily weighed section on the "ballot") invites judges to interject themselves into the debate, which is obscene in and of itself. SO many RFD's that I have read, rather than describe what actually transpired DURING a debate, in fact MAKE A CASE for why a person should or shouldn't win! It is wholly irrelevant wether a judge was THEMSELVES persuaded by a particular case, lest the votes function as a litmus for the beliefs of those who judge debates!

"Most reliable sources?"

This is my second most vehement point of contention with DDO. I have seen SO many people confuse fact with theory (debaters and judges), assert theory as fact and then argue on the basis that normative postulations are -in fact- empirical fact. What NONSENSE! Just because a person/philosopher/theorist asserted some claim, that doesn't make it objectively the case.

--

All that to say, I think most judges do, though, mean well... they just don't know how to translate that intention into action that correlates. This is the case because tangible confusion exists pertaining to even what a debate is, much less how it should be evaluated.

Larz, your points are well taken, and on the lions share of them, I wholeheartedly agree.
Tsar of DDO
larztheloser
Posts: 857
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6/8/2012 9:45:32 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
Hey everyone, thanks for the feedback. I'm glad I'm not the only one thinking these things.

Logic_on_rails, I sympathise with you not wanting to spend your free time on topics you don't care about. I think there's a tacit presumption here that debates you don't care about are going to be less fun. In fact, contrary to what might seem rational, the opposite is usually the case. Many people fondly remember their first real debates, where nobody really knew what was going on but they still enjoyed every moment of it. How many children debate about school uniforms every year? I'll bet that less than 1% of them actually care about school uniforms, but they still have a good time doing it. By contrast, people tend to get worked up and fustrated about topics they know a lot about. Besides, many of them start to care about school uniforms and learn a lot about them as a result. Team debates would minimise some of the problems around vastly different levels of knowlege on both sides but I understand everybody's been screaming that for years.

I guess my key point is that everybody on the site should at least be willing to give it a go. Formal debating is not for everyone, but trying something different every so often can't hurt. I think my point was more directed towards those who refuse to debate on a particular side of a motion because it would be devil's advocating, and I think we might have some common ground there. Everything else I completely agree with.

YYW, I think that's a really valid point and probably absolutely correct, although unfortunately a lot of the site infrastructure is built around those categories so it would be really difficult to change. It might be worth asking juggle whether the help text (that information in the boxes that comes up when you click on the "?" icons) can be changed to make it more constructive. Otherwise I'm not sure how much can be done about the voting categories. Any suggestions?
The_Fool_on_the_hill
Posts: 6,071
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6/8/2012 9:58:00 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 6/8/2012 8:48:05 PM, Ore_Ele wrote:
Holy carp!

http://www.google.com...

When did Larz start posting in the forums?

The Fool: What is really important is the different types of categories of debate. What you are speaking of larze is a style derives from a poliitcal sphere. And based of a persuasive, a mix of reason and sophism to give the best impression of a good justifaction. But its more for what we might call a debate value, rather then a Truth value.

The problem on DDO is the difference in the types of categories. Where for example scientific, debates, the formula is different. Less on Sophism/(rhetoric) More on the efficient sourcing/references, and arguements which deduce from the source. So we may want to change, the values set for this kind of debate accordingly. So this is more based on factual value.

Religious(solely) debates, depend more on, comparing biblical, sources, comparisons and and related arguments. Obviously more for faith values.

Philosophy: is the mixing pot, where rational Argumentation is highest priority. Sources less important. The debator in this sense is responsible for justifying what someone else, said. Appeal to authority is only good for a matter of fact or to pay respect to the originator of the idea you are promoting. It always up to the debator to defend it, unless they are aggreed to be taken as truth before.
Sophisms are considered fallacies. Which is of bad conduct. Thus another type of conduct may be more appropiate.
Here the Truth value rather the debate value are of importance.

Also maybe a free for all catagory could be open.
where the challanger can manipulate, the evaluting system accordingly.

And quick and easy solution, is to allow the challenger, To indicate in the acceptence round. To reallocate, the evaluation system,

Revaluations.
Conduct, also includes use of fallacies.
Or References. Are for logical soundnes.s

The Fool: Thus rathar then and appeal to tradition the Fool call for..

REFORM REFORM REFORM!!!!!!!!!!

Let the Protest begin..
"The bud disappears when the blossom breaks through, and we might say that the former is refuted by the latter; in the same way when the fruit comes, the blossom may be explained to be a false form of the plant's existence, for the fruit appears as its true nature in place of the blossom. These stages are not merely differentiated; they supplant one another as being incompatible with one another." G. W. F. HEGEL
YYW
Posts: 36,263
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6/8/2012 10:35:36 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 6/8/2012 9:45:32 PM, larztheloser wrote:

YYW, I think that's a really valid point and probably absolutely correct, although unfortunately a lot of the site infrastructure is built around those categories so it would be really difficult to change. It might be worth asking juggle whether the help text (that information in the boxes that comes up when you click on the "?" icons) can be changed to make it more constructive. Otherwise I'm not sure how much can be done about the voting categories. Any suggestions?

The problem is systematic, and so built into the structure of the site that it would be virtually impossible to reform the system sufficiently. However, changes could be made that may have a positive impact (relatively speaking, at least).

Rather than soliciting the voters opinion of which side was more persuasive, perhaps the question should be asked:

"Objectively speaking, which argument was superior?"

And:

"On a scale of 1-10, award points for the quality of those arguments."

Naturally, these are subjective questions, but may reduce some of the nonsense.

These are of course, just my suggestions.
Tsar of DDO
larztheloser
Posts: 857
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6/8/2012 11:58:48 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
I think the best we can do with voting is make sure judges know what a debate is supposed to be about, and then get them to assign votes based on a fair and through reasoning. I think your suggestions, YYW, would certainly be a lot better than the current system because it gives much clearer directions to voters who may be inexperienced at this kind of stuff.

To The_Fool_on_the_hill, thanks for your input. I appreciate that you're honest about being one of those people I talked about in my first post, who agrue to figure out the "truth." That's something I'd like to change partly because it's pointless and non-fun, but mostly because it encourages people to pick one side on a limited range of topics. I hope that you'll take my suggestions seriously.

To be fair, much debating has its roots in politics (I'd add religious apologists and jurists to the list of those who developed debating), but sophisms are thrown out by judges if identified by the other debater. Part of the skill of debating is in recognising and answering sophisms with logic. I think that's an important skill to learn.

With regards to categories, I must again disagree. Being able to source a scientific study does not constitute a good argument in a scientific debate any more than it does in a philosophical one. Biblical arguments are the same - I don't care if you can cite more Bible verses than me, I care if your argument is correct. Sourcing is done so wrong anyway - surely I can't be the only one who's fustrated at people giving the sources points to whoever had "more" sources? Furthermore, sources should only be used to support arguments, not make them - even in these kinds of debates. That's all in addition to what YYW said in his first post on this thread. I don't think truth should factor into any debate at all. If I somehow was to know that God exists, but a debater doesn't bring up a valid reason why God exists in the debate, then I should ignore the truth and give the decision based only on the arguments I have been given in the debate. Otherwise it's unfair because the judge brings issues into the debate that the debater had no chance to respond to.

I think your suggestion of allowing debaters to determine judging categories has some merit, but I foresee two problems. First, there is a presumption that instigators will actually understand what a debate is. It could be that many will force voters to give all their points to the side they think is "right". Second, there would be a strong bias towards the instigator in these criteria when they are able to set them themselves. It effectively allows them to set their own onus, which is what the judge should be doing on the basis of the resolution, not the teams.

Still, I agree with you that reform is somehow necessary.

-----
NB for those that don't know, a sophism is when you make an empty point to distract or otherwise deceive the opposition, such as repeating the same argument with different words or using emotion to mask a clear logical fallacy.
YYW
Posts: 36,263
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6/9/2012 12:48:51 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 6/8/2012 11:58:48 PM, larztheloser wrote:
I think the best we can do with voting is make sure judges know what a debate is supposed to be about, and then get them to assign votes based on a fair and through reasoning. I think your suggestions, YYW, would certainly be a lot better than the current system because it gives much clearer directions to voters who may be inexperienced at this kind of stuff.

Btw. This is the ballot that I ultimately prefer:

http://www.nflonline.org...

My suggestions are based on it.

The most fundamental problem facing the site though, ultimately, as you have keenly observed, is an observable gap in understanding what a debate actually is. On every debate I have waged pertaining to political issues, I was representing a side I don't agree with (except in one case). The benefit of debate is to force the mind to entertain a perspective that they don't necessarily agree with, which often has the salutary benefit of deepening a person's understanding of an issue. While some topics tend to be more conducive to this than others, it seems to me to be the case that judges -who bring their initial bias to the table- are unable consciously or unconsciously to shed that bias as they judge rounds. Where the beginning and end of a person's knowledge of debate is learned on DDO, I can see how they would categorically fail in the real world, but that is tangential to the point I am about to make, which is this:

The next question after establishing that voters themselves cannot properly judge rounds, for whatever reason, is wether or not that deficiency can be corrected. While of course it could, to teach via DDO and require all "voters" to take a course on formal debate would be impractical. The things that indicate poorly reasoned RFDs are terms like "I feel pro's case..." or "I just don't buy con's argument that..." or worse yet "I was appalled by con's argument that..." and etc. (I'm not saying that emotion is bad, only that it has no place in RFD's.)

Now, in the debate that I'm currently in, I fully expect to see the same nonsense as has always been problematic -especially from one user I have recently paid special attention to- but I rationalize that as an acceptable cost of debating on DDO. The bad votes don't matter to me. I hope that what I have said can be understood, but if someone votes against me because of their visceral reaction to my argument, then so be it. I expect it, and so when it comes, I'll just let it wash off. That's the best that can be done for now.

I do think, though, that by explicitly telling voters to think subjectively, that they will be more inclined to do so. I think that may help to improve at least the most easily "fixable" problem that I have observed. That is my hope, anyway. While I don't think that the overwhelming majority of voting is awful, the substantial percentage that does occur is sufficient for me to justify writing this awfully long exposition.

Regretfully though, Juggle isn't going to give a sh!t one way or another. They haven't before, why should they now?
Tsar of DDO
larztheloser
Posts: 857
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6/9/2012 1:45:56 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
YYW, I think the ideas you have communicated are not really specific to Lincoln-Douglas debating but are embraced universally across different debate formats (I say that as an Australs, World Schools and British Parliamentry debater). I agree Juggle rarely listens, but hopefully raising it as an issue will drive awareness among site users about this problem. I also fully agree with what you say about solving the issue, although I'm perhaps a little more pessimistic about the state of voting currently as my initial post suggests. Since I've written this thread I have recieved two votes, and both of them failed to meet the basic standard I set out.

On two occasions, a new debater to this site has messaged me feeling distraught that somebody has voted against them and they didn't know what they did wrong. What I always tell them is similar to what you say: the vote of one good voter is worth infinitely more than the votes of everybody else. I don't care if I win or lose. Still I think I'm an exception. People like to win, and it's unfair that the site encourages voters to vote as they are doing.

I don't think you need a debate course to understand the kinds of basic things I'm talking about, and you can see Nur-Ab-Sal's comment as proof of that. If people were to just reflect critically on what a debate is and what it's meant to accomplish, and the site changes to encourage new members to do so, then I'd be very happy.
RapidCanyon
Posts: 14
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6/9/2012 4:06:18 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
I agree with the way the voting guidelines on DDO are structured. Conduct, Spelling and Grammar and sources are an integral part of a written debate. Now the argument may arise: sources should be included in the "arguments" section as should conduct. However, I would like to point out that most legitimate members on the site only vote on arguments and ignore the points for the other categories. Those categories exist merely to penalize a debater for poor conduct etc. Sources are an important part of a debate and simply using rhetoric without backing it up with legitimate sources should not give a debater a win.

With that said, the quality of voting on this site has been on the decline. Votes are often given based on who the voter agrees with, one line votes are given which are usually countered and lead to a counter war. One of the possible ways to solve this problem is to require a minimum RFD length to all votes.
larztheloser
Posts: 857
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6/9/2012 4:30:31 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
RapidCanyon, thanks for your input. I'm honoured you selected this as your first post on this site. I'm also glad we agree that something needs to be done about voting. It's particularly interesting to me that most people seem to think voters are to blame, but that debaters are fine.

I agree that all of these factors need to be considered, including spelling and conduct, insofar as they influence the persuasiveness of a debater's argument. I think, however, that the wording of the categories encourages voters to present the votes non-constructively. I also agree with most of YYS's criticism of the wording of the categories. Ultimately all of these things influence the persuasiveness of the argument, and conduct should be regulated instead by the site code of conduct (isn't that what it's there for?).

What I think the real problem with voting is, as I've said several times before, is that voting that is biased, nonconstructive and incomplete or not based entirely on arguments used in the debate is both allowed and encouraged on this site. If a solution can be worked into the current categories then that's good, but the way they are presently described is incredibly insufficient and ignorant of what a debate truly is and means.

Minimum numbers of characters is a good idea as it would indicate to new voters the need to give detailed judgements. To save people who do joke debates I'd support having this optional, but I think it should definitely be there. For starters, though, let's settle on increasing the maximum RFD character limit.
Stephen_Hawkins
Posts: 5,316
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6/9/2012 8:19:58 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
Larz, care to do a BP debate? I really don't do enough of them. On any of the issues I presented (for the record, know bugger all about most of them :D)

Of course, we'd need some seconds, but still.
Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. Teach him how to be Gay, he'll positively influence the GDP.

Social Contract Theory debate: http://www.debate.org...
Stephen_Hawkins
Posts: 5,316
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6/9/2012 8:22:20 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 6/9/2012 4:30:31 AM, larztheloser wrote:
RapidCanyon, thanks for your input. I'm honoured you selected this as your first post on this site. I'm also glad we agree that something needs to be done about voting. It's particularly interesting to me that most people seem to think voters are to blame, but that debaters are fine.

I agree that all of these factors need to be considered, including spelling and conduct, insofar as they influence the persuasiveness of a debater's argument. I think, however, that the wording of the categories encourages voters to present the votes non-constructively. I also agree with most of YYS's criticism of the wording of the categories. Ultimately all of these things influence the persuasiveness of the argument, and conduct should be regulated instead by the site code of conduct (isn't that what it's there for?).

What I think the real problem with voting is, as I've said several times before, is that voting that is biased, nonconstructive and incomplete or not based entirely on arguments used in the debate is both allowed and encouraged on this site. If a solution can be worked into the current categories then that's good, but the way they are presently described is incredibly insufficient and ignorant of what a debate truly is and means.

Minimum numbers of characters is a good idea as it would indicate to new voters the need to give detailed judgements. To save people who do joke debates I'd support having this optional, but I think it should definitely be there. For starters, though, let's settle on increasing the maximum RFD character limit.

I'd think this is true. The limitation does make long RFDs unwanted. However, in real debates you have one or two judges (at least in my major debate field, Maces), who don't need to even give an opinion on why. Then again, these are judges both sides agree on and trust. Possibly we can have the idea of voting restrictions purely on number of debate wins minimum, but that's it, really.
Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. Teach him how to be Gay, he'll positively influence the GDP.

Social Contract Theory debate: http://www.debate.org...
larztheloser
Posts: 857
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6/9/2012 8:49:01 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
Stephen_Hawkins, I'd be happy to do any debate, including in BP format. Not sure how you intend to make it work (do closing speakers message their rounds or something?) but certainly willing to do it. I'd prefer a closing team role because I have exams until Wednesday and might need some chill out time. If you like you can roll a die to determine which of your shortlist we debate, although I think #5 might be a bit UK-specific the way it has been phrased.

My understanding of Maces (correct me if I'm wrong) is that judges go through an accreditation process before they can judge. I think that if they've been taught what a debate is and how to judge one, then I would be happy to trust them. On this site, too many judges and debaters are failing to understand what a debate is - I don't think that's a significant problem for Mace competitions.
Stephen_Hawkins
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6/9/2012 8:58:17 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 6/9/2012 8:49:01 AM, larztheloser wrote:
Stephen_Hawkins, I'd be happy to do any debate, including in BP format. Not sure how you intend to make it work (do closing speakers message their rounds or something?) but certainly willing to do it. I'd prefer a closing team role because I have exams until Wednesday and might need some chill out time. If you like you can roll a die to determine which of your shortlist we debate, although I think #5 might be a bit UK-specific the way it has been phrased.

Yes, for the BRITISH Parliamentary debate, by the BRITISH student, I chose a British motion. :D lol. But on a serious point, if you'd be willing to pick one, and round up a second speaker, and (due to time limit being 5 minutes) give a, say, 4000 character limit, we can do the debate, then post it publicly to be voted on, through a round-robin voting system? That is, post the debate 7 times (1v2, 1v3, 1v4, 2v2, 2v3, 2v4, 3v4) and then get the decision, but that's a lot of debates... we need an actual BP system. Or shall we just do the best side wins, then best individual of the best side?

My understanding of Maces (correct me if I'm wrong) is that judges go through an accreditation process before they can judge. I think that if they've been taught what a debate is and how to judge one, then I would be happy to trust them. On this site, too many judges and debaters are failing to understand what a debate is - I don't think that's a significant problem for Mace competitions.
Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. Teach him how to be Gay, he'll positively influence the GDP.

Social Contract Theory debate: http://www.debate.org...
YYW
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6/9/2012 2:12:39 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 6/9/2012 8:22:20 AM, Stephen_Hawkins wrote:
At 6/9/2012 4:30:31 AM, larztheloser wrote:
RapidCanyon, thanks for your input. I'm honoured you selected this as your first post on this site. I'm also glad we agree that something needs to be done about voting. It's particularly interesting to me that most people seem to think voters are to blame, but that debaters are fine.

I agree that all of these factors need to be considered, including spelling and conduct, insofar as they influence the persuasiveness of a debater's argument. I think, however, that the wording of the categories encourages voters to present the votes non-constructively. I also agree with most of YYS's criticism of the wording of the categories. Ultimately all of these things influence the persuasiveness of the argument, and conduct should be regulated instead by the site code of conduct (isn't that what it's there for?).

What I think the real problem with voting is, as I've said several times before, is that voting that is biased, nonconstructive and incomplete or not based entirely on arguments used in the debate is both allowed and encouraged on this site. If a solution can be worked into the current categories then that's good, but the way they are presently described is incredibly insufficient and ignorant of what a debate truly is and means.

Minimum numbers of characters is a good idea as it would indicate to new voters the need to give detailed judgements. To save people who do joke debates I'd support having this optional, but I think it should definitely be there. For starters, though, let's settle on increasing the maximum RFD character limit.

I'd think this is true. The limitation does make long RFDs unwanted. However, in real debates you have one or two judges (at least in my major debate field, Maces), who don't need to even give an opinion on why. Then again, these are judges both sides agree on and trust. Possibly we can have the idea of voting restrictions purely on number of debate wins minimum, but that's it, really.

(That depends on what type of debate, btw.) But.... Hmmm.... perhaps each side recruits and agrees on judges beforehand on DDO? That could be interesting.
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Stephen_Hawkins
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6/9/2012 2:34:21 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
On evaluation, I think it is better to have yourself message someone you respect and get them to vote. Smaller voting communities are the best idea tbh.
Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. Teach him how to be Gay, he'll positively influence the GDP.

Social Contract Theory debate: http://www.debate.org...
larztheloser
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6/9/2012 3:47:32 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
I would like that idea but that's still presuming people will message competent judges. In my view, since 90% of the judges on this site don't know what they're doing, the solution is unlikely to solve the problem. What we really need is to encourage the others to re-evaluate how they judge. Longer RFDs would be a good start. I'm also hoping more voters can read my rant at the start and hopefully gain an appreciation of what a good vote should look like. IMO the "Debate.org Orientation" is hopeless when it comes to voting.

About BP debating, it can be easily done on this site in classical format (that is, no clash between opening and closing teams) if each "team" only has one debater. I figure that like this:

R1 - Acceptance, Rules
R2 - Prime Minister
R3 - Leader of the Opposition
R4 - Government Member
R5 - Opposition Member

The only problem is that the closing speakers will not be able to post their rounds. That's why I suggested a messaging system. For voting, people would list the teams in the order in which they'd rank them in the comments box, and assign points however they feel is appropriate based on that evaluation. This avoids having 7 separate "debates" for only one BP debate lol.
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6/9/2012 3:54:00 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 6/9/2012 3:47:32 PM, larztheloser wrote:
I would like that idea but that's still presuming people will message competent judges. In my view, since 90% of the judges on this site don't know what they're doing, the solution is unlikely to solve the problem. What we really need is to encourage the others to re-evaluate how they judge. Longer RFDs would be a good start. I'm also hoping more voters can read my rant at the start and hopefully gain an appreciation of what a good vote should look like. IMO the "Debate.org Orientation" is hopeless when it comes to voting.

About BP debating, it can be easily done on this site in classical format (that is, no clash between opening and closing teams) if each "team" only has one debater. I figure that like this:

R1 - Acceptance, Rules
R2 - Prime Minister
R3 - Leader of the Opposition
R4 - Government Member
R5 - Opposition Member

The only problem is that the closing speakers will not be able to post their rounds. That's why I suggested a messaging system. For voting, people would list the teams in the order in which they'd rank them in the comments box, and assign points however they feel is appropriate based on that evaluation. This avoids having 7 separate "debates" for only one BP debate lol.

I would just like about 8k characters for my RFD.
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YYW
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6/9/2012 4:01:47 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 6/9/2012 3:58:11 PM, larztheloser wrote:
At 6/9/2012 3:54:00 PM, YYW wrote:

I would just like about 8k characters for my RFD.

I think that's fair.

I would also like 16k characters for debate rounds...
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Stephen_Hawkins
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6/9/2012 5:18:09 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 6/9/2012 3:47:32 PM, larztheloser wrote:
I would like that idea but that's still presuming people will message competent judges. In my view, since 90% of the judges on this site don't know what they're doing, the solution is unlikely to solve the problem. What we really need is to encourage the others to re-evaluate how they judge. Longer RFDs would be a good start. I'm also hoping more voters can read my rant at the start and hopefully gain an appreciation of what a good vote should look like. IMO the "Debate.org Orientation" is hopeless when it comes to voting.

About BP debating, it can be easily done on this site in classical format (that is, no clash between opening and closing teams) if each "team" only has one debater. I figure that like this:

R1 - Acceptance, Rules
R2 - Prime Minister
R3 - Leader of the Opposition
R4 - Government Member
R5 - Opposition Member

The only problem is that the closing speakers will not be able to post their rounds. That's why I suggested a messaging system. For voting, people would list the teams in the order in which they'd rank them in the comments box, and assign points however they feel is appropriate based on that evaluation. This avoids having 7 separate "debates" for only one BP debate lol.

Lol. Probably the sensible idea.

About the actual debating format, I am thinking:

Prime Minister {1}
Leader of the Opposition {2}
Deputy Prime Minister {1}
Deputy Leader of the Opposition {2}
Backbencher for the Government {3}
Backbencher for the Opposition {4}
Government Whip {3}
Opposition Whip {4}

As order, each being a separate round. Also, I've almost always been a second speaker, so going as closer or PM/OO would be nice. But the separation is important. So, I suggest sending the debate as a message between the two users, and due to the 5 minute speaking limit make a 4000 character limit per person, then post the PM/Leader of the Opposition in one debater's round, then Deputies another round, then Backbenchers third round, then Whips final round. That would get around all the problems. Or, two separate debates - but this would defeat the BP point slightly, I think.
Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. Teach him how to be Gay, he'll positively influence the GDP.

Social Contract Theory debate: http://www.debate.org...
SuburbiaSurvivor
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6/9/2012 6:11:53 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 6/9/2012 12:48:51 AM, YYW wrote:
At 6/8/2012 11:58:48 PM, larztheloser wrote:
I think the best we can do with voting is make sure judges know what a debate is supposed to be about, and then get them to assign votes based on a fair and through reasoning. I think your suggestions, YYW, would certainly be a lot better than the current system because it gives much clearer directions to voters who may be inexperienced at this kind of stuff.

Btw. This is the ballot that I ultimately prefer:

http://www.nflonline.org...

My suggestions are based on it.

The most fundamental problem facing the site though, ultimately, as you have keenly observed, is an observable gap in understanding what a debate actually is. On every debate I have waged pertaining to political issues, I was representing a side I don't agree with (except in one case). The benefit of debate is to force the mind to entertain a perspective that they don't necessarily agree with, which often has the salutary benefit of deepening a person's understanding of an issue. While some topics tend to be more conducive to this than others, it seems to me to be the case that judges -who bring their initial bias to the table- are unable consciously or unconsciously to shed that bias as they judge rounds. Where the beginning and end of a person's knowledge of debate is learned on DDO, I can see how they would categorically fail in the real world, but that is tangential to the point I am about to make, which is this:

The next question after establishing that voters themselves cannot properly judge rounds, for whatever reason, is wether or not that deficiency can be corrected. While of course it could, to teach via DDO and require all "voters" to take a course on formal debate would be impractical. The things that indicate poorly reasoned RFDs are terms like "I feel pro's case..." or "I just don't buy con's argument that..." or worse yet "I was appalled by con's argument that..." and etc. (I'm not saying that emotion is bad, only that it has no place in RFD's.)

Now, in the debate that I'm currently in, I fully expect to see the same nonsense as has always been problematic -especially from one user I have recently paid special attention to- but I rationalize that as an acceptable cost of debating on DDO. The bad votes don't matter to me. I hope that what I have said can be understood, but if someone votes against me because of their visceral reaction to my argument, then so be it. I expect it, and so when it comes, I'll just let it wash off. That's the best that can be done for now.

I do think, though, that by explicitly telling voters to think subjectively, that they will be more inclined to do so. I think that may help to improve at least the most easily "fixable" problem that I have observed. That is my hope, anyway. While I don't think that the overwhelming majority of voting is awful, the substantial percentage that does occur is sufficient for me to justify writing this awfully long exposition.

Regretfully though, Juggle isn't going to give a sh!t one way or another. They haven't before, why should they now?

I just looked at how that voting works for the link you posted. That is absolutely stellar. I whole-heartedly support a reform to make voting become more similar to the voting of the National Forensic League.

From what Larz is saying, he sounds like the most qualified person on this site to make suggestions for voting reform.
"I'm going to tell you something that you're never going to forget, SuburbiaSurvivor. Women... Are just human beings"
SuburbiaSurvivor
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6/9/2012 6:20:38 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 6/7/2012 7:39:17 PM, larztheloser wrote:
Hello DDO,

I just thought I'd share some of my views with the community about what debating actually means.

Debating can be roughly defined as the process of formal argument, and various dictionaries will give various variations on that. It follows that if one has skill at debating, one is skilled at constructing and presenting a formally-arranged and articulated case (which I use to denote a series of arguments supporting the debater's side on the proposition). That skill must be general - a person who knows and presents only a single case cannot be said to be a skilled debater, even if that argument is very very good. That's the difference between debate and rhetoric - in rhetoric you simply must convince an audience that you're a good rhetoritician, thus using the same case in every speech you give is fine.

It was my presumption, on first joining the site, that people knew and understood that. Debates are about who can present the better argument, which is judged through the mechanism of burden of proof. At the time voters did not give reasons for their adjudications as that functionality wasn't there yet, so I just assumed that this was what everyone was doing. After some time, to my disappointment, I began to recognise that certain debaters would only seem to do certain types of motions. I was horrified to learn that some debaters turned down debates because they disagreed with the resolution. As a real-life debater, I could barely imagine that - a team forfeiting because they didn't agree? Half the debates would end in forfeits!

To make matters worse, when comments began coming around in the judging field, I noticed very few actually made reference to the arguments that were raised in the debate. People have sent me praise for my in-depth adjudications, but by real-life standards my adjudications would be about as shallow as would be permissible. Those that did usually did so on quite arbitrary criteria. I've even had people vote against me because they thought my arguments were devil's advocate arguments (meaning arguing on other side of the debate than one's personal beliefs). All of these behaviours are fully supported by the site code of conduct (http://www.debate.org...). Indeed the site about page seems to suggest voters should vote based on the validity of arguments, regardless of whether the issues of validity came up in the debate at all (http://www.debate.org...).

I've even had many people who tried to tell me burden of proof is irrelevant to debating or voting, and that it's all about who's right or wrong.

What's more troubling about this is that most people will agree debating is about improvement. How can somebody improve when they're not being told what they need to do to improve. Be honest - how many votes have you actually seen that have described WHY one argument won out over another, if the arguments were even touched upon, and how many of those used a "why" actually given in the debate? I just did a quick survey of my three most recent debates. Of the 13 votes cast, only three met this basic standard. One of those three incorrectly placed the burden of proof. All three ignored key arguments on both sides. And of course, of the three debates, one of them may not have happened if my opponent had known I was playing the devil's advocate.

I mentioned this briefly in one of my recent debates but I think the discussion is probably better-suited to the forum - this site is designed in such a way that undermines debating and encourages dull rhetoric and non-constructive votes. There I was saying it in the context of the big issues - even if they encourage debates, the debates they encourage are based on personal beliefs. Same thing with most of the personal details boxes, such as religion or candidate. Users encourage others to identify when they are devil's advocating. There are even devil's advocate tournaments I've seen for this purpose. That's a problem because lots of users are here to try to find out the "truth" rather than merely challenge each other to debates. What they do is type up their own beliefs, wait for somebody else to type out theirs, and then pit them against each other to a voter crowd that won't take much notice of their arguments anyway. Usually, these members leave after less than a year, but a few still hang around. You know who you are. I'd say the majority of debaters on this site fall into that category. What they fail to recognise that these debates never establish any truth, making it all a bit of a waste of time. Still, none of these debaters would ever accept a devil's advocate challenge.

I know that DDO is not equivalent to real-life debating, but if you've ever wondered why so few truly good real-life debaters come on to this site, then take a look at yourselves. I'll give you an example. In a few weeks I'm heading off to Australs, which as some of you may know is the second-largest debate tournament in the world. Universities from around the Asia-Pacific region allow up to 15 of their top debaters to attend. Of the hundreds of attendees, each comprising the best of their best debaters, I wonder how many use this site? Last time I went to Australs in 2010 the number was zero (I was a judge so don't count). This year I've met one other guy on this site who was hoping to be selected into his university's top 15, but he left pretty fast. I wonder how many debaters on this site have ever been to Worlds or Australs, yet alone broken at it?

Real-life debating is set up like that for a reason, and that's to ensure that debating remains about the arguments. It's fair, it's tried and it's tested. Besides that, it's a lot of fun!

So what am I advocating? Three things - first, I'd like everyone to reflect critically on what a debate really is and what it's supposed to achieve. Second, I'd like everybody who hasn't already to try a devil's advocate debate. Third, I'd like all voters to try their best to mention all of the major points in the debate, using nothing but evidence from the debate itself to describe which debater won that point. If judges could give any additional feedback to the debaters then I'd encourage that too. On a site level, this may require more characters for describing a judge's reason for voting. I'd also support a clarification to the site code of conduct that all votes need to consider arguments raised by both sides, and for the code of conduct to be made more apparent to new debaters, perhaps through a link on the about or terms page.

I know that many users on this site will see this as an attack on their freedom to debate or judge however they see fit. Fact is, though, that real-life debaters don't have a problem with it. Different judging styles and debating styles can all be accommodated easily within this framework. Of course many debaters will take no notice of this and will keep debating and judging like they always have. I appreciate that problem but think we ought to have constructive discussion around how to resolve it. A good starting point would be if more of us tried it ourselves so we can more clearly appreciate what the obstacles are. I don't know why people don't do it - as I described, I came on to the site with an understanding that everyone already did. I have some theories but I'm too short on characters to explain them all fairly.

I hope that members of the community will reflect on this with sincerity. I'm also open to alternative understandings of what a debate means and how that is best reflected on a debate website, so feel free to send me your criticisms, praise and comments. Especially the criticisms.

I really like these ideas. I'm not sure what sort of change you're specifically suggesting, or how you're suggesting it be implimented, but I like the ideas presented.
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