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Change to voting system

bluesteel
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3/10/2014 1:17:49 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
I was going to lobby for the voting system to be changed on here. Mikal urged me to debate the issue, so i decided to put off my campaign until after that debate concluded. Since I'm out now, it's up to you guys if you want to include this in your next round of proposals to Juggle. My proposal and the reasons behind it is laid out here:

http://www.debate.org...
You can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into - Jonathan Swift (paraphrase)
YYW
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3/10/2014 1:54:13 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 3/10/2014 1:17:49 AM, bluesteel wrote:
I was going to lobby for the voting system to be changed on here. Mikal urged me to debate the issue, so i decided to put off my campaign until after that debate concluded. Since I'm out now, it's up to you guys if you want to include this in your next round of proposals to Juggle. My proposal and the reasons behind it is laid out here:

http://www.debate.org...

I would fully support this.
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bsh1
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3/10/2014 10:01:33 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
I agree with this up to a point. Are you proposing then, the there just be one up or down vote (win/loss) with no other ancillary points assigned?

In IRL debate (I did LD) we also have speaker points to indicate the breadth of the win and to indicate where debaters' skill levels were. Is this something that you would also factor in, after the win/loss.
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TheAntidoter
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3/10/2014 10:16:14 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
What is this about a presidency run in the past????????????????

YOU'VE RUN FOR PREZ??????????????????????????
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Subutai
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3/10/2014 2:02:47 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 3/10/2014 1:17:49 AM, bluesteel wrote:
I was going to lobby for the voting system to be changed on here. Mikal urged me to debate the issue, so i decided to put off my campaign until after that debate concluded. Since I'm out now, it's up to you guys if you want to include this in your next round of proposals to Juggle. My proposal and the reasons behind it is laid out here:

http://www.debate.org...

At first, I was skeptical. But after reading your reasons, and then your rebuttals to your opponent's objections, I actually think it is a good system.
I'm becoming less defined as days go by, fading away, and well you might say, I'm losing focus, kinda drifting into the abstract in terms of how I see myself.
bluesteel
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3/10/2014 2:14:02 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 3/10/2014 10:01:33 AM, bsh1 wrote:
I agree with this up to a point. Are you proposing then, the there just be one up or down vote (win/loss) with no other ancillary points assigned?

yes.

In IRL debate (I did LD) we also have speaker points to indicate the breadth of the win and to indicate where debaters' skill levels were. Is this something that you would also factor in, after the win/loss.

If the community wants it, TUF proposed a system like speaker points where the judges could still award those categories (conduct, sources, etc) symbolically, but they wouldn't be awarded any signifance in deciding the winner of the debate [so they wouldn't be assigned any points].

You're right that all those things factor into speaker points in LD. But speaker points rarely do anything for you. Record is more dispositive in determining seeding (i.e. it's way better to be undefeated than to have the highest speaks at the tournament but have the lowest win-loss ratio possible to still break). You also can get a speaker award, but those are merely symbolic. No one really cares about those. I think someone would rather get a TOC bid than a speaker award, which means that getting to Octos at Berkeley is better than getting first place speaker. Speaker points obviously offer some inducement for good conduct etc, but honestly, most judges award speaks based on rhetorical ability, not conduct. I've only ever seen extreme conduct violations punished with bad speaks. And usually even *that* doesn't matter because the tournament drops your lowest and highest speaks when calculating your total. So you have to be a complete a-hole consistently for it to matter. I think a system like TUF's resembles speaker points a lot more than the current system (which essentially makes "speaker points" [S&G, conduct, and soruces] worth MORE to the final outcome [4 points] than the actual win itself [best argument - 3 points]).
You can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into - Jonathan Swift (paraphrase)
bluesteel
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3/10/2014 2:20:01 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
@bsh

Also, speaks only matter (for determining the "breadth of a win") at tournaments to determine seeding. Most debates on DDO are one-off events. At least in our league, we don't award speaker points for normal league tournaments because those are just four one-off debates. There are no "elimination rounds," so there's no reason to award speaks. Since DDO rarely has tournaments (and when it does, ELO can be used for seeding rather than speaks), there is no need for the equivalent of speaker points.

Also, in our league, when we do elims (at state and nat quals), we count ballot count much higher than speaks in seeding (since there are three judges per round). So to the extent DDO does seed, it makes more sense to seed based on how many total voters a person had in a tournament (e.g. if there are five judges per debate, is the person consistently winning all five, or are these split decisions) rather than using small S&G errors or minor conduct violations to determine seeding order.
You can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into - Jonathan Swift (paraphrase)
ConservativePolitico
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3/10/2014 2:37:32 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
One person, one vote makes sense. It would force people to write comprehensive RFDs and it would also allow the best debater to win outright without and shadiness.

In theory, a person could have undeniably better arguments, two people may give him the points for arguments (6 points) but may have had a misspelling and a single rude ad hom attack in his debate.

The opponent could enlist his friends to forgo the points about arguments and award him conduct and grammar points. It would only take a few of these friends to overpower the person who is a better debater giving the victory to the lesser of the two based on the current point system. This is wrong. Not only is it wrong but it forces us the enlist time and man power from mods to combat this kind of BS voting.

The better debater should always win. A single vote with a good RFD would be both hard to BS and hard to skew in the favor of the lesser debater.
RoyLatham
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3/10/2014 4:01:15 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
I'm opposed to the change. The differences between on-line and academic debating include:

1. Academic debating has judges who are experienced at weighing factors to arrive at a bottom line. Compare debate judging to the judges in a skill sport like gymnastics or figure skating. There is an elaborate point system for scoring skill sports, but only the total score is reported. How would an audience know how to judge a stumble on a gymnastics landing or weigh completion of a more difficult maneuver? The average person would need a template to come up with anything close to a fair score.

2. Academic debating is done with the only objective of improving the skills of the debaters. On-line debate also has the objective of informing an audience of readers. There is rarely an audience at all in academic debate, and when there is it for top debaters who are not going to be incoherent or fail to support arguments with sources. Explicitly grading conduct, S&G, and sources serves the audience for the debate, would have volunteered to read the debate and deserve to be catered to.

3. Academic debating uses pre-determined topics that do little to challenge the research skills of the debaters. The team buys canned research, or they pool research, or they cull sources from past debates. On line debate, and the real world, depends upon heavily on the skills of doing research and presenting it. Some debate topics don't depend upon sources, but that's the exception and there it's always possible to tie the category. Debates without a factual basis can be meaningful, especially if the two sides agree to certain premises. But more often they are just hot air.

4. Academic debate is rehearsed, or at least practiced in repeated debates on the same subject. That means they are more likely to be coherent. Making a new case coherent is not tested as it is on-line.

5. While many DDO members have experience with academic debate, in certain respects that develops bad habits: relying excessively on canned research, debating in a jargon-laden style that pleases judges but is incomprehensible to ordinary people, worrying about answering every argument rather than making quality arguments, lack of experience in writing resolutions and analyzing defective resolutions, and debating new subjects in which a case must be made from scratch. I think DDO is more like the real world than academic debating.

I doubt it's easier to vote bomb with more categories than less. An RFD has to justify the vote in each category. Because a purpose of a DDO debate is to serve the readers as well as the debaters, it is fair for debater to lose a close debate despite "better arguments" if he fails to make the debate readily comprehensible to readers.

The basic fault in the proposed change is that it assumes "professional," i.e., highly qualified judges than arrive at the debate knowing, for example, how much inferior sourcing should count relative to an error in logic. The voting categories help sort that out for the average reader.

I favor developing a more elaborate voting template, like the templates used for judging skilled sports, that would help DDO members become better judges. It would also provide a way for the site to come to a consensus on how much the different aspects of a debate ought to be weighed in judging.
bluesteel
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3/10/2014 4:16:23 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
My response from the comments section of the debate thread:

> Academic debating has judges who are experienced at weighing factors to arrive at a bottom line

Only sometimes. At the high school level, about half of competitions are judged by "lay judges" (usually parents of competitors from a school that it is not involved in the debate). I honestly prefer lay judges because they vote on "total persuasion" rather than a formula since it forces debaters to make more "real world" arguments (as opposed to the typical weird "everything leads to nuclear war" arguments that are common in policy debate.

I guess the basic flaw with #1 is that anyone can judge the persuasiveness of an argument, whereas not everyone can judge how good figure skating is. To the extent that we want people to follow templates though, DDO does not have a very desirable one. If I were making a template from scratch, I would include far more points for "best argument" type issues (e.g. 3 points - this debater built a better initial case, 5 points - this debater offered better rebuttals to his opponents arguments, 9 points - this debater did a better job of explaining his arguments to the audience, such as defining technical terms and explaining technical concepts). If DDO were going to keep the point system because it needs a template, I would be in favor of the template being completely reformed. The 7 point system was drafted randomly by Phil (the site's founder) - as far as I can tell - not by someone who has professionally judged debates. So the actual categories used and the weights given each are somewhat non-sensical.

>On-line debate also has the objective of informing an audience of readers.

I don't debate for this reason on this site. I debate for fun and to improve my skills only, which is why I sometimes play devil's advocate. Honestly, yours (Roy) are the only debates I would actually read on the site to educate myself on an issue, and only because you're a phenomenal writer and often present a point of view I don't see elsewhere.

But if i really wanted to learn about a subject, I'd research it myself or buy a book on the topic. I come here and read debates mostly as a favor to the debaters and only to judge their debate skills in that particular debate. To each his own is okay I guess, but I doubt that you or anyone else reads the vast majority of debates here to significantly change their views on an issue.

>Academic debating uses pre-determined topics that do little to challenge the research skills of the debaters

Only for policy (and LD to some extent). In public form and parli, debaters research topics entirely themselves, and these events work fine with only a winner/loser chosen. More than any other event, public forum mirrors what I was talking about - the judges are almost always "lay" judges, not coaches or former debaters. The topic changes each month, so debaters have to do a lot of their own research. And it all works out okay. In addition, for events where people often do buy briefs (such as policy or LD), the debaters who do original research almost always do much better (in spite of their not being sources points) because the briefs often suck. People rely on briefs in policy only because the research burden is too heavy. But teams (like College Prep) that can afford to pay college students to cut evidence for them often do better than teams that rely on files from fellow high schoolers (from the summer debate camps).

>Academic debate is rehearsed

I'm not really sure how this is relevant. In public forum, policy, LD etc, the debaters simply read their first round off a piece of paper. Everything is pre-written, the same as all the rounds are online. Academic debate is slightly harder because rebuttal speeches are not pre-written and must often be done "off the cuff" or prepared with very limited prep time. But I'm not sure how any of this affects the points system. If I did understand, I'd be happy to offer my perspective.

>I doubt it's easier to vote bomb with more categories than less. An RFD has to justify the vote in each category

Conduct, S&G, and sources are more subjective than arguments. I've seen Airmax remove votes that say, "Pro won cuz God exists, so Con is just wrong." It becomes kind of clear when the person didn't really read the debate. The rest of the categories - not so much. "Pro had better conduct" - according to Airmax, that is sufficient to justify a conduct vote. "Pro had better [or more] sources" - sufficient to justify a sources vote. "Pro had better spelling" - sufficient to justify an S&G vote. Plus, it's hard to argue with the inherent logic that if someone thinks "Okay, I didn't really read this, but I want Pro to win [because Pro is my friend and I just agree with his position fundamentally]," then the more points at that person's disposal, the worse that vote will be as a "subtle" vote bomb [as opposed to a explicit vote bomb]. It is harder to counter a 6 point suble vote bomb than a 3 point one.

Also, the thresholds people require to win S&G, sources, and conduct are too low. I've seen having one more source or a single broken link as grounds for losing sources points. I've seen a single snide remark or using an offline source as grounds for a conduct loss. I've seen two misspelled words as being grounds for an S&G loss. While "arguments" require a consideration of totality of the circumstances, the other 4 points are often awarded for really nitpicky things. The fact that the 4 points swamps the 3 points makes this even worse. I think we've all been there. We're winning and then suddenly a voter nitpicks like crazy in his vote and we're suddenly losing the debate or our lead is erased.

If every vote garnered 50 voters, it wouldn't matter if a few people abused the point system. But when the more typical debates garner an average of 2-3 voters, a single point-abuser can really affect the outcome. I'd be surprised if anyone with more than 30 debates cannot think of a single debate off the top of their head that they should have but lost because only 2 people voted and one person voted strategically or unfairly.
You can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into - Jonathan Swift (paraphrase)
bsh1
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3/10/2014 4:16:28 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
I think, given the points that you raised, a voting system that awards 1, 1, 2 for Conduct, S/G, and Sources, respectively, and 5 points for the overall win, is good.

My only further concerns is that this is all very rigid. I understand that speaker points don't really mean much in practical terms on DDO, but a system whereby points are allotted in a fixed system like that concerns me.

For example, if I felt that Pro presented the better arguments, but that his/her conduct was so egregious that they deserved not to win, I would find it hard to reconcile not giving Pro args (which he/she earned) know that by doing so, I prevent Con from winning.

Does this make sense? I guess my concerns is that judging is inherently subjective, and that the sliding scale model used by speaker points better reflects that.
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bluesteel
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3/10/2014 4:30:15 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
>a voting system that awards 1, 1, 2 for Conduct, S/G, and Sources, respectively, and 5 points for the overall win, is good.

well i'll agree that's better. i just responded to roy (above) about how i might alter the system if starting from scratch and using a template for inexperienced judges (such as awarding points for a good rebuttal or dropped arguments). I think sources are currently weighted way too highly if they are going to be a factor, so increasing arg's to 5 points would help. Your proposal is a good middle ground. But it still sticks us with 3 rather arbitrary categories and point assignments decided by Phil a long time ago.

If you really want a good template, you need more categories. But if you add categories, suddenly judging takes more time because you need to re-read to decide who won each sub-divided issue. I assume people rarely award sources points on this site precisely because of the time barrier to fact-checking sources. So if you add categories like "better rebuttal," people still might not use them unless they are choosing to vote strategically.

>For example, if I felt that Pro presented the better arguments, but that his/her conduct was so egregious that they deserved not to win, I would find it hard to reconcile not giving Pro args (which he/she earned) know that by doing so, I prevent Con from winning.

I .... guess. I'm not sure I understand this. If we're talking like an izbo level conduct violation (like telling some poor teenager that he is an idiot for half the debate and using cuss words at him), then voting one conduct point to the other side doesn't seem drastic enough to me. It actually seems to condone the behavior. It's like saying - your conduct can be as bad as you want, just win the argument point. If you remove the conduct point category though, you yourself are saying that you'd be more tempted to award the full win to Con, even though Pro had better arguments [which should be the outcome for a really really bad conduct violation].
You can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into - Jonathan Swift (paraphrase)
bluesteel
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3/10/2014 4:37:37 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
>I guess my concerns is that judging is inherently subjective, and that the sliding scale model used by speaker points better reflects that.

I debated and coached for a long time and still consider speaker points to be irrelevant. And that's even when i had 8 teams in elims at Berkeley.

I care only about wins-losses.

Regardless, judges also award speaker points based on some subjective feeling of who "spoke better." Invitational ballots rarely sub-divide speaker points by sub-category. It's usually just writing how many points the team should get (between 20 and 30) on a line on the ballot.

Maybe this is just an "agree to disagree" thing, but I think speaker points are something fundamentally different from a "sources" point, since they aren't affecting win-loss. They aren't very predictive honestly. I've seen the top seed win the tournament a lot more often than the #1 speaker (except in the very rare case where it is the same person).
You can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into - Jonathan Swift (paraphrase)
mrsatan
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3/10/2014 9:14:17 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 3/10/2014 4:30:15 PM, bluesteel wrote:

>For example, if I felt that Pro presented the better arguments, but that his/her conduct was so egregious that they deserved not to win, I would find it hard to reconcile not giving Pro args (which he/she earned) know that by doing so, I prevent Con from winning.

I .... guess. I'm not sure I understand this. If we're talking like an izbo level conduct violation (like telling some poor teenager that he is an idiot for half the debate and using cuss words at him), then voting one conduct point to the other side doesn't seem drastic enough to me. It actually seems to condone the behavior. It's like saying - your conduct can be as bad as you want, just win the argument point. If you remove the conduct point category though, you yourself are saying that you'd be more tempted to award the full win to Con, even though Pro had better arguments [which should be the outcome for a really really bad conduct violation].

If you're arguments are better, and you'd easily win with good conduct, then I think you should still win regardless of how bad your conduct is. However, if poor conduct reaches that kind of level, it should be reported to the moderators, who should come up with a system in which repeat offenses to a high degree (or one-time offenses to a deplorable degree) would result in suspension/banning of debating privileges (for all I know, they already have such a system).

IMO, if you can't debate in a generally respectful manner, you shouldn't be debating at all. Everyone gets frustrated from time to time and steam can be let off where it shouldn't (and normally wouldn't), so it can be excused every so often, to a point, but there is a point where it should not be tolerated any longer, or at all.

As to minor conduct offenses, I would say 1 point is fair and can be an appropriate deciding factor in a close debate.
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Jonbonbon
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3/10/2014 9:33:38 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 3/10/2014 10:26:26 AM, MassiveDump wrote:
Finally. A proposed change to the voting system that isn't complicated as hell.
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TUF
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3/11/2014 12:10:07 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
I talked to bluesteel about this for a while and finally agreed that there were more benefits than harms to this change. I was against it at first, but I can't think of anymore problems with this than what currently exist, so I think I am for it. I told bluesteel I would work on something to submit to juggle when I had a chance, but I guess it is good that we get some public feedback before I do work on it rather than after.
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yay842
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3/11/2014 12:15:00 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 3/10/2014 9:33:38 PM, Jonbonbon wrote:
At 3/10/2014 10:26:26 AM, MassiveDump wrote:
Finally. A proposed change to the voting system that isn't complicated as hell.

it's still pretty complicated, i mean cmon, im not gonna read these walls of words that are too long to penetrate my thick skull
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Ragnar
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3/11/2014 12:25:10 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 3/10/2014 4:01:15 PM, RoyLatham wrote:
I favor developing a more elaborate voting template, like the templates used for judging skilled sports, that would help DDO members become better judges. It would also provide a way for the site to come to a consensus on how much the different aspects of a debate ought to be weighed in judging.
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bluesteel
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3/11/2014 2:03:27 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 3/11/2014 12:25:10 AM, Ragnar wrote:
At 3/10/2014 4:01:15 PM, RoyLatham wrote:
I favor developing a more elaborate voting template, like the templates used for judging skilled sports, that would help DDO members become better judges. It would also provide a way for the site to come to a consensus on how much the different aspects of a debate ought to be weighed in judging.

I could design a 20-point template, but I don't think anyone would vote anymore....

This side presented a better case in the opening round [3 points]
This side did a better job explaining arguments (as opposed to appealing to authority or assuming judges have a level of technical expertise that most people lack) [3 points]
This side did a better job refuting the opponent's arguments [4 points]
This side offered a better synthesis of the arguments in the final round [1 point]
Overall, this side was more convincing [5 points]
Sources [2 points]
Conduct [1 point]
S&G & formatting [1 point]

How many of you would bother to fill all that out? Personally, I think this system would just lead to even more strategic voting. Out of shear laziness, some people would continue to vote only 5 points (for "overall" convincing argument), but people who really want one side to win would vote all 20 points. Now the gap between the "minimum standard # of points awarded" and the "maximum # of points available" is much larger than before [5 to 20 versus 3 to 7]. Thus, more potential for abuse.

I'm curious to the people who oppose this? Do you not believe there is abuse of the current system?

If yes, someone please explain to me how a template that awards even more potential points cures strategic voting.
You can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into - Jonathan Swift (paraphrase)
bluesteel
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3/11/2014 2:16:29 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
Honestly, though, most professional judges I know would disapprove of such a system. The only factor that matters in a debate to them is "this side's arguments won the debate under whatever weighing mechanism the debaters told me to adopt, or whichever weighing system i defaulted to if they didn't tell me what mechanism to adopt"

For example, a round I judged at TOC elimination rounds in public forum:

Pro: the most important impact in today's debate is lives
Con: the most important impact in today's debate is lives

My RFD: both sides agree that I should weigh lives most highly. Pro's refutation to contention 1 failed because Pro misunderstood Con's evidence. Con saves more lives. None of the other (non-lives) contentions matter. I vote Con...

This is inherently less subjective that using a "scoring card," which measures "soft persuasion skills" rather than something "hard" [or concrete" like weighing specific arguments. The reason I advocate only a sources point is because I am in favor of a "hard" variable, whereas those advocating for an expansion into more categories are advocating for softer and more subjective variables.
You can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into - Jonathan Swift (paraphrase)
bluesteel
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3/11/2014 2:21:45 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
The last problem I have with more categories (or even the current ones) is that it's easier to punish bad behavior than reward good behavior in RFD's. This is true in competitive debate ("you dropped X argument, so you lose") but also on this site.

If you include a category for "explains arguments well," I see most RFD's saying "Con's point about X was really confusing" rather than saying "Pro's point about Y was *really* well explained." The same thing happens now with sources, conduct, and S&G. One spelling mistake, one broken link, and one slightly rude remark always seem to be grounds for awarding the point. But this approach is flawed because just because one side screwed up does not mean that the other side necessarily did "better" on that metric.

In contrast, convincing argument always has one side that "performed" better; it is less prone to using points to "punish" one mistake and is measures a debate more based on the totality of the debate. It seems *so* dumb to me that I can spend 20 hours researching a debate, but I can lose all the sources votes because I pasted the wrong url by accident.
You can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into - Jonathan Swift (paraphrase)
RoyLatham
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3/11/2014 2:31:21 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 3/10/2014 4:16:23 PM, bluesteel wrote:
My response from the comments section of the debate thread:

> Academic debating has judges who are experienced at weighing factors to arrive at a bottom line

Only sometimes. At the high school level, about half of competitions are judged by "lay judges" (usually parents of competitors from a school that it is not involved in the debate).

>Academic debate topics are picked to be reasonably "debatable," well, at least usually. That makes it easier to isolate who debated best from preconceptions about the topic. Parents who volunteer to judge debates are a more mature demographic than DDO members, but even so I wonder how good they are at judging. I'd prefer to have all debates, including academic debates, judged according to a template that gives guidelines on how much different things count.

I honestly prefer lay judges because they vote on "total persuasion" rather than a formula since it forces debaters to make more "real world" arguments (as opposed to the typical weird "everything leads to nuclear war" arguments that are common in policy debate.

Well, politicians and lawyers definitely prefer "total persuasion" -- but enough of my ad hom attack. I know exactly what you are saying about the baloney arguments that occur in academic debates. Since many DDO members have an academic debate background, they should be educated not to fall for that. A voting template and categories helps that effort. The next step after reducing the debate to "total persuasion" is to get rid of RFD and just award the win.

I guess the basic flaw with #1 is that anyone can judge the persuasiveness of an argument, whereas not everyone can judge how good figure skating is.

But experts are judging the figure skating and they still benefit from a template that tells how many points to deduct if a sit-spin is too slow -- or whatever it is they judge. For example, a template would draw attention to a debater who has many sources for things that are not likely to be questioned, vs sources that support critical points.

To the extent that we want people to follow templates though, DDO does not have a very desirable one. If I were making a template from scratch, I would include far more points for "best argument" type issues (e.g. 3 points - this debater built a better initial case, 5 points - this debater offered better rebuttals to his opponents arguments, 9 points - this debater did a better job of explaining his arguments to the audience, such as defining technical terms and explaining technical concepts). If DDO were going to keep the point system because it needs a template, I would be in favor of the template being completely reformed. The 7 point system was drafted randomly by Phil (the site's founder) - as far as I can tell - not by someone who has professionally judged debates. So the actual categories used and the weights given each are somewhat non-sensical.

I'm advocating an optional template that would guide those who choose to use it to award the category points with better reasoning. I think the categories are pretty good the way they are, but it would be reasonable to increase points for arguments a bit.

>On-line debate also has the objective of informing an audience of readers.

I don't debate for this reason on this site. I debate for fun and to improve my skills only, which is why I sometimes play devil's advocate.

The site gets lots of hits from non-members, who presumably are looking for information about the subject. I'm pretty sure that many of the new DDO members also get information from the debates. Even if minds are not changed, they learn what the fatal flaws are in some arguments. But I'm not trying to convince my opponent, I'm trying to convince the readers, and that's possible. There is an old saw about "you don't really learn a subject until you teach it." I think that's true for debates. Debates force me to do my homework.

>Academic debating uses pre-determined topics that do little to challenge the research skills of the debaters

Only for policy (and LD to some extent). In public form and parli, debaters research topics entirely themselves, and these events work fine with only a winner/loser chosen. More than any other event, public forum mirrors what I was talking about - the judges are almost always "lay" judges, not coaches or former debaters. The topic changes each month, so debaters have to do a lot of their own research. And it all works out okay.

So why is it that so few DDO debates show much research on the subject? It's usually poor. You said that if the source category were eliminated, you wouldn't bother with sources -- right? The real world is built on facts. Sources should be encouraged.

>Academic debate is rehearsed

I'm not really sure how this is relevant. In public forum, policy, LD etc, the debaters simply read their first round off a piece of paper. But I'm not sure how any of this affects the points system. If I did understand, I'd be happy to offer my perspective.

Most DDO debates are one-off, so there is a premium on making coherent arguments the only time it it is done, rather than refining the presentation. Hence S&G should count more.

>I doubt it's easier to vote bomb with more categories than less. An RFD has to justify the vote in each category

Conduct, S&G, and sources are more subjective than arguments.

I don't think so. It would be easier to write a template for scoring S&G than for scoring arguments.

Also, the thresholds people require to win S&G, sources, and conduct are too low. I've seen having one more source or a single broken link as grounds for losing sources points. I've seen a single snide remark or using an offline source as grounds for a conduct loss. I've seen two misspelled words as being grounds for an S&G loss. While "arguments" require a consideration of totality of the circumstances, the other 4 points are often awarded for really nitpicky things.

Again, a template would help considerably. For example, the template might say: did spelling and grammatical errors make the debate difficult to read? Not at all (2.0), A little difficult in spots (1.5), Understandable only with effort (.5), Major parts were not comprehensible (0). That sort of thing.

If every vote garnered 50 voters, it wouldn't matter if a few people abused the point system. But when the more typical debates garner an average of 2-3 voters, a single point-abuser can really affect the outcome. I'd be surprised if anyone with more than 30 debates cannot think of a single debate off the top of their head that they should have but lost because only 2 people voted and one person voted strategically or unfairly.

I think it would be worse if the standard were only total persuasion. A template would discourage abuse by nitpicking. If a vote looks fishy, airmax could require the voter to fill out the template showing the details.