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Proposed Debate Style for the Tier Tournament

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5/31/2014 9:41:03 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
I thought of something interesting and felt that it would really enhance debating on this site. I'd love to get some thoughts on it.

I've often found myself at odds with the 10,000 character limit. It's often led me to either exclude arguments and data or even--in extreme cases--to drop arguments. What I found most distressing, though, is that it forces us to consider a narrower resolution.

For instance, with a 10,000 character limit, a minimum wage debate may appear with a resolution like this:

"The minimum wage is good for the economy."

With a larger character limit, we can broaden the resolution:

"The federal government should set a minimum wage."

In the first case, it's pretty clear that the debate will only feature economic arguments. The latter case is much more open-ended--and allows for a more succinct case of a dual burden of proof. Economics is likely the key to the debate, but other subjects aren't off-limits: debaters could bring in history, philosophy, etc.

Now, why does this require a potentially larger character limit? Well, people run out quite easily, and it's even possible to argument-bomb (is that even a word?) your opponent with tiny contentions to the effect of "The minimum wage hurts teenagers and minorities, and this study says (x)." Voters may feel inclined to think that this is a sufficient argument in the overall context of a debate, even if it was stated as a subpoint of a larger contention. The adversary could address the broader point, run out of space, and drop that subpoint--as a result, putting himself in a position to potentially lose the debate. With a larger character limit, there isn't much of an excuse either to drop an argument or to fail to explain it fully.

But, to be clear, I'm not suggesting that we simply increase the character limit to 15,000 or higher--at least not right now, especially given the strain it would have on the server. What I'd like to see is, at least as a test run, is debates in the form of Google Docs. Debaters would choose a character limit ahead of time and post as their arguments a link to their Google Doc with a timestamp so voters can be sure that the debaters didn't edit their arguments after the fact. In the process, they could expand their contentions while dodging the strain of the character limit, and a greater emphasis would be placed on overall effort.

I'd love to get some thoughts on this if anyone is interested.

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