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    Debate-related articles and media

    Best Prep Practices - Virtual Tub Organization

    How to prepare can seem mystifying to a lot of newer debaters or those who have not had good prep practices hammered into their heads. As a high school debater I did not have much coaching support, so when I moved into college debate I was “enlightened.” It was easy to think “welp I’ve got files and they’re highlighted and I mostly know how to go for them,” but it is a much more programmatic process than just that. In today’s tech age putting a large number of resources in the hands of debaters across the board, debaters can invest so much more in preparedness than ever before. So start your prep early and be ready to slam your opponent’s after following this guide.
    Having organized virtual tubs sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to, well, not do it. Relying on memory of where you have ‘x’ cards does not put you in a good spot when you’re in a crunch. Having well-organized files means you can quickly navigate through your documents to find appropriate arguments and answers for both pre-round prep and in-round prep. Organizing files also has a secondary effect of building a mental catalog of where you have cards. When *you* have placed files in particular folder, you’ll intuitively remember where they are for quick access. 

    I have attached an example of what an organized virtual tub can look like, built off of how I organized my files as a debater: 
    Example Virtual Tub.zip
     I’ll give a breakdown of how to use this filing structure. Here are the main folders: 
    !-Answers to Ks
    Previous Topics
    Speech Docs
    Why the exclamation points? I used exclamation points to keep some folders sorted above others. I didn’t want “Previous Topics” or “Speech Docs” to alphabetically mix into folders I may be using in debates. This can also be done with numbering (“1-“) or lettering (“A-“) if you want to order your folders more particularly. 
    Aff Folder
    In your aff folder, you should have sub-folders for different affirmatives. Your H1B aff files should not intermingle with your Open Borders files, otherwise you risk confusing yourself with file organization. You could create a generic advantages folder since a lot of advantage ground is cross-applicable between various affs (as with any topic), but I lean toward having them integrated with specific affs and just copying cross-applicable cards to different files. This is especially important because varying internal links will (should) modify how you write a variety of blocks. 
    In specific aff folders, you should have a 1ac’s folder and a 2ac’s folder. 1AC’s shouldn’t be in a master aff files. There’s an important reason for this: you shouldn’t always read the same 1ac. You should have a variety of versions, maybe with different internal link or impact cards cycled in or different advantages, different solvency mechanisms, etc. Having different versions of your 1ac allows you to change your aff based on predicted neg strategy, or to cut out some parts to let you read more impacts, or more solvency cards, etc. For 2ac’s, I recommend putting case extensions and case blocks in one file and then off-case frontlines and blocks in another. Why? Creating an overly large document is a baaaaaad idea. It’s harder to navigate because there’s more material to scroll through and it’s more likely to lag or crash your word processor, eating up precious prep time in a debate. 
    Answers to Ks Folder
    Why doesn’t this belong in the aff folder? Ks are read on the aff and neg, you’ll end up using this folder on both sides of the debate. This is a fairly straightforward folder. The sub-folders are not necessarily for specific Ks, but are intended to be more blanketing into categories of specific Ks, then there are specific Ks. This is mostly an organizational preference on my part, but it does simplifying putting files with cross-applicable answers close to specific Ks (it makes logical sense to generic identity politics answers in the “Identity” folder along with a “Race Ks” sub-folder).
    Impacts Folder 
    Again, a folder useful for both aff and neg. This should be an exhaustive compilation of all of your impact cards AND impact answers. Why not just impact answers? There’s 2 big reasons: 
    1) Impacts go both ways. Even if you perceive “Unilateralism Good” as the “impact,” that does not mean you will never debate a team that says “Multilateralism Good/Unilateralism Bad.” The same is true of Growth, Warming, etc. 
    2) When putting together new arguments, it’s easier to have already put your impact work in a central place to pull cards for your new DA or advantage rather than digging through an old DA or advantage. 
    As you can see, there are a lot of general folders that can have specific sub-folders. For instance, “Econ” can have “Growth” and “Trade” sub-folders/files, or “Environment” can include “Biodiversity” or “Warming” or “Deforestation” sub-folders/files.
    Neg Folder
    This folder will be one of the most important to keep maintained, simply because there are a lot of potential negative arguments to read. 

    This folder has 5 sub-folders: 
    - Case Negs
    - CP
    - DA
    - K
    - T-FW-Procedurals
    “Case Negs” is categorized into “General Advantage Answers,” “General Solvency Answers,” “K Affs,” “Topic Areas.” You could create folders for specific affs rather than using “topic areas,” as that is more applicable for list topics. 

    As I mentioned for the Aff folder, there are general advantages that will be cross-applicable between different affs. So it makes sense to create “General Advantage Answers” folder with specific advantage answer files that include topic-generic internal link/solvency answers and impact answers and then putting specific aff internal link answers in specific case neg files. 

    This is similarly true of “General Solvency Answers.” For every topic there will be all-encompassing solvency arguments that apply to the whole topic like “Trump circumvention/non-enforcement.” The value in having general case answers separated from specific case negs is for debating new affirmatives that you do not have a specific case neg to. 

    “Topic Areas” or “x Aff” folders are largely self-explanatory. There can be stylistic differences in whether or not you create a single master file for case negs or separate them into different files for advantages or solvency, though I lean toward the former. 

    “K Affs” can in many ways be redundant with the “Answers to Ks” folder. However the function of this folder for case negs to specific affs different teams read as opposed to just generalized responses to the literature area a K aff uses. 
    The CP folder is pretty straightforward. I prefer sub-categorizing CPs into different types (Advantage CPs, Agent CPs, Process CPs, PICs, Specific Aff CPs, etc), but that’s a matter of personal choice. From there I create different folders for different CPs.
    The DA folder is straightforward as well. Different folders for different DAs. Perhaps different folders for different classes of DAs (econ DAs, politics DAs, etc.) The reason I prefer creating different folders for individual DAs is to simplify placing update files in appropriate places when I don’t have the time to immediately compile files, same with CPs. 
    The K folder as I used it mostly lacks sub-categories of Ks and mostly has folders for specific K arguments. That’s a matter of personal choice. 
    The T-FW-Procedurals folder is straightforward. I preferred sub-folders for T, FW, and Procedurals mainly because I would have multiple documents for each (separate definitions and violations files for T, FW and updates for it, breaking procedurals into specific files for each one.”) 
    Theory Folder
    I preferred putting all theory for both aff and neg in one general folder. This was mainly an effort to prevent losing theory files in the minutia of my aff or neg folders and because appropriately naming files overcame any possible confusion. It’s also useful to have a central place for theory so you don’t forget about or lose theory arguments you had put in a 2AC file or CP file. 
    Previous Topics
    You should create sub-folders for different topics you debated on or have files from so you can archive your dropbox from that season. It is so valuable to keep all of your files because people (or you) will invariably borrow from previous topic work. Having answers to a former education topic aff that a team reads as an advantage CP keeps you from getting blindsided. This also creates a valuable resource for your newer squad members who did not debate on previous topics. They are the most vulnerable to being “backfile checked.” 
    Speech Docs
    You should save speech docs from every single debate that you have been in. There are so many reasons why: 
    1) It helps you to do speech redoes. Having your opponent’s document to reference means you can give an even better redo and thus improve even more, especially in your evidence analysis skills.
    2) Saving your speech docs also saves any blocks you wrote on the fly in a given debate. You can then integrate them into your aff file, DA file, CP file, case neg, etc. Why would you want to lose a 2nr CP solvency overview you wrote specifically for a Syrian Refugees aff that won you a debate? Save it and you save yourself future prep time. In my freshman year of college, my partner asked me to write him a heg impact overview during his 2ar prep. I wrote an impact overview that ended up being used YEARS later as it was continually modified for efficiency, specific impact comparison, assuming specific answers, and so on. We won a lot of debates was going for the heg advantage in the 2ar because of the re-use and refinement of that one impact overview that proliferated into a variety of different ones.
    3) Adding to your files. Just like you should scour open evidence and the caselist for new cards, you should recut and use good evidence that was read against you.
    You should organize your speech docs by topic, by tournament, by round (with round number, side, and opposing team in the folder name), and then name speech docs appropriately for each speech. This sounds overly complicated, but it amounts to a 3-5 minute ritual to do at the end of every debate that has a hugely valuable payoff. 

    One thing I hoped to illuminate with this article is that all the way down to how you organize your files, there is a certain strategy involved. It took me too long to come up with my own file organization (with some elements borrowed), the ideal goal of this article is enabling anyone reading this to organize their virtual tubs and kick off positive debate habits, whether they use this system or one inspired by similar thinking.
    Colin Dailey is an Assistant Debate Coach at George Mason University and Co-Owner of Policydb8.com.

    Debatercast! Episode 03: Featuring Gary Larson

    I'm joined by Dr. Gary Larson for this episode. Dr. Larson is currently the Director of Institutional Research and Academic Support at Wheaton college, but people in debate are more likely to know him from his over thirty years of presence in Tabrooms across the community, and for him being one of the fathers of the modern preference system used across debate. In this interview we talk about Dr. Larson's background in debate, how he came to run tabrooms, the history and controversy of prefs, and the misconceptions that abound about how you should do your pref sheet.

    The Debatercast - Introduction

    Policydb8 is pleased to announce a partnership with the Debatercast. The Debatercast is a podcast dedicated to Policy Debate, its people, its community, and its potential. Most episodes involve its host, Rob Glass, interviewing a variety of different people from across the community to share their experience in debate, their thoughts on core subjects, and offering advice for all levels of debate participants from coaches to novices. Future episodes, along with being published via the podcast feed of your choice, will available for listening and download here and there will be shared discussion about the episodes and what they contain via chat and in the forum.
    You can find previous episodes of The Debatercast on Rob's website. And for some more depth on what The Debatercast is about, you can listen to his introductory episode below.

    In Support Of College Novice Debate

    If you’re reading this website, you probably don’t need to be convinced of the value of debate generally, and are likely supportive of debate in college as well.  However, many people are unaware of the particular value of college novice debate.  Many people ask me, “why bother supporting novice debate or starting a college novice program at my institution?” (Generally they ask a little more nicely than that, but the sentiment remains.) 
    First, college novice debate has significant pedagogical value.  Given the rising cost of interscholastic policy debate at the high school level, many schools have eliminated or dramatically decreased the size of their debate programs, meaning that the vast majority of high school students are unable to access the benefits of debate.  College novice programs can check back against that issue and allow coaches to teach argumentation and research skills to those most in need—the students who have never before had the opportunity to learn them at all.  Those students then go on to be successful in many different areas, from military service to chemical engineers to lawyers to debate coaches themselves, based in at least some part on the skills they acquired from college debate.  Novice debate also allows your varsity and JV debaters to have leadership opportunities on your squad—your more experienced debaters can help coach your younger debaters, which allows them to become more familiar with arguments by teaching them to others.  If college debate has pedagogical value, college novice debate maximizes that value. 
    Secondly, college novice debate is an opportunity for program promotion and development.  16 two-person teams will get first round bids.  The majority of varsity-level national tournaments will be won by those same 16 teams.  If your program doesn’t make the list, you need another way to promote yourself to your institution.  Novice debate allows you to point both to pedagogical successes (numbers of students you teach/coach/travel) and to competitive successes (coaching teams into elimination rounds, winning tournaments and speaker awards).  Many institutions are also reticent to spend upwards of $50,000 on travelling 4-6 students; novice debate allows you to get more “bang for the buck”.  Certainly your travel budget may slightly increase but you are able to point to a much larger group of students who have access to debate.  Given that financial constraints have caused the demise of many debate programs over the past 10 years, an ability to justify our (admittedly very large) travel budgets through number of students served is certainly worth the effort of fielding novice teams. 
    Finally, coaching novice debate is incredibly rewarding.  Of course, coaching debate is often rewarding, but the thing about coaching teams with significant experience is that all you really need to do is help them cut evidence, wind them up, and point them towards the door; they already possess the requisite skills needed to be successful.  While they may need practice in honing those skills, you’re not necessary to their acquisition.  When you are coaching college novices, you’re coaching bright young adults who can grasp concepts fairly quickly; so you get to see them have one “aha!” moment after another.  Many times, you can see your debaters go from not understanding an idea or concept at all to entirely grasping it in less than a minute; watching debate “click” for your students is an incredible feeling that nothing else can really replicate. 
    I am proud to be serving as the president of the American Debate Association and one of the reasons for my strong commitment to this organization is its love for and support of college novice debate.  It is my hope that college novice debate continues to grow, and the ADA will support it wherever it exists. 
    Danielle O’Gorman is the Director of Debate at the United States Naval Academy and President of the American Debate Association.

    Policydb8 Launch!

    The debate community has experienced a scattering of online community and communication. Between CPD, HSPD, reddit, cedaforums, different discord servers, and a handful of blogs, interview series, and websites, debate lacks a dedicated, centralized node for community discussion.
    As long-time debate community members ourselves, we feel that the loss of this kind of truly valuable and unique community space should spurn the birth of a new platform for discussion. And so it has! Colin Dailey and I are proud to announce to launch of Policydb8.com - a new website created by debaters for debaters. We feel that providing a space that can create and strengthen connections not only within college debate but also between the high school and college debate communities is an essential cornerstone of the growth of debate writ-large and will have a lot of benefits moving forward. Forums like these provide a comfortable space for the creation of debate sub-culture and memes and allows debaters to relax and have fun, but more importantly they act as a pillar that grows interest and participation in the activity: from practice debates conducted online to evidence sharing and co-operative argument production to finding coaching resources and learning materials, the list goes on.
    While Policydb8.com will bring all of the forum features that you're familiar with from cross-x or cedaforums, it will also bring a lot more to the table:
    - Live Video Conferencing - our platform will bring live video chats capable of containing groups of people with minimal drag on your computer (in testing it's quite low impact on your RAM and has flowable sound quality). We imagine this having a wide variety of applications from meetings, Q&A's, tele-coaching and lectures, to live debates and leaves the door open for the possibility of conducting tournaments through the platform (an idea we're very receptive to).
    - Coaches-for-Hire Directory - we want to create a space for coaches who are looking for work to post their credentials and put themselves out there for hire. The current struggle of posting in each facebook page and hoping enough of your friends promote your post (or that the right team sees it and reaches out for that matter) is a mess, and we'd like to make it a lot easier. Imagine having a single searchable directory where high school students in need of coaching can look through a list of coaches for hire and decide who they'd like to work with the most or who fits them the best. While it's not yet finished, this service will be available within 30 days and should greatly streamline the process for both coaches and debaters.
    - Clubs - The forums will include a private clubs feature that allows you to create a private group and invite friends, teammates, coaches, and students. These can be open for all to join, require approval, be fully public or require membership to view, and can also be free or come with a paid membership feature. This combined with video conferencing as well as google doc embedding opens to a wide array of possibilities from short coaching seminars and hosting remote squad discussions to conducting online debate camps. It can also provide supporting infrastructure for established "brick-and-mortar" camps to extend contact with students or conduct camp tournaments.
    - File Marketplace - Evazon was a huge hit on cross-x, and we don't see any reason to do away with the basic concept of a file marketplace. Policydb8.com will have a fully functional equivalent that allows approved authors to post and sell their files on the website. It will feature a weekly politics file/Thursday file, would be posted to regularly, and we're considering creating a monthly subscription feature for it, but want more feedback from all of you on what you'd like to see in the marketplace given that college debaters will be the majority of people populating it. Most importantly, in order to maintain the quality of the marketplace, we intend to screen files that are submitted for simple edits and quality control, and we will take a lower commission than cross-x did (they took 30%, we take 10%).
    - Debate-Related Content Production - we would like to sponsor and be the home for multiple of debates' interest pieces and content producers. From articles and lectures transcribed online to interviews with authors and members of the debate community to circuit news, coach and debater profiles, and commentary/think-pieces on debate itself, we would love to see the website become a centralized hub for consuming content about debate created by debaters and coaches.
    - Active Debate Calendar - the website will feature an integrated calendar that lists the dates for all tournaments on the high school and college circuit and include links to tournament invites and tabroom.
    - Debate Streaming - When a tournament happens, it's often not easy for debaters of all ages to find where the stream is being hosted. We think this is an easy fix, and so we plan to host and organize streaming on Policydb8.com (given the other platforms hosting those streams provide requisite permissions). This will make it a lot easier for high school students, college debaters at home, friends, and family to tune into our debates when a tournament is happening and they want to watch from home.
    - An Archive - While this is not something we're 100% on yet, we'd like to get your feedback on the idea of creating a centralized archive for debate videos and past streams. Many debates exist on youtube, some exist on vimeo, others are scattered around different smaller websites or are merely sitting on hard drives in a closet. We will obviously never put a debate into the archive that a participant or institution asks us not to post and are aware of the sensitive nature of handling optics when publishing debate videos. That being said, we know there's a lot of interest in the community for being able to watch old debates and learn from them, and so we want to test the waters and get some opinions on how this could best be done.
    We have a big vision for what this website could become, but we hope that in the future it can not only act as a foundation for bringing debaters together but also as a crowdfunding resource run by and for the debate community (which we will never take a cent of commission from) that can fund scholarships for students to go to camp, travel, and hopefully even help them pay for the rising costs of school.
    We plan to bring even more features to the website and would love your feedback on the kinds of things you'd like to see out of us. We're happy to answer any questions you have, whether you hate the website or you love it.
    Thanks for your time! We hope you'll come check out our website, create an account, and post an introduction in the forums!
    We'll keep you updated via our Twitter and Facebook pages.
    Twitter: https://twitter.com/policydb8
    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Policydb8/

    Why Should High School Debate Use Policydb8?

    We are excited to present Policydb8.com to the broader Policy Debate community, but particularly to the high school community. We see this as an excellent opportunity for the community to center itself on a platform that is designed to increase engagement between high school and collegiate debate, and aims to continually innovate and adapt to the changing nature of technology and debate.

    Our most significant feature for high school debaters is group video chat. This chat feature, supplementing forums, enables online practice debates (or real tournaments) among your peers that can be judged remotely by an experienced coach or collegiate debater. This is ideal for schools who are geographically isolated or smaller squads that want to engage in scrimmages. 

    For debaters who appreciate collaboration, Policydb8’s clubs can be used as a free, private sub-forum to organize their school’s squad or they can use them to organize virtual squads or working groups. 

    We offer an online discussion platform solely for debate. While this is not particularly a new concept, the level of interaction we aim to promote between these two levels of the activity is what makes this forum stand out. One thing that is lacking for many high school debaters is networking and context within the college debate community. Typically, high school debaters who have college connections are fortunate enough to have college coaching or get judged by a geographically nearby college team. Camps are also a variable to attempt to equalize this, but they are limited in their own regards, and oftentimes do not build up ongoing relationships.

    The coaching directory and clubs feature allows for easy online coaching services. You can easily find someone offering coaching either remote or in person, see a description of the level of commitment they are offering, ask them basic questions, and subscribe to their coaching with little hassle. Ongoing manual payments are not necessary; Policydb8 has an automated structured payments for coaching services. 

    Policydb8’s clubs and chat features allow for online camps to be easily established. College debaters, college coaches, or high school coaches who apply for permission to create them can easily start a new camp structured to operate remotely. This has a huge advantage for debaters who a) may be concerned about dedicating a chunk of their summer to traveling to a camp and b) debaters who are concerned about the cost of going to a camp. We aim to allow for an array of different camp options between seasons to increase the general accessibility of debate as an activity. We also foresee these features being used for lectures/seminars. This is ideal for debaters who may be interested in a particular topic but do not want to invest in full coaching services.

    Lastly is the Policydb8 file store. This will be a place for individuals out of high school debate to sell their files, whether new and topic specific or their old round-winners. We see the sale of files as a positive in many respects. In respect to the high school community, it is an equalizing force for smaller schools. 

    Both Chris and I are active college coaches and former debate forum users, thus we have a personal interest in and relationship to the concept of a debate discussion forum. We see a lot of potential for new ways of doing debate and have embedded the beginnings of those ideas into Policydb8. We recognize that creating an online debate community is a responsibility that necessitates dedication. We have no interest in abrogating that responsibility, and hope to host the new center of Policy Debate community discourse. 

    Why Should College Debate Use Policydb8?

    Unlike past policy debate platforms, we believe it is fundamental to make Policydb8 a resource for both the college and high school communities. We understand that this can be a tough sell to the college debate community given the lack of seriousness that can be attached to past platforms. However, we think that Policydb8 can benefit college debate at the team, individual, and community levels.
    Policydb8 is beneficial for college teams
    Policydb8’s features create a new way to organize your team. Our free chat client enables the creation of group chats for live discussions, lectures, and practice speeches/debates through video conferencing, single-user broadcasting, and built-in screen sharing capabilities. The use of free clubs enables your team to have a private area on the website for organized discussions. Free clubs enable the creation different sub-forums, create a variety of topics for discussion, have a file upload area, and manage a team calendar. Users who create and run the club have moderator powers to organize and manage it. The ability to organize discussions this way has a massive benefit over email, which can be difficult to follow with its uneven pace of responses, and clients such as Slack or Discord, which are not conducive to deeper discussions with its live-chat format.
    High school perceptions of college teams are limited to a) nationally successful schools (who end up in livestreams), b) schools that run nationally renowned camps, and c) regional schools they get judging from. Policydb8 can benefit your college team by building relationships with high school debaters and creating awareness of your team:
    Activity in the forums and judging online practice debates makes high school debaters aware of individuals affiliated with different schools and their level of debate expertise. Activity in the forums also creates an opportunity for a much wider discussion on recruitment and benefits of debating for your school. Currently, these discussions are largely constrained to 1 on 1 email discussions in recruitment outreach. Having a place for ALL debaters who use the site to read and participate in these discussion builds awareness. Selling files creates a level of trust on the quality of file production and argumentation that high school debaters can expect from a coaching staff or upper-level debaters on your team. Running online camps (either solely or to supplement your brick and mortar camp) via paid clubs enables high school debaters to receive direct instruction and an introduction to the topic from your staff and debaters. This enables national awareness of and participation in your camp unconstrained by geography and travel costs. Running remote coaching services (from individuals, your broader coaching staff, your upper-level debaters) enable high schoolers to become more aware of how your team works, the kind of organization to expect from your coaching staff, the expertise of your coaching staff, and the personalities of your team. It also allows for a coaching staff to work with high school debaters they would like to recruit at a much earlier level. This expands recruitment for schools who are typically more regionally constrained to a national level.  
    Policydb8 is beneficial for individuals at the college-level
    Our online platform has the potential for national awareness and the ability to sell your ability as a coach. There are a variety of ways that a college debater or coach can earn a side income or seek out new positions.
    The Debate Work Directory is a place for a) you to post your “debate resume” and b) schools or individuals to post listings seeking coaching. This can be beneficial whether you are seeking remote work or looking to relocate to coach in-person.
    Remote coaching via paid clubs enable college debaters or coaches to directly work with high school debaters on a remote platform that directly manages invoicing and recurring payments for you. You can define your level of involvement and you choose pricing to directly reflect that. Use of our clubs allows for you to work with a single school of debaters or with a variety of debaters from different schools who are all interested in working with you and collaborating with one another.
    Online camps via paid clubs gives a simple summer work opportunity for college debaters or coaches who didn’t get a camp job or want to supplement their summer work.
    Selling files allows you to make some extra cash off your old round-winning files, or you can dive in to work on developing high school topic-specific files and other original work. You can go beyond just posting a few files and brand yourself as a trustworthy file author who is worth repeat purchases.
    Policydb8 is beneficial to maintain a flourishing collegiate debate community
    Our online platform enables expanded recruitment for all colleges. The high school debaters with the most connections/are most pursued by colleges are typically nationally competitive. This overlooks many debaters with great potential who have not had the opportunity to compete at the national level. Policydb8’s scope enables finding and working with those debaters to improve their skills. This can make them more prepared for college debate and potentially improve the broader quality of their regional circuits.
    Most high school debaters lack context on college debate and do not have many meaningful interconnections with college debaters and coaches. Often, regional circuits can be under-served and/or be behind on contemporary debate theory and practices. This can create frustration and a desire to exit the activity simply because their skill level does not match up with their eligibility criteria. By creating a more accessible platform, Policydb8 stands to increase recruitment, participation, and retention in college debate by providing resources so more can reach the bar set for quality debaters.
    Creating connections with high school debaters can promote new debate teams. High school debaters are not always interested in attending a school with debate, even if they would be interested in debating. By building relationships with high school debaters, college coaches can follow where high school debaters want to go to school, can start discussions with school administrations earlier and help establish the framework for new programs.
    We believe in the potential that Policydb8 holds to revitalize this community and we will work to make it a resource that helps the Policy Debate community at all levels. 
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