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11/04/2009 3:06 PM by
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While considering the paperless transition during the spring of this year, many of our debaters expressed reservations about abandoning the traditional means of debate. As many of you have probably also considered, they worried that debating without paper would be more difficult, at least initially. The stated concerns were many: assembling speeches would be slower, it is more difficult to pick and choose cards to read from an individual block, comfort and familiarity associated with the tactile feel of paper will be lost, highlighting is slower, etc.

Well, coming from someone who has recently experienced the short-term disadvantages of the transition and may not have yet reaped its full benefits, I can confidently tell you that the nay-sayers are wrong. Beyond administrative and cost-saving advantage of paperless, the competitive benefits of the system are decisive and substantial.

Specifically, paperless increases competitive success in several ways:

1. Organization

Teams essentially never lose files. After three tournaments paperless, I have not yet had to get/send a file to a team that had lost it. One year ago, this task happened nearly every round. The additional amount of coaching time and absence of the mad scramble to find your Nanotech backfile before the random pre-set are huge.  

2. Prep Time

The gain is substantial and the benefit is huge. At GSU, I sat in my team’s rooms wondering if the schedule this year was different because we had so much time. It wasn’t – we just didn’t have to hastle with packing, moving, or unloading tubs. You easily get an additional 15-20 minutes before every debate. This matters – because that is extra time to cut a few last cards or go over strategy that you otherwise would have to cut out to focus more pressing issues.

There is also a stress / ease of life benefit here – you trade 20 minutes doing grunt work moving 200+ lbs. of evidence for 20 minutes sitting in a chair talking about debate. It gets both coaches and debaters in a better mood, eases stress, and generally makes the debate day less taxing.

3. Adaptability

Printed files are “locked-in”. To change them, you either need to scribble something out or re-print. Paperless files are instantly moldable. You can re-underline your critique evidence to be more applicable (constantly necessary). You can change tags to your Neg case arguments to sound more like the Aff. As a 2A, you can instantly add analytics to your 2AC blocks for use in the specific debate you are in.

Most debates aren’t won because one team did something miraculous and the other team was terrible. It’s about the margins. Good debaters do the little things right, all the time. Being adaptable is one easy way to win the “battle of the margins”.

4. Search Function

Every paperless computer should be indexed – either by Google Desktop, Searchlight, or some other program. Tech has advanced to the point where you can search for words within the text of your evidence. So, if you debate a team that breaks a new K about Badiou, you can quickly see what evidence you have that references it.  

People rarely seem to believe me when they hear me say this, but its true. A *ton* of K Aff evidence applies to several authors, many who are mentioned in un-underlined parts of text. You’ll never find it if you’re papered, but you might if  you’re quick with the draw on your computer.

5. Saved Speeches

You know that 2NC that you’ve given 3 times against X random team? Now you don’t have to re-prep it. If it works, it doesn’t need fixing. Save it to a Speeches folder on your desktop and you’re good to go.

Even if you don’t re-use the speech – it’s a good way to keep track of what evidence you’re using a lot. Go back over your speeches after the tournament to see if you can be reading better / more applicable evidence in any places.

Published in: Paperless Debate