TRPC has two possible setups for MJP, 6 categories or 9 categories. Since 9 won’t work with flighting, in LD we do 6. I have no idea where these numbers came from originally, as there is no Big Book of Debate Tabbing that explains these things. We do 6 because we do 6. There you are. Shuddup.
In earlier utilizations, 5s were occasionally meant as a conflict, meaning that you really had 4 categories, since 5s and 6s were effectively strikes. I was always a little perplexed by this, mostly because of the fungible definition of conflicts, and the fact that allowing debaters to denote them could lead to debaters simply increasing the amount of their strikeage, whereas other people were complaining that the opposite was the problem, i.e., potential conflicts not being reported. Whatever. We have since set conflicts aside as a separate issue in registrations (and it is a separate issue that I want to discuss here in the future). So we have, as a rule, 1-5 plus a strike category.
So the question becomes, why 5? At some tournaments with smaller pools, I’ve made it 1 to 4, on the assumption that the number of the judges didn’t warrant a split in 5 directions. Some people complained that there was such a distinction between the categories that I was, by forcing a greater number of 1s, making them put 2s into their 1 category by default. Et cetera, et cetera, up and down the line. But it seems to me that the more categories there are, spread across smaller numbers, while you may get to stick out your pinkie and pref with your traditional delicacy, you’re setting yourself up for getting fewer 1-1s when all is said and done (provided we get everybody up to preffing speed).
I will add that I can’t get my mind around demurring from mutuality as soon as we get to the 3-3s. Yes, some coaches may prefer this, but then it’s not mutual anymore, which on face is enough for me to wonder why any of it should be mutual. Either it is or it isn’t. And as I’ve argued, at the point where we never place 3s, a substantial portion of the judging pool is relegated to uselessness or the depressing thought of only judging bad debaters.
So, if it’s MJP, it has to be mutual. Let’s not argue about that here.
It’s the number of categories that is problematic. I’ve been thinking back to the days of tab ranking, where we had As, Bs and Cs. (I gather from O’C that fellow tabber Greg Malis is thinking the same way.) Three categories allowed us to place As in the bubbles, then the Bs, then the Cs. It marginally had the effect of, well, marginalizing some of the judges, but not as dramatically as the 5 MJP categories. If your lowest category is 3 out of 3, 3s will get placed. And only As will judge bubbles, and As and Bs will judge above the bubble, theoretically.
The same can apply to MJP. You break the pool into three equally sized categories, plus some strikes. Simple as that. You designate a third of the field that you want in your most important rounds, a third of the field that you’ll settle for in your most important rounds if your first choice isn’t available, and a third of the field that you’ll accept in your non-important rounds. I see two benefits from this. First, as I’ve said, it utilizes all the pool better, and whether you like all the judges or not, the judges are the judges and they are there to judge, so let’s let them judge in acknowledgment of the idea that competitive reality drives the tournament (As above the bubble line). Second, debaters have to learn to debate better in front of judges who are not their personal favorites, meaning that they will learn better speaking skills than if they only perform in front of favorable audiences. Anyone can pick up a ballot from their mother. Can you pick up a ballot from me?
I’m seriously thinking of going to 3 categories at Bump, but I hate being too radical on my own. (Well, actually that’s not true, but I’ll leave it for the sake of argument.) I’d really like to get some dialogue on this. I’m thinking about collecting a cadre of tabbers and having a little colloquy somehow. Feel free to comment here, in the meanwhile.