Wednesday, November 30, 2016

In which we tie up a few loose ends

I guess I should be updating you on the Tiggers, but we’re at the least interesting part of the process. I sent out the usual instructions on conflicts and MJP this morning, and got back a few responses like, What in tarnation you talkin’ ‘bout, you young whippersnapper, or, Please change this judge for that judge on Saturday only in the library with the lead pipe. Mostly it’s just diddly changes this late in the game, or coaches wanting me to somehow wheel and deal in their direction. I usually don’t (shocking!) but they do get points for trying. Meanwhile, if I can just get one more sick kid to drop in VLD, I’ll be able to let in my last hanging waitlister. What’s holding me back is space, the final frontier. There are now exactly enough debaters to fill the rooms, and exactly enough rooms to hold the debaters. So if one more kid gets the yaws or whatever, some other lucky kid gets to visit beautiful downtown Tiggerville in that kid’s place.

Ain’t life swell?

The weather for the upcoming weekend looks decent. This time of year, anything can happen. In the past we’ve been blizzarded, or frozen by arctic winds, or roamed around in our shirtsleeves. The same holds for the following week, the original Bump weekend, now the Ridge weekend. Ridge will be much easier for me than the Tigger weekend; the Ridgidians do all the work of running the thing, and all I have to do is tab and occasionally yell at some judge who is taking too long. I can do those things easily enough.

Meanwhile, it still looks as if Donald Trump is going to be our commander-in-chief. I have to admit that while I like the idea of burying myself in a hole for four years, a possibility that my inherent privilege would easy allow, that doesn’t seem to be the way to go. So suddenly I find myself twittering up a storm. Complacency in the face of evil is unacceptable. Do I really think Trumpie is evil? I’m not sure. I do think he endangers human rights, however, in many many ways. I guess that is one definition of evil, come to think of it, even if more than anything it’s motivated by ignorance and indifference. And on top of that, I find his family really scary. I know that families are supposed to be off-limits, but he’s the one bringing them in, not me. Whenever I see them I can only think of one thing, The Village of the Damned. You should see that movie (the original). Or better yet, read the book, The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham. If you haven’t read Wyndham, you’re in for a treat.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

In which we set down the rules for e-ballots at Princeton

This is the message I sent out today. I think it covers everything. I still expect that Friday will be a little crazy, but at the point where the debaters and judges are actually handling e-tournaments like pros, we'll all be better off. 


If you have not already done so, create an account on Simply click on “sign up” at the top of the page and follow the instructions. Both judges and students should have unique accounts in their own names. 

All judges should come prepared with electronic devices capable of entering results. There is wifi throughout the campus, and any device—smartphone, tablet, computer, Chromebook—will do. Make sure that it is charged, and that it works. E-balloting does not necessarily mean that you need to bring a computer to rounds for flowing or whatnot; the device you decide to use, and how you adjudicate a round, is up to you.

The tournament will not be able to accommodate paper ballots in LD. Judges who are unprepared to judge will be taken out of the tournament, and their schools fined the full hired judging cost for any students left uncovered by the removal.

One half hour before the scheduled start of a round, pairings and assignments will be released, and all participants will be notified of where to go. You will have plenty of time to get there, especially if you use one of the maps that have been provided in the invitation and on We are using the fewest number of buildings possible, in as close a radius to ground zero (McCosh) as possible.

Judges who have not gotten an assignment shall remain on call in case an assigned judge does not show up. On Friday and on Sunday the rounds are one after the other. On Saturday the rounds are two hours apart. This means that on Saturday you will be enjoying what might be the most leisurely schedule in the Northeast. Take advantage of the breaks, but don’t leave town or go take in an All-Steve-Reeves movie festival.

Given how we are using rooms (alternating novice and varsity on Saturday), combined with a desire to get home before Christmas, we have no choice but to enforce strict rules on making the rounds happen. Everyone is expected to be in the rooms and starting the rounds at the posted times. Judges who are not in their rooms within five minutes of the posted times will be replaced and fined. Students who are not in their rooms within five minutes of the posted times will forfeit. If both students are in the room and there is no judge five minutes after the posted time, students are asked to report missing judges to tab for replacement. Failure to do so will result in double forfeits.

Judges: The only way we can measure what’s happening is by your correct use of the start round button. Please do not hit the start button until you and both of your competitors are in the room and, literally, starting the round. If you press the button willy-nilly before the round starts, it jeopardizes the scheduling of the rooms. If you don’t press the button as the round is starting, we will assume that you are a no-show and replace and fine you.

The phone number of tab is xxx-xxx-xxxx. If there are any problems, text us. What constitutes a problem:
         No judge in room five minutes after start time
         All competitors not in room five minutes after start time

As we say, scheduling of the rooms is tight. We ask judges to limit critiques as much as possible so that we can turn the rooms around in a timely manner. Results will be posted on tabroom as soon as they are all in after each round, and, of course, you can write critiques on your e-ballots, which means that not only will the debaters receive them, but so will their coaches. Judges can add to or modify their comments on e-ballots until the "end of tournament" results are published, which means they can add to them over a cup of coffee during the two hour gaps between rounds on Saturday, although, of course, they cannot change decisions or points.

Thank you. We realize that all of this sounds draconian, to say the least, but for e-ballots to work with this many people in this many buildings requires everyone to be on the same page. The goal is a fair, on-time tournament. Let’s make it so!

Monday, November 28, 2016

In which we carp a bit about tabroom, in the mistaken belief that "Carpe Diem!" means to complain about things every day without fail

So a couple of things went off the track in tabroom this weekend. For a while, it wasn’t showing school names in various lists, which may seem trivial, but it made us wonder if pairings might work. Kaz and I both posted help tix. It got fixed, although no one acknowledged it. Maybe it fixed itself, which is rather frightening, to say the least. If you call up the NSDA help phone, you are told to call back during the week. Thank God we don’t run any tournaments on the weekend. Oh. Wait a minute.

Then we discovered this thing where a handful of judges without tabroom accounts are conflicted against a repeated series of schools dozens of times. We thought that might be endemic but it’s hither and thither, and I couldn’t replicate it. This is also a rather alarming bug, and I’ve sent it along to the powers that program. I can eliminate the problem from the affected judges at the Tiggers, but the issue is, how did the problem arise in the first place.

“Always scribble, scribble, scribble!” was the accusation against Edward Gibbon. It’s sort of my theory of tabroom as well. Someone is always scribbling it, changing things on the fly. And one fly affects another fly affects another fly. I’m used to more rigorous change control. An iteration of a program is tested and released. The next iteration is on a test server where, you guessed it, it’s tested until it’s deemed stable. Then it’s released to replace the last iteration. Any given iteration is deemed stable, and no new iteration replaces it until that, too, is deemed stable, usually after being beaten up by a team of beta testers. I don’t think tabroom works this way, but maybe I’m wrong.

Anyhow, enough carping. The Tiggers is only a few days away. The next thing I need to do is create marching orders for e-balloting. I arranged the LD rooms in the fewest number of buildings closest to ground zero, and the Tigs have a decent team of runners to handle problems. My hope is that we’ve trained most people well enough now to make this work. I mean, if not now, when? On the other hand, recent experiences with bad wifi and system crashes can’t have made a lot of users all that confident. If we can pull it off, with only obdurate judges and obtuse debaters to worry about, it will go a long way to erase these issues in people’s minds. If not, I think we’re going to be looking at a lot of paper ballots in the immediate future.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

In which we scoot from topic to topic, including the topic of topics

Due to recent tabroom outages, a number of high-level tabbers have taken to writing song parodies in their unexpected spare time. Some of these parodies are indicative of, not surprisingly, great minds, all going to waste. I can only hope that tabroom settles down (I wonder which prime number CP is blaming the last crash on) so that these people can all get back to their day jobs.

The Tigger is now set, all fees frozen, all bets on the table. There are a couple of loose ends, but the judging looks good, there’s rooms enough and time, and, well, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. The big issue now will be e-ballots in LD. Over the holiday weekend I’ll sort out the rooms so that the buildings are easy to handle. I expect Friday night to be a fustercluck, since that tends to be the starting position of virtually every tournament everywhere, but that we’ll settle down well on Saturday. I consider it a big deal to move e-ballots into an arena like Pton, where folks are in many many buildings all over creation. I think we have gotten the LD pool relatively well trained, though. We see fewer false starts, for instance. And we’ve prodded the cool kids to understand that, cool as they might be, not pressing start means you’re an asshat. I want that t-shirt, the one that says, "Don’t be stupid be a smarty, come and join the starty party,” but I don’t think it’s on sale to the general public. Too bad.

Meanwhile, the choices for the next PF topic should be coming out soon. If you were wondering, Pro ate Con for breakfast in November, anywhere between 60%-70% of the ballots. No one seemed surprised at this. Given that the world at large has already ceded safety to convenience in the electronic arena (my phone tells me which way to go to work in the morning when I turn it on to start my audiobook on my commute, even though I’ve never told it where I work, or when; Google knows more about me than anyone living or dead). Still, at least people got a chance to find out about the subject, and maybe learn that they are not so much subject to identity theft as to identity dilution as they sputter off into datafication. Now if I could only get to see online ads for products I haven’t bought instead of ads on the products I’ve just bought two minutes ago…

On the political front, which I usually don’t spend much time on, it’s great to see that freedom of the press is being threatened at the highest levels. It’s good to know that the dialectic of speech no longer synthesizes toward the discovery of truth. I’m pretty sure that the first executive order from the Trump White House will be a protection of fake news. Why should truth be given any priorities? Viva la booboisie!


Monday, November 21, 2016

In which we recover from disaster

Well, now what? So said an awful lot of forensicians last Saturday when took an unscheduled vacation.

This, of course, is why I wrote a disaster plan. Which, by the way, we didn’t follow at Wee Sma Lex because it didn’t seem necessary. Honestly, given that we lagged-paired every round, it really wasn’t, since tabroom came back up before we went seriously off schedule. The key thing was to provide blank ballots to the sitting judges, since they could no longer enter their results electronically. I would imagine that things were not quite so hunky-dory at places like Glenbrooks, where the sheer numbers of people banging their heads against the wall can result in mass hysteria and, needless to say, serious damage to the wall. You know, I remember when I first started in this activity, when it was unusual for a tournament not to pull to a crashing unexpected halt somewhere in the middle while something or other got fixed in the smoke-filled back rooms. Why should be any different?

Of course, for the Tiggers, we will go full disaster plan. (And here it is if you want to try it.) It does not incorporate the new save-a-pairing backup, but I’m wondering if drawing on the backup server isn’t an invitation for even more problems when tabroom does come back up, as it inevitably does. Oh, well. We’ll find out someday, probably. Or not, the Good Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise.

Other than that, as always, Wee Sma Lex was fun. As a tabbing exercise, it’s pretty straightforward. If you’re lagging, the key is always do it right away, before any results come in. Partial lagging punishes people; blind lagging may or may not punish people, but at least it’s punishing people across the board, rather than the handful whose results came in early. Lagging is a good way to get 4 rounds into one day before too many hours go by. There is also a school of thought that every other round in an invitational should be lagged, to preserve more fairness against potential side biases, but not too many people buy that argument. I think it’s a pretty good argument, but I’ve never actually done it, and probably never will. Give the people what they want, or at least what they expect. So it goes.

By the way, there was pretty decent, and warm, pizza in the Wee Sma judges’ lounge. What more could anyone ask for?

During all of this, I did get Columbia started. I have to look at their invite, but at least tabroom is mostly ready to go. With all-waitlist, there isn’t all that much to set up in advance. The real tinkering comes later. And the Tiggers are about ready to go, with fees set tonight and the last juggling of hireds tomorrow. I think we’re in excellent shape on that front in all the divisions.

And in a couple of days, Thanksgiving. Our dinner will have no Trump supporters, so we won’t end the meal in a duel to the death. At least not over the President Elect.

By the way, did you know that Donald Trump was elected president? Yeah, that Donald Trump. I hope this isn’t news to you. I would hate to be the messenger if that is the case. Then again, would you be willing to share the hole you’ve been living in with the rest of us?