(Cross-posting on FB)
My brief on judges has ultimately boiled down to this. Someone has to pick them. Either the software can do it randomly, the tab room can do it based on their own opinions of the merits of the judges, or the field can do it based on their opinions of the merits of the judges. I do believe in the value of random assignments, and PF is always handled that way, with maybe a few strikes for relief from your most dedicated enemies. But LD and Policy, having ventured into the realm of allowing the field to determine judging, is probably never going to come back. Keep in mind that this is mostly only true at invitationals. Plenty of tournaments for these divisions, especially for younger students, have random judge placement. The idea that coaches want their students to learn to win over multiple judge points of view hasn’t gone away. But at the most competitive levels, where the stakes are the highest, it’s a different story. (By the way, while it may seem that the stakes are the highest for the debaters, one needs to keep in mind that the stakes are perhaps even higher for some of the coaches, who use competitive success as the warrant for their employment.)
I actually think it’s better that the field determines judge merits rather than the tab room. At best, I would know the judges from my own experience, and rank accordingly. But my experience is simply that, while others have different experiences of those same judges. I have no objective authority of judgment. Since it’s a given that both sides are ranking identically in order for a judge to be placed, there’s no particular advantage to either side if they get a judge they both prefer. (For that matter, they might get a judge they both don’t prefer, at a mutual level, although tab ought to be doing its best to maximize prefs vis-à-vis the bubbles.) Early on I think there was a sense that MJP was bad because it meant a judge was favorable to you, somehow missing the point that the judge was favorable to both of you. I’m not saying that MJP doesn’t have its problems, but in the end, it’s the best possible way to sort and assign. The alternative, tab rankings, is not as good. Random is, arguably, a good thing, but for all practical purposes, that horse has left the barn.
Which brings me to my point. Next week, at Byram, we’re going to have a small field of LDers. The tournament is touted as a prep for Yale the following week, and as such I want to emulate a highly competitive environment as much as possible. So I would want to use prefs. The problem is, with 15-20 judges at most, my usual 5 tiers plus strikes isn’t feasible. What I’m floating is the idea of 4 tiers, 3 of 30% each and 1, the 4th tier, of 10%. Working around the bubble, priority would be 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, 2-3, 1-2, and 4-4, only using 4s when people are out of competition for breaking. I think it maximizes the use of judges in a small field/pool, but it still maintains the sense that the field has some control over judge placement.
I’m going to be curious to see how it works out.