Open-Source Disclosure in PF - Pros vs Cons

Jack Johnson | Jul 21, 2021
2 min read

The Opinions Expressed In This Blog Post Are Solely Those of the Author And Not Necessarily Those Of DebateDrills

This year, there has been a huge uptick in the number of teams disclosing open-source on the wiki. Tons of high-quality cases and evidence have been made available to students because of this effort. Without a doubt, there are a litany of positive consequences that came about due to the rise of disclosure, but the open-sourced model of case disclosure also comes with drawbacks.

Generally speaking, giving the community access to evidence is a positive. It helps to offset some of the imbalance in coaching and team resources that exist between large and small programs. In addition, increasing the available pool of evidence deepens the quality of debates, as students can free files into their cases/blocks, freeing up more room to conduct other research.

However, high-level teams specifically disclosing their entire case becomes a different story. When completely pre-written cases are disclosed on the wiki, this can have the deleterious effect of disincentivizing students to write their own cases and conduct their own research. Dozens of times, I saw students running the same word-for-word cases (all three contentions, not just one) as prominent teams would run. This means that some students are decreasing the amount of research that goes into their case as a result of open-source disclosure — the opposite of the intended outcome of the practice.

Of course, this is not at all the fault of the students: for kids that are busy with school and/or would simply rather spend their time doing other things, eliminating the case-writing process entirely is the logical thing to do. However, it results in these students being educated substantially less. When you are copy-pasting a case, you aren’t reading the original article & internalizing the research found in the context of these cases. Moreover, the vast majority of casing research consists of reading articles that do not wind up going into the case. For students that choose to use a top-quality case disclosed on the wiki, only 5% of the education in the casing process takes place.

The major caveat here is that every student is different. While some students will wind up doing less topic work because of open-sourced cases, other students will benefit, using the additional time and convenience provided by open-sourcing to research their other positions more. However, it is unclear if this demographic represents the majority of students. Disclosing contention names, citations of evidence, and the first-and-last sentences of the body of each card succeeds in promoting education for both demographics of students. It provides access to high-quality evidence and casing to students that lack said resources, since the same content is available in the disclosure file, it is just formatted differently. Simultaneously, it guarantees that both demographics of students are required to conduct some additional research (reading the original articles and case-writing) to complete a case: the critical difference is that the research is guided, rather than replaced.

Thus, while both methods of disclosure are great for the community, open-source disclosure is less optimal than the alternative for education.

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