Ban that Black Eyed Peas song
Koc Worlds brought us a lot of positive things, but the singularly most damaging thing it did to us was make us unable to think about break night, breaking, or any Worlds party without humming that Black Eyed Peas song to ourselves. You know which one. I bet you just started playing it in your head. It's not a bad song. It's just bad in large quantities (like marshmallows). It's totally seeped into the hivemind of debate, to the point where I heard people humming it in transit to socials many times. It has reached such a pernicious level that I swear one of the newly-crowned ESL champions was singing it as he was getting off the bus back at the dorm and was joined by at least two other people without any prompting. That is some scary, Manchurian Candidate-style mind control. And if it isn't, it's a clear first step in a particularly pernicious direction. Keep in mind, this song did not play once during the entire ceremony. I do believe I heard it once late at night while trying to sleep. We do not need a WUDC national anthem, nor do we want one. Nor do we need a theme song. Do not turn WUDC into a party caucus/bad sitcom. This is getting dangerously close to both. Worlds Council, I call upon you to ban the playing of any Black Eyed Peas song made before 2011.
Pernicious use of Pernicious
The use of this word has become obnoxious. People wait for the use of it as if it were an incantation that will allow the audience to magically be persuaded. It's as if it were some sort of secret password that, once uttered, makes your arguments convincing. Everyone snickers, breathes a sigh of relief (“oh good, I can finally consider what they are saying!”) or exchanges knowing glances with someone nearby. What is the big attraction to this word? Why does this word dominate our descriptive choices? Why is this the choice for cool word of the year among a group of marginally cool people? It seems to be with us and has no sign of diminishing. The newest form of it (about to go airborne) is to use modifiers to the word in order to give it a less generic meaning (“Particularly pernicious,” “perniciousness,” “deeply pernicious,” who knew it had volume?). The only thing to do is inoculate yourself by consulting a thesaurus, or perhaps speaking like a normal human being when you debate. Apparently we are engaged in learning how to convince human audiences, not thesaurus editors. I think a pocket thesaurus with the entry for 'harmful' highlighted should be included in all registration materials from now on.
Next to the overuse of pernicious, nothing is more directly pernicious than sleep deprivation. Some of us in WUDC are an oppressed minority: We consider 12AM bedtime. The vast majority of participants in WUDC consider 12AM to be time for an early dinner and some chat over drinks before deciding how to spend the rest of the evening. In Botswana, this was particularly pernicious due to the proximity of the dorms to the most logical spot to congregate, and the weather, which made closing the windows a death-sentence (at least for your ability to sleep or function in any way as a human being). I know you debate and judge better when dehydrated with a splitting headache and a sour stomach, but some of us don't. Some of us actually want to rest up a bit before the rounds. I know everyone is different, but it would be nice to allow participants during registration to select whether they would like to be close to the party or far away from it. In Botswana, it doesn't seem there was any thought put into the fact that some people would like to rest and some would like to party all night. In the future, perhaps Organizing committees could take this into account?
Coordination for the Internet Age
We were very lucky in Botswana to have a number of people who took it upon themselves to tweet, blog and stream live video of events for those who were unable to attend. I think it worked out great even though there was no official coordination between us. For example, I couldn't stand the stuffy venue for the finals rounds, so I had to get up and leave many times for fresh air. Others could tough it out and tweet through it. At the awards ceremony I just decided to tweet everything I heard, and it worked out great. I think this is just the dawn of this sort of thing, and I hope WUDC institutionalises it. The model would be easy: Get a dedicated webhost/server somewhere and a couple of 3G/4G cards for laptops. The people who want to be on the broadcast committee volunteer and show they have some tech expertise to cover events. People who want live and immediate access pay a small registration fee, like a digital observer. This would easily pay for the cost of bandwidth and tech. Things like extension cords, something Botswana Org Comm was unable to find or supply, shut down some live broadcasting. With this model, it would all be available to the Internet reporting staff. I hope Manila looks into it, and I think in Berlin it shouldn't be an issue at all. I hope we can institutionalise the Internet reporting as another way for people to participate in WUDC if they cannot afford to travel. The step after this is of course an Internet division, but I'll leave that to Debatewise to figure out. Just a little bit of money leads to a whole lot of pay off for those following along at home. In short: Small web registration fee; money used to provide live coverage of many rooms and events. Equipment saved to be used the next year.
The Basics Wear You Down
I think the biggest issue was the coordination of how food was distributed at this tournament. It's not a big matter, but it can really grind you down to have to stand in a pushy mob for every meal. The lack of small things, like fans in the rooms, would have cost very little and done a lot to make people less frustrated. A more orderly sign system for lunches and an organized and supervised queue system seems like a very basic thing, but it really should be something that isn't overlooked. Finally, if you are going to announce that there will be free drinks and only provide a few, or don't have a steady supply, that can be frustrating too. After a few days of this sort of routine can color the perception of the rest of the events. I think it would be better to be upfront about such announcements and then if things turn out better than you announced, things aren't so bad. The worst part of it is I think these small things are going to make everyone think 4 or 5 times before voting for a developing Worlds in the future. Council should consider a more hands-on relationship with Organizing committees from the developing world, just to make sure that the reason we are all there – to debate – doesn't become tainted by the structural, material, or attitudinal issues of the particular place. I like having a developing worlds, and I hope we have more of them, but I think this experience won't leave the collective memory for quite some time. If it's important to us we should act officially to make sure that these sorts of problems will be reduced greatly at any future developing world WUDC.