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What was your first debate like?

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Benji Alexander Smith
By Benji Alexander Smith | Feb 13 2018 6:20 AM
Story time, I guess. It's an odd question in a way, as I'm in the middle of my first, but it is definitely far more difficult than I anticipated. Previously knowing nothing other than philosophical/theological debates on Facebook, and the odd nasty clash with some other person on various other social media, I was simply unprepared for the necessity to restrict my words; to be succinct and to the point (and also to be polite) - I figured I could just ramble on and on. Not possible when you have a character limit. The other difficulty for me is the time limit. For me, it has always been a case of "Ah, whatever - I'll get back to that guy when I feel like it". Watching the clock tick away, especially when you have other things to do (as I'm sure you all do), is a little daunting at first.

So I'm just wondering: as first-timers, what kinds of things did you trip up on in your first 'formal debate with rules'? Was it a breeze? Was it difficult? I'd be very interested to know how you felt about it, how you handled it, etc.

By admin | Feb 15 2018 10:34 AM
Benji Alexander Smith: My first online debate, if I recall correctly, was about whether we should abolish nuclear weapons, and was held on another site. I already had some formal real-life experience at that point so I followed what little I knew from that. It was a bit surreal, but it had its own buzz. I won narrowly and was challenged to a follow-up debate by a more experienced online debater, where I got thoroughly trounced. Especially how to handle each round didn't come very naturally to me early on. My win-loss ratio has never been the best around - I've lost a couple on time too - but every debate is a chance to learn I think.

BTW, it's possible to do unlimited character debates on edeb8. ;)
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By nzlockie | Feb 15 2018 12:43 PM
My first proper debate was on here. My opponent forfeited both of my first debates so the one I count as my first was against admin and was an "is god real" type religious debate.
I really enjoyed the experience as it was quickly very clear that we were both competing to score points rather than to actually be "right". Having no prior experience with debate, this was new to me and really freeing.

I made several missteps, most obviously when I allowed myself to use up my character limit arguing side issues that were ultimately irrelevant to the actual resolution. ( Admin is very good at that!)
But ultimately I was happy with my case and really excited to do it again.

In my time doing this I've definitely made some mistakes. I think the biggest one is not checking my sources thoroughly. I'll come up with an idea and link the first source I can find on it. But then my opponent really delves into that source and picks holes in it, making me waste time and space defending the source rather than furthering my case.
Admin likes to do that by casting aspersions on people you quote from. A really good trick as it only costs him a short sentence to throw doubt on the character/qualification of the person, but you waste several sentences defending them. If you fail then their quote can be ineffective, and if you succeed, you're no better off than you were in the beginning!

My other big problem has been getting caught up in trying to avoid fallacies. Debate nerds get all excited when they spot a slippery slope fallacy and if you stuff up and do one they can derail your case by shouting about it. I don't know very many fallacies, (there's a resource somewhere on them) so it used to worry me. But then I learned that debate is WAY more about crafting a clear narrative than it is about actually being technically correct. Obviously the optimal is to have both, but I've seen some very difficult sides win purely because they communicated better than their opponent.
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By nzlockie | Feb 15 2018 12:46 PM
nzlockie: But then I learned that debate is WAY more about crafting a clear narrative than it is about actually being technically correct.

Should say, *seems to be*. It's not like I'm an expert!
By Mharman | Feb 15 2018 4:13 PM
I lost my first debate.
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By bookydedreamer | Mar 2 2018 2:49 AM
I wouldn't say I've completed my first debate yet.

So far, tho, there's definitely the stress of trying to be logical, concise and make sure what I'm saying could be supported. I try to be careful not to present things in a way that makes things too easy for my opponent to poke holes in them (ie being definitive about something that could easily be called into question).

I'm a bit intimidated by the follow up phases - I'm used to writing essays to explain how I see something, but I'm not sure how it would go having to DEFEND my essays when someone's picking them apart. That's the part I'm most looking forward to learning from.
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