Ryan Judge 2.0: Dead Tree Edition

Since my laptop came down with a case of the gremlins, I was stuck flowing on paper this last weekend. Turned out not as bas as I was expecting. Obviously I got less detail on my flow than I did on a computer, and I still have to work way harder to get the damn columns straight than I should, but I didn't miss as much as I was worried about. I think I'm just a much better flow than I was in high school anyway.

I also realized that for novice debate (or bad upper level debate), flowing on paper is sooo much easier. When debaters go into "I am going to make arguments that may or may not apply to something" mode or jump all around the flow, paper makes it a whole lot easier to figure out what the heck is going on.

SO if you see me whip out the paper before I judge you... it's because my computer broke. Seriously.


So y'all know that during rounds I'm generally not seen without my DS. I don't get a lot of video game time these days, and I really do treasure those 16 minutes per round. However, this weekend I forgot to charge the thing, so I was left to find something else to do during prep.

The game I invented for myself was to try to make a silly anagram of every debater in the round's name.

Examples from yesterday:

Charles Stephens = Chest Harp Lenses
Taylor Bowen = Oye! Warn! Bolt!(kinda sounds like a road sign)
Paul Shipman = Haul in amps (a roadie, apparently)
David Webb = Web div bad (an old school web designer?)
Kevin Cabrera = Vince Are Bark (A 3-year old LOST fan)

I love talking nerdy

So Will asked me to settle a debate for him on whether debate helps you be a better programmer. Here's my thoughts:

First of all, I want to point out that Will is sort of asking the wrong question. You don't want to be just a "programmer." Programmers are the one's who get paid 10 bucks (or rupees!) an hour to code websites and other boring crap. Assuming you are someone who is smart and likes interesting challenges with complex systems, you want to be a hacker (and I don't mean the bastardized definition of hacker that means "someone who does illegal things with a computer, I'm talking about a real hacker.)

So how does debate help you become a hacker? Well, there's a lot of different ways. First you've got the practical stuff: Debate generally tends to give you skills that make you good at school. Debaters tend to get better grades and do better on standardized tests, so they get into better colleges (and might even get free ride scholarships to those colleges, perhaps just because they debate). College doesn't in itself make you a hacker, but it's a really good place to learn the art.

But that's just scratching the surface. Debate, above all, teaches you 'how to learn.' It teaches you how to process information quickly (ever tried reading someone else's code?) It teaches you to research and find information quickly, and not just the "google it" kind of research. I mean the kind of research skills where you can look at an article and decide whether it's worth reading in about 10 seconds. There might be places to learn that sort of thing outside of debate, but I haven't found any yet.

Debate teaches you to communicate with people. It teaches you how to write. It teaches you how to persuade. And if you think that none of those things matter to be a hacker (especially a hacker with a job!) then you need to talk to some more hackers.

But most importantly, and I seriously cannot stress this enough, Debate and Programming, at their very core, require the exact same skill: the ability to view complex systems at many levels of abstraction simultaneously. You've heard of "seeing the forest for the trees." Well being a hacker means seeing the forest, the trees, the leaves on the trees, the caterpillars on the leaves, and being able to perform the mental gymnastics necessary to understand how all these different levels interact. Succeeding in debate is all about this. Succeeding at programming is all about this. Seriously.