Judging debates is one of the most important aspects of ForDebating.com. Whether you use the ClickWin or DetailedWin buttons, being fair and impartial is very important, so this page will go into depth on how to judge debates. We still want to allow for the full spectrum of debating though, so considerations need to be made depending on the type of debate you are judging. Some are obvious, like don’t hold profanity against someone when the debate allows for profanity, and others are subtle and subjective like the conduct by the debater. Before we start with the rules we’d like to go over the three classifications of debates that will be judged and how you should generally view them as a judge:
These are the most rigid and formal debates on ForDebating.com. Here spelling and grammar should be held against debaters. There is an expectation of professionalism and sportsmanship above and beyond normal conversations and the users creating/joining them should be held to a higher standard of presentation, organization, and clarity. There should be no fallacies or bias, personal attacks (i.e. attack their ideas not them), and the title and clarity sections should be void of ambiguity.
Users new to debating are encouraged to begin with these types of debates, as they are the most forgiving. They are more of a light hearted, fun debate where spelling and grammar aren’t important unless they become so bad as to make the sentences difficult to read. Allowances should be made for debaters who even use fallacies, bias, vague titles/clarity, but the debate still needs to follow the standards set forth in the Code of Conduct.
***Caution*** Not for the faint of heart, or the easily offended. The expectation is these debates will be more aggressive and coarse debates. The topics, comments, and arguments can and will be graphic and likely vulgar at times. So when judging these debates users need to look past the shock of the words and judge on the content. Also there may be non-standard topics in this area, so judging debates here requires a more open mind.
I’d now like to go over two other things to keep in mind on all debates.
In the clarification section of the debate the creator can limit the scope of the debate. This is critical information to follow when judging a debate and one of the easiest ways to have your judgement removed. If the creator says in the clarification section that he wants the debate to cover a particular book, area, class, etc., and part of your justification for your vote references something outside of that scope, your vote could be reported and removed. So it’s very important to read the scope of the debate and then judge within the confines of the scope of the debate.
Burden of proof
For a debater’s claim to count they must provide a burden of proof. Or to put another way the person who makes the claim should provide reason their claim/argument is true or correct. The weakest form of this is personal opinion, and the strongest is objective fact. How strongly (or weakly) you feel that burden of proof has been met should be explained and affect your judging of the debate.
Ok now we’ll get into the judging detailed wins in a debate.
Detailed win requirements for a casual debate
The general concept of the requirements for a casual debate are three points: (1) quoting the biggest impacting/influential argument toward deciding who won the round, (2) explaining how/why it won or lost the round, and (3) the reason it did that based on the topic. (including clarification) **For a casual debate the judge is not required to justify more than the single most impactful argument of the round, but it is suggested to analyze one from both sides.
You are required to “quote” (you must use the “ symbols and they must be the debater’s words) where the impacting argument was made. You are allowed to condense down the quote using ellipsis (...), to skip over the sections of their argument that you don’t feel are important to your vote. Otherwise you are not allowed to paraphrase, summarize, or change the debaters words in any way. Anyone looking at your detailed win should be able to copy and search for what you wrote and find it in the debate in case they wish to look at the context in more depth than you may feel is necessary.
Why or how
Once you have an argument you need to articulate why or how it won (or lost) the round for the debater in reference to the topic and clarification in your opinion. It should be noted that just because you disagree with a judge's explanation/logic does not mean it’s removable judgement. In a ranked debate a detailed win using flawed logic to explain their conclusion could get a judgment removed, in a casual debate, however, that’s not the case, here only the judge needs to believe “this leads to that”. So please bear this in mind.
This part will feel strange when you first start doing it, but a good analogy is to a mathematical proof. or example, I likely don’t need to prove to you 10% of 100 is 10, but for the purposes of a detailed win you need to walk everyone through 10/100 = .1 and then that .1 X 100 equals the answer of 10. What is intuitive to you will not always be intuitive to others. You need to explain why you think the way you do means what you say it means. (why squared) Going through the steps to take others through your reasoning is why being a judge is so difficult. But we encourage you to practice and improve this VERY important skill, it will help you achieve a better understanding with others!
Another way to look at this process is that you need to “show, don’t tell”. So if you believe that X proves that the creator won then you need to be able to show that, without needing to SAY that. So an analogy to driving would be “Go to walmart” versus “Turn at the 3rd street and it’s on the right hand side”. So directions rather than an address, as it were.
This concept isn’t moderated nearly as strictly in casual as it is in ranked, but it’s a key concept to having good judgments.
So to reiterate, a detailed win of [the creator destroyed the contender with “(quote)”] will get your detailed win reported and removed. This shows the “quote” but not the *why/how*. Conversely a detailed win of [the creators admits that he lost] will get your detailed win reported and removed. This is not a quote from from the creator. (it could also be intuition rather than a proof that unless the creator’s quote is “I lost this debate” and there is nothing to infer)
The safest format for a detailed win is:
- “quote” won the round because it (applies to portion of the topic and/or clarification) *why/how*
We encourage comments, critiques, or suggestions for the debaters in the detail win sections, but they should be clearly noted below the “quote” and *how/why* sections so that our moderators don’t have to read through those details. Telling a debater how they could have won your vote is best practice to improve the quality of debates in the community, and we strongly encourage it!!!
Detailed win requirements for a ranked debate
The general concept of the requirements for a ranked debate are quote both sides, rate each point, explain why you rated them the way you did based on the topic/clarification of the debate, and then finally bring it all together as to why the round was won. To say this is a time consuming task is an understatement, please show this area of FD the respect it deserves, and the time it requires. (take notes on the debate and organize your thoughts before your vote!!!)
You are required to list and quote the most impacting (positive or negative) portion on all the individual points for both sides of the debate. You are allowed to condense down the quote using ellipsis (...), to skip over the sections of their argument that you don’t feel are important to your vote. Otherwise you are not allowed to paraphrase, summarize, or change the debaters words in any way. Anyone looking at your detailed win should be able to copy and search for what you wrote and find it in the debate in case they wish to look at the context in more depth than you may feel is necessary.
You are required to rate what you feel the impact on the quote has on the round in reference to topic and/or clarification. A scale from -10 to 10 is the standard, but -10.9 to 10.9 is allowable if the debate is close and you feel the need to be more granular. Ratings, quotes, and reasons should be easily associated to each other. The standard manner of association is to list all quotes with #A-ZZ and reference all the quotes below with #(A) gets (rate) *why/how*. For example:
Creator point 1 quote #A get
Contender point 1 quote #B get *why/how*
Creator total score = X
Contender total score = Y
It’s also allowable to reference all at once
Point 1 Creator
gets (rate) *why/how*
Point 1 Contender
gets (rate) *why/how*
Creator total score = X
Contender total score = Y
It’s up to the judge's personal preference, and any other formats are allowed, but there MUST be an easily followable link between the point, quote, rate, and reason(reason of the why) the judge uses.
Why or how
You are required to say *why* you chose this “quote” over the others, as well as *why/how* you rated the debater in reference both to this point and in reference to the topic and clarification.
Why you chose each quote does not require justification, it’s used to gauge your attitude toward individual arguments. So in that regard, this is the least stringent of the ranked detailed win judging requirements.
When it comes to the *why/how* one of the most difficult parts will be to simplify the connection between what was “quoted”, *why/how* it makes a difference, and the reason it makes that difference. Ranked debates tend to be both broad and deep which can make it very difficult to pull out the most important aspects of the debate and cut away the fluff/clutter/jargon to expose to others (who may not have your knowledge) why what you quoted/brought up is the most important part, and why/how it impacts the point. I like the quote from Einstein on this matter “If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself.” as your job is to make it easily understandable for the rest of the audience to follow your reasoning.
There should be a clear path that shows how the “quote” links to the point, why the point factors into the debate, and the reason that way (listed below) affects the debate in the way you believe it affects the debate. It is allowable to link sources to support your claims of “this leads to that”, and you should view ranked detailed wins similar to a debate in that you have the burden of proof to link what you believe, to what was stated. If you are viewed to use flawed logic, bias, or not meet the burden of proof your judgment may be reported and removed.
You are required to explain why this point/”quote” is worth more (or less) based on the topic and clarification of the debate. While you are not required to use the terms listed below, justification is required as to why certain points help more value.
It should be noted that you are still not allowed to judge based on things that were not stated by the debaters. You are not a participant in the debate, don’t inserted yourself into it. If you say that debater A used a fallacy that debater B did not call out, your judgement may be reported and removed.
This also applies if you know a better argument. An example of penalizing someone because you know a better argument is: If you have an argument you deem an 8 per say, and they used an argument that’s a 5 but you rate that argument as a 2 because you feel like they should have used the stronger argument. Your bias as a judge can get your judgement reported and removed in ranked detailed wins.
Totaling out a summary
You are required to add (subtract) all your ratings into totals for both debaters. Your summary should pull everything together referencing the points of the round in an organized and coherent manner. This is the section where you have some leeway to convince the audience that your judgement is fair and unbiased. Include any pitfalls you see in judging this round, as well as your summary of judging the round as a whole of the debate. (you are allowed to reference other rounds here)
Give ranked judging the respect it deserves. You’ll need to read the round more than once, take notes, and likely have to to make several passes on your judgment to get it correct.(this is what is expected of you) Read it aloud, read it to others, think of it as an essay you’ll be turning into your math teacher, but whatever you need to do to make it happen, do your due diligence. There is no requirement that you ever judge a ranked debate, if you don’t have the desire to do the work it takes to do a good job at it, don’t do it.
We encourage comments, critiques, or suggestions for the debaters in the detail win sections, but they should be clearly noted after the requirements have been met so that our moderators don’t have to read through those details. Telling a debater how they could have won your vote is best practice to improve the quality of debates in the community, and we strongly encourage it!!!
Ways to judge the debate
There are four aspects of how the debaters argued (scientific, logical, organized, and convincing) to win the debate. While calling them out in your judgements is not required we ask that you please keep them in mind as you judge debates here at FD.
When we say scientific we mean objectively true without personal bias. This should be looked at as a scale with the lowest of the scale being a heavily biased, individual opinion that is highly contested, what’s the highest of the scale, credible peer reviewed scientific community consensus. Here are some examples of the highest scientifically proven views (higher means more of the scientific community agrees/supports this view) to lowest along with how contested they are by the general public.
High uncontested: Iron is affected by magnetism
High lightly contested: The earth is round
High heavily contested: Evolution exists
Middle uncontested: Wasp venom can cure some types of cancer
Middle lightly contested: You should be limiting your saturated fat intake
Middle heavily contested: Chiropractic isn’t medicine
Low uncontested: Fate doesn’t exists
Low lightly contested: Ghosts don’t exist
Low heavily contested: Some new fad that hasn’t been debunked by science yet
Supporting points that haven’t been objectively peer reviewed carry much less weight than points that are scientifically peer reviewed proven to support the debaters argument. As a judge the more objectively true evidence that supports an argument is, the more weight it holds in a debate.
When we say logical we are referring to things that can be proven or disproven logically. There are seven types of logical proofs. There are as follows:
Visible proof of the claim. For example, a piercing would be a logical sign that the person went through pain, but a falsely linked sign would be that because they have piercings they must have questionable moral character. Some signs have varying degrees of probability as well. For example a woman with a black eye may be a sign of an abusive partner. As a judge you need to make sure it’s been proven that the sign logically supports the claim, and that the opposition hasn’t brought up other reasonable explanations of the sign.
Historical proof of the claim. For example the claim of “the sun always comes up” is supported by the history of the sun having come up every day in recorded history. As a judge you need to make sure the provided history has been proven substantial enough and that the opposition hasn’t brought up other reasonable correlations to the claim.
3) Cause and effect
Cause and effect proof of the claim. For example the claim that my injury was caused by my fall, is supported because I wasn’t injured before I fell. As a judge you need to make sure it’s been proven the cause, caused the effect, and that the opposition hasn’t brought up other reasonable factors that could have caused the effect.
4) Deduction (syllogism)
Generalization proof of the claim. For example if we agree with the generalization that the world is an insane place, then by deduction we can make the claim that being sane in an insane world is actually insanity. As a judge you need to make sure it’s been proven that the generalization is true, and that the opposition hasn’t brought up other reasonable factors that can logically be applied to the claim.
Comparison proof of the claim. For example if we agree that humans conquer those who are weaker, we can make the claim that aliens will conquer those who are weaker because we assume they are analogous to humans even though we’ve never met an alien. As a judge you need to make sure it’s been proven that they compare similar items, and that the opposition hasn’t brought up differences that invalidate the claim.
Semantic proof of the claim. For example if theist means a belief in god(s), creator(s), or supreme spiritual being(s), and atheist is the opposite, then an atheist can not believe in god(s), creator(s), or supreme spiritual being(s). As a judge you need to make sure it’s been proven that the definition is generally accepted, accurate, and that the opposition hasn’t brought up reasonable exceptions that apply to the claim.
Number proof of the claim. For example, in 2014 there were 33,594 firearm deaths, and 33,736 Motor vehicle traffic deaths, supports the claim that vehicles are just as dangerous as firearms. As a judge you need to make sure it’s been proven that the the statistics are from a reputable unbiased source, cited correctly, in context, and that the opposition hasn’t brought up doubt that they support the claim.
When we say organized we are referring to things being presented clearly, understandably, and professionally. This deals not only with grammar and spelling, but also the order, conduct, and even the flow of argument. Does the debater build his argument in an orderly or linear manner? Arguments in argument round with no rebuttals, and closing round with no new information, and just closing and summary. Are there examples to explain difficult concepts? Snarky and mean? Judging what you consider professional, sportsmanship, bad spelling/grammar, presentation, etc is up to you, and if you are too strict or even loose won’t likely cause your vote to be removed but the community may downvote your judgement if you aren’t what they consider fair and this should be kept in mind when casting a detailed win. As a judge, all these aspects factor into Organization, and while there is no one right way to structure an argument, the easier an argument is to follow, the better that arguments organization is.
When we say convincing we are referring to persuasiveness, emotional pull, morals, or ethics of the argument. This can refer to everything from making you see things from a new angle, to the pulling emotions out of you like a good story. It can even be the shock value of an example of what the debater sees in the future should we not heed his argument. It doesn’t have to be pleasant to be convincing. It can be the wounded vet, or the corrupt politician. As a judge this is the easiest criteria to feel, but the hardest to gauge the value of against the other factors because of our personal biases. Be cautious of judging for charismatic debaters simply because they are personable!
Weighing the ways
The best arguments will be very scientific, logical, organized, and convincing, but It’s rare to see an argument that excels at all four of the aspects above, so there is some subjectivity as to which claim of a debaters you feel stronger to a given debate. When judging different debaters claims some of the ways listed above, should be given more weight in general depending certain topics.
Topics where the heart of the claim is nature, reality, etc. will generally weigh scientifically more strongly than the other ways. Some topic examples:
Homosexuality is natural (research comparing homosexuality in nature will be stronger here)
GMO’s are safe (research on GMO will be strong here)
The big bang created the universe (carbon decay, astrophysics, etc. will be stronger here)
Topics where the heart of the claim is relative will generally weigh logic more strongly than the other ways. Some topic examples:
The sun will rise tomorrow (Historic data will be stronger here)
Life on mars will be easy (Analogy will be stronger here)
Atheism isn’t a religion (Definitions or semantics will be stronger here)
Debates that are difficult to read, hard to understand/follow, or have poor grammar/misspelled words could have organization weighed more strongly than other ways. There is a point at which even in a casual debate that it quits mattering what they are trying to say, because you can’t understand them.
Topicis where the heart of the claim is moral will generally weight convincing more strongly than the other ways. Some topic examples:
Spanking is wrong (while scientific data wouldn’t be as important in this debate because the creator stated “wrong” rather than “effective”)
It’s important for users to understand the goal of moderation and vote moderation here on ForDebating.com. In an Ideal world moderators wouldn’t be needed because the community would settle matters civilly and fairly amongst themselves. The FD staff will attempt to push in the direction having the community dictate the standards in most cases.
Our view is that the general purpose of a moderator is to create peace, and to protect/help users from being bullied/taken advantage of by other users. At FD we believe the quiet have as much value to add to the community as the loud aggressive members, and the moderators will attempt help provide an environment where both can exist and help grow the community.
To this end a moderator is allowed to help users craft their judgments in casual debates, in so much as to take the users ideas and help them articulate them into a good judgment. We obviously would prefer the community to provide this service, so if wish a judge to copy edit your judgement in a casual debate there is an expectation of a $5 tip. The value you are getting is worth much more than $5, they are helping you because they want a stronger community, but moderators tend to be busy so this money should be view as a thank you, and not a purchase of their services. (because purchasing their time would be MUCH more expensive)
As a debate website where the core base of users enjoy arguing over things in great detail moderation becomes a much more difficult position. To mitigate the amount of arguing and hostility moderators have to face, moderators will only follow the stated rules about vote moderation, and it is the responsibility of the community to up or down vote a judgement they feel doesn’t meet community standards.
To put this in an exaggerated example. Topic is “Nuclear power is the safest power”
Casual RFD - “Nuclear power kills the world.” won the round because killing the world isn’t safe, so that proves nuclear power isn’t safe.
While the moderators (and most of the world) may disagree that Nuclear power kills the world, the judge believes it to be true (if bias), has stated the why/how it ties into the topic, and the reason it’s important. The voting rules have been satisfied for a casual judgement.
For a ranked judgement the moderators have more leeway to remove bias, absurd, or fallacious judgements. However, if there is doubt the moderators will not remove the vote as the community should be the ones (not the moderators) teaching and mentoring users so they can provide good judgements.
Users will ALWAYS treat moderators both civilly and with respect for the work they provide to both help users, and grow the community. The work they do is thankless, and critical to making FD an enjoyable environment for everyone. So don’t take your anger and frustration on on them. If users have an issue with a moderator or their decision all escalations or disagreements will go to Coveny, and that’s where things change.
Talking with Coveny is a special exception on FD, and you are allowed to break most of the code of conduct when talking to him. (the worst offenses could still get you in trouble) Unlike with moderators, you are allowed and will not get banned for cussing/name calling Coveny privately or in the “Coveny’s an asshole” forums, but don’t expect it to be a one way street, whatever level of civility you direct toward him will be mutually returned to you.