UPDATED: LD Leaks, Disclosure Theory, and Norms of Openness in Debate

Update: After a nearly two year absence from prominent circuit tournaments, disclosure theory made a slight comeback last weekend, being run by Greenhill’s Farhan Damani in certain rounds en-route to his Barkley Forum championship. Although much discourse has already happened on the pros and cons of disclosure itself, this reemergence necessitates a new discussion: what are the advantages and disadvantages of using the ballot as an enforcement mechanism to mandate disclosure? Is it appropriate for a judge to refuse to vote on arguments such as disclosure theory, that might hold debaters accountable for out-of-round decisions? To what degree should debaters be held responsible in-round for choices that might be made by their coaches or team captains? Regardless of one’s answer to these questions, a discussion of the position’s merits is timely and necessary. If sunlight truly is the best disinfectant, as some proponents of disclosure have claimed—and it might be—then the justifications for such a norm should be out in the open and held up to community discourse.

Jake Nebel, assistant coach at The Greenhill School (TX), has released a new debate intel-gathering site called LD Leaks. NSD Update has linked to it previously, and now wishes to promote a discussion about the merits of such a site.

Unlike the normal disclosure wiki (wiki.debatecoaches.org), the information posted on LD Leaks is submitted largely by people other than the debaters themselves. These submitters can include judges, opponents, or observers of the round. Once the information is submitted, the debater in question has little power to have it removed, as per the site’s FAQ section. This information is then open to whomever accesses the site.

Here is how Jake justifies the site’s right to exist in the site’s FAQ section:

Q: Why are you doing this?! You have no right.
A: We do have a right, if you agree with the following premises:

1) Debates should be open to observers.
2) It’s not wrong to share information about someone’s arguments with other individuals.
3) It makes no difference whether you share the information with particular individuals or with the whole community.

Most tournaments mandate (1) as a policy. Most debaters, coaches, and judges practice (2) regularly. If it were wrong to share any information with others, it would be wrong to report what happened in a round to anyone who wasn’t there. No one is that secretive. If you deny (3) after accepting (2), then you think it’s better for people to share their information with their friends in secret than to share equally with everyone, without discrimination. This view raises several questions. Why should anyone enjoy a competitive advantage just because you have a lot of friends, because you happened to track down the right people at the tournament, or because you have a large team with many debaters who have seen lots of rounds? And why is it better for people to be in the dark about whether and with whom their information is being shared? With how many people can I share? Do people have to ask for each shared item, or can I offer all of it without solicitation?

Beyond that right to exist, though, we are curious whether people think LD Leaks is good or bad for the community. Is it a preferable alternative to mandatory disclosure? To voluntary disclosure? To the non-disclosure of any type that Jake describes? What is the proper norm on openness of information?