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World Debate Institute




Debate Central History

See our visual history here.

What a long, strange trip it has been!

The World Debate Institute, the Lawrence Debate Union and the University of Vermont are proud to say that we put debating on the web first. Others have copied, but there is only one original!

Debate Central was born as an idea in 1993 when it became obvious that debaters, ever voracious for information, were increasingly taking advantage of the internet. The way in which debate information circulated was about to change.

Likewise, it would soon be relatively easy for coaches and students to reach huge bodies of information they needed but had been unable to access: educational materials, organizational information, addresses, theory discussions, argument lists, scholarship and program opportunities, graduate assistant opportunities, job openings, and much more.

At the Kansas Speech Communication Association Convention in May, 1994, Prof. A. C. Snider of the University of Vermont met with a number of high school debate coaches who expressed a need to get educational debate information to help strengthen existing programs, attract new ones, help new debaters, and especially to help new coaches. Most had modems and inexpensive computers.

At the University of Vermont there was a move to find some economical way to make such information available for free over phone lines or the internet. However, the costs were too high.

It was a shareware breakthrough in Spring, 1994 which made the difference. FTPd, a shareware program (Ask Peter about it!), allowed any Mac (including a very slow and stupid one at the University of Vermont called "The Brigadier") to become a gopher server.

A basic set of materials were assembled and on September 1, 1994 Debate Central was turned on at a cost of less than $100.

Within two months America Online had chosen Debate Central as one of its featured educational internet sites and the rush was on. During the 1994-95 school year DC logins and downloads increased steadily to a level of between 35-55 different users a day.

Getting the machines to run was the easy part. It became clear that many internet locations are not "stops" on the information superhighway because there is very little to stop there for. They were often just intersections where one could catch a link to somewhere else. To be useful, Debate Central needed to be constantly adding materials and updating information.

Although the data acquisition phase has been difficult, many people have helped contribute to a systematic build up of materials. Listserv archives, address lists, argument lists, job offerings, and many other items have been added regularly. Each month the newsletter NEW ON DEBATE CENTRAL is circulated through the debate listservs and is posted at the entrance to the main Debate Central Library. Debate Central has now been recognized by other debate internet sites as the most complete depository of debate related information on the internet.

In the Summer of 1995 another shareware breakthrough took place. Debate Central wanted a presence on the world wide web but could not afford it and the SysOp had no time to learn HyperText Markup Language. Fortunately, the shareware program HTML Web Weaver (Contact Robert Best about it) allowed even this SysOp to format in HTML. Also, another shareware program, MacHTTP, allowed the same "stupid Mac" (the Brigadier) to operate as a WWW server (for more information contact StarNine Technologies). We love StarNine so much we now proudly run WebStar as our web server.

In Early 1999 DC began to offer streaming internet videos using RealPlayer. In December, 1999 DC hosted the first live internet video distance debate between Vermont and Cornell using Apple's QuickTime and Sorenson Broadcaster. Read about the first debate: Cornell vs. Vermont

In December, 1999 DC had its first major facelift since 1996, changing from a geographical model to an action model of web site design. In February of 2000 the original gopher server was finally turned off. WebStar has integrated a www server and a gopher server and an ftp server into one program. This has allowed our trusty server (PowerMac WorkGroup Server 7250/120) the Matrix to serve documents much faster.

As of February, 2000 DC averaged about 2800 users a day and about 15,000 hits a day. Whew, we came a long way from our little gopher server in 1994.

In 2002 the site was moved to the central servers at the University of Vermont to improve response and archiving. The video library continued to grow.

Debate Central continued to grow in terms of content as the 21st Century became a reality. The video system was switched to QuickTime as bandwidth increased for users and as it became the dominant application for video. In 2006 the format for all new videos became podcast to improve the ability of users to make these videos portable yet large and vivid.

In 2006 a group of related websites were created to explore a new project - documenting debate news from around the world and sharing it. Thus, the Global Debate Blog was both. At first it was an iWeb site housed at the University of Vermont, and that coninued since its founding in March 2006. The 2006 Global Debate Blog archives can be found at http://debate.uvm.edu/debateblog/doctortuna/Blog2006/Archive.html.

In the middle of 2007 it became clear that the traffic and the need for constant posting made it clear that iWeb was not practical. The Global Debate Blog fled from iWeb, and the 2007 archives are at http://debate.uvm.edu/debateblog/doctortuna/Blog/Archive.html

In July 2007 the Global Debate Blog went to its new home at http://globaldebateblog.blogspot.com/ where it has had 1.8 million unique visitors since it moved, now with between 3000-5000 a day.

We tried using Google Video has a free service, but then it was discontinued and we have now moved all of our videos out of that service. In 2007 we began using Vimeo http://vimeo.com as our service for providing video, but we always keep a QuickTime version of new videos. For now, Vimeo works very well.

Now there are a wide assortment of websites associated with Debate Central. They live on the debate.uvm.edu website or on the blogspot.com service for easy updating.

Here is a fairly complete listing of what we are calling THE FIRST FAMILY OF DEBATE WEBSITES.

Debate Central
Main page http://debate.uvm.edu/
Learn to Debate
Video Instruction and Debate Video Library
Debate Related Books We Endorse
Debate Library
Debate Audio Resources

Old Global Debate Blog


Instructional Programs
World Debate Institute
Debate Academies all around the world

Other Websites
Lawrence Debate Union, University of Vermont
Voice of Edwin (Lawrence Debate Union Newsletter)
Flashpoint Debate Television Program Videos (LDU television program)

Non-Debate Websites
Alfred Snider
Alfred Snider Photo Albums
College of Music Knowledge Radio Downloads
Reggae Lunch Radio Downloads
Alfred Snider Calendar
Alfred Snider News Links

Updated July 2014.