Thought Bubble: Logging On: A Case for Internet in Extemp

It’s June of 2016 as a freshman Christopher Maximos is having a mental breakdown. Faced with thirteen topic areas, thousands of publications, and no one to help, this seems to be both the plot of a low-budget dramedy and the unfortunate lead up to my freshman NSDA Nationals. For someone who’s crazy about extemp, filing has been the bane of my existence. In my first competitions, I preferred reading a copy of the NYT before the tournament and simply rolling the dice. As I realized, though, that I wanted to be good, not tragic at extemp, filing became my sole activity. I would spend hours a week pouring over articles in which I had little interest in hopes of becoming Ashesh Rambachan 2.0. In this complete swing of the pendulum, I learned no more than when I read two to three articles. Truly, I was Extemp Superman and filing was my Kryptonite.

If you ask twenty extempers on their opinions of filing, you’ll likely get twenty answers. After all, if you attend a behemoth program, filing can be a walk on in the park. On the other hand, if you’re a so-called lone wolf extemper, you’ll be howling for filing help. As extemp has become beholden to sourcing rather than analysis and delivery, filing has built systematic divisions between those who have the luck of competing with top programs and those without resources. To put it bluntly, it’s impossible to file even half of the depth/breadth of a large program as a single extemper. The time between competing, delivering practice speeches, and living in the world outside of extemp (who knew that existed), makes it impossible to fulfill the deficit of single-filing. Similarly, subscriptions are incredibly expensive. For the “big ten” publications alone, one would have to spend upwards of $300 just to remain competitive. This is simply unrealistic, unethical, and unaffordable for small teams. While many on the circuit are able to make filing coalitions, I can attest from personal experience that these are near impossible to keep up. Unlike a team, there’s no infrastructure or incentive system to encourage accountability, as filing without that person will be equally, if not more miserable. 

As you near the third paragraph, you’re probably wondering, is this a rant on the broken state of extemp or a piece that will provide a bright solution? Well, in typical Christopher Maximos style, it’s time to brighten up this maudlin painting of extemp with a substantive solution: the internet (insert jazz hands here). Just as extemp has abandoned tubs, it’s time to abandon wifi-less competition. For small teams and large teams alike, the internet provides the perfect mix of support and competitive motivation. On one hand, those who want to keep their traditions of filing are able to, utilizing the resources of their programs and teammates. On the other hand, those without a team or the resources to afford continued reading can employ the internet as their extemp safety net. Leagues across the country have instituted wifi filing to relative success; tournaments including the extemp pinnacle: MBA have switched to wifi-inclusive competition. As the tides turn locally, it’s time for a national tsunami.

No, internet-based competition is not lazy. The largest issue with internet competition is breaking down stigma from the conventional school of extemp thought. Last year, when I used Extemp Genie (the best invention since sliced bread) as a supplement at NSDA Nationals, I received numerous comments about my “lazy” preparation for extemp. When auto-filing or internet filing properly, one does not go into competition cold. Rather, they read carefully and allow the internet/auto-filer to save and multiply the sources that they already have been briefed on. For a community that’s rife with cheating, internet/auto-filing offers an avenue to promote academic honesty and ensure a better academic-extracurricular balance for stressed speakers. It’s time to understand that extemp should not be a game of resources, but a game of talent and skill. We’ve burned the plastic tubs, and now, we must click our signal buttons back on. Let’s vanquish extemp’s Kryptonite once and for all.