Keeping time in Open Parliamentary Debates – A Debatekeeper Plugin

Smartphones are almost ubiquitous today and have replaced the traditional stopwatches as timekeeping devices for many debaters around the world.

Most smartphones have a stopwatch built in, but Chuan-Zheng Lee of New Zealand wrote Debatekeeper, a very useful app for Android phones which makes timing debates easier and more convenient for judges, timekeepers and speakers.

The program currently includes the British Parliamentary format as well as several other parliamentary debating formats. One great feature about Debatekeeper is its extensibility. It is trivially easy to use additional debate formats by writing a short and simple XML file and putting it on your phone.

With a view to the upcoming German-Language Debating Championship (2013-05-30 to 2013-06-02 in Munich), I wrote a file to use the Open Parliamentary format in Debatekeeper. Open Parliamentary Debate is an indigenous German format based on BP and invented by debaters of Streitkultur Tübingen. Its most notable features include two teams with three speakers each and three “Nonaligned Speakers” who get to speak for 3.5 minutes before the Whip speakers and may chose to represent either the Government or Opposition side.

You can now download the Debatekeeper OPD file. I also wrote a file with all human-readable text in German. Installation on your phone is easy (the following description was copied from Chuan-Zheng’s site):

You should create a directory called debatekeeper on (the root directory of) your phone, and place the XML file in there. It must have the file extension .xml. If you give your file the same name as one of the built-in styles, then your custom file will override the built-in style. Otherwise, Debatekeeper will just add it to the list.

For more information on OPD, please see Streitkultur Tübingen’s OPD service page (in German). A brief overview of the format is available as a two-page PDF file (in German).