Power marking

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Power marking

Postby Charles Martel » Mon Jan 02, 2012 6:12 pm

I want to start a discussion on two questions about placing power marks:
1. Is it acceptable to place power marks before the end of the first line?
2. Is it acceptable to place power marks after the FTP?

I would tend to say No to 1 and Yes to 2, but I want to hear other opinions.
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Re: Power marking

Postby bird bird bird bird bird » Mon Jan 02, 2012 6:16 pm

NAQT discourages (1) and outright disallows (2).

In general, I would think that in both of these situations the writer should probably reconsider clue order and structure.
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Re: Power marking

Postby the return of AHAN » Mon Jan 02, 2012 6:26 pm

How on Earth would you ever justify a power-mark AFTER the mod just said, "for ten points"? :shock:
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Re: Power marking

Postby Charles Martel » Mon Jan 02, 2012 6:29 pm

Mostly hard lit and philosophy:
FTP, name this Japanese author of * (most notable work).
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Re: Power marking

Postby in on these shenanigans » Mon Jan 02, 2012 6:30 pm

Power-marking philosophy needs to consider A: the advertised difficulty of the set, B: the audience(s) hearing the set, and C: how A and B mesh.

If you're advertising a standard regular-difficulty event and it's being played in ordinary tournament fields (i.e. not HFT@Harvard or GSAC@New Trier or the like, but Seven Lakes in Texas and Dorman in SC/GA/etc. is OK), then I think a deviation from "usual" power marking isn't a good idea. But if you're writing either a novice set or a pre-nats warmup set, it's OK to not necessarily abide by the usual power-marked length if you tell people about that ahead of time. I powermarked SCOP Novice 1 a lot looser than, say, an NAQT IS set in terms of percentage of text bolded because I wanted to give powers away like candy. If you want to write a prenats tournament (note: please don't, there are enough of those running around the regular difficulty tournaments as it is) and you say "we'll give you 15 if you first clue it, but other than that..." that's probably fine - the teams playing it are probably up to the challenge. In either case, you want to let people know ahead of time (even if it's just the coaches' meeting) that that's going on.

In a regular-difficulty tournament, power marks in line 1 or near FTP almost certainly mean you wrote a badly conceived question. In your example, you need to pick an easier answer line - and yes, you can always come up with an easier answer line.
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Re: Power marking

Postby Dominator » Mon Jan 02, 2012 6:59 pm

whitesoxfan wrote:1. Is it acceptable to place power marks before the end of the first line?


My answer is that, while it is certainly allowed, it is a sign of a bad question. Go learn more things (that constitute early clues).

whitesoxfan wrote:2. Is it acceptable to place power marks after the FTP?


No, you can't say "For ten points" and then be like "SIKE! You still got power!". If anything, rearrange like "Name this Japanese author who, for ten points, wrote..." (not that that rolls well off the tongue).

While these questions address power marks very early and very late, there is a lot of room in between. For example, what about a blanket policy that power always ended after line 3 in a tournament with 6-line tossups? While there would certainly be some inequities, I do not think I've ever seen a power-marked set without its fair share of inequity anyway, and at least this policy would give the players a very good idea what is expected. (Keep in mind I am not advocating such a system. IMSANITY 2 is not power-marked at all.)
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Re: Power marking

Postby christino » Mon Jan 02, 2012 7:19 pm

whitesoxfan wrote:2. Is it acceptable to place power marks after the FTP?

If the archives are representative of what the packets looked like in the regular season, HSAPQ has done this in their 2009-2010 sets. However, I distinctly remember that during play, the 2010-2011 packets ended long powermarks at "FTP".
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Re: Power marking

Postby Just a Guy Made Of Dots and Lines » Mon Jan 02, 2012 7:28 pm

I really don't see the trouble with just saying "for fifteen points" instead of "for ten points", but the point was made earlier - either write an easier tossup, or make it a bonus part.
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Re: Power marking

Postby Smuttynose Island » Mon Jan 02, 2012 8:39 pm

whitesoxfan wrote:Mostly hard lit and philosophy:
FTP, name this Japanese author of * (most notable work).


You should never ever at any regular difficulty event, or really any HS event, be writing a question that is so hard that it requires such a late power. If the TU is really that hard, then odds are it will be going dead in a significant number of rooms, which is antithetical to good fun quizbowl and really unjustifiable as odds are you are not, in any significant way, differentiating between any of the teams at that tournament. If you are writing a question that requires such a late power then you must reconsider your choice of clues and, most likely, the answer line. If the TU is not going dead in a significant number of rooms, most likely due to how well known this most well known work is and that is the only well known work, then you need to restructure your TU and write a significant portion of it on that work.
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Re: Power marking

Postby Charles Martel » Mon Jan 02, 2012 8:46 pm

I think the knockout argument for putting the power mark after the FTP is that it's easy to fix it without changing the order of clues. For example:
FTP, name this Japanese author of * (notable work).
becomes
(other stuff), which was written by this Japanese author.* FTP, name this author of (notable work).
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Re: Power marking

Postby Smuttynose Island » Mon Jan 02, 2012 8:55 pm

whitesoxfan wrote:I think the knockout argument for putting the power mark after the FTP is that it's easy to fix it without changing the order of clues. For example:
FTP, name this Japanese author of * (notable work).
becomes
(other stuff), which was written by this Japanese author.* FTP, name this author of (notable work).


That's not a convincing argument in any way. The player is showing no less knowledge of the answerline by buzzing in after that mark, and before the (notable work) than they are by buzzing in after Japanese (or really at the "which") Powers should be placed immediately prior to the player learning information that is not deserving of power. Additionally, putting the power immediately before "For 10 points" does not solve the FUNDAMENTAL issue that you wrote a bad TU that was too hard. Pyramidality is not the sole metric of what makes a good or bad TU, appropriate accessibility of the clues and answerline are just as important.
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Re: Power marking

Postby Yellow-throated Honeyeater » Mon Jan 02, 2012 9:01 pm

Daniel's right. Basically, if you are looking at a set and asking the questions that Adam is asking, it probably means that your set could use more editing (though it could mean that your sense of what teams know about that subject is off). That's not the end of the world--sets always need more editing. However, tossups should be about topics that many teams know a few clues about and have more than one clue that most (though probably not all) teams know, and first lines of tossups should have clues that are less well known than the early middle clues where powers are often placed.

As to Coach Prince's question, I would tend to say that it's a bad idea. The reason it's generally not done is that, even though tossups should contain some consistency based on what I just said, there is always some inconsistency. It's difficult enough to make them all the same length, which beyond a certain range is more trouble than it's worth, and it's even more difficult to make them so consistent that at exactly three lines through you are at a particular difficulty level.

One of the things you want to do with powers is put them just before important words. To see how Prince's system might not work well, here's one of my questions from Solo:
The smallest cone on this mountain is Shira, and its bottom slope contains the town of Moshi. This also contains
features named Furtwängler and Rebmann. Two of this mountain’s three volcanic cones are extinct, while the Reusch
Crater on Kibo (KEE-bo) is dormant. The highest point on this mountain, which used to be called Kaiser Wilhelm
peak, is now called Uhuru (oo-HOO-roo) Peak. Located about 120 miles east of Olduvai Gorge, identify this
Tanzanian (tan-zuh-NEE-un) mountain which is the highest on the continent of Africa.
ANSWER: Mount Kilimanjaro


If the power mark was placed at the end of the third line, it would be between Kaiser Wilhelm and peak. This would be bad if a student recognized that clue, because whether or not they got the power could very well depend on buzzer speed, moderator reading speed, and moderator judgment. It would be better to move the power mark back a few words so it was just before the word Uhuru so that a student who recognized the Wilhelm clue would have a definite chance to get power.
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Re: Power marking

Postby Charles Martel » Mon Jan 02, 2012 9:07 pm

In 95% of cases, and in 99.9% of cases in high school quizbowl, a question with a power in the last line would be too hard. I'm not arguing against that at all, I'm just saying that even if one wanted to write a tossup about a subject that was too hard, they should move clues before the FTP so that the power mark isn't after the FTP.
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Re: Power marking

Postby something similarly dumb » Mon Jan 02, 2012 9:13 pm

whitesoxfan wrote:In 95% of cases, and in 99.9% of cases in high school quizbowl, a question with a power in the last line would be too hard. I'm not arguing against that at all, I'm just saying that even if one wanted to write a tossup about a subject that was too hard, they should move clues before the FTP so that the power mark isn't after the FTP.

Right, but they shouldn't write that tossup! Instead of moving the powermark around, they should not write on something too hard!
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Re: Power marking

Postby Dominator » Wed Jan 04, 2012 10:39 am

Leucippe and Clitophon wrote:One of the things you want to do with powers is put them just before important words.


Of course, this is the prevailing philosophy. I guess I feel that, in practice, some tournaments, when looking for that crucial word that is just important enough to no longer warrant power, simply miss the mark. In that case, my hypothetical system would at least be clear to the players and easy to implement.

Leucippe and Clitophon wrote:It's difficult enough to make them all the same length, which beyond a certain range is more trouble than it's worth, and it's even more difficult to make them so consistent that at exactly three lines through you are at a particular difficulty level.


From my experience, writing questions to all be more or less exactly six lines is not really that difficult, especially compared to the task of consistently power marking a set. The task of writing exactly three lines at a particular difficulty level across a set sounds really hard and misses my point. The point of my hypothetical situation was that, since it is not that hard to write tossups of more or less six lines and it is not that hard to write them having more or less three lines of power, then simply power marking after the third line would me more or less accurate, and while you may lose some accuracy, you gain fairness and simplicity.
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Re: Power marking

Postby Skepticism and Animal Feed » Wed Jan 04, 2012 11:21 am

Several really hard college tournaments have had tossups that were powers (or superpowers!) all the way to the end of the question. These said "For fifteen points" or "For twenty points".

Given how high school questions are generally too hard these days, it's probably a bad idea to write high school questions so hard that they would be powers all the way to the end, but if you want to then the precedent is there.
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Re: Power marking

Postby Matthew Jackson » Wed Jan 04, 2012 5:29 pm

Skepticism and Animal Feed wrote:Several really hard college tournaments have had tossups that were powers (or superpowers!) all the way to the end of the question. These said "For fifteen points" or "For twenty points".

Given how high school questions are generally too hard these days, it's probably a bad idea to write high school questions so hard that they would be powers all the way to the end, but if you want to then the precedent is there.


No, Bruce is wrong. There is no reason why this practice, limited to the very hardest tossups at the very hardest collegiate opens, should trickle down to high school and influence the writing of high school questions in any way, shape, or form. If you "want to" "write high school questions so hard that they would be powers all the way to the end," there is no reason for you to follow any sort of precedent. Instead, you should stop writing those questions and write easier questions.
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Re: Power marking

Postby Skepticism and Animal Feed » Wed Jan 04, 2012 5:49 pm

To clear up any ambiguity, I am a dyed-in-the-wool member of the "high school questions should be easier" movement and I'm not encourgaging anyone to write hard high school questions or arguing that anyone is somehow bound to write hard high school questions just because Ryan Westbrook wrote a tossup on something really hard once for a FICHTE side event. I consider any acccusations to the contrary to not just be wrong, but also to be an attack on my character.

I'm just pointing out that if you do wish to violate common sense and the best interests of quizbowl by writing a high school tossup that is a power all the way to the end, there exists a conventional practice in the college game on how to format this. Matt is absolutely right that this is restricted to difficult open and novelty events.
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Re: Power marking

Postby Auroni » Wed Jan 04, 2012 6:17 pm

I think that advising high schoolers to write questions in a certain way assuming that there's no changing their mind about choosing a tough tossup answer is deleterious when instead the message that should be reinforced in the first place is "don't write overly hard questions." While everyone arguing for post-FTP power markings for the hardest tossups because of the precedent is technically correct about the fairest way to handle those tossups, putting forth such an argument crowds out the bigger point that we shouldn't be having those tossups in the first place. If you were a new writer looking in this thread for advice, you would probably attempt to write some hard tossups in the manner prescribed because it seems like a cool idea. That's what we don't want happening, given how many high school events there are that end up too difficult.
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Re: Power marking

Postby Cheynem » Wed Jan 04, 2012 6:37 pm

Most things can become better ideas through judicious answer changes (and, of course, appropriate reworking of later clues). That tossup on a specific kami becomes a much better tossup on Shinto or Japan which uses clues about that kami. I mean, this isn't a cure-all fix (I'm unconvinced if you think "Peterloo" is too hard for your tournament, that a tossup on _England_ really makes it better, for instance).
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Re: Power marking

Postby Yellow-throated Honeyeater » Sat Jan 07, 2012 12:55 pm

Dominator wrote:
Leucippe and Clitophon wrote:One of the things you want to do with powers is put them just before important words.


Of course, this is the prevailing philosophy. I guess I feel that, in practice, some tournaments, when looking for that crucial word that is just important enough to no longer warrant power, simply miss the mark. In that case, my hypothetical system would at least be clear to the players and easy to implement.

Leucippe and Clitophon wrote:It's difficult enough to make them all the same length, which beyond a certain range is more trouble than it's worth, and it's even more difficult to make them so consistent that at exactly three lines through you are at a particular difficulty level.


From my experience, writing questions to all be more or less exactly six lines is not really that difficult, especially compared to the task of consistently power marking a set. The task of writing exactly three lines at a particular difficulty level across a set sounds really hard and misses my point. The point of my hypothetical situation was that, since it is not that hard to write tossups of more or less six lines and it is not that hard to write them having more or less three lines of power, then simply power marking after the third line would me more or less accurate, and while you may lose some accuracy, you gain fairness and simplicity.


Perhaps a reasonable compromise that takes both of our positions into account is to consistently pick the last buzzable word in the third line (or first one in the fourth line), and put the power mark right in front of it.
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