QSWriter - Question Set Creation & Packeting Website

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tconroy
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QSWriter - Question Set Creation & Packeting Website

Post by tconroy » Tue Oct 04, 2016 6:44 pm

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QSWriter (https://qswriter.com) is an online hub for teams and other groups to securely collaborate on question sets. QSWriter was born out of the need to find a better way than a Google Docs Spreadsheet and many excel/word files to manage the question writing process, the question compilation and editing process, and packeting. QSWriter doesn't just track question completion status. It is an all-in-one tool for creating question sets. You, as a tournament admin, can create a tournament on QSWriter, tell it what categories you want and how many questions are in those categories, tell it the email addresses of the people allowed to contribute to your tournament and what roles (writer/editor/admin) they have, monitor the progress of your tournament in general, by category, and by individual question, and finally, once all the questions have been written and have the seal of approval from your editors, access automatically formatted questions in pseudorandomly generated packets. What does all of this mean to you? Well, from start to finish, creating question sets just got easier.

FEATURES:
- Secure question storage
Questions are saved to Google Cloud Datastore, a secure NoSQL database run by Google that has all the security features and reliability you would expect from a huge tech company like Google. More about Google Cloud Datastore can be read here. And more about the security of QSWriter can be read here.

- Easy collaboration on question writing
QSWriter does not limit the amount of contributors that a tournament can have. A tournament may have any number of contributors writing and filling in cells in the tournament's automatically generated spreadsheet (called its "Matrix"). Contributors can write their questions directly in QSWriter, which allows easy access to the latest versions of questions and removes the need to compile questions. Editors have immediate access to questions ready for editing.

- Easy sign up and secure login through your Google Account
All it takes is a Google Account. This lets QSWriter take advantage of Google's security features, and there is no sign-up to start using QSWriter since almost everybody has a Google Account.

- Question, category, and set completion tracking
Too many times while creating our housewrite my team had to ask, "Who was going to write this tossup?" when looking at our Google Docs Spreadsheet. This question would have been easy to answer if QSWriter was around at the time. QSWriter keeps track of who claims, writes, and edits each question. QSWriter also keeps track of the progress of entire categories and the tournament in general.

- Automatic question formatting
With QSWriter, there is no longer a need to go through each packet and make the question formatting uniform. This is done automatically when packets are generated.
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- Automatic packeting and round generation
With a click of a button, QSWriter will generate the requested number of packets with the correct distribution of categories with questions in a pseudorandom order. This beats copying and pasting individual questions into packets. That's for sure.

- Mobile friendly website
QSWriter is completely mobile friendly. I shudder at the thought of trying to write good questions on my phone (although that doesn't mean it's impossible), but it's there if you need it.
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PRICE:
A Tournament Credit from QSWriter costs $12. This give you the ability to create a tournament of up to 900 questions that an unlimited number of contributors can work on. $12 is less than what it costs PER TEAM to use NAQT/HSAPQ question sets at your tournament. It is also less than what it costs to buy your team pizza to finish editing and packeting questions the night before your tournament.

Checkout is securely done through Paypal, and purchases are automatically applied to your QSWriter account. Debit and Credit cards are accepted, but no Paypal account is necessary.

If you would like to try a small sample of what QSWriter is like, a demo is available. In order to create a demo tournament, a user must log in using their Google Account, go to https://qswriter.com/purchase, and click on the "Demo" button near the bottom of the page.

TECHNICAL:
Front End - QSWriter uses the Bootstrap HTML framework (specifically the Yeti Bootswatch theme) to provide its clean, mobile-friendly look. jQuery is also implemented (bootstrap requires it).

Back End - QSWriter uses Apache Tomcat as its webserver. The Google Cloud Client Library is used for QSWriter's connection to Google Cloud Datastore. QSWriter also integrates Paypal's IPN and PDT services for automatic processing of transactions.
Tom Conroy
Cave Spring '16
Creator of https://qswriter.com

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Cody
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Re: QSWriter - Question Set Creation & Packeting Website

Post by Cody » Tue Oct 04, 2016 10:28 pm

It's really hard to tell the feature set of this program given the sparse demo. It seems to offer what you'd expect, from what I can tell (though I would expect that power would be indicated by (*) in a question instead of having to separate the question into two parts—that's ripe for mistakes).

My question for you is: why would somebody use this program, which costs $12, instead of using other methods, which do not cost $12 and have been extensively demo'd? Other methods include QEMS2 and Google Spreadsheet + countformat + pre-generated Google Docs templates. I personally do not see an advantage to using this program as compared to one of the established methods I already use extensively.
Cody Voight, VCU ‘14. I write lots of science and am an electrical engineer.
VCU Tournament Director ‘13-‘17. HSAPQ President ‘15-16.
Hero of Socialist Quizbowl Labor (NSC ‘14). “esteemed colleague” of Snap Wexley, ca. 2016. Stats Hero (Nats ‘16).
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Re: QSWriter - Question Set Creation & Packeting Website

Post by tconroy » Fri Oct 07, 2016 3:42 pm

In my experience of writing and editing questions in high school, just because we say the tossups have powers doesn't mean we get back tossups with powers. Creating a division in the question itself is quite the reminder to the writer. I don't fully understand what you mean by saying it's ripe for mistakes. It might be a different way of doing it, but I believe users will understand how to use it.

For those who have never used one of these methods (something more advanced than a plain spreadsheet), QSWriter is much to get started with. You have to run QEMS2 on your own system (which includes installing dependencies, setting up MySQL, and even set up port forwarding if you want to access it from outside of your local network). I understand how there would be no advantage for you to use QSWriter since you already have other systems set up, but for someone just getting started, I think the advantage is there.

If you have questions about the features of QSWriter, I'll be happy to answer them.
Tom Conroy
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Re: QSWriter - Question Set Creation & Packeting Website

Post by Cody » Fri Oct 07, 2016 6:38 pm

tconroy wrote:In my experience of writing and editing questions in high school, just because we say the tossups have powers doesn't mean we get back tossups with powers. Creating a division in the question itself is quite the reminder to the writer. I don't fully understand what you mean by saying it's ripe for mistakes. It might be a different way of doing it, but I believe users will understand how to use it.
Usually, powers are something that an editor puts in to make sure everything is consistent across a category and a set in terms of powermarking. What I mean by ripe for mistakes is that having the parts of the question separate has two separate effects: it makes it harder to scan for grammar and make sure the question comes together correctly; and the system makes it more likely that human error will be introduced (by having to move parts of a question between boxes instead of moving an asterisk in parentheses).
tconroy wrote:For those who have never used one of these methods (something more advanced than a plain spreadsheet), QSWriter is much to get started with. You have to run QEMS2 on your own system (which includes installing dependencies, setting up MySQL, and even set up port forwarding if you want to access it from outside of your local network). I understand how there would be no advantage for you to use QSWriter since you already have other systems set up, but for someone just getting started, I think the advantage is there.
As far as I know, anyone can sign up for an account on QEMS and create tournaments; my question was meant more in a technical sense (sorry if it came off as rude): what does your system do better or different as compared to the established methods of quizbowl set production? (it's hard to judge with the demo being only 2/2. I can't really see the scope of the system as it would be for 300/300 across 20 categories)
Cody Voight, VCU ‘14. I write lots of science and am an electrical engineer.
VCU Tournament Director ‘13-‘17. HSAPQ President ‘15-16.
Hero of Socialist Quizbowl Labor (NSC ‘14). “esteemed colleague” of Snap Wexley, ca. 2016. Stats Hero (Nats ‘16).
Quizbowl at VCU

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Re: QSWriter - Question Set Creation & Packeting Website

Post by Dominator » Fri Oct 07, 2016 10:45 pm

I don't intend to use QSWriter, since I already have a system I built to do the same things. So, I won't really be able to weigh in on what QSWriter does well and not-so-well.

Still, I want to challenge Cody's notion that this system would not be worth the pittance being charged since methods already exist. Many housewrites are produced through a collection of Google docs, which take training new users on and require a lot of copy-and-pasting. If there is an easy user interface or copy-and-pasting is reduced, the savings in time are well worth the $12. Plus, it would give the editing staff more time to actually edit a tournament instead of being bogged down with clerical duties, which should lead to better sets.

I hope that quizbowl finds a suitable tournament production solution. If QSWriter is it, great.
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Re: QSWriter - Question Set Creation & Packeting Website

Post by AKKOLADE » Fri Oct 07, 2016 11:03 pm

I applaud you for, at a minimum, looking at a possible hole in the services available for quiz bowl and trying to fill it.

You're also a current player (well, was, as of a few months ago) who may or may not play in college. How do people who use your system know that there's no way you'll be able to access their questions?

I'm not accusing you of anything, but given quiz bowl's "rich" history of cheating, how can people know this is secure?
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Re: QSWriter - Question Set Creation & Packeting Website

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Fri Oct 07, 2016 11:24 pm

tconroy wrote:You have to run QEMS2 on your own system (which includes installing dependencies, setting up MySQL, and even set up port forwarding if you want to access it from outside of your local network). I understand how there would be no advantage for you to use QSWriter since you already have other systems set up, but for someone just getting started, I think the advantage is there.
People have been confused by this before before, but this is not in fact true. QEMS2 can be used in an entirely browser-based manner and requires no installation, unless you really really want to run your own instance of it. Simply register an account at qems2.grapesmoker.net and you should be able to create and manage tournaments with no further work necessary.

That said, several features of QEMS2 are still incomplete (like a robust packetization system).
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Re: QSWriter - Question Set Creation & Packeting Website

Post by Cody » Sat Oct 08, 2016 12:09 am

Dominator wrote:Still, I want to challenge Cody's notion that this system would not be worth the pittance being charged since methods already exist. Many housewrites are produced through a collection of Google docs, which take training new users on and require a lot of copy-and-pasting. If there is an easy user interface or copy-and-pasting is reduced, the savings in time are well worth the $12. Plus, it would give the editing staff more time to actually edit a tournament instead of being bogged down with clerical duties, which should lead to better sets.
Once again, there's no such notion: I am asking a serious question. (and disagree about the Google Docs setup when done in a best-practices fashion. there's certainly less training than an actual submission system [either this or QEMS2]--it is the easiest method to introduce someone to. and there should be one copy-paste.)
Cody Voight, VCU ‘14. I write lots of science and am an electrical engineer.
VCU Tournament Director ‘13-‘17. HSAPQ President ‘15-16.
Hero of Socialist Quizbowl Labor (NSC ‘14). “esteemed colleague” of Snap Wexley, ca. 2016. Stats Hero (Nats ‘16).
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Re: QSWriter - Question Set Creation & Packeting Website

Post by Mike Bentley » Sun Oct 09, 2016 5:44 pm

AKKOLADE wrote:I applaud you for, at a minimum, looking at a possible hole in the services available for quiz bowl and trying to fill it.

You're also a current player (well, was, as of a few months ago) who may or may not play in college. How do people who use your system know that there's no way you'll be able to access their questions?

I'm not accusing you of anything, but given quiz bowl's "rich" history of cheating, how can people know this is secure?
It's pretty difficult to engineer any system where at least one person doesn't have access to the questions. You could potentially encrypt the questions as they're stored in a database, but this can make functionality such as listing them and searching for them difficult. It also makes it harder to debug.

I'm curious about packetization in this problem. One of the reasons that QEMS2 doesn't have it yet (except for a few specific types of sets) is because I haven't thought of a great way to do it in a general situation. Lots of sets have different particular rules about what questions can go together in packets and which can't. It's not that hard to design a system that just takes the high level categories and randomly picks stuff, but that usually ends up with a lot of things together.

Regarding setting up QEMS2, yes, there's some work you need to go through in order to get it running locally as a new instance. However, as others have mentioned, the one hosted on grapesmoker doesn't require anything besides just creating a new set on that website.
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Re: QSWriter - Question Set Creation & Packeting Website

Post by tconroy » Sun Oct 09, 2016 5:55 pm

AKKOLADE wrote:You're also a current player (well, was, as of a few months ago) who may or may not play in college. How do people who use your system know that there's no way you'll be able to access their questions?

I'm not accusing you of anything, but given quiz bowl's "rich" history of cheating, how can people know this is secure?
I'm not a current player anymore. I am attending Virginia Tech, but I am not playing for them or plan to play for them. QSWriter is more secure than QEMS2 (qems2.grapesmoker.net/). When logging in to QEMS2, your password is sent in plaintext and your questions are sent in plaintext. QSWriter uses SSL to encrypt all the communication between the website and its users. (Only) I have access to the database since it's necessary to the management of system. This is also likely the case for QEMS2, which means either of the owners of these systems have access to users' questions. I cannot think of a way off the top of my head to prevent the owners of the databases from accessing the questions inside except for having the users encrypt their questions with their own key (which would be a hassle or dangerous). I don't believe there is a good way of doing it. Using one of these systems comes with the requirement that you trust the system.
Auks Ran Ova wrote:Simply register an account at qems2.grapesmoker.net and you should be able to create and manage tournaments with no further work necessary.
Thank you for providing the link to QEMS2. What you said would be true if its account creation was working. I tried to make an account, but it seems to be having problems sending email verification requests and won't let me log in.

I don't fully understand the capabilities of QEMS2 yet since I'll probably have to host an instance of QEMS2 if I want to use. This means I'm not ready to answer Cody's question yet.
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Re: QSWriter - Question Set Creation & Packeting Website

Post by Mike Bentley » Sun Oct 09, 2016 8:55 pm

There's an issue with the e-mail server being used. I've manually confirmed your e-mail address.

I will say that QEMS2 is open source and if you want to make any contributions we'd be happy to have them.
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Re: QSWriter - Question Set Creation & Packeting Website

Post by grapesmoker » Wed Apr 05, 2017 10:47 pm

When logging in to QEMS2, your password is sent in plaintext and your questions are sent in plaintext.
This thread is old, but I thought it would be worthwhile to mention that as of today this is no longer the case. I bought an SSL certificate for the site and your connection to QEMS should now be secure. Apologies for any recent service interruptions.
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