The Disturbing Decline of Working Buzzers

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The Disturbing Decline of Working Buzzers

Post by Habitat_Against_Humanity » Mon Nov 08, 2010 1:26 pm

Before I get to the main point of what I want to say, I'd like to give the context for me being so cranky about this issue:

Okay, so this past weekend my team (Michigan State A) played a match against Michigan C in a room with only seven working buzzers. In an admittedly foolish move, I sat at the seat with no working buzzer despite being the top scorer on my team. Throughout the match, I signaled by loudly saying "Buzz!" in the way I'm used to in situations where buzzers are lacking. Early on in the match both my teammate and I buzzed in on a tossup and the buzz was awarded to my teammate who negged where I would have answered correctly. To my ears, it sounded as if both of us had "buzzed" at the same time. This wouldn't have mattered except that the match was tied going into the last tossup. The tossup went to the end when both a member of the opposing team and I both buzzed. Once again, moderator discretion ruled in favor of the player with the working buzzer and so we lost the match.

Had I had a working buzzer, there would have been no ambiguity as to who buzzed and had I been given one or both of the buzzes in question, Michigan State A would have won third place outright. Now, the subject of my ire is in no way the moderator, who followed ACF rules in not allowing me to protest my contention that the buzzing was too close to call. My issue is the fact that we have become somewhat complacent in dealing with either faulty buzzers or a complete lack thereof. I seem to remember a buzzer fiasco at ACF Nationals 09 where Minnesota A and Chicago A were slated to play Slap Bowl in a room with no buzzers and since then, it seems that every tournament I've been to has had buzzer issues. I don't know which team these lousy buzzers belonged to and I don't know if OSU gave them a discount, but it seems to me that if you cannot supply the bare minimum of eight working buzzers, you should not be given a discount; it's as simple as that.

It's frankly disgusting that we can't even properly maintain the one piece of equipment needed to properly execute a quizbowl match. I know repair can be expensive and budgets are limited, but the problem has become so pervasive that requests for working buzzers now show up on nearly every tournament announcement thread. We have become so complacent that we now accept faulty equipment as a godsend when many teams simply don't bring buzzers. This situation is untenable in the long term.

Perhaps a list should be compiled of the number and functional status of the buzzer sets belonging to each program. That way, teams who neglect to keep their buzzers in working order or fail to bring working buzzers to tournaments can be held accountable. Unfortunately, I'm not entirely convinced that this would really change anything. Short of instituting penalties for not supplying working buzzers or not bringing them (which obviously is inherently full of problems), I don't know how the problem can be reasonably resolved. Any thoughts?

EDIT: I totally meant to post this in the discussion forum. If the mods could move this, it would be very much appreciated.
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Re: The Disturbing Decline of Working Buzzers

Post by Matthew D » Mon Nov 08, 2010 6:07 pm

we had the same problem at Alabama and had to play in the room 3 times. I guess that is one reason why I learned how to repair my team's judge. I do have one not working paddle on a 10 person set but when I manage to find some time, I am going to hunt down the broken wire in it and fix that one also...
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Re: The Disturbing Decline of Working Buzzers

Post by mhayes » Tue Nov 09, 2010 1:42 pm

I think you've already pointed out the biggest reason for this trend.
Habitat_Against_Humanity wrote:repair can be expensive and budgets are limited
Fixing systems can be expensive, and if the damage is too extensive, purchasing a new set may be the only viable option. Having founded a club at a smaller school (ULL), I can tell you that there was virtually no money in our budget to allocate towards buzzer repair/maintenance.

I think the best solution would be for clubs to invest in more durable systems (e.g. the Judge).
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Re: The Disturbing Decline of Working Buzzers

Post by Nine-Tenths Ideas » Tue Nov 09, 2010 2:02 pm

Or easily fixable ones- in high school, my coach could easily fix broken tips on our Zeecraft set, which tended to be the only major problem. Serious nonworking buzzers got sent to Zeecraft, who supposedly fixed things cheaply.
Also, I've heard that rumors of the Judge's durability are at least partially untrue.
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Re: The Disturbing Decline of Working Buzzers

Post by Mike Bentley » Tue Nov 09, 2010 2:11 pm

In general, fixing most buzzer systems involves being able to solder. This isn't a particularly highly skilled or expensive operation.
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Re: The Disturbing Decline of Working Buzzers

Post by Frater Taciturnus » Tue Nov 09, 2010 2:17 pm

Isaacbh wrote: Also, I've heard that rumors of the Judge's durability are at least partially untrue.
In addition to the extreme cost of The Judge I will point out that I have never seen one that wasn't in some way broken.
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Re: The Disturbing Decline of Working Buzzers

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Tue Nov 09, 2010 4:16 pm

Who is failing to bring these buzzers? If it's established teams, then this is a sign of decay and nihilism. But if it's new teams, this is much less of a problem. Buzzer purchase probably lags behind team formation.
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Re: The Disturbing Decline of Working Buzzers

Post by Matt Weiner » Tue Nov 09, 2010 4:30 pm

I encourage VCU to buy one new buzzer per semester in order to make sure our own tournaments are run properly and we can claim lots of discounts at regional events. VCU was funded to go to the ICT exactly one time and otherwise has never gotten a penny from anything but its members' pockets and the tournaments we host. A new Anderson system is $200. What this all adds up to is: it's in everyone's interest for you, the team reading this, to just go buy a buzzer right now and immediately solve this problem, and I don't believe that rounding up $200 every six months (let alone once and forever) is actually a problem for the vast majority of collegiate teams, who can either raise money in some way or just ask their members, who can usually afford it, to chip in.
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Re: The Disturbing Decline of Working Buzzers

Post by Susan » Tue Nov 09, 2010 4:34 pm

Clearly the solution is for NAQT to award buzzer systems instead of giant trophies at ICT this year.

I'm only half joking!
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Re: The Disturbing Decline of Working Buzzers

Post by Cheynem » Tue Nov 09, 2010 4:56 pm

I actually would like to see more buzzers-as-service-projects or something in the vein of Matt's Buzzers where perhaps special prizes can be given to financially strapped teams who nevertheless demonstrate service to the community in some manner.

$200 every six months out of pocket seems like a lot to me, but I guess if you combined that with running tournaments and school funding, maybe not so much (?). I'm probably just cheap.
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Re: The Disturbing Decline of Working Buzzers

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Tue Nov 09, 2010 5:02 pm

If only buzzers weren't so expensive to ship, an enterprizing money-flush team (or even an organization like ACF) could buy lots of extra buzzers and then rent them out, at very high rates, to tournaments that have realized that they won't have enough buzzers. It's similar to the "tournament insurance" proposal that's been floated around.
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Re: The Disturbing Decline of Working Buzzers

Post by Matthew D » Tue Nov 09, 2010 5:49 pm

Frater Taciturnus wrote:
Isaacbh wrote: Also, I've heard that rumors of the Judge's durability are at least partially untrue.
In addition to the extreme cost of The Judge I will point out that I have never seen one that wasn't in some way broken.
I have to disagree with the extreme cost of a system due to the fact that is it cheaper than a few at $355 and $11 for shipping (8 light system) verses $442 plus shipping for ZenCraft.
Now there are some systems that are less expensive but they seem to break in record time IMO. At least one of the Judges gets daily play and has for the last 6 years. the 10 light system I have does have one paddle that is not working but I think is due to it getting twisted when it was put back into the box.
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Re: The Disturbing Decline of Working Buzzers

Post by Habitat_Against_Humanity » Tue Nov 09, 2010 6:40 pm

Morraine Man wrote:If only buzzers weren't so expensive to ship, an enterprizing money-flush team (or even an organization like ACF) could buy lots of extra buzzers and then rent them out, at very high rates, to tournaments that have realized that they won't have enough buzzers. It's similar to the "tournament insurance" proposal that's been floated around.

I don't anything about them, but it appears that these folks offer such a service.
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Re: The Disturbing Decline of Working Buzzers

Post by lasercats » Wed Nov 10, 2010 3:32 pm

I wish every team could go out and buy the Officiator by Anderson. I wish we had bought it when we got a new system last year. The connected table top version is such a breeze to set up, and you don't have to worry about the phone jack things breaking off. We had practically every cord on our zeecraft taped in to the system. It even has volume control on the beeping!!!! Plus, it's compact and easier to fly. Still, I wish wireless buzzers would hurry up and get perfect, because it seems like most of the problems with wired buzzers going bad has to do with cords being twisted or not re-folded the way they were.

Here's an idea: challenge your school's electrical engineering club to build a buzzer system in exchange for...food, liquor, something exciting.
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Re: The Disturbing Decline of Working Buzzers

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Wed Nov 10, 2010 4:16 pm

Quizbowl lore tells of an MIT team that built their own buzzer, only to have it light on fire when being used.
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Re: The Disturbing Decline of Working Buzzers

Post by Marble-faced Bristle Tyrant » Wed Nov 10, 2010 5:42 pm

myamphigory wrote:Clearly the solution is for NAQT to award buzzer systems instead of giant trophies at ICT this year.
I don't know if they still do it, but there were buzzer drawings at the Georgia state varsity tournament. I was disappointed my junior year when we won first in our region, our division, AND the sportsmanship award, but not the free buzzers.
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Re: The Disturbing Decline of Working Buzzers

Post by theMoMA » Wed Nov 10, 2010 7:59 pm

Working buzzers make the quizbowl go 'round. Teams need to have an adequate number of buzzers and to maintain them. To all teams that don't: Stop not doing so.
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Re: The Disturbing Decline of Working Buzzers

Post by MahoningQuizBowler » Sat Nov 13, 2010 10:55 am

It's ironic and slightly funny -- I'm sitting here at the ACUI Region 7 conference at Michigan State right now with one of their Quik-Pro sets, and three of the buzzers don't work. Nalin is with me trying to get it working before the exhibit hall opens up in 8 minutes. In their defense, MSU's buzzers are owned by the Honors College, not the club itself.
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Re: The Disturbing Decline of Working Buzzers

Post by Habitat_Against_Humanity » Sat Nov 13, 2010 11:49 am

MahoningQuizBowler wrote:MSU's buzzers are owned by the Honors College, not the club itself.
Exactly. As far as I'm aware, Michigan State owns no buzzers of its own. I just joined the team, so I have no control over the buzzer situation, but if I can exert influence on the team, I will recommend buying some buzzers for our own use. I never made the claim that MSU is a shining paragon of a buzzer utopia. Furthermore, I don't see how pointing out that the buzzer system (which we regularly don't have access to and don't own) doesn't work reflects negatively on MSU. It's not our responsibility to maintain those buzzers. You may as well call out UIUC for not fixing UChicago's faulty Judge. The only thing MSU is guilty of is not having its own buzzers, which, as I said, I will try to change if I can.
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Re: The Disturbing Decline of Working Buzzers

Post by MahoningQuizBowler » Sat Nov 13, 2010 12:27 pm

I never intended it as a slight on MSU. Nalin will vouch for me on that. We just thought it was funny.
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Re: The Disturbing Decline of Working Buzzers

Post by Broad-tailed Grassbird » Sat Nov 13, 2010 12:37 pm

We're working on it Nolan, lol. It's still a miracle that we made nationals last year considering our team going into Fall 2008 consisted of an 8th year grad student, a guy who had 3 felony riot charges, and me. Greg was merely pointing out how it was hilarious that the week you started this thread is the same week that this happened. If anything, you can go back to using me as your quiz bowl pinata.
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Re: The Disturbing Decline of Working Buzzers

Post by Habitat_Against_Humanity » Sat Nov 13, 2010 12:40 pm

Sorry, my bad. Stupid Internet and my not being able to infer tone.
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Re: The Disturbing Decline of Working Buzzers

Post by Deviant Insider » Sat Nov 13, 2010 12:41 pm

I wonder if tournaments should have the position of Buzzer Czar to deal with these issues. This typically becomes an emergency right at the beginning of a tournament, when the TD is running around putting out lots of fires and not in an easy position to keep track of who screwed up and who came through with an extra system so that the tournament could get underway. The Buzzer Czar could be somebody who moderates or plays in the tournament, since all the work is done in the half hour before play begins. The TD could hand the person a list of who claimed buzzer discounts and a list of rooms, and the Buzzer Czar could take over from there, the end product being working buzzers in as many rooms as possible and a list of teams who claimed the discount but did not bring a working system. If it was my tournament, the Czar would be able to collect the discounts from the teams who falsely claimed them and keep the money--we're dealing with small amounts of cash, but we might as well deal with them fairly.
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Re: The Disturbing Decline of Working Buzzers

Post by Captain Sinico » Sun Nov 14, 2010 2:29 am

Habitat_Against_Humanity wrote:You may as well call out UIUC for not fixing UChicago's faulty Judge.
I did once try to do this!

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Re: The Disturbing Decline of Working Buzzers

Post by Captain Sinico » Sun Nov 14, 2010 2:30 am

I always appoint someone to do this at the start of a tournament, albeit usually not in advance. You have good ideas there, coach.

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Re: The Disturbing Decline of Working Buzzers

Post by dtaylor4 » Sun Nov 14, 2010 11:19 pm

Captain Sinico wrote:I always appoint someone to do this at the start of a tournament, albeit usually not in advance. You have good ideas there, coach.

M
I usually add a column to the reader/room spreadsheet to indicate what buzzers are where, and beneath this I add buzzers as they come in before the tournament. This way I know what buzzers are where, and what buzzers I have with me in HQ.

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Re: The Disturbing Decline of Working Buzzers

Post by jonpin » Thu Nov 18, 2010 11:48 pm

Jeremy Gibbs Freesy Does It wrote:Quizbowl lore tells of an MIT team that built their own buzzer, only to have it light on fire when being used.
To be more specific, the story I remember hearing of this was that when the buzzer system "malfunctioned", a player yelled out "MY BUZZER'S ON FIRE!" only for the moderator to instinctively respond "Conferring, minus five!"


To make a useful contribution, as Donald said having a column, whether in your spreadsheet or on a whiteboard in HQ, listing where your buzzers are is vital. On the high school side, pre-designating some rooms is also a good idea. For instance, at Bergen's tournament last month:
The two rooms slated for finals/third-place had Bergen buzzers.
The two other rooms slated for top-bracket playoffs had Hunter and St. Joseph buzzers, because those were teams that were guaranteed to be there all day.
The rooms slated for second-level playoffs, which was near-certain to be played, would have whatever showed up first of (the other Hunter buzzers / the SHPrep buzzers / the Kellenberg buzzers)
The rooms to be used for third-level playoffs had buzzers from our guest moderator (the History Bowl guy); though I think we wound up just throwing the first buzzers that arrived in here.

Of course we were then asked to move out of the room where we'd expected to hold the final, so best-laid plans yadda yadda. This is, in general, more likely to be needed at a high school tournament where you are more likely to have teams bail out before playoffs (who will want their buzzers if they brought some).
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Re: The Disturbing Decline of Working Buzzers

Post by Papa's in the House » Fri Nov 19, 2010 3:24 am

dtaylor4 wrote:
Captain Sinico wrote:I always appoint someone to do this at the start of a tournament, albeit usually not in advance. You have good ideas there, coach.

M
I usually add a column to the reader/room spreadsheet to indicate what buzzers are where, and beneath this I add buzzers as they come in before the tournament. This way I know what buzzers are where, and what buzzers I have with me in HQ.
For any TDs, always leave a copy of this on a chalkboard/whiteboard, since some people may leave before others and you might not know where their buzzers are if you entrust the statskeeper to keep track of buzzers.
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Re: The Disturbing Decline of Working Buzzers

Post by Matthew D » Fri Nov 19, 2010 7:45 am

We started tagging the room with a marker that has who's buzzer system is in the room.
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