MAGNI General Thoughts

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MAGNI General Thoughts

Post by Auroni » Sat Oct 15, 2011 7:33 pm

First off, I would like to thank my co-writers. Matt and John combined for one third of the questions in the set. Jerry Vinokurov was able to find time from his busy schedule to fill out the Physics and Other Science questions. The rest of the writers from UCSD and Kevin from Yale were on the whole prompt about writing questions, being in touch when they couldn't meet deadlines, and revising questions when given feedback. This was one of the best experiences in communicating with others for a set that I have ever had.

I oversaw the biology and chemistry questions. Matt Jackson oversaw the history and RMP. John Lawrence oversaw the Arts and Literature questions. Jerry oversaw the Physics and Other Science. Matt and Chris Chiego oversaw the Social Science, Geography, and Current Events. There were obviously variations from writer to writer, but on the whole we had the same goal: to produce an accessible set of questions that knowledgeable people can answer. Another component of our vision for this set was to ask about topics that don’t get much quizbowl coverage, but that are undeniably important and might be known by people just from their everyday scholarly lives. Matt agrees with me that in our later questions, we got more creative and “anti-canon.” We were often worried about how an answer would play out but may have shrugged off our self-doubt in the hopes that the questions would at the very least be instructive. In retrospect, we could have executed it a little better – in our quest to find things that people involved in studying certain disciplines cared about, we may have pushed it for third parts. Similarly, we may have stacked our tossups with hard clues, regardless of the easiness of our answer lines. Furthermore, we may have confused some people with some of our tossups. We would like to hear more about what worked, what didn’t work, and what was outright terrible.
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by Auroni » Sat Oct 15, 2011 7:34 pm

My own approach for the biology and chemistry can simply be summarized as “back to the classroom.” I have taken several biology and chemistry courses in college by now and at times, I have felt that the questions we like to ask are very divorced from how those disciplines are actually studied. For example, nobody learns about rearrangement reactions by studying a list of named rearrangements. People learn about some core concepts – that’s what I tried to bring back in my questions. Some failures on my part might have been the preponderance of questions on groups of substances – you could probably have played a drinking game for the phrase “this substance.” There may also have been cliffs and questions that could easily be guessed with no knowledge. I also tried to be particularly charitable with my middle parts. Furthermore, when randomizing, I balanced out hard and easy questions under my purview. No more than two of what I thought were “hard” science questions in this set were in the same packet. Please let me know what you thought of my approach, how well it worked, glaring omissions, and misleading and factually incorrect clues.
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Sun Oct 16, 2011 2:19 am

I assume the other editors may want to talk a bit about their approach to writing this tournament. I will now too.

This was my first time working for a collegiate tournament in any capacity other than as an Arts editor (I have done Lit editing before only on the high-school level). I was the Head Writer for Lit / Fine Arts. Here's the breakdown for work on the Lit / Fine Arts:

- Vicky wrote 8/8 Lit. Kevin and I wrote the remaining Lit (except for one tie-breaker by Matt Jackson): I wrote the Prose Fiction and Drama and Kevin wrote the Poetry.
- Auroni wrote 3/3 Painting, and I wrote the rest. Kevin and I split the Music, with Kevin taking the larger share. For Misc. Fine Arts: Kevin wrote the Opera; I wrote Jazz, Dance, Musical Theater, and Film; Chris Chiego and Matt Jackson split the Sculpture, Photography, and Architecture.
- I'm also responsible for some of the Trash questions (in case you couldn't tell) and for all of the British History.

I was really glad that this was a house-written tournament because I wanted complete control over the sub-distribution within my categories, and I thought it would be much harder to well serve our goal of making this tournament both more "real" and more generally accessible if we were not doing all the question-writing ourselves. I'd like to explain my approach to writing/editing these questions:

For Lit, I tried to maintain a high work-to-author ratio in the tossups and to focus on core works from a variety of traditions, styles, and time-periods, including both works that I think are read primarily in an academic environment and works that are read primarily outside of the classroom. I also decided that every round should have a Poetry tossup and a Drama tossup, since both genres are often marginalized in tournaments, especially in packet-submission tournaments. Since the tossups were adhering rigidly to widely-read works, I tried to explore more in the hard parts of bonuses, rewarding different kinds of knowledge in different hard parts, including: supporting characters and plot details from major works, minor works of major authors, culturally or historically significant less-read works and authors, and literary critics or terms from criticism.

For the Painting, I tried hard to maintain not only geographical and chronological diversity, but also diversity of genre, to make sure all major genres that one is likely to encounter in a museum or to study (portraiture, landscape, still-life, history painting, devotional, etc.) were represented in this tournament.

For the Music, I took a more Maginesque approach for the tossups, using primarily common-links and composer questions in order to reward knowledge of pieces in the core repertoire that cannot be tossed up. In the real world, the core repertoire in music is primarily made up of works that do not necessariyl have nicknames but rather are named things like Composer's Symphony No. X and are consequently marginalized in the quizbowl canon. I tried to find a way to consistently reward knowledge of that real-world repertoire, without writing tossups that reduced to buzzer-races or bonuses where no one can get thirty.

I'm eager to hear any feedback, in part to hear about the experience of playing these questions, but also because I enjoyed doing this and would like to do writing/editing work in a similar capacity in future (i.e. to do Lit / Fine Arts editing for another tournament like this for Fall 2012 or Winter 2013), and would consider such feedback valuable for helping me decide how to approach my future writing/editing work.
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by The Toad to Wigan Pier » Sun Oct 16, 2011 10:08 am

Could somebody send me a copy of the set? Thanks.
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Sun Oct 16, 2011 10:32 am

The Toad to Wigan Pier wrote:Could somebody send me a copy of the set? Thanks.
I've taken care of this. We eagerly await your feedback.
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by The Toad to Wigan Pier » Sun Oct 16, 2011 10:53 am

This was a pretty good set. The use of "anti-canon"/shadow canon stuff worked nicely and I enjoyed being able to answer questions on things that don't normally come up.
EDIT: Moved individual question critiques to correct thread.
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by An Intergalactic Puzzlepalooza » Sun Oct 16, 2011 8:40 pm

If I could be e-mailed the set also. josephnation28 at gmail dot com

Overall, though, I thoroughly enjoyed playing the set, despite not having much to compare it to, and even less to compare it to that I can talk about, this being my first year actually playing on pyramidal questions.

It would, however, follow that if my teammate Joey and I are roughly equal level players, and if a large portion of his skill comes from being incredibly familiar with the canon, whereas I'm mostly unfamiliar with the canon, that a good job was done of making this "anti-canon" if I outscored him, which did happen this tournament.
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by eldermaas » Mon Oct 17, 2011 7:43 am

We would like a copy of the set, if possible (nguquizbowl@gmail.com) to discuss at practice this week.

I think the sets were pretty much as described (allowing newer teams to get points while allowing more established veterans to show depth of knowledge). Though we were solidly trounced by Will and Greg of GaTech, my team still enjoyed the tournament.
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Fri Oct 21, 2011 1:49 pm

I wanted to get some thoughts out about the categories I oversaw (history, RMP, social sci) so they're visible before the discussion opens up to another set of mirrors.

I wrote about half of the History overall, with my collaborators being Chris (US), Auroni (World), John (for British history), and Andrew Honda (Euro). One of my projects for the history was to represent several facets of history which quizbowl doesn't necessarily cover - diplomatic history (Austria, Rome), economic/resource history ("wool" bonus part, "silver" bonus part, coal bonus), military weaponry (WWI bonus, war elephants), the much-discussed social history (plebeians, Roman slaves, Muslims in Europe), the history of non-governmental bodies and historiography/historians (Herodotus, Turner/Beard/Foner, Braudel bonus). In addition, towards the latter end of the process, Auroni and I began to deliberately make less-canonical or more-interesting choices where we thought they would make good questions on things people actually know. (Some questions of this type included Red Guards, "longships" bonus part, "US occupation of Japan," "Great Game," and Iraq War, as well as Andrew's questions on the Munich massacre and the Swiss Guard.) On the whole, I don't think this angle got pushed too hard or too much - there were more than plenty of leaders, countries, peoples, and battles to go around - but I'd be interested to see if this spiced up the set so as to better reflect the knowledge of history that enthusiasts, students, and laypeople might actually have, or if it worked against that goal.

For Religion, over time my approach shifted more and more towards what Auroni might call "back to the synagogue" - focusing more on the actual practice of religion and things which believers would know and read, as opposed to less-read texts, classes of beings, etc. I'd be interested to see how some of the less-canonical answer lines played out in terms of rewarding the knowledge of people who practice a religion or know how a religion is practiced, since Jerry, Rohan, and I aren't of every religion and often had to take our best guess at what was important (though I think we did pretty well with regards to Judaism, Christianity, and Indian religions at least).

With Mythology, I similarly tried to focus on stories and deities that people were likely to have heard of, or to have read in a not-strictly-mythical source such as a Homeric epic or collection of Arthurian legends. This approach led to lots of common links - a kind of question which I particularly enjoy writing and answering - which I think serve to more equitably provide answerable questions for people with knowledge of common mythical archetypes in different traditions.

Philosophy ended up being pretty conventional, though I did push for a balance across time periods and the inclusion of "core works" which intro philosophy students, enthusiasts, or historians/classicists were likely to have picked up, and tried (successfully, I'd think) to avoid an overload of 20th- and 21st-century thought at the expense of more lasting thinkers.

Within social science, Chris and I tried to push as hard as I could in the direction of "what social scientists actually do" as we thought was plausible while still having accessible questions. Social scientists work a lot with concepts, data analysis, and specific case studies, while quizbowl often rewards knowledge of early social-science-history thinkers, discredited ideas, and the like. This wasn't to the total exclusion of thinkers - Saussure, Ricardo, and Freuds did make it into the set, for example - but things such as the econometrics bonus, parts on "face recognition" and "deindividuation" for psych, all of the poli sci/IR, and my attempts to fold my newfound Intro to Linguistics training into gettable questions on the modern core of that subject ("verbs," wug/morpheme/voicing, metaphor/Sapir-Whorf/Piraha) tried to reflect a slightly different approach.
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by Cheynem » Sat Oct 22, 2011 10:13 pm

I would like a copy of the set if possible. chey0004 AT umn DOT edu.

I enjoyed this set and thought tossup answer selection was pretty solid. I might say more in the individual question thread, but the one quibble I had with this set was that it felt like the hard parts of bonuses were frequently too hard (I guess this may have been the authors' intent, but it got frustrating a bit for my team, which was a good one, so who knows about other teams).
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by Auroni » Sat Oct 22, 2011 10:21 pm

Cheynem wrote:one quibble I had with this set was that it felt like the hard parts of bonuses were frequently too hard
Yeah, I sensed this as well. I think that this was a direct consequence of wanting to ask real/overlooked/important subjects that people studying each subject would be challenged by or interested in. I tried to curtail some of this in my questions, but didn't go nearly as far enough as needed for it to make a real impact.
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by Steeve Ho You Fat » Sun Oct 23, 2011 12:44 am

I really like the idea of this tournament, to focus more on important "real" things and less on the things that quizbowl seems to have semi-randomly picked to be "canon." That being said, I'm not entirely sure it was executed in the best way possible. It seemed to have kind of the same problem that VCU Open did in that some of the answerlines (like the philosophy one on "science") were hard to figure out what they wanted. If someone could send me a copy of the set at nutterjoe@gmail.com I'll be able to remember more like that.

Besides that, there was some bonus variability issues (easy parts ranging from "are you alive" to "do you play college quizbowl" and hard parts from "do you know what you're doing" to "are you an expert in this field"), although not much more than is to be expected. It might just be my imagination, but I felt like there were a lot of questions, especially bonuses, on gas laws/thermodynamics/statistical mechanics, especially in the first five packets or so, which was slightly annoying.
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by Auroni » Sun Oct 23, 2011 1:28 am

Plan Rubber wrote:Besides that, there was some bonus variability issues (easy parts ranging from "are you alive" to "do you play college quizbowl" and hard parts from "do you know what you're doing" to "are you an expert in this field"), although not much more than is to be expected. It might just be my imagination, but I felt like there were a lot of questions, especially bonuses, on gas laws/thermodynamics/statistical mechanics, especially in the first five packets or so, which was slightly annoying.
I'll comment on the thermo and stat mech later. Besides agreeing that a lot of hard parts were too hard, I'm not certain where you're going with this critique. If I want to write an easy part for this tournament, I want almost every team playing to convert it. Depending on the subject, that might mean an "are you alive" part (something which is still academically important despite being well known.) For other subjects, an entry level answer won't be general knowledge. Getting the difficulty of every bonus to be nearly the same is impossible. While I was writing and editing, I constructed upper and lower difficulty bounds for bonus difficulty and made sure that there was an even distribution between those ends.
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by Steeve Ho You Fat » Sun Oct 23, 2011 2:17 am

Sure, I wasn't intending to say that this tournament was worse than typical or anything like that. I guess what I'm trying to get at is that what is entry level knowledge in one field is a lot more widely-known than what is entry-level knowledge in other fields, and, while each bonus may have asked for entry-level knowledge, they may not have accounted for that, if that makes sense.
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by Auroni » Sun Oct 23, 2011 2:22 am

Sure. But I decided that some topics were worth representing in the set, so I just left some of the harder easy parts alone, thinking that bonuses could still be instructive and informational for newer teams. If I thought a bonus was too hard overall, I marked it as [hard] and made sure there weren't other hard science bonuses in the same packet when I was randomizing.
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by Cody » Sun Oct 23, 2011 2:49 am

To echo what some other people have said:
  • There was a pretty prominent issue with a lack of pronouns at times.
  • The randomization of packets could have been better. I am pretty sure three science TUs in a row popped up twice (though maybe only once). I think we can all agree it is preferable to separate questions in the same category so they don't show up next to each other (and really, it's not much extra work if you're planning out where questions should go beforehand in something like a spreadsheet).
  • I, too, felt there was a lot of bonus variability.
Overall, I think this tournament was just fine, but it definitely did not live up to the IRC hype.
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by grapesmoker » Sun Oct 23, 2011 3:09 am

Plan Rubber wrote:I really like the idea of this tournament, to focus more on important "real" things and less on the things that quizbowl seems to have semi-randomly picked to be "canon." That being said, I'm not entirely sure it was executed in the best way possible. It seemed to have kind of the same problem that VCU Open did in that some of the answerlines (like the philosophy one on "science") were hard to figure out what they wanted. If someone could send me a copy of the set at nutterjoe@gmail.com I'll be able to remember more like that.
Maybe this should be in the question discussion thread, but as the author of that "science" question, I'd like to hear what you think is the problem with it. I'm not sure how it was "hard to figure out what they wanted," as I gave you the work of Bruno Latour and its title (the missing word being "science") and then the description of science by Thomas Kuhn, and then again criteria for science (falsifiability, no ad hoc hypotheses) as articulated by Popper. All of those things point pretty unambiguously to one answer.
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by women, fire and dangerous things » Sun Oct 23, 2011 9:33 am

I wouldn't mind being sent a copy of the set as well (wnediger at umich dot edu).

I really enjoyed this tournament and appreciated its attempt to be anti-canon, which worked out pretty well in general. (Probably my most satisfying buzz was first-lining "sauce.") Also, props to Matt Jackson for the linguistics, which tended to involve stuff about Actual Linguistics without being inaccessible. I might go so far as to say that this tournament had the best linguistics in recent memory. Though I only heard the beginning of the tossup on verbs, that seems like a great answer choice, where you can include some basic syntactic theory at the beginning and still have lots of good middle clues. The religion was also awesome, in that it was full of interesting common links on religious practices in the link, instead of becoming "minor religion bowl."

I'll echo Mike's complaint that the hard parts were sometimes too hard. At least, that was the impression I got, especially in the early rounds, although looking back, we did have a decent bonus conversion, so maybe it was just my imagination.
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by Cheynem » Sun Oct 23, 2011 11:27 am

To expand on Cody's point, here are the points I noticed where packet randomization seemed less than optimal:

Packet two--Three questions related to American history in a row (Blaine, Operation Fast and Furious, War in Iraq).
Packet eight--Three science questions in a row (esters, nucleus, galaxy collision).
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Sun Oct 23, 2011 11:35 am

Plan Rubber wrote: Besides that, there was some bonus variability issues (easy parts ranging from "are you alive" to "do you play college quizbowl" and hard parts from "do you know what you're doing" to "are you an expert in this field"), although not much more than is to be expected.
SirT wrote:
  • The randomization of packets could have been better. I am pretty sure three science TUs in a row popped up twice (though maybe only once). I think we can all agree it is preferable to separate questions in the same category so they don't show up next to each other (and really, it's not much extra work if you're planning out where questions should go beforehand in something like a spreadsheet).
  • I, too, felt there was a lot of bonus variability.
I think the packets were randomized through true randomization rather than a hand-generated order, so that would probably explain the clumps. On reflection, I agree that this was non-ideal.

I'm curious, is the perception of bonus variability across-the-board and within categories, or is it more "bonuses in Category X tended to be easier than those in Category Y"?
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by kdroge » Sun Oct 23, 2011 12:01 pm

Overall, I really liked this tournament! It did a good job of being sufficiently difficult while also being sufficiently accessible, which I think was by far its biggest strength and one of the points that was emphasized the most in the original posts about it, so I'm glad that it followed through on that promise and even far exceeded my expectations. Here are my general thoughts:

-The pronoun issue that has been brought up was definitely a problem at times. Further emphasizing whether some questions wanted a work or an author, even, would have helped. There were also some TUs (such as the Dawes plan) that used misleading clauses to refer to what was being wanted (in that case, referring to it as "this project") that I felt could have been done better.
-The social science's drive to include more "minor" disciplines had mixed results. The linguistics seemed to reward Will's knowledge while still being accessible and interesting to someone with minimal knowledge like me. The IR seemed to degenerate into "can you name words from vague definitions without negging," which I didn't like so much. More generally, I think that this caused the traditional social sci disciplines (sociology, anthro, psych, econ) to be a little underrepresented, and I think that if people want to include more "fringe topic" social sci the best way to do this is through the aca other portion of the distro or by increasing the amount of social sci in the tournament.
-The back to the classroom approach worked pretty well overall in the lit, history, and FA. While I would maintain that some of the lit tossups could have done a better job of surveying authors' works, overall those categories were very well done in terms of answer selection and clue order (apart from a couple outliers), which is the vastly more important aspect anyways.
-The one downside of that approach is that it naturally leads to having very hard third parts on bonuses, since they will most likely come from classroom-type material rather than stuff that people study for quiz bowl. This meant that some third parts were on stuff that was not convertible unless you have very deep academic knowledge of the subject rather than casual-interest type knowledge (an example is the Flaubert bonus; I've read both his major novels and studied his minor stuff for quiz bowl but would not get the last part because I've never studied them academically). This isn't a complaint- just my opinion of a side effect of the academic approach.
-The trash was kind of frustrating for me since there wasn't very much that originated from the last few years (comparatively). This isn't the hugest deal in the world, but having a more balanced time distro for trash would have improved it for most players of the set, I think. I also understand that most tournaments skew their trash to be heavily modern, so counterbalancing that every once in a while isn't the worst either.
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by Cody » Sun Oct 23, 2011 12:23 pm

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:I'm curious, is the perception of bonus variability across-the-board and within categories, or is it more "bonuses in Category X tended to be easier than those in Category Y"?
Most definitely both, but I am specifically referring to the intrapacket variability (i.e. across categories) as that was the most noticeable (it is only upon reflection that I realize, yes, there was definitely a bit of intracategory variability).
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by grapesmoker » Sun Oct 23, 2011 12:31 pm

I do not understand the randomization complaints. If the order is truly random, why does it matter that there are three science questions in a row? You're going to hear all three of those questions at some point throughout the round, and I'm going to guess that 99% of teams aren't going to be making strategic substitutions (though even if you were you can just keep track of what's coming up). Random questions fall where they do, I don't see any reason to hand-randomize them.
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots » Sun Oct 23, 2011 12:38 pm

grapesmoker wrote:
Plan Rubber wrote:I really like the idea of this tournament, to focus more on important "real" things and less on the things that quizbowl seems to have semi-randomly picked to be "canon." That being said, I'm not entirely sure it was executed in the best way possible. It seemed to have kind of the same problem that VCU Open did in that some of the answerlines (like the philosophy one on "science") were hard to figure out what they wanted. If someone could send me a copy of the set at nutterjoe@gmail.com I'll be able to remember more like that.
Maybe this should be in the question discussion thread, but as the author of that "science" question, I'd like to hear what you think is the problem with it. I'm not sure how it was "hard to figure out what they wanted," as I gave you the work of Bruno Latour and its title (the missing word being "science") and then the description of science by Thomas Kuhn, and then again criteria for science (falsifiability, no ad hoc hypotheses) as articulated by Popper. All of those things point pretty unambiguously to one answer.
Yeah I didn't have a problem with this tossup. It didn't seem vague once you knew what was going on, and it gave me a rare chance to answer a science tossup.

In general, the consensus at our site was that it was a fairly good tournament, although not really quite what we were expecting. There were good questions: the tossups on Akutagawa, Kenyatta, the Social Contract, and certainly lots of stuff I don't remember were all very good. I do have to say that I didn't notice much of the "back to the classroom" or "anti-canon" stuff you guys say you were going for. There was more "social" history in this set than usual, which I think usually turned out fairly well, although that coal tossup coming the packet after the coal bonus played out suboptimally. However, there was a fair amount of material that seemed to come from this past year's ACF Nats (the Song of Maldoror, Herbert Grice, Walking Around, the Affair of the Spanish Marriages...). There were also a few common-link questions that turned into clunkers, like the one that described light as an "object." I realize that listing those answerlines doesn't come anywhere near an effective argument, but there was more that I can't remember without having the set in front of me.

In the same vein, the chem felt very orgo-named-reaction heavy. There weren't very many questions that asked for specific reactions, but there were lots of functional group tossups that went through the general Simmons-Smith-Mitsunobu-whoever rigamarole. I can't judge much on the technical quality of the science, although it seemed like the math and physics questions did a good job of using interesting clues that scientists would know. The inclined plane bonus was really cool.

I'm not sure what to say about bonus variation. On the one hand, it was definitely an issue with this tournament. It felt like out of a given four bonuses, you'd get three bonuses like the Vargas Llosa one, which most top 10 teams wouldn't have too much trouble getting 30 on. That's fine, but the fourth bonus would something like the Wilfred Owen bonus, where "Futility" was a middle part. On the other hand, this critique reads like something that people have said after every tournament ever. I'm not sure that I've played a tournament without significant bonus variation in my career, and after some consideration I'm not sure this tournament was much weirder than any of the rest.

I think Chris had a more in-depth critique of the history, so I'll let him handle that one.

Despite the occasional clunkers, though, I had fun playing this tournament. The questions were overall fairly good, and the more bothersome questions were usually good ideas that needed some polish. Most importantly, it gave me a chance to neg Harry Harlow with Harry Haller and nearly neg Breakfast at Tiffany's with the Call of Cthulhu, which my team found extremely entertaining.
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Sun Oct 23, 2011 1:18 pm

Cernel Joson wrote:a fair amount of material that seemed to come from this past year's ACF Nats (the Song of Maldoror, Herbert Grice, Walking Around, the Affair of the Spanish Marriages...)
This may have happened, but I know at least in two of the instances I'm responsible for (Grice and the bonus part on rusalkas) I had been planning to write on those things before ACF Nationals had happened, and chose to continue with them because I didn't want to refuse to ask about hard things for the sole reason that they'd come up recently. So I just did it anyway, as if the contents of ACF Nationals weren't a factor. (And they shouldn't be; if you learned something from a tournament, you've still learned that thing! And it's still hard!) I can't speak for Maldoror or Walking Around, since those were Kevin's choices and not mine, but I suspect something similar - that he chose important hard things which just happened to have come up recently and didn't want to shy away from them. It's also worth noting that "The Lion and the Jewel" tossup (written in July) ended up very similar to a tossup from MOO, but we decided not to change it for the same reason - past tournaments shouldn't lock knowable hard topics out of present ones and don't really make hard things easier.
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by Auroni » Sun Oct 23, 2011 1:20 pm

Plan Rubber wrote:but I felt like there were a lot of questions, especially bonuses, on gas laws/thermodynamics/statistical mechanics, especially in the first five packets or so, which was slightly annoying.
I'm counting a tossup on Van der Waals, a bonus on phonons/heat capacity/harmonic, and a tossup on latent heat in the first 5 rounds. That's only 1 bonus which is only partially stat mech.
In the same vein, the chem felt very orgo-named-reaction heavy. There weren't very many questions that asked for specific reactions, but there were lots of functional group tossups that went through the general Simmons-Smith-Mitsunobu-whoever rigamarole.
Out of 14 non-tiebreaker chem questions, there was 1 tossup on a functional group (esters), 4 more on groups of substances (hydrides, polymers, fullerenes, radicals), 1 on a reaction paradigm (elimination, which I actually made sure to not be a list of named eliminations all the way to FTP), 1 on an element (copper, both from its role in organic and inorganic chem), 1 on a specific substance (acetone, both orgo and biochem clues). The rest were a mixture of inorganic chem and biochem (van der Waals eq, catalysis, latent heat, Raoult's law, mass spec, colloids). Other than putting in clues about named reactions that people have learned in class and that are in books that I found on these subjects, there wasn't really a preponderance of fake named stuff in the tournament. I thought that the chem was pretty diverse.

EDIT: I only count 3 bonuses with named stuff used as clues (silver/hinsberg/oxidation, pyridine/amines/niacin, carbenes/alkynes/toluene), with only 1 asking you to actually name a named reaction. (silver/hinsberg/oxidation)
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by Unicolored Jay » Sun Oct 23, 2011 1:50 pm

Is there a better descriptor than "this thing" for the tossups that had it?
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by theMoMA » Sun Oct 23, 2011 2:02 pm

I might have more general thoughts later, but I thought that the pronoun usage at this tournament was just north of abysmal; I was frequently confused (despite the fact that I typically have no problem tracking confusing questions) and the younger players on our team complained about it quite a bit. I also didn't like the IR tossups that I heard, especially the tossup on "deterrence," which was perhaps the most figure-out-able tossup I've heard in the past couple years.
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by women, fire and dangerous things » Sun Oct 23, 2011 5:22 pm

kdroge wrote:-The one downside of that approach is that it naturally leads to having very hard third parts on bonuses, since they will most likely come from classroom-type material rather than stuff that people study for quiz bowl. This meant that some third parts were on stuff that was not convertible unless you have very deep academic knowledge of the subject rather than casual-interest type knowledge (an example is the Flaubert bonus; I've read both his major novels and studied his minor stuff for quiz bowl but would not get the last part because I've never studied them academically). This isn't a complaint- just my opinion of a side effect of the academic approach.
But as you know, I got the last part of the Flaubert bonus, despite not having studied him academically. I really like to have occasional bonus parts like this, which can reward people who read stuff about literature, instead of just the works themselves. (Another example is the bonus part on James Wood.)
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Sun Oct 23, 2011 5:37 pm

theMoMA wrote:I might have more general thoughts later, but I thought that the pronoun usage at this tournament was just north of abysmal; I was frequently confused (despite the fact that I typically have no problem tracking confusing questions) and the younger players on our team complained about it quite a bit. I also didn't like the IR tossups that I heard, especially the tossup on "deterrence," which was perhaps the most figure-out-able tossup I've heard in the past couple years.
I'm surprised to hear all the complaints about this. If you have examples at hand (or once this set is cleared), I'd be curious to find out which questions you found confusing, especially if they're in categories I wrote/edited.
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Sun Oct 23, 2011 5:41 pm

SirT wrote:
ThisIsMyUsername wrote:I'm curious, is the perception of bonus variability across-the-board and within categories, or is it more "bonuses in Category X tended to be easier than those in Category Y"?
Most definitely both, but I am specifically referring to the intrapacket variability (i.e. across categories) as that was the most noticeable (it is only upon reflection that I realize, yes, there was definitely a bit of intracategory variability).
"Most definitely both"? So that means you feel there were certain categories where the bonuses tended to be consistently easier or harder? If so, I'm curious to know which ones.
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by Cody » Sun Oct 23, 2011 6:13 pm

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:"Most definitely both"? So that means you feel there were certain categories where they bonuses tended to be consistently easier or harder? If so, I'm curious to know which ones.
I actually somehow read that wrong. I don't really know whether one category was consistently easier/harder than another. What I meant was that I felt the bonus variability issues extended both across categories (in packets) and also in categories (across packets).
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Sun Oct 23, 2011 8:11 pm

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:
theMoMA wrote:I might have more general thoughts later, but I thought that the pronoun usage at this tournament was just north of abysmal; I was frequently confused (despite the fact that I typically have no problem tracking confusing questions) and the younger players on our team complained about it quite a bit.
I'm surprised to hear all the complaints about this. If you have examples at hand (or once this set is cleared), I'd be curious to find out which questions you found confusing, especially if they're in categories I wrote/edited.
Here's an example which Daniel Hothem gave to me by IRC last night. To illustrate his point, I'll color the operative pronoun which you have to remember, "this novel," in green, and other pronouns in red.
the tournament wrote:3. One character in this novel keeps losing expensive pairs of gloves. That character calls her lover “Chubby” and he calls her “Gipsy” in return. That lover correctly predicts that she will forget all about him within two months of his death and is named William. The hunchbacked Fanny works with the protagonist for Thomas Jordan, who fires Baxter after he starts a fight with the protagonist for going out with his ex-wife. The protagonist refuses Miriam Leiver’s proposal of marriage and breaks up with Clara Dawes shortly after euthanizing Gertrude with morphine. For 10 points, name this novel about Paul Morel’s love for his mother and the other women in his life, by D.H. Lawrence.
ANSWER: Sons and Lovers
So, about four lines between uses of the phrase "this novel", and plenty of "that character" and "the protagonist" in between. Is this the sort of "abysmal pronoun usage" that confused people? It seems like one possible response I could give is "ATTENTION MUST BE PAID," but sometimes it is easy to miss the operative pronoun, and I'm willing to admit that this was a systemic flaw in the writing if the field was unnecessarily confused by our wording. I'd think it's possible to revise most tossups for next weekend's sites so a pronoun of the form "this ____" or "these ___" is used at least twice before the phrase "For 10 points," which I'd hope would resolve this problem.

On a related note:
Alliance in the Alps wrote:Is there a better descriptor than "this thing" for the tossups that had it?
I deliberately did this in two tossups ("property" and "light") where I thought the word "thing" was the best descriptor I could give without revealing too much or triggering the implicit assumptions that burden the quizbowlese word "entity." In both cases, I feel as though people with knowledge would be able to buzz without needing a more specific pronoun; in both (espcially in the light tossup), I was sort of at a loss for how else to describe it (light isn't really an object, substance, or element in the non-jRPG sense of the term.) So the short answer is "I don't think so, no;" the long answer is "I'd be willing to listen to suggestions if you have them."

To clarify: the tossup on "light" did not ever refer to light as an "object," though one sentence read "Its Hebrew plural form names an object...", which I'll admit is pretty suboptimal wording.
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Sun Oct 23, 2011 8:20 pm

I agree that that tossup could use another "In this novel", probably before "The hunchbacked Fanny...". And I agree that it is a good idea to go through and add a couple of more of those where possible in cases where I put too few. (In this particular case, it was oversight. In other cases, I left them out to prevent the question from going over length limits.) That being said, all of the other identifying pronouns in this tossup use the demonstrative "that" rather than "this", which I think makes it clear that we are not asking for the names of the protagonist. And all the sentences make it clear that we are describing the plot of one work in particular, so I'd be very surprised if anyone genuinely had difficulty knowing what was being asked for.
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by Cheynem » Sun Oct 23, 2011 8:28 pm

Eh, I think "attention must be paid" is okay if you're saying you can't just buzz in and say things that don't make sense, but there's nothing wrong with giving frequent reminders as to what is being sought. I think four lines without a pronoun is excessive and I could see for instance someone negging the Sons and Lovers tossup with Lawrence, for example. Just a simple reminder would be great.
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by Cody » Sun Oct 23, 2011 8:39 pm

RyuAqua wrote:Here's an example which Daniel Hothem gave to me by IRC last night. To illustrate his point, I'll color the operative pronoun which you have to remember, "this novel," in green, and other pronouns in red.
the tournament wrote:3. One character in this novel keeps losing expensive pairs of gloves. That character calls her lover “Chubby” and he calls her “Gipsy” in return. That lover correctly predicts that she will forget all about him within two months of his death and is named William. The hunchbacked Fanny works with the protagonist for Thomas Jordan, who fires Baxter after he starts a fight with the protagonist for going out with his ex-wife. The protagonist refuses Miriam Leiver’s proposal of marriage and breaks up with Clara Dawes shortly after euthanizing Gertrude with morphine. For 10 points, name this novel about Paul Morel’s love for his mother and the other women in his life, by D.H. Lawrence.
ANSWER: Sons and Lovers
So, about four lines between uses of the phrase "this novel", and plenty of "that character" and "the protagonist" in between. Is this the sort of "abysmal pronoun usage" that confused people? It seems like one possible response I could give is "ATTENTION MUST BE PAID," but sometimes it is easy to miss the operative pronoun, and I'm willing to admit that this was a systemic flaw in the writing if the field was unnecessarily confused by our wording. I'd think it's possible to revise most tossups for next weekend's sites so a pronoun of the form "this ____" or "these ___" is used at least twice before the phrase "For 10 points," which I'd hope would resolve this problem.
It's easy to say ATTENTION MUST BE PAID and, of course, this tossup doesn't look so bad in text. However, when you're playing a game, it is very easy to lose track of what they're asking for as clues pass by. I think a reminder of what you're asking for is almost always necessary every 2 or 3 sentences at most.
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Sun Oct 23, 2011 8:53 pm

Fair enough. I understand this complaint and am happy to make the necessary edits to make this more playable for later sites. I presume, though, (or at least hope) that this isn't what Andrew Hart is calling "just north of abysmal", as that strikes me as a hyperbolic response to something like this, which simply doesn't repeat often enough what it's looking for rather than failing to identify it or identifying it in an initially confusing or contradictory way. There's a difference between "I didn't catch what the question was looking for" and "This question never told me what it's looking for or told me things that don't make sense". And I'm more worried about instances of the latter, which is what I presumed he was talking about.
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by theMoMA » Sun Oct 23, 2011 9:20 pm

I believe that every sentence in a tossup should have a pronoun that refers directly to the answer. The constant use of referential pronouns like "that character" or sentences that have no pronouns (but have you infer one from the existence of the phrase "the protagonist") are, in my experience, incredibly confusing to newer players. These questions were the norm. There were also several questions (I'm remembering "symphonies of Haydn" as one of them) that were incredibly confusing to me, which is not something I typically experience.

My treatise on pronoun usage would go something like this:
1. Every sentence in a tossup should contain a pronoun that refers directly to the answer.
2. Writers should attempt to minimize the usage of pronouns that refer to other clues instead of directly to the answer (i.e. "that character," etc.).
3. The first sentence of a tossup should begin with a pronoun in the form of "this _______" before any substantive clues. Pronouns like "him" or "he" or "it" should be saved for later in the tossup once the category of person or thing has been established.
4. "this" is not a pronoun by itself, and people should stop using it as such. "This entity," "this phenomenon," "this thing" or simply "it" are all acceptable substitutes in various contexts.

My rationale behind these things is essentially:
1. It's easier to track what a question is asking for when there are ample pronouns referring to the answer. One of the best ways to ensure that there are enough pronouns is to write each sentence as if it were a standalone speedcheck tossup that specifically picks out the answer with a correct pronoun.
2. Referring to other clues instead of the answer creates pronouns that are really long (saying "that character from this novel" over and over again is long and can be confusing; these questions are also annoying to edit, because if you don't like one of the clues, the tossup is so self-referential that it's hard to untangle.
3. Questions should tell the player what they're looking for before the first substantive clue so that players don't buzz in going "well, I know that applies to X, but I don't know what the question wants yet, because it could be looking for the creator of X (or something else related to X)." I also don't like using "he" or "his" or "her" or "it" as the first pronoun because it's easier to miss than "this character" or "this author" or "this phenomenon."
4. Using "this" as a pronoun by itself (i.e. "One man supported this with the Day of the Dead Speech") is a real pet peeve of mine. It's confusing to read and to play.

I thought that this tournament systematically avoided doing these four things, and was worse off for it, because all of the problems that I listed cropped up while playing it.
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by theMoMA » Sun Oct 23, 2011 9:25 pm

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:Fair enough. I understand this complaint and am happy to make the necessary edits to make this more playable for later sites. I presume, though, (or at least hope) that this isn't what Andrew Hart is calling "just north of abysmal", as that strikes me as a hyperbolic response to something like this, which simply doesn't repeat often enough what it's looking for rather than failing to identify it or identifying it in an initially confusing or contradictory way. There's a difference between "I didn't catch what the question was looking for" and "This question never told me what it's looking for or told me things that don't make sense". And I'm more worried about instances of the latter, which is what I presumed he was talking about.
I wouldn't expect a question in this day and age to never reveal what it's looking for, but I do think that tossups that go wide swaths with pronouns that are either inferred ("the protagonist") or referential and inferred ("that character") are pretty close to unacceptable because they lead to confusion.
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Sun Oct 23, 2011 9:27 pm

Since it's being discussed in both threads. Here's the Haydn symphonies tossup:
One of these works by this composer derives its nickname from the second theme of its G-minor first movement, which consists almost entirely of a solo oboe playing a repeated F in dotted rhythm. Their composer wrote an early trilogy of them depicting the times of day, “Le matin,” “Le midi,” and “Le soir.” In addition to ones nicknamed “The Hen” and “The Bear,” their composer wrote one nicknamed for its opening gesture on the timpani, and one known in German as “mit dem Paukenschlag,” referring to the sudden fortissimo chord in the middle of the second movement. For 10 points, identify this group of 104 orchestral works including the “Drumroll” and the “Surprise,” written by a Viennese contemporary of Mozart.
ANSWER: Franz Joseph Haydn’s symphonies [accept “Paris Symphonies” before “trilogy”]
I still don't understand what confused you.
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Sun Oct 23, 2011 9:28 pm

I think everything you say there about general pronoun useis a fair point, Andrew, and I'll be taking a look at the questions with fresh eyes this week to make them play less confusingly for the mirrors (by implementing at least points 1 and 4 from your prescriptive list, as well as 2 and 3 where they make sense) this weekend. We certainly didn't intend to "systematically avoid" proper pronoun usage, even though I acknowledge that pronoun use was systemically deficient as an outcome of the way we wrote. I think the problem stems in part from Auroni's and my strict enforcement of a 7-line limit on tossups (which, at crunch time, generally resulted in non-clue operative words such as the third instance of "In this novel" getting cut rather than clues) and in part from a failure to proofread as closely as I'd have liked due to a moderate time crunch.
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by theMoMA » Sun Oct 23, 2011 9:41 pm

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:Since it's being discussed in both threads. Here's the Haydn symphonies tossup:
One of these works by this composer derives its nickname from the second theme of its G-minor first movement, which consists almost entirely of a solo oboe playing a repeated F in dotted rhythm. Their composer wrote an early trilogy of them depicting the times of day, “Le matin,” “Le midi,” and “Le soir.” In addition to ones nicknamed “The Hen” and “The Bear,” their composer wrote one nicknamed for its opening gesture on the timpani, and one known in German as “mit dem Paukenschlag,” referring to the sudden fortissimo chord in the middle of the second movement. For 10 points, identify this group of 104 orchestral works including the “Drumroll” and the “Surprise,” written by a Viennese contemporary of Mozart.
ANSWER: Franz Joseph Haydn’s symphonies [accept “Paris Symphonies” before “trilogy”]
I still don't understand what confused you.
The word "works" appears exactly once in the tossup before "for 10 points." And it's in the first line. It's easy to lose track of what's going on, especially if a reader isn't enunciating perfectly clearly (as often happens).
Matt wrote:I think everything you say there about general pronoun useis a fair point, Andrew, and I'll be taking a look at the questions with fresh eyes this week to make them play less confusingly for the mirrors (by implementing at least points 1 and 4 from your prescriptive list, as well as 2 and 3 where they make sense) this weekend. We certainly didn't intend to "systematically avoid" proper pronoun usage, even though I acknowledge that pronoun use was systemically deficient as an outcome of the way we wrote. I think the problem stems in part from Auroni's and my strict enforcement of a 7-line limit on tossups (which, at crunch time, generally resulted in non-clue operative words such as the third instance of "In this novel" getting cut rather than clues) and in part from a failure to proofread as closely as I'd have liked due to a moderate time crunch.
To be fair, I don't think that the ideas that I'm advocating are the common practice. But I think they should be.

One strategy that I've found to work well for decreasing length in questions is to write clues in the form of "_______ happens in this novel, which..." It basically lets you use "this novel" as the pivot of two clues, so you get to use the full pronoun for both without writing it twice. You have to make sure that this form doesn't lead to other confusion (because the pronoun comes after the clue in the first line, it may be confusing; also, there are some instances in which using "which" after the pronoun can lead to grammatical ambiguity), but it's generally a good way to save space.
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots » Sun Oct 23, 2011 10:05 pm

I think it's fair to say that the early clues for the music were very good, but usually could have cut one or two early clues in favor of adding a late clue. It's not so much that they were "top heavy," a term that I usually apply to clues that had too many lead-ins that people won't realistically buzz on. It was more like they had a lot of second-line clues, which the best players on the category were regularly buzzing on, but were hard for the middle-to-lower teams.

Here's a tossup I thought did this well:

11. Sergei Prokofiev subtitled his third and fourth compositions in this genre “From Old Notebooks,” and the seventh closes with a 7/8 toccata marked Precipitato. That piece is the second of his trilogy of “War” ones. Liszt’s only piece in this genre is a key example of “double-function form,” since its four sections also function as the exposition, development, and recapitulation of an overarching structure. Liszt dedicated that B-minor piece to Robert Schumann. Examples of this genre by Mozart include a two-movement C major piece sometimes called “facile” or “semplice,” K. 545, and another whose finale is the Rondo alla turca. For 10 points, identify this musical genre exemplified by Beethoven’s Pathetique and Appassionata, an often multi-movement solo work for a certain keyboard instrument.
ANSWER: piano sonatas [accept equivalents like sonatas for piano; prompt on partial answer]

The clues like Liszt's sonata in B-minor and Mozart's sonata with the Rondo Alla Turca were useful for distinguishing fairly good music players, from people with cursory knowledge of it, from players who knew what a piano sonata was. In contrast, this question was in the same round:


10. The middle section of this opera’s overture presents a minor-mode version of its first aria, “Hier soll ich dich den sehen.” Several numbers, including the overture, feature piccolo, triangle, cymbals, and bass drum. At one point, one character sings a romance accompanied only by pizzicato strings, “Im Mohrenland,” to signal to the protagonist as they carry out their plot. Toward the end, this opera’s main antagonist sings two low D’s in an aria expressing his desire to send the protagonists to the gallows, “O, wie will ich triumphieren.” Its best-known aria, sung by the lead soprano in response to the threat of torture, is “Martern aller Arten.” It also features a famous chorus of Janissaries. For 10 points, name this opera by Mozart in which Belmonte rescues Konstanze from Pasha Selim’s harem.
ANSWER: Die Entführung aus dem Serail [or The Abduction from the Seraglio]

I didn't know much about this opera, but I can believe that "O wie will ich triumphieren" makes a good second clue and "Martern aller altern" could go in the middle. However, I think it would have been better to cut one or two of the early arias in favor of adding plot clues before the chorus of Janissaries. None of us recognized the German arias, especially since the reader had difficulty pronouncing them, so it sort of devolved into who figured out what kind of opera would have Janissaries in it. It would have provided a finer gradation of knowledge if there had been a couple more basic late clues.

So again, the early clues for the music were buzzable for good teams without being anywhere near too easy, but it could have used just a little more late gradation for the kinds of teams who might be getting 15 or 16 ppb.
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by Dan-Don » Mon Oct 24, 2011 8:09 pm

can I get the set? dandonohue91@gmail.com thanks
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by Black-throated Antshrike » Tue Oct 25, 2011 2:05 am

Dan-Don wrote:can I get the set? dandonohue91@gmail.com thanks
Me too please, jbrosch1@gmail.com
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by ValenciaQBowl » Tue Oct 25, 2011 11:40 am

Jerry noted:

Code: Select all

I do not understand the randomization complaints.
The couple places where three toss-ups of a single category came in a row was much commented on at the Valencia site, but only as a minor annoyance. I understand and agree with Jerry's main point above, which is that obviously we're going to hear all four of the big three categories anyway, but I suppose my dislike of that type of repetition is a matter of the now-hoary idea of "quizbowl aesthetics." I was reading here, but as the type of player who often puts down my buzzer during science toss-ups, I'd find it a nuisance to have to sit through three science in a row.

But again, this isn't a big deal. Still, I prefer human randomization to allow for variety throughout the set.
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by Cheynem » Tue Oct 25, 2011 11:48 am

Yeah, I agree with Mr. Borglum in that it isn't like it radically alters game dynamics (although I suppose if you were into platooning you could capitalize upon it), it's just that it makes for less than optimal packet feng shui. In regards to the example of three American history tossups in a row, two of them were also on recent (post 2000) American history too, so that's something of a distributional quirk as well I thought.

The only time I tried to "count categories" was at ACF Nats this last year--it helped me get one tossup--Pincher Martin, as I was properly primed to expect a British lit question.
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Tue Oct 25, 2011 12:22 pm

For clarification about Packet Two, Blaine was classified as US history, Operation Fast and Furious was classified as current events, and the Iraq War was classified as world history. Strictly speaking, there was neither a case of one category appearing twice in a row nor of one category being overrepresented in this packet.

We will not be making revisions to question order within packets unless there is time to do so after grammatical revisions and pronoun additions are completed.
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by Red-necked Phalarope » Tue Oct 25, 2011 6:05 pm

Jumping on this a bit late, but I completely agree with Will that the linguistics in this set should be held up as an ideal for future tournaments.

As a reader, I noticed and enjoyed the attempt to ask gettable non-canon answers, though I don't know how differently I'd feel had I been playing. Proofreading was atrocious, but I suppose that's the status quo nowadays.
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Re: General Thoughts

Post by Excelsior (smack) » Sun Oct 30, 2011 1:37 am

Some thoughts. I see that the discussion about packet randomization has happened already; I would like to note that I prefer packets that aren't truly randomized. This is just a matter of maximizing my enjoyment in the game - in most packets, I have the ability to answer at most four questions (science). If all four of those questions happen to appear in the first half or something, I become somewhat bored for the rest of the packet. I'm not sure I see any real benefit to true-randomizing packets, rather than making a reasonable effort to space out similar questions (besides time saved, I guess, but pseudo-randomizing programs exist, right?).

(Also, because I, like most, am used to pseudo-randomized packets, I find it slightly confusing/jarring when there are e.g. two questions on things that happened in the US in the 2000s as in packet 2 with Operation Fast and Furious and the Iraq War [the former's classification as CE notwithstanding]. This would of course cease to be the case if everybody shifted to true-randomization, but I imagine that won't happen.)

There was excellent trash in this tournament, and I am led to believe that this is mostly the handiwork of John Lawrence. More tournaments should emulate him in this respect.

In general, this set was reasonably enjoyable, a few issues I mentioned in the other thread notwithstanding.
Ashvin Srivatsa
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