LaTeX and packets

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LaTeX and packets

Postby grapesmoker » Fri May 16, 2008 11:54 am

BuzzerZen wrote:Please pretend that this post contains a careful refutation of Matt's criticisms of Macs. I don't actually care enough to write one, but I feel like pointing out that I could if I didn't think it would end badly.


Can we also pretend I just wrote a really convincing 5-paragraph post on why all questions should be formatted in LaTeX and we're now all going to use the same style for all our question writing needs? It would really make my Friday if you guys could just pretend that's true.
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Re: I'm getting a new laptop!

Postby BuzzerZen » Fri May 16, 2008 12:10 pm

grapesmoker wrote:Can we also pretend I just wrote a really convincing 5-paragraph post on why all questions should be formatted in LaTeX and we're now all going to use the same style for all our question writing needs? It would really make my Friday if you guys could just pretend that's true.

Preaching to the choir, Jerry.

EDIT: To clarify, I am probably the only member of this choir.
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Re: I'm getting a new laptop!

Postby Ukonvasara » Fri May 16, 2008 12:40 pm

BuzzerZen wrote:
grapesmoker wrote:Can we also pretend I just wrote a really convincing 5-paragraph post on why all questions should be formatted in LaTeX and we're now all going to use the same style for all our question writing needs? It would really make my Friday if you guys could just pretend that's true.

Preaching to the choir, Jerry.

EDIT: To clarify, I am probably the only member of this choir.

You and Jordan Boyd-Graber, dude.
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Re: I'm getting a new laptop!

Postby Mechanical Beasts » Fri May 16, 2008 1:21 pm

BuzzerZen wrote:
grapesmoker wrote:Can we also pretend I just wrote a really convincing 5-paragraph post on why all questions should be formatted in LaTeX and we're now all going to use the same style for all our question writing needs? It would really make my Friday if you guys could just pretend that's true.

Preaching to the choir, Jerry.

EDIT: To clarify, I am probably the only member of this choir.


Given that I am currently teaching myself Perl to chop apart a large number of packets... you are not the only member of this choir.

Especially since I've found LaTeX to be pretty for a long, long time.
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Re: I'm getting a new laptop!

Postby cdcarter » Fri May 16, 2008 1:41 pm

everyday847 wrote:
BuzzerZen wrote:
grapesmoker wrote:Can we also pretend I just wrote a really convincing 5-paragraph post on why all questions should be formatted in LaTeX and we're now all going to use the same style for all our question writing needs? It would really make my Friday if you guys could just pretend that's true.

Preaching to the choir, Jerry.

EDIT: To clarify, I am probably the only member of this choir.


Given that I am currently teaching myself Perl to chop apart a large number of packets... you are not the only member of this choir.

Especially since I've found LaTeX to be pretty for a long, long time.


Yea that choir is not that small.
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Re: I'm getting a new laptop!

Postby idrayer » Fri May 16, 2008 1:57 pm

cdcarter wrote:
everyday847 wrote:
BuzzerZen wrote:Preaching to the choir, Jerry.

EDIT: To clarify, I am probably the only member of this choir.


Given that I am currently teaching myself Perl to chop apart a large number of packets... you are not the only member of this choir.

Especially since I've found LaTeX to be pretty for a long, long time.


Yea that choir is not that small.


I'm a LaTeX fan myself.
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Re: I'm getting a new laptop!

Postby BuzzerZen » Fri May 16, 2008 2:08 pm

cdcarter wrote:Yea that choir is not that small.

Hm, apparently. So why isn't the LaTeX utopia upon us?
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Re: I'm getting a new laptop!

Postby Mechanical Beasts » Fri May 16, 2008 2:18 pm

BuzzerZen wrote:Hm, apparently. So why isn't the LaTeX utopia upon us?


I don't really know. Why do people think that they should teach a class about web design in Dreamweaver without teaching any html at all? Why do people think that high school computer science curricula should start with Java instead of C or C++ or Python or Lisp?

Real answer: lol micro$oft.

But if you need a fellow LaTeX crusader, I'll be on your side. And obviously we have agreement from other people. I look forward to being able to type "\begin{tu}", though, in the future.
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Re: I'm getting a new laptop!

Postby grapesmoker » Fri May 16, 2008 3:58 pm

Possibly this discussion should be split off from the one about laptops, but here goes.

Hm, apparently. So why isn't the LaTeX utopia upon us?


The answer is because people are lazy, and because compiling a LaTeX file takes slightly more than zero technical knowledge. Why is Word so popular? Because it allows you to be sloppy and lazy without paying for it. Word will make decisions for you that you don't have to make yourself, and hide you from the consequences of your actions. Why do weird invisible Unicode characters sometimes appear in Word documents or proper carriage returns sometimes replaced with line feeds? Who knows? It's all part of the Microsoft philosophy of making users functionally retarded, which reaches its apex in Vista.
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Re: I'm getting a new laptop!

Postby Mechanical Beasts » Fri May 16, 2008 5:09 pm

grapesmoker wrote:Word will make decisions for you that you don't have to make yourself


This is the same thing that makes LaTeX great, though. The difference is the

grapesmoker wrote:hide you from the consequences of your actions.


bit. Why, oh why, oh why would anyone think a black box of that sort of scale is good for word processing? There's a big difference between "goddammit, I don't need to know what relative thickness it considers regular and bold" and "I poked the black box and it vomited on my shoe." And with LaTeX, you don't have to bother with either.

I guess I don't have context because I started programming kind of young, but I don't see what the technical requirements are to LaTeX that Word helps you escape from. Is it that you have to press a button every time you want to see the real document, and you have to follow some syntactic rules? I get more frustrated by Word, because Word does things to my documents that make me want to cry. I have a table. No, Microsoft, I don't want the table to become "corrupted" and to cover my entire document in random characters! No, I didn't actually mean for that table to have one column of width zero and for it to stretch across several hundred pages. No, I actually DO want to draw an arrow between those two points, not the vaguely nearby ones you chose for me. Okay, fine, I'll just make the arrow in Paint.

In their place, I'd gladly trade all that crap for "that makes 100 errors, please try again."
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Postby Matt Weiner » Fri May 16, 2008 10:24 pm

Hey, I moved this over here because it's worth discussing in seriousness. We've heard these calls to use LaTeX or some sort of parsed text instead of Word before. The arguments for the more aesthetically appealing, more searchable end product are good. But, I'm wondering if we're asking too much of people who already have trouble writing in complete sentences, complying with the distribution, and otherwise following directions when they submit packets, if we're also making them learn something they probably don't already know (text markup) instead of using something that, for all its flaws, they do (Word or equivalents). Can someone walk us through what the instruction sheet for a Latex-formatted packet would look like, and what you would do to a few sample questions to make them work?
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Re: LaTex and packets

Postby Skepticism and Animal Feed » Fri May 16, 2008 10:37 pm

So mainstream collegiate quizbowl is going to make itself more accessible and less intimidating to the everyday player, and it will do this by...making packets written in a markup language used only by science nerds?
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Re: LaTex and packets

Postby Dr. Loki Skylizard, Thoracic Surgeon » Fri May 16, 2008 10:52 pm

I think the issue with it is that it's a lot of extra effort for question authors when the benefits are minimal. I think it'd be more useful for teams to take the time to format in LaTeX's markup to, you know, work on their packets.
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Re:

Postby Mechanical Beasts » Fri May 16, 2008 11:00 pm

Matt Weiner wrote:Can someone walk us through what the instruction sheet for a Latex-formatted packet would look like, and what you would do to a few sample questions to make them work?


I don't know that much about LaTeX compared to, say, Evan or Jerry, but I've been using it for a while and pretty extensively, both for personal documents and otherwise.

Essentially, you could just give everyone a shell of a document, much of which (the setting of formatting constraints, like the font, or perhaps the definition of a few macros to make the code cleaner) they would never have to care about. But I'm envisioning something like this:

Code: Select all
[stuff irrelevant to the packet writer]

\begin{tossup}
% put the unformatted text of your tossup here
\end{tossup}

% put the answer, other acceptable forms, and prompts inside the braces
\answer{}
\accept{}
\prompt{}
\end{tossup}



You'd have a similar sort of thing for a bonus, and you can give pretty explicit instructions within the code. I mean, the idea of LaTeX is that you shouldn't have to think, that you should be able simply to type text in the appropriate place.

Hell, we could design a program that would generate the program--give fields for different data, enter them by category... this could be very, very painless.
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Re: LaTex and packets

Postby BuzzerZen » Fri May 16, 2008 11:08 pm

See, we don't even need to ask people to write their questions in LaTeX. A naive quizbowl markup format is not difficult to parse. Hell, I've written a parser for one (using a Ruby parser generator library...yay). If people could be convinced to write their questions in Notepad or somesuch, we'd have lovely plain text files that could be processed into whatever format we desired...LaTeX, XHTML, IRC-bot-ese, what have you.
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Re: LaTex and packets

Postby theMoMA » Fri May 16, 2008 11:11 pm

While everyone's jizzing over the possibilities of OMG LATEX, I will rain on this parade by reminding everyone that 90% of editing work these days happens on Google documents. Having teams submit LaTeX documents (or even markup documents) would be needlessly work-intensive for teams, but more importantly, completely useless for editors who want to use collaboration tools to edit the tournament.

The only way this will work is if someone creates a tournament editing utility that allows teams to upload tossups, shows them to the editors and allows collaborative changes to be made, and then creates a LaTeX document from that. Barring this, LaTeX is not a practical solution, and we should stop talking about it.
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Re: LaTex and packets

Postby BuzzerZen » Sat May 17, 2008 12:17 am

theMoMA wrote:Google documents

No no, we'll start using DVCSes like git and darcs! This is plausible!
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Re: LaTex and packets

Postby grapesmoker » Sat May 17, 2008 12:42 am

DJ Shadow wrote:So mainstream collegiate quizbowl is going to make itself more accessible and less intimidating to the everyday player, and it will do this by...making packets written in a markup language used only by science nerds?


No one is advocating this. I'm tired of how this discussion inevitably brings someone complaining about science nerditry.

Anyway, let me now address some of the concerns raised in this thread.

First off, this thread branched off from me making a joke about how everyone should write in LaTeX. That was a possibly ill-advised attempt at humor, but it does not actually reflect my real views. While I do think that we would all be a happier world using open source software and writing in LaTeX, I'm pretty realistic about what I can convince people to adopt. So let me just say that I think Andy and Evan are being overly optimistic about the possibility of convincing people to use any kind of LaTeX markup.

Matt is of course right in that there are more pressing concerns when it comes to question writing. We are in fact talking, almost literally in some cases, about teams that may have trouble writing in grammatically correct sentences. The priorities have to be to get teams writing competently and then we can worry about markup and whatnot.

Andrew is also wrong about Google Docs. It's not as though Google Docs requires you to write in any particular format; in fact, you can export a Google document in text just as easily as you can in Word, so that's not an obstacle at all and would not change anything for the editors. Also, as an aside, I don't think you're doing anyone any favors or improving the discussion by telling us to "stop talking about it." But I don't think anyone is going to be convinced unless I present some motivation for why people should write in plain text. I'll try to do so:

A major motivation for having questions in plain text is that plain text that's regularly formatted is easy to parse. If a format is easy to parse, that means it can be employed in any automated process. You can take those packets and stick them in an archive. You can take the same packets and have bot read them on IRC. Someone could write a program that could read you questions (think Text Aloud or similar programs). You could have an automated scoring program (this is my utopian dream) that automatically brings up the next question and keeps track of all stats. All of these fun things are possible with an easily parseable format, which Word is not. Word introduces all sorts of nastiness into the text, some of which I already mentioned and the rest I won't get into.

That said, there are practical considerations to keep in mind. Obviously, we want to make life as easy as possible for the writers and the editors. They shouldn't have to learn a complicated markup, and there's really no need to do so. Moreover, writing in markup when you don't know it all that well can cause problems because you mis-type something or you forget a closing tag or whatever. So with that in mind, I'd like to introduce people to a very simple markup: AFT.

AFT stands for Almost Free Text, and is a markup format designed to produce nice documents with minimally intrusive markup. Its only shortcoming from a quizbowl perspective is that it bizarrely lacks an underline markup, but this should not distress anyone. Basically, an AFT file would looks as follows:

Code: Select all
* Packet by Brown

** Tossups

A model of this process based on nonideal relay nonlinearities is known as the Preisach model, and thyristors employ positive feedback together with this process to achieve their latching function. In audio tapes, a bias current is often applied to counter the effects of this process, and discrete transitions during this process due to critical domain reorientation are known as the Barkhausen effect. For ten points, identify this phenomenon in which the graph of magnetic flux density varies nonlinearly with applied magnetic field in ferromagnetic materials.

Answer: _hysteresis_

** Bonuses

Emile Zola wrote that the artist realized the dream of all painters in this work: placing figures of natural grandeur in a landscape. FTPE:
[10] Name this 1863 painting which sparked controversy due to its juxtaposition of a nude with fully dressed men.
ANSWER: _Luncheon on the Grass_
[10] This Impressionist painted ''Luncheon on the Grass'' as well as ''Olympia''.
ANSWER: Edouard _Manet_
[10] Some scholars believe that Manet was influenced by the painting ''The Tempest'', a work by this Renaissance master who is believed to have also painted ''Sleeping Venus'' and ''The Three Philosophers'', though much of his life remains a mystery.
ANSWER: _Giorgione_


The underscore character designates bolding, the two single quotes designate italics, and the asterisks designate sections. This is very easy to read, trivial to write, and very simple to parse. Not quite as simple as a true markup like XML, but I've got a script that would read this 100% of the time, so it's not really a problem. You can run the AFT executable on it to produce HTML, or you can just parse it straight up.

This has gone on long enough, but I do encourage people to take this seriously. Most of the objections I've heard voiced to employing such a format are not really valid, and I hope that this kind of markup renders the final objection (too complicated to learn) also null. While I would never advocate forcing people to write in such a format, I do encourage it. I believe that it can open up a lot of interesting opportunities for using technology in a positive way in quizbowl.
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Re: LaTex and packets

Postby dschafer » Sat May 17, 2008 1:04 am

grapesmoker wrote:**Things about AFT omitted to save space**

Could you post the script you use to parse this? I'd be interested in seeing it.
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Re: LaTex and packets

Postby Mechanical Beasts » Sat May 17, 2008 2:25 am

dschafer wrote:
grapesmoker wrote:**Things about AFT omitted to save space**

Could you post the script you use to parse this? I'd be interested in seeing it.


That would be neat.

LaTeX comments retracted if people are willing to write in even simpler formats, given that a script that can turn that into HTML could also turn it into a .tex, etc. etc.

I officially support this proposal as being awesome.
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Re: LaTeX and packets

Postby theMoMA » Sat May 17, 2008 9:14 am

To clarify, I just meant that people should stop talking about making others submit in an esoteric format without making considerations for how difficult this would be. I don't think we can say "why doesn't everyone just turn in their packets in a quizbowl markup?" anymore. I apologize if I'm wrong about the Google docs thing, but it seems to me that markup language would be hard to preserve? I know Google docs is great for collaboration, but it really fucks up line breaks, carriage returns, and spacing when docs are imported. If this doesn't affect the markup, I guess I don't know what I'm talking about.

I do reiterate my call for some kind of web utility that one can copy and paste question text into and have it spit out as a formatted document.

I'm thinking something along the lines of having one text field that parses a tossup or a bonus depending on how many line breaks and ANSWER:s there are. The entire team could access this from any computer, and thus upload questions to a document until it is ready to be submitted. Then the editors could log in and edit in the utility. Finally, the editors would be able to publish the document as whatever kind of neato format that someone wants to program.

This seems like a real possibility knowing what some people on here can do with internets, and would be really useful in a lot of ways. I guess what I was saying before is that people should make constructive suggestions (like this) instead of just saying LaTeX!!!, because by itself, text documents aren't feasible.
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Re: LaTeX and packets

Postby Mechanical Beasts » Sat May 17, 2008 12:44 pm

theMoMA wrote:I apologize if I'm wrong about the Google docs thing, but it seems to me that markup language would be hard to preserve? I know Google docs is great for collaboration, but it really fucks up line breaks, carriage returns, and spacing when docs are imported. If this doesn't affect the markup, I guess I don't know what I'm talking about.


Jerry's example of AFT seemed to do fine. I guess I could try to break it, but I didn't notice any problems.

theMoMA wrote:I do reiterate my call for some kind of web utility that one can copy and paste question text into and have it spit out as a formatted document.

I'm thinking something along the lines of having one text field that parses a tossup or a bonus depending on how many line breaks and ANSWER:s there are. The entire team could access this from any computer, and thus upload questions to a document until it is ready to be submitted. Then the editors could log in and edit in the utility. Finally, the editors would be able to publish the document as whatever kind of neato format that someone wants to program.


This seems reminiscent of what I proposed in response to Bruce's concerns. But why not just have two different options for tossup and bonus? That way this is more extensible to weird bonus formats (which we should discourage, but not discourage by making bad software; that makes it harder for these teams to convert to the light) or teams having different formatting standards (lots of tournaments I've seen with two line breaks before ANSWER:). This would be ambitious but doable, I just wouldn't want to be the one coding it (for the moment; I already have two programming projects and a spot in a lab over the summer and I want to know where I stand first). I think Google Docs plus AFT is good enough, though; if you disagree, I'd very much like to know why--is it the above concern?

theMoMA wrote:This seems like a real possibility knowing what some people on here can do with internets, and would be really useful in a lot of ways. I guess what I was saying before is that people should make constructive suggestions (like this) instead of just saying LaTeX!!!, because by itself, text documents aren't feasible.


Why exactly aren't text documents feasible by themselves--is it because we want pretty packets? I'm not asking this question to be snarky; I don't know what prevents us from using text documents besides a desire for our packets to look good. I think we tend to say LaTeX!!! because in a perfect world, that ought to be enough; if teams / editors were willing to open up Notepad (or, hell, TeXnic Center) instead of Word and copy and paste tossups into a shell, then no one would suffer. (Now that Jerry's brought up the idea of text markup like AFT, I'd go AFT!!! too, because I'd argue that it's as simple as Word, if not simpler. Instead of pressing ctrl-b ctrl-u before the required bit of an answer, just press _. Yay!)
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Re: LaTeX and packets

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Re: LaTeX and packets

Postby Mike Bentley » Sat May 17, 2008 1:04 pm

I dunno, I think with most Word formatted stuff you can still relatively easily parse out tossups, required answer parts, etc. It's certainly more complicated than having plain text, I've at least partially done this for some parsing programs I've written for parsing packets for scobowl. You essentially just input what the answer string is (like "ANSWER:") and it will parse stuff. The more annoying part from a parsing for a bot perspective is extraneous text in the answer line like "do not accept 'Diels-Alder'" and "prompt on early answer of 'Wittig'". I can't really conceive of any answer format that would be easy for people to use that would not have those problems, though.
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Re: LaTeX and packets

Postby Mechanical Beasts » Sat May 17, 2008 1:49 pm

Bentley Like Beckham wrote:The more annoying part from a parsing for a bot perspective is extraneous text in the answer line like "do not accept 'Diels-Alder'" and "prompt on early answer of 'Wittig'". I can't really conceive of any answer format that would be easy for people to use that would not have those problems, though.


Well, the LaTeX / specialized markup solutions could have \begin{prompt} or whatever. It could be easy enough to use if we implement Andrew's solution or if we just tell people to work with a shell.
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Re: LaTeX and packets

Postby theMoMA » Sat May 17, 2008 5:04 pm

everyday847 wrote:Why exactly aren't text documents feasible by themselves--is it because we want pretty packets? I'm not asking this question to be snarky; I don't know what prevents us from using text documents besides a desire for our packets to look good. I think we tend to say LaTeX!!! because in a perfect world, that ought to be enough; if teams / editors were willing to open up Notepad (or, hell, TeXnic Center) instead of Word and copy and paste tossups into a shell, then no one would suffer. (Now that Jerry's brought up the idea of text markup like AFT, I'd go AFT!!! too, because I'd argue that it's as simple as Word, if not simpler. Instead of pressing ctrl-b ctrl-u before the required bit of an answer, just press _. Yay!)


They're not feasible because it's hard enough to get people to follow formatting suggestions as it is; foisting some kind of difficult markup language on them would not be a good idea. If we can offer an interface that allows teams to easily and intuitively make this work, I'm all for it. But asking everyone to do it by themselves is not a good idea, and will not work.
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Re: LaTeX and packets

Postby Mechanical Beasts » Sat May 17, 2008 5:39 pm

theMoMA wrote:They're not feasible because it's hard enough to get people to follow formatting suggestions as it is; foisting some kind of difficult markup language on them would not be a good idea. If we can offer an interface that allows teams to easily and intuitively make this work, I'm all for it. But asking everyone to do it by themselves is not a good idea, and will not work.


I'd be more inclined to accept that argument if I didn't find it exactly as easy to underline text in word as to surround it with underscores _like this_. Does that qualify as difficult markup? It's exactly like pressing ctrl-u before and after... you're just using a character you can see.
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Re: LaTeX and packets

Postby NoahMinkCHS » Sat May 17, 2008 7:32 pm

AFT seems trivially easy to implement. If anyone can't figure out how to use that, they were probably going to screw up their packet in Word anyway, and at least this way it's seriously just plain text.

I think Andrew Hart is correct about GDocs not really playing well with markup language. I don't know how it would do with AFT. It would probably be fine unless it automatically converts underscores to italics like GChat does.

As for the "I wish we had a program" request? Check out http://scobo.net/qdb.aspx ... If I understand correctly, it would do what people want it to do, I think. It's still got some bugs but it's really a good product. But good luck getting people to use it! It seems easy enough, but when we did our spring tournament (co-written with Truman State, which had the program), most people on my team preferred to email me Word files for me to post to the program. It seems simple enough to say, hey if we had a utility that took in questions and spit out markup, we'd have no problems. But it takes time even to learn a simple utility, time that people can't or won't spend.

AFT seems at least no more complicated than ACF's current guidelines for using MS Word (no special characters, where to put hard returns, etc.), which apparently people aren't following anyway. So why not try it for a tournament and see how it goes?
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Re: LaTeX and packets

Postby Mechanical Beasts » Sat May 17, 2008 7:39 pm

NoahMinkCHS wrote:It would probably be fine unless it automatically converts underscores to italics like GChat does.


I've tried to break it several more times, and it doesn't change my characters to anything but what they started out being, no matter how hard I try.
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Re: LaTeX and packets

Postby Dr. Loki Skylizard, Thoracic Surgeon » Sat May 17, 2008 7:58 pm

Why should someone who is not experienced with any type of markup/programming language be expected to forsake "clicking the button with the line under the letter 'u'" for LaTeX?
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Re: LaTeX and packets

Postby Mechanical Beasts » Sat May 17, 2008 10:01 pm

leftsaidfred wrote:Why should someone who is not experienced with any type of markup/programming language be expected to forsake "clicking the button with the line under the letter 'u'" for LaTeX?


Again, I've retreated from the LaTeX position because AFT exists, but frankly, I think this is absurd. I think lots of Word users use keyboard shortcuts. If they're also capable of putting the answer to their tossup into the part of the shell labeled "put the damn answer to your tossup here," then they'd have nothing to worry about with the LaTeX shell I would give them. If they cannot do that right, then how are they able to refrain from sending their tossups to editors in the subject lines of emails? They meant to paste it in the Word doc and then attach it, honest.

I think it's a little insulting to pretend that the techno-illiteracy of the average quiz bowler is so bad that they can't copy-paste into the appropriate place. It's absurd to tell teams to write their own .tex files; we shouldn't run a quiz bowl documentclass competition. These things we cannot do. But I think a broad survey will reveal an ability to copy and paste, and that's all we would need.
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Re: LaTeX and packets

Postby fleurdelivre » Sat May 17, 2008 10:36 pm

BuzzerZen wrote:Preaching to the choir, Jerry.
EDIT: To clarify, I am probably the only member of this choir.


Having previously been of the silent whomever, I suppose now is a good time to join said choir publicly.

That said, I think this thread is already winding into the inevitable conclusion that there is a happy compromise between teaching the whole community LaTeX and continuing to struggle with converting Word documents into useable databases. The shell solution seems reasonable and the AFT solution even more so...but someone still needs to gather a critical mass of support for ONE of these ideas and then run with it. Whatever we pick will require some mindless-but-not-quite-scriptable review, so even non-tech assistance will be valuable. In the meantime, Andrew's learning Perl to do work that seems to duplicate Jerry's efforts - let's start by agreeing that more collaboration is in order.
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Re: LaTeX and packets

Postby Mechanical Beasts » Sun May 18, 2008 12:28 am

fleurdelivre wrote:In the meantime, Andrew's learning Perl to do work that seems to duplicate Jerry's efforts - let's start by agreeing that more collaboration is in order.


Well, to be honest, I'm partially learning Perl because at the moment i suck with it, which is sad because it's so useful and shiny. I'm also learning Perl for completely unrealistic frequency-list related ambitions so that I can get a feel for the shape of the canon--my feel for it has been delayed a little by the fact that I stupidly didn't play first semester and even in the spring only made it to SCT, ICT, that novice tournament, and ACF Nats.

But yes, collaboration--preferably between people more intelligent and better programmers than I--is critical.
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Re: LaTeX and packets

Postby grapesmoker » Sun May 18, 2008 12:55 am

To whoever asked for that script, I will try to find it tomorrow. As for AFT, you can find more information on it here; it's not something I invented but it's very appropriate for the purposes I have in mind.

The algorithm to parse a packet, by the way, is very simple. It goes like this:

Code: Select all
read a line from a text file until we find the word "tossups"
set a flag to note that we are in a tossup mode
while we are in tossup mode:
   read a line of text
   if the line is non-blank and does not contain the string "answer:", then it must be the question text
   if the line is non-blank and contains the string "answer:" then it must be the answer to the question
read until we encounter a line with the word "bonuses"
set a flag to note that we are in a bonus mode
while we are in bonus mode:
   read a line of text
   if line is non-blank and doesn't contain the string "answer:" or the string "[#]" (where # is a number) then it must be the leadin
   if the line is non-blank and contains the string "[#]", then it's an actual bonus part
   if the line is non-blank and contains the string "answer:" then it is an answer part
read until there are no more lines in the file


This is a simplified version of the algorithm, but it should be fairly obvious that this will work for any file which is formatted according to standard ACF formatting guidelines (which we already ask teams to follow anyway). It should also be obvious that a file formatted in plain text in the way I indicated above will be read without problems by this algorithm. Where this algorithm breaks down, however, is in that it relies on the fact that a separate line is a separate entity, and is set off by a carriage return. Word often does this weird thing where sometimes carriage returns are replaced by line feeds (I have no idea why this happens) and therefore the algorithm loses track of the line orders and ends up skipping bonus parts or thinking that a tossup is actually an answer, and so on.
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Re: LaTeX and packets

Postby Mechanical Beasts » Sun May 18, 2008 1:11 am

grapesmoker wrote:Where this algorithm breaks down, however, is in that it relies on the fact that a separate line is a separate entity, and is set off by a carriage return. Word often does this weird thing where sometimes carriage returns are replaced by line feeds (I have no idea why this happens) and therefore the algorithm loses track of the line orders and ends up skipping bonus parts or thinking that a tossup is actually an answer, and so on.


This is what I hate Word. My script for turning packets into lists of answers would be a whole lot simpler if it didn't randomly turn the entire first packet from a tournament (Penn Bowl 2007 Packet 1, Berkeley/UCLA, for those playing along at home) into a single line. Which leads me to try to determine a logical way to create regular expressions to put the carriage returns back in, which would be no problem if I were better at things or if Word would just do things right the first time.
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Re: LaTeX and packets

Postby BuzzerZen » Sun May 18, 2008 1:41 am

I would recommend running things through Antiword using the -f flag before parsing. It takes care of a lot of this MS Word awfulness.
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Re: LaTeX and packets

Postby cdcarter » Sun May 18, 2008 10:52 am

Might I suggest the use of Markdown instead of AFT. I have seen it around a lot more, and have seen more implementations for parsing it.
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Re: LaTeX and packets

Postby Mechanical Beasts » Sun May 18, 2008 12:12 pm

cdcarter wrote:Might I suggest the use of Markdown instead of AFT. I have seen it around a lot more, and have seen more implementations for parsing it.


Hm. If we needed blockquotes, lists, more than two kinds of headers... then yes. I think Markdown seems very much meant to provide most of the text functionality of HTML, which is more than we need. And Jerry's already killed the parsing demon, yes?
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Re: LaTeX and packets

Postby grapesmoker » Sun May 18, 2008 12:36 pm

BuzzerZen wrote:I would recommend running things through Antiword using the -f flag before parsing. It takes care of a lot of this MS Word awfulness.


Unfortunately Antiword with the -f option will fail in the event that the file contains any Unicode characters such as accented vowels, cedillas and so forth. I typically preprocess using wvHtml and then employ a couple of Perl extensions to strip most HTML (leaving behind things like bold, underline, and italics tags). Then I feed the result into my script.

edit: for the interested, I'm linking to the Perl file that I use to parse the packets. If you use Windows, I highly (really really highly) recommend Notepad++ for all your text editing needs.
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Re: LaTeX and packets

Postby grapesmoker » Sun May 18, 2008 2:42 pm

cdcarter wrote:Might I suggest the use of Markdown instead of AFT. I have seen it around a lot more, and have seen more implementations for parsing it.


I briefly took a look at Markdown and I don't see any real benefits to it. The markups we need are stupidly simple: italics and bolding are the only things that need to be present in any question. In fact, there's nothing special about AFT, it just happens to meet those needs in a very intuitive way. Actually, old packets from the mid-90s used this kind of markup so it's not like people can't write it.

As for parsing, now that my trade secrets are public, you can obviously see that the parsing algorithm makes use of the structure of the packet, unlike something like an XML parser, which simply recurses through elements and picks up the data inside. If people really could be convinced to write in XML this wouldn't be an issue, but I'm placing an emphasis on being realistic. If we want this to work, we have to make sure that it's no more difficult to do than writing in Word, and that's why I'm focusing on things like AFT, which require no additional effort to use.
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Re: LaTeX and packets

Postby ezubaric » Sun May 18, 2008 3:56 pm

Awww, man. I was moving this weekend and missed a chance to get on my favorite soapbox.

theMoMA wrote:I apologize if I'm wrong about the Google docs thing, but it seems to me that markup language would be hard to preserve?


Actually, Google docs preserves LaTeX fairly well. We used it for PARFAIT, and just placed the raw LaTeX file there. You can use the Google Docs API to pull all the documents down and compile them. It didn't mess up any of the special characters (as long as you are using the right character set, which unless we put in Chinese characters, won't be a problem).

As for the difficulty of getting people to use X (AFT, LaTeX, what have you), there was a time (on its way out when I started on the scene) where people wrote packets in HTML and plain text. If people could handle it then, surely we could handle it now.

I also second the idea of a quiz bowl question editor that would produce packets in whatever format was desired; at Caltech we tried to have an online system called Jerome where people just filled in templates and then it got categorized and sent to an editor, but it never really caught on. I used it for myself for editing, but people couldn't be compelled to use it (even though you got real-time feedback from editors and got to see your questions move through the editing process). I'm not saying that Jerome is the answer (he's old, creaky, and built on old technology), but I think the idea was a decent one.
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Re: LaTeX and packets

Postby grapesmoker » Sun May 18, 2008 4:01 pm

Actually, I think as far as collaborative editing goes, a system that either utilizes Google Docs or some CMS system like Drupal would be the way to go. I'm exploring the possibility of using Drupal for this but I haven't had much experience with it so I don't know how feasible it is.
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Re: LaTeX and packets

Postby fleurdelivre » Sun May 18, 2008 4:25 pm

grapesmoker wrote: I'm exploring the possibility of using Drupal but I haven't had much experience with it so I don't know how feasible it is.


I don't know either, but I'd be willing to learn in order to contribute to a similar effort. First off, does anyone know what our strengths are? Drupal looks good because it's PHP, but if we have amongst us a Python person, I've heard better things about Plone. However, I have no idea whether anyone actually knows Python, or who else has experience with PHP, etc. Now that we have a choir, it might be nice to find out who's on what part...
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Re: LaTeX and packets

Postby grapesmoker » Sun May 18, 2008 7:24 pm

fleurdelivre wrote:
grapesmoker wrote: I'm exploring the possibility of using Drupal but I haven't had much experience with it so I don't know how feasible it is.


I don't know either, but I'd be willing to learn in order to contribute to a similar effort. First off, does anyone know what our strengths are? Drupal looks good because it's PHP, but if we have amongst us a Python person, I've heard better things about Plone. However, I have no idea whether anyone actually knows Python, or who else has experience with PHP, etc. Now that we have a choir, it might be nice to find out who's on what part...


Python is not hard to learn, though I'm by no means an expert. Drupal is honestly baffling to me, but I'll give Plone a spin and see if it can do what I'm looking for.
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Re: LaTeX and packets

Postby BuzzerZen » Sun May 18, 2008 7:56 pm

I have a couple different naive-markup-parsing things in Ruby for quizbowl questions if anybody's interested in playing with it...I don't recall how well it all works, but if anyone wants to bite the bullet and attempt this for their next tournament, I've got some of the necessary components.

Y'know, I probably should go ahead and put this stuff up on the Internets and explain how it works and what it's doing, since there appears to be actual interest in it now. Stay tuned.
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Re: LaTeX and packets

Postby dschafer » Sun May 18, 2008 8:56 pm

Should we come up with some sort of consensus for what plain-text-markup, XML format and LaTeX commands to use? There seems to be a lot of interest, but we don't want to end up with completely different and incompatible LaTeX classes / XML formats.
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Re: LaTeX and packets

Postby Mechanical Beasts » Sun May 18, 2008 9:36 pm

BuzzerZen wrote:if anyone wants to bite the bullet and attempt this for their next tournament


A thousand voices are screaming at me in my head right now, but tentatively, I want to say that if Harvard hosts a packet-submission tournament this year (HO is house-written--12/6, announcement coming soon), then we'd (I'd) be willing to try this out, you know, if we don't find something sinister and bad about it in the next couple days..
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Re: LaTeX and packets

Postby grapesmoker » Sun May 18, 2008 10:49 pm

dschafer wrote:Should we come up with some sort of consensus for what plain-text-markup, XML format and LaTeX commands to use? There seems to be a lot of interest, but we don't want to end up with completely different and incompatible LaTeX classes / XML formats.


Yes, I think that would be a good idea. I've been using some hacked-together XML (containing intuitive tags like tossup, part, and answer) as well as similar LaTeX commands. However, if we want to have any hope of this being something that's good for general consumption and not just for people who love them some LaTeX, we need to make it as simple as possible. That's why I'm a big advocate of something that looks like AFT rather than trying to get people to write in XML. Of course, if someone were to write a nice utility that could be used for writing managing one's questions, then XML output would be simple, but let's just take things one step at a time.
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Re: LaTeX and packets

Postby ezubaric » Sun May 18, 2008 11:47 pm

fleurdelivre wrote:have amongst us a Python person


I am such a person. Google AppEngine also uses Python, but I've only tinkered around with it, but it would likely play well with Google Docs and be fairly spiffy, if past performance is any indication. Python is also nice because of this:

http://nltk.sourceforge.net/

I have a LaTeX style file that automatically detects bonus parts (vs. whole bonus questions), does a decent header, etc., but it's nothing too fancy. If anyone is curious, I can post it.

EDIT: Had an extra thought
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Re: LaTeX and packets

Postby grapesmoker » Mon May 19, 2008 12:10 pm

There's something which just occurred to me that I thought was worth mentioning (warning: heresy ahead!). In my desperation to get anything useful out of Word documents, I once fired up Visual Basic and hacked together a quick program to extract plain-text from Word files while preserving bold and underline formatting. This can be done with the Word OLE module thingy; it seems like an option for converting to properly formatted plain text, but I didn't get past a proof-of-principle program.
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