ACF Fall discussion

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Postby Captain Sinico » Wed Nov 16, 2005 2:20 am

I have to ask this, because it keeps coming up and I'm curious. What is "tuning out?" Is that "people stoping paying attention during questions?" If so, then anyone who's "tuning out" is being worst kind of candy-ass quitter and doesn't deserve any points. Also, since they're not absorbing any new clues, they're not going to get any better. In short, they're bad at quizbowl and will be so forever.
In short, "tuning out" for any reason looks to me like just quitting, plain and simple. You're going to have to look somewhere else for sympathy for people who do that.

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Postby Dan Greenstein » Wed Nov 16, 2005 8:58 am

ImmaculateDeception wrote:I have to ask this, because it keeps coming up and I'm curious. What is "tuning out?" Is that "people stoping paying attention during questions?" If so, then anyone who's "tuning out" is being worst kind of candy-ass quitter and doesn't deserve any points. Also, since they're not absorbing any new clues, they're not going to get any better. In short, they're bad at quizbowl and will be so forever.
In short, "tuning out" for any reason looks to me like just quitting, plain and simple. You're going to have to look somewhere else for sympathy for people who do that.

MaS


It is not very confidence-inspiring or endearing for the subset of ACF customers who are borderline about whether they like ACF to hear comments like this that do not even consider the possibility that the customer might come first. I would argue that ACF's questionable reputation in those borderline customers does not entirely come from the questions, but from the personalities that form the so-called ACF cabal. You are entitled to think what you want, but once those words are out of your mouth, do not expect many people to get excited about your tough-love approach and jump at the chance to become ACF mavens.
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Postby Captain Sinico » Wed Nov 16, 2005 10:37 am

Clearly, one should also take everything I say as wholly representative (in fact, defining) of the attitude and views of every organization I may or may not be a member of. That said, I fail entirely to see how what I said constitutes a
DanGreenstein wrote:comment... that do[es] not even consider the possibility that the customer might come first.
I say, rather, that I am merely wondering what a commonly-used term means and stating that, if it means what I think it does, then the practice it represents is reprehensible; the cessation of such a practice is in the interest of both ACF and its customers.
Further, you can argue whatever you like about the reason for "ACF's questionable reputation" among "the subset of ACF customers who are borderline" (I'm not quite sure what you mean by either of those things, but I'll guess) but what I see all to often in all forms of quizbowl and, indeed, many other things at college is a quit first attitude about anything that's difficult and that really not going to do anyone any good. The reinforcement of this with respect to ACF by the entrenched anti-ACF proclivities (which may exist for good reason, or may not) of various established people in quizbowl programs is a big reason that, for example, even though this Fall set was significantly easier and better than invitational any set I've seen produced for college play in recent memory, it's still called unacceptable because its questions have leadins and mid-range clues that not everyone knows, have too many clues, etc. All I'm saying, then, is that maybe what ought to change is the attitudes of certain programs towards their new players (also, from the ACF side, any tossups of length greater than 7.5 lines should be shortened to at least that, but I think the report of endemic 9 and 10 line tossups is exaggeration.) If you disagree with this and think it's just fine to quit in the middle of a match and fine to tell your novices that it's fine to do so and that it's the proper reaction when something's hard or you don't know it, you can certainly say so; I whole-heartedly and vigorously disagree. I'll just keep telling my own that they're not getting this question on this thing they don't know early because they don't know it and, if they want to get better, to learn about that thing (and start by paying attention to the clues in the question.)
Moreover, if it is the desire of ACF's customers to be able to stop paying attention to questions at arbitrary times but still get the questions, which is what you just implicitly stated, then my job as an editor is completely impossible anyway and I am doomed to look like I don't care about what the customer wants. That's because, in this case, the customer's demands are completely unreasonable and incompatible with the principles of creating sound questions; are, furthermore, incompatible with participation in any competitive activity whatsoever. If you stop playing to the best of your ability, expect to lose at anything and expect to keep losing as long as you keep quitting.

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Postby Mr. Kwalter » Wed Nov 16, 2005 12:42 pm

You know, I think that Sorice has a point in his diatribe against "tuning out" in that if one doesn't make any effort, then one will 1) never get better and 2) not last long in qb. I remember when I was a freshman, a fifth year senior on the UT team was the only person that wanted to go to ACF Fall way up in Fayetteville (9 hour drive), and instead of forgetting about it, the two of us (me not knowing what ACF was) drove the 9 hours, slept on the floor in the A&M team's hotel room, and played the tournament. Two years later, I'm an editor of that tournament. I know we all have stories like this, but the point of mine is that that first tournament didn't instill a love of ACF in me, it instilled a dedication to quizbowl and a desire to play as much as possible, even if it means a nine hour drive. So if you won't drive to tournaments because they're a few hours away, or won't pay attention during a question because it's too long, then maybe your teammates are miseducating you, or maybe you're just lazy. Either way, it's pretty tough to become a worthwhile quizbowl player when you won't go all the way.
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Postby yoda4554 » Wed Nov 16, 2005 12:46 pm

I remember reading or hearing a comment once that as one gets better at quiz bowl, one forgets that it is primarily a game and not a test. That is, most people play it because they find it fun to hit a buzzer and hear someone say "Correct" rather than out of a desire to validate themselves by demonstrating ultimate superiority at the arbitrary set of skills involved in quiz bowl.

Consider for a moment that, even at ACF Fall, for the majority of tossups the majority of players (players, not teams) will not really know the answer until the giveaway. Now, while the editing team did a good job of making sure that some amusing idiosyncracies and scatology were involved in the tossups so as to maintain interest for players unfamiliar with the subjects, for a younger player attempting to focus at 100% through every tossup, after a few rounds those 6-7 lines start sounding just like random (and often unmemorable) assortments of unfamiliar dates, places, and titles. It's physically painful and unpleasant to go through that for 10-15 rounds of 20 tossups. By later rounds, I find it's often simply impossible to do. I mean, I'm a reasonably decent player on a reasonably decent team, and for the sake of my sanity and ability to drive home after the tournament, I know better than to try to track science tossups until the very end of the question, and when I have at least two more-competent history players I know better than to really focus on lead-ins that they're almost certainly going to get if I'm going to. And the rest of my team does the same, depending on their areas of interest.

And what do you get from having 6-7 lines before the giveaway as opposed to 3-5, other than being able to rest peacefully knowing that if the best and, say, fifth-best player on the specific topic are in the same room the best will probably take the tossup? At Nationals or at one of the big hard-core tournaments, fine, because a) two very knowledgeable people on the subject are more likely to be in the same room, so you want to differentiate between them better, b) people are going to take tossups faster, so the rest of the players don't have to hear as many clues, and c) you have more people of the elite-player mindset who are willing to take a mental beating on topics they don't know in hopes of, someday, being able to get a tossup on that subject. But at a novice-oriented tournament, I can certainly understand why a lot of people might not find this enjoyable.

Recognize that quiz bowl is a lot more important to those who are editing a novice tournament that to the average players at it. That is, even people who might develop into very good players are much more likely to consider quiz bowl a relatively less important aspect of their lives. So if they are implicitly told that they have to do lots and lots of studying so that they won't suffer total mental exhaustion for little reward, I would not be surprised if many of them decide that getting good enough at the game simply isn't worth the time that they could spend, say, drinking. Now, if people want to hold the opinion that the game should exist primarily for the exceptions, for the people who want to be hardcore right from the very start and learn every lead-in, that's fine. But if you're trying to bring more people into the game, you'd do better to have shorter tossups at a novice tournament.

That said, I haven't heard a single person yet say that, overall, they didn't like the set or found it "unacceptable," and most people have been full of praise for its many positive features, so there's no need to be defensive.

(Incidentally, for whatever it's worth Ray, being as "Adonais" is the 3rd-5th best-known poem from the 3rd-5th best-known Romantic poet, I don't think your particular example's a good one. Note that "Tintern Abbey" and "Kubla Khan," the best-known poems of slightly better-known Romantic poets, did make appearances. If you had an "Ozymandias" tossup, the point'd be stronger.)
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Postby recfreq » Wed Nov 16, 2005 1:15 pm

yoda4554 wrote:(Incidentally, for whatever it's worth Ray, being as "Adonais" is the 3rd-5th best-known poem from the 3rd-5th best-known Romantic poet, I don't think your particular example's a good one. Note that "Tintern Abbey" and "Kubla Khan," the best-known poems of slightly better-known Romantic poets, did make appearances. If you had an "Ozymandias" tossup, the point'd be stronger.)


Well, then, perhaps you could also kindly explain the expurgation of this question that I also submitted to ACF fall 2005:

The trio to scherzo linkage in the 2nd movement of this work is marked stringendo, a fast tempo that some conductors ignore, but is clearly at the same speed as the alla breve, and contains sans repetition of the scherzo, as indicated in a letter from the composer to Charles Neate. The last movement contains a melody from the song "Mutual Love," or "Gegenliebe," which was used for the Fantasia in C. Premiering at the Karntnertor Theatre along with the overture to Consecration of the House, it begins in D minor and ends in D major. A 5th movement presto and the verses "Tochter aus Elysium, Freude, schoner Gotterfunken" ends, FTP this symphony by Beethoven containing Ode to Joy, his last.
ANSWER: Symphony No. 9 in D minor; or Choral Symphony

My point was that some _very very_ good questions by various people get left out, and I will be much more selective in submitting questions to ACF fall in the future. BTW the question that _did_ get into my packet was technically a repeat from the Vaughan Williams bonus, but I thought it _was_ a good question.

(I also requested that my replaced questions be left in the packet for people to read after the tourney, but I don't know what ever happened with that--but no, I'm not bitter.)
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Postby Howard » Wed Nov 16, 2005 1:23 pm

Sorice and Greenstein both have important points here.

While it's important to realize that a player will never get better by tuning out, it's just as important to realize why such tuning out occurs in the first place. And this is more than just a quiz bowl problem. It's a societal problem. Every day, all through our lives, most of us look for quick gratification. This desire has been helped along by the remote control and the computer. If we're not happy with what we see, we quickly move on to something else.

As such a problem, it makes it nearly impossible to achieve any positive results from telling someone they're doing it wrong and won't be any good unless they change. It's too big an initial step. Most people will just quit. These people need to take small steps toward an ability to actually pay attention for a significant period of time even when gratification is not present. They need encouragement, not negative reinforcement.
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Postby Mr. Kwalter » Wed Nov 16, 2005 1:40 pm

Well, then, perhaps you could also kindly explain the expurgation of this question that I also submitted to ACF fall 2005:


I think that "expurgation" is a bit harsh. Just because it was left out doesn't mean it was "purged" from the packet. There are a million reasons for questions to be cut, and while I know it's tough to see your questions (especially good ones) left out, that's just sometimes how it's got to be. If anyone would like to know why their questions were cut, please email us at acffeedback@gmail.com and we'll be happy to tell you.
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Postby recfreq » Wed Nov 16, 2005 1:58 pm

I still fail to comprehend why questions that were entirely taken out (as opposed to being edited), cannot be attached at the end of the packet for purposes of having extra questions or for people around the country to see. For example, this would apply to my TUs on Saint Joan, Adonais, Raskolnikov, Snows of Kilimanjaro, Oe, Franco-Prussian war, Babur, sonic hedgehog, Gibbs, Abraham, Creative Evolution, Allegory of Painting, Benny Goodman, and a similar number of bonuses. (Actually, I almost have enough left out for a complete packet.) A good reason would suffice, thank you.
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Postby Mr. Kwalter » Wed Nov 16, 2005 2:08 pm

If anyone would like to know why their questions were cut, please email us at acffeedback@gmail.com and we'll be happy to tell you.


Yeah, please do that.
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Postby Skepticism and Animal Feed » Wed Nov 16, 2005 2:33 pm

yoda4554 wrote: I would not be surprised if many of them decide that getting good enough at the game simply isn't worth the time that they could spend, say, drinking.


Perhaps I'm hypersensitive to it because I'm one of the few (the only?) dry person on the Midwestern circuit, but I can assure you that those two are far from mutually exclusive.
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Postby Susan » Wed Nov 16, 2005 2:42 pm

A sample of biology tossup answers included in the set: PCR, archaea, cnidaria, adenine, mimicry, prions, Calvin cycle, scapula, vitamin D...

Gosh, I wonder why the tossup on sonic hedgehog wasn't used.

Also, hurrah for this year's ACF Fall not being as much of an anatomy-fest as previous years have been.
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Postby Captain Sinico » Wed Nov 16, 2005 3:00 pm

Okay, so I've got a lot to address. I'll take it a point at a time.
yoda4554 wrote:I remember reading or hearing a comment once that as one gets better at quiz bowl, one forgets that it is primarily a game and not a test. That is, most people play it because they find it fun to hit a buzzer and hear someone say "Correct" rather than out of a desire to validate themselves by demonstrating ultimate superiority at the arbitrary set of skills involved in quiz bowl.

Look, I don't care why anyone else plays; they can do it for whatever reason they want. What I do care about is other people presuming to know why I play (or why hypothetical "better at quiz bowl" player plays.) To wit, I'm sick unto punching walls of people telling me that I play to "validate myself" or "demonstrate ultimate superiority," whereas they just play for the fun of being right (I really don't see how those are different things, anyway, other than the former being couched to make its putative practitioner look more pathetic.) I play to have fun, too; the chief way to have fun at a competitive game is to put in your best effort so you can win: winning is fun, getting questions right is fun, etc. If being right when you buzz is fun, then maximize your fun; be right as much as you can. My point is, do whatever the hell you want and don't presume to tell me why I do what I do.

yoda4554 wrote:(Stuff about how very few people get anything before the giveaway, it's too hard to try and focus on a game, etc.)

See, I don't think it's true that 90% of players aren't getting anything before the giveaway; I think that's grossly inaccurate, in fact. Moreover, if you're not paying attention, you're not going to get anything anyway; you've doomed yourself by presuming you don't know.
Also, dude, I'm sorry; I've worked a lot of jobs in my life, played a lot of sports, taken a lot of courses and exams, etc. None of them were less exhausting or required less exertion than quizbowl. Your required output in quizbowl consists of consists the following: sit in a chair and listen to some dude talk for half-hour spurts; press a button and say a couple words when you hear a clue you know. While nobody's attention is perfect and everyone wears down over the course of a full-day tournament, that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about making the decision not to pay attention. To me, that's quitting, plain and simple. Further, even if the hypothesis that people use to justify (or explain?) this “tuning outâ€
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Postby Mr. Kwalter » Wed Nov 16, 2005 4:00 pm

Ray,

While the editors will respond to your email query as well, there are a few things about the questions you mentioned that it might benefit the discussion to address. The main thing we saw in your packet was that it was targeted to a higher-level audience than the one for which ACF Fall is intended. You wrote a question on Creative Evolution. Bergson isn't even fall level, much less his works. You wrote on Snows of Kilimanjaro. There was another Hemingway question in the set, and it was on an easier novel. You wrote on Allegory of Painting, which is a terrific work but an inappropriate tossup subject for fall. Perhaps a tossup on Vermeer would have been better, as most people playing can hopefully pull that off the giveaway or earlier. Oe was a bonus instead of a tossup. Instead of writing on Saint Joan, you could have written on George Bernard Shaw, as I don't think I would have included any of his works in the set. Instead of writing on Raskolnikov, you could have written on Crime and Punishment or maybe even Dostoevsky. As has been said, instead of Adonais, perhaps Ozymandais or Percy Shelley. Your questions were just not fall level. Many of the others were repeats. Benny Goodman was a repeat. You might have noticed we already had a repeat with the land of nod along with a number of independent old testament questions, so knowing that there was already possibly too much material on that subject we replaced your abraham tossup. I won't necessarily speak on the subject of history; the editors responsible for those areas can do that, but I think my point has been made. ACF Fall is meant to be accessible above all, and while we tried to keep everyone happy by making the questions as pyramidal and well thought out as possible, our first priority was to try to choose topics that would be gettable by as many people as possible. I hope this post sparks more discussion about the questions; I'm sure I'm not the only one that would like to see us get back on track.
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Postby grapesmoker » Wed Nov 16, 2005 5:02 pm

Let me be clear about one thing. Despite my gargantuan response to Chris Borglum, I consider my own criticism of the set to be basically a minor quibble. It was a statement of my personal preference which should not detract from the fact that it was a really damn good set. I drew myself into a discussion of question-writing philosophy, but for the most part, that's neither here nor there.

Mike has mostly addressed most of the issues I was going to respond to, but there's one thing that hasn't been discussed, and that's the view of quizbowl players as customers.

Maybe it's just the pinko commie in me, but I find that perspective unsettling. We (by which I mean the editors) are not in this because we have a product to sell for our own personal gain. Whatever remuneration we receive for our efforts amounts to so little relative to time invested that I would be better off working part-time at the Starbuck's down the street if I really needed to supplement my already grandiose grad-student income. We do this because we care about the game. We heard that people were complaining about difficulty, so we started putting together a tournament that was both interesting and accessible, to show people that the two need not be mutually exclusive. We do it, in the final analysis, because we want you to have a good time and we work hard to make that happen.

When you look at players as "customers" and us as the "providers," the relationship becomes one between inherently unequal organizations, instead of one between different groups of people doing something for each other. Given that the material rewards to be had from editing are so meager, if "the market" demands something that the editors are not willing to provide, such as questions at the CBI level, we won't do it. Again, I speak only for myself, but I would quit on the spot if I was told that we'd be moving to 4-line tossups on curved yellow fruit. Mike is right when he says "if it is the desire of ACF's customers to be able to stop paying attention to questions at arbitrary times but still get the questions, which is what you just implicitly stated, then my job as an editor is completely impossible anyway and I am doomed to look like I don't care about what the customer wants." And he's right about the reasons too. So in some sense, there has to be a balance between the demands of the players, which are pretty reasonable most of the time, and the quality of the questions and the game itself.

That's what we do when we edit tournaments; we try to achieve that balance. Often, we make mistakes. I agree that some questions could have been shorter; 7 lines sounds like a good length to me. I also agree with the adverse response Mike and Eric have toward people who "tune out." Obviously, to some extent we all do that, willingly or not. But if you just stop paying attention halfway though because you heard some unfamiliar facts, I can't see how we're to blame for that. I also find the notion that it's physically painful to sit through 15 rounds of 20 tossup/bonus cycles patently absurd. Lots of things actually hurt; that does not. I mean, really, you're sitting in some chair listening to someone talk for half an hour. Then you answer some questions. Game over. How much easier could an activity be?

And what's most annoying is that for some people, no matter what we do, we can do no right. No matter what changes we make or how easy we make the set, someone always ends up either calling us elitists (explicitly or implicitly) or just denigrating our efforts by saying how whatever we're doing is resulting in newer players leaving the game. It's one of those "think of the children" things, except as always no one bothered to ask the children. Did your new players enjoy the set? Did they learn something? Would they come back again? Did they have a good time in general? If the answers to those questions are "yes" then we have succeeded as editors. And based on my survey of people who were there, including my own teammates, the answers are "yes" to all four for the vast majority of people. So I place very little faith in claims that we're somehow chasing players away with what we're doing, and until someone shows me some numbers that contradict my informal survey, I will continue to do so.

Now that I'm on a roll, let me tell you something about my team. Of the people on the Brown team at ACF Fall, one of them was a freshman who played in high school, one was a grad student who played a little as an undergrad, one was a grad student who saw quizbowl for the first time when he wandered into our practice room a month ago, and the last was a senior who played a little bit of science bowl. Nonetheless, they are some of the most enthusiastic people about the game I've ever met. They come to all the practices, knowing that the questions may be beyond them. They go to all the tournaments they can, knowing that they may well lose every game (which is what happened at ACF Fall, and something I attribute to their lack of aggression in buzzing). They even went to the IO mirror, where they put up a 5-5 record, very respectable for such a new team on those questions. And now that they know that I'm going to New York to play in the Technophobia mirror, a number of them also want to come, even though they know that playing on my team would restrict their own buzzing opportunities.

And you know what? I don't care that they're not awesome right off the bat. They like the game, they have a good time, and they're willing to learn. And I know for a fact that if they keep that attitude, they'll make a really good team someday. The thing is, they have the right attitude and I'm proud of them for their determination.

My point? If a team that didn't exist two months ago can display that level of enthusiasm, anyone can. It takes very little effort; you just have to want it. I don't know what to say to people who don't want it, or don't think that it's necessary to want it to be good at this game. All I can say is that our philosophies diverge and I don't know of any way to incorporate that perspective into my vision of the game. Maybe I'm not clever enough to do it, but I have my doubts as to whether it can be done.
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Postby Matt Weiner » Wed Nov 16, 2005 5:40 pm

You may have noticed the tossups on Bismarck and Napoleon III which had several Franco-Prussian War related clues. That's why the tossup on the war was cut, nothing more sinister.
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Postby ezubaric » Wed Nov 16, 2005 6:02 pm

Slightly off topic ...

When I first edited Technophobia, a team (which shall remain nameless) complained about how I threw out so many of their questions. I think it's a legitimate complaint. People spend time writing every question, even if it's of dubious quality. It's tantamount to throwing away their questions and their time when you merge packets.

So I created the Jerome system to let people submit questions and let editors respond in real time. However, people didn't want to use the system, and they still bitched about the results afterward when packets were merged (despite the Jerome system). Well, maybe it's just because it isn't very user friendly (I'm very slowly working on that ... ). I do think that it makes editing easier, but if writers don't use it, it's rather useless.

Even though that approach didn't work, and teams clearly prefer e-mail, would perhaps a system where ACF solicited 6/6 questions (three questions each from a team of four) at a rather early stage work better? That way, feedback could address systematic problems of difficulty or style? Then the rest of the questions, hopefully heeding the initial comments, could come in later. Maybe fewer questions could be thrown away that way.

It would, of course, require more work from the ACF editors to respond/critique to these questions. But hopefully the tradeoff in editing later would be worth it.

Oh well, time to end my silly rambling ...
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Postby Skepticism and Animal Feed » Wed Nov 16, 2005 6:10 pm

I'm not sure I would ever feel "My questions are likely to be thrown out or merged, so I'll write crappy questions", but perhaps I function differently from others. What I -would- think, however, is "These editors are getting thousands of questions from all across the country which they will combine into a single set. Surely, if my questions are of a lesser quality that that of which I am capable, the tournament will not suffer, because they will clearly have enough good questions for 14+ rounds of quality. With such an intake, it is a mathematical certainty, even at a low incidence of good questions among the submissions."

Especially with a program so able to throw away money on late or no-packet penalties as Chicago, that might become more common. I don't see how it could really be averted.
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Postby cvdwightw » Wed Nov 16, 2005 10:27 pm

ezubaric wrote:would perhaps a system where ACF solicited 6/6 questions (three questions each from a team of four) at a rather early stage work better?


Fact: If the editors are whittling 43 submitted full/partial packets down to less than 20 for the final product, they're going to cut a whole lot of questions.

Fact: It takes me about the same time to write 10/10 decent-to-good questions (given my middle-of-the-road writing level, I'm not confident I can produce a packet of consistently good questions yet) as it does to write a full packet of not-as-good questions.

Assumption: Given fact 1, I would have a better sense of well-being seeing 10 or 15 of my 20 questions used than 10 or 15 of my 50+.

Assumption: The editors would prefer me to write 10/10 decent-to-good questions than for me to submit a full packet of lesser-quality questions.

Given these two facts and two asssumptions (both of which I believe to be generally correct for any set of "I" and "the editors"), it would make sense to require teams to submit only half-packets, but with more stringent standards. Jordan's suggestion of offering incentives for a smaller number of questions at an earlier date, with the promise of the rest of the questions coming later, would also work. These systems should end up with less work and more satisfaction for both the writers and editors.
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Postby grapesmoker » Thu Nov 17, 2005 1:12 am

I think Dwight and Jordan both make good points. However, one of the goals of this tournament is to get people to write. If we said you only needed to produce 6/6 I'm not sure we'd necessarily get higher-quality stuff. I think the teams that know how to write and the teams that don't would still produce the same quality of questions overall.

One thing I hope teams will do is look at the packets that their questions were part of and ask us why a particular question didn't get in. There are lots of reasons, among them being overlaps and difficulty concerns, but in many cases, we will be able to explain to you what you could have done to make the question better. I highly recommend teams avail themselves of that opportunity.

Edit: the application of standards to inexperienced writers is generally futile. If everyone met the standards we set for this tournament, our editing would take about 2 days. On the other hand, we already have high standards for experienced teams, and if an experienced team had submitted an unacceptable packet, we would have promptly returned it to sender.
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Postby recfreq » Thu Nov 17, 2005 5:49 am

1st of all, no one is insinuating that there's anything sinister going on, and a list of my rejected questions was only used to reveal its cardinality. 2nd of all, I don't need to receive an argument on behalf of ACF as previously posted, just a list of questions rejected and outcomes, something as short as "repeat" or "difficulty level" or o/w one word/one phrase answers would suffice. Thanks you very much for doing this, as I generally haven't gotten much in this type of feedback in the past despite emailing tournament directors (not exclusive to ACF). If you find that all the questions were too difficult, that's fine, I'll be sure to submit a packet full of Wagners and Einsteins next time, and perhaps I'll be closer to ACF expectations the next time around (if I chose to play this again).

May be it's just b/c I can't get over having my Choral Sym TU chopped, but I just want to declare that I'd rather change people's questions rather than replace them whenever possible while editing questions. I think some people put a lot of work into those questions. For example, if you look at my original packet, you'll find that every question was of that high level of commitment. If people don't like them all, that's fine, but I generally don't "take questions off," even though only 20/20 have the potential of making it into the packet. I think it's fairly evident from a 1st read whether a question took a lot of work to write. (Just compared my packet with some of other packets you received.) I just wanted to persuade editors from taking these particular questions out quickly to be replaced, but instead, see if they can be worked into the packet. This is especially crucial since every submitted question can no longer be used in the future, so you miss out on the opportunity for them to be heard, despite the work.

Although I do wonder why Raskolnikov and Bertram couldn't both make good TUs, and why both Saint Joan (with an obvious giveaway) and My Antonia couldn't both make gettable questions, I realize that there's a lot that editors have to deal with, and for that I'm very grateful. So perhaps I'll drop the subjects right here and move on to discussing the questions (one problem is that the questions are all so good, there's nothing much to discuss on that front).

A final point: may be this seems such a big deal to me b/c I'm committed to my questions. Every question is an original, creative work, in my opinion. You may say that it's simply synthesizing info from disparate sources, but I'd argue that that's what some of the greatest works of writing have done, be it synthesizing source material or life experiences. So pls don't take my criticism to heart, b/c I just love writing questions too much. (Perhaps Jordan and others also feel this way.) (Perhaps this is also why I liked writing singles movies tournaments.) If I'd liked it less, perhaps I wouldn't mind seeing it taken out instead of being edited (I'm talking about removing all the clues vs. changing some of the clues.) That was my rationale for submitting substandard questions, b/c it's healthier to see your children kidnapped rather than your children devoured.

Again, directed at no one in particular.
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Postby ezubaric » Thu Nov 17, 2005 8:58 am

Again, I thought this was a good tournament with excellent questions. Squeaky wheel and all ...

grapesmoker wrote:However, one of the goals of this tournament is to get people to write.


A laudable goal, but one that doesn't work if you don't actually use the questions people write. If 80% of your questions are tossed or your questions have been merged with another team at your tournament site (and thus completely unusable), you'll walk away saying "I'll think twice before going to [play at]/[write for] that tournament again."

It's good for people to write questions, but people write questions knowing that they'll be put to use.
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Postby setht » Thu Nov 17, 2005 1:10 pm

recfreq wrote:(I also requested that my replaced questions be left in the packet for people to read after the tourney, but I don't know what ever happened with that--but no, I'm not bitter.)


It just isn't feasible, with ~50 submitted packets or packet fragments, to append all the submitted questions to the backs of the appropriate packets—this would more than double the average size of the packets. Tournament hosts would either have to eat increased printing/copying costs, or go through and excise all of the extra questions from the back. Think how annoying it could get, as a reader, to have to wade through several pages of raw tossups just to get to the edited bonuses, every round.

One possibility would be publishing all of the submitted rounds after the tournament. However, I'm not sure this is a good policy, and I believe we're not planning on doing it this year (someone correct me if I'm wrong). Suppose I'm a member of a new program, and my team works at writing a packet. Chances are we don't really know what we're meant to do, and our questions are either largely unused, or see drastic editing. Do I really want my raw questions published? The ACF editors are already falling all over themselves with eagerness to give me constructive feedback, so it's not like letting the questions remain unpublished will keep me from ever figuring out what I need to work on in question-writing.

Ray, I understand your regret that several questions that you spent a lot of time writing have become unusable. From the comments you and other people have made, it sounds like we might do well to consider reducing the writing requirements for ACF Fall. We'll see what happens next year.

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Postby setht » Thu Nov 17, 2005 1:15 pm

Bruce wrote:I'm not sure I would ever feel "My questions are likely to be thrown out or merged, so I'll write crappy questions", but perhaps I function differently from others. What I -would- think, however, is "These editors are getting thousands of questions from all across the country which they will combine into a single set. Surely, if my questions are of a lesser quality that that of which I am capable, the tournament will not suffer, because they will clearly have enough good questions for 14+ rounds of quality. With such an intake, it is a mathematical certainty, even at a low incidence of good questions among the submissions."


This is terrible and I hope no one ever operates in this manner.

Bruce wrote:Especially with a program so able to throw away money on late or no-packet penalties as Chicago, that might become more common. I don't see how it could really be averted.


Corporal punishment.

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Postby First Chairman » Thu Nov 17, 2005 1:24 pm

Question-editing

We have been asking for a means of internal question-editing and control. Anthony de Jesus once offered to organize one such site five years ago, and no one really put him up for it. It is very hard to do this with people who are currently and actively playing; what we need are designated editors who don't play the game and thus do not have conflicts.

What I think we need to do is actually review and edit questions that are on the archive, and post a set of "standard questions" for people to see how questions can always be improved.
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Postby setht » Thu Nov 17, 2005 2:29 pm

recfreq wrote:1st of all, no one is insinuating that there's anything sinister going on, and a list of my rejected questions was only used to reveal its cardinality. 2nd of all, I don't need to receive an argument on behalf of ACF as previously posted, just a list of questions rejected and outcomes, something as short as "repeat" or "difficulty level" or o/w one word/one phrase answers would suffice. Thanks you very much for doing this, as I generally haven't gotten much in this type of feedback in the past despite emailing tournament directors (not exclusive to ACF). If you find that all the questions were too difficult, that's fine, I'll be sure to submit a packet full of Wagners and Einsteins next time, and perhaps I'll be closer to ACF expectations the next time around (if I chose to play this again).


Ray, obviously not all of your questions were considered too hard; several of them did get in. It also seems clear that while some questions were cut for being too hard (e.g., "Creative Evolution"), some were cut simply as being repeats or too-close-for-comfort near-repeats (e.g. Franco-Prussian War). The 1/2 you submitted in my categories made it in, with some edits and one bonus part (Uranus) replaced as a repeat.

I think it's important for people to realize that this year's ACF Fall set was really intended to be (and in fact, was) at an easier level than the typical college invitational. I know there have been several tournaments (e.g., WIT) that state that an intended difficulty of "ACF Fall," and perhaps this misleads people into thinking that ACF Fall's difficulty level is thus similar to that of WIT (or any of the other college invitationals making similar difficulty claims). This is just not the case. If you look through the question set for WIT, or a similar invitational, you will see plenty of questions that could have fit in reasonably well with ACF Fall, but you will also see many that are clearly at a higher level of difficulty. Perhaps this indicates a popular misconception of the actual difficulty level of ACF Fall; perhaps this indicates that most teams are not paying attention to the intended difficulty level of college invitationals. Either way, it doesn't change the actual difficulty level of ACF Fall.

Thus, tossups on "Adonais" or "Oe" or "Saint Joan" or "Raskolnikov" or "Snows of Kilimanjaro" don't seem terribly out of line with what I remember coming up at WIT. They do seem too hard for ACF Fall (in my opinion). I'm probably not a great judge of difficulty in literature questions, but if we're attempting to create a set that's accessible to new players, I don't think this set of 5 literature tossups fits the bill. I know people spent quite a bit of time writing their questions for ACF Fall; I would like to urge people to spend some time before they write a question thinking whether it actually is appropriate for ACF Fall.

Ray, I hope you will play again next year.

recfreq wrote:May be it's just b/c I can't get over having my Choral Sym TU chopped, but I just want to declare that I'd rather change people's questions rather than replace them whenever possible while editing questions. I think some people put a lot of work into those questions. For example, if you look at my original packet, you'll find that every question was of that high level of commitment. If people don't like them all, that's fine, but I generally don't "take questions off," even though only 20/20 have the potential of making it into the packet. I think it's fairly evident from a 1st read whether a question took a lot of work to write. (Just compared my packet with some of other packets you received.) I just wanted to persuade editors from taking these particular questions out quickly to be replaced, but instead, see if they can be worked into the packet. This is especially crucial since every submitted question can no longer be used in the future, so you miss out on the opportunity for them to be heard, despite the work.


I think all of the ACF Fall editors preferred keeping as much of the submitted questions as they could; like I noted above, I tinkered with some of the clues in your 1/1 myth and 0/1 planetary science, but I only completely replaced one bonus part because it was a repeat (and even there, I changed to a closely related part).

recfreq wrote:Although I do wonder why Raskolnikov and Bertram couldn't both make good TUs, and why both Saint Joan (with an obvious giveaway) and My Antonia couldn't both make gettable questions, I realize that there's a lot that editors have to deal with, and for that I'm very grateful. So perhaps I'll drop the subjects right here and move on to discussing the questions (one problem is that the questions are all so good, there's nothing much to discuss on that front).


Personally, I think Bertram is borderline, or perhaps just too hard. My school system required a fair amount of Shakespeare (about 10 plays between 6th and 12th grades), but All's Well That Ends Well wasn't one of them, and I think it's safe to say that AWTEW is not one of the major plays. I would much rather see that Bertram tossup turned into an AWTEW tossup; better yet, a tossup on a more commonly-assigned Shakespeare play.

The presence of that TU doesn't change my feeling that Raskolnikov is not a good ACF Fall TU answer. Why not write a TU on Crime and Punishment, with many of the same clues (e.g. "The central character has a delirious dream of a society infected by intelligent microbes..")? I think the title Crime and Punishment is reasonably well-known, even by people who have never read Dostoevsky. If I'm wrong, the question could get pushed back into a TU on Dostoevsky (which I think is fair game for ACF Fall), and you could *still* make use of some of the same clues (e.g. "The central character in one of this author's novels has a delirious dream.."). So, if you read Crime and Punishment, and get excited at the prospect of writing an ACF Fall TU on it, that's wonderful; but pick the TU answer carefully.

Moving on to Saint Joan vs. My Antonia: I'm not sure why you picked this pairing. I think My Antonia is much more well-known than Saint Joan; probably more well-known than any single George Bernard Shaw work, and I don't think Saint Joan is his best-known work. Saint Joan may have several decent semi-giveaways—I can certainly imagine that the giveaways could get every team to realize the title refers to Joan of Arc—but how are you going to get teams to say the specific words "Saint Joan" without leading them by the nose? The main thing is to decide whether a large percentage of the teams at ACF Fall have heard of the play "Saint Joan." If they haven't (and I don't think they have, although I'm sure most or all of them have heard of the person Saint Joan of Arc), it's probably not a great subject for a literature tossup.

recfreq wrote:A final point: may be this seems such a big deal to me b/c I'm committed to my questions. Every question is an original, creative work, in my opinion. You may say that it's simply synthesizing info from disparate sources, but I'd argue that that's what some of the greatest works of writing have done, be it synthesizing source material or life experiences. So pls don't take my criticism to heart, b/c I just love writing questions too much. (Perhaps Jordan and others also feel this way.) (Perhaps this is also why I liked writing singles movies tournaments.) If I'd liked it less, perhaps I wouldn't mind seeing it taken out instead of being edited (I'm talking about removing all the clues vs. changing some of the clues.) That was my rationale for submitting substandard questions, b/c it's healthier to see your children kidnapped rather than your children devoured.


I think it's wonderful that you're committed to your questions. I hope you will decide that writing good, creative questions and seeing some of them cut or changed (due to repeats, or difficulty, or whatever) is more enjoyable than writing questions you don't like. If teams don't make an effort to submit good questions to packet submission tournament such as ACF Fall, packet submission tournaments will die (or show a drastic decline in quality). I don't think any of us want that. Teams need to understand that replacing/heavily editing questions is part of what happens with any packet submission tournament. I think it happens even more with an easier-level tournament like ACF Fall, where the space of acceptable answers is smaller. I realize that having your questions cut, or edited almost beyond recognition, can be annoying or even painful considering the time it took to produce the questions, but keep in mind two things:
1) Editors always want to produce the best question set they can (I think this is also true of writers—no one really wants to write bad questions*)
2) In most cases (certainly in the case of ACF Fall), editors end up spending more time working on the question set than any writer. This certainly doesn't make the time teams spend writing count any less, but I thought I'd point it out.

* well, there was that one time, at the Chicago Theme Tournament.. sadly, that particular packet has been lost to posterity.

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Postby setht » Thu Nov 17, 2005 2:47 pm

I wanted to point out something that may not be clear to a lot of people: the group of editors for this year's ACF Fall was, with the exception of Andrew, completely new to editing ACF tournaments. I would really like to encourage everyone to give us lots of feedback and commentary/criticism, particularly constructive suggestions. I think we've already got some ideas for things that should change for next year's ACF Fall (not that we're necessarily all going to repeat as the ACF Fall editors, but at the least we can pass things along), but more input from the people who played the set can only be a good thing.

So, if there's anything—anything at all—that you'd like to see changed for next year, please let us know. If you have an idea for how to implement the change, that's even better.

Thanks for all the commentary thus far.
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Postby AndySaunders » Thu Nov 17, 2005 3:15 pm

Here are my thoughts based on my experiences with the Great Lakes tournament:

As a player looking at the ACF Fall questions, I was pleased with the packet set. While there were a large number of items I would not have any idea on early on, the questions were accessible enough so that people with "general" knowledge about things would have a chance on the giveaway clue - which I found to be very fair.

However, both my own squad's best available player, as well as the best available player for another competing squad at the tournament, both cancelled out on their respective teams the morning of the tournament. This led to games where moderators (who are already relatively green as it is) had to read through most tossups in their entirety, leading to the "tuning out" problem in a number of cases, a general "not a great time", and a tournament that ended up being slashed from 12 rounds to 7 due to 3 of the 4 squads wanting to leave early.

Unfortunately, it seems that while I myself was in favour of the questions, the prevailing thought I heard was that they were too long and that a few individuals felt that there would have been absolutely no change in outcomes had the questions been asked, "blah blah blah, for 10 points, here's the giveaway clue."
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Postby cvdwightw » Thu Nov 17, 2005 3:27 pm

setht wrote:(I think this is also true of writers—no one really wants to write bad questions*)
* well, there was that one time, at the Chicago Theme Tournament.. sadly, that particular packet has been lost to posterity.

*Fear not! For I have contributed to a still-extant intentionally bad packet! Said packet was a parody of an unintentionally bad packet, submitted to a future edition of the tournament containing that packet.

With the possible exception of for humor's sake, yeah, no one really wants to write bad questions.
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Postby csrjjsmp » Thu Nov 17, 2005 3:27 pm

Seth, what is the reason to support having a more well-known answer, if the knowledge being tested is identical? It seems to me that what you propose is just changing a few pronouns, and it's not clear to me how that will by itself make the question easier.
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Postby Nathan » Thu Nov 17, 2005 3:43 pm

"Thus, tossups on "Adonais" or "Oe" or "Saint Joan" or "Raskolnikov" or "Snows of Kilimanjaro"

These, as a set, are too hard for ACF Fall.
With that said, I think Snows of Kilimanjaro or even Raskolnikov would be fine so long as the other three were "easier."
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Postby setht » Thu Nov 17, 2005 4:13 pm

csrjjsmp wrote:Seth, what is the reason to support having a more well-known answer, if the knowledge being tested is identical? It seems to me that what you propose is just changing a few pronouns, and it's not clear to me how that will by itself make the question easier.


Well, let's take Ray's Raskolnikov tossup as an example (Ray, I hope you don't mind). Suppose we decide to change it to a Dostoevsky tossup. I am *not* proposing that we keep everything the same, except changing the pronouns; I am proposing that some of the fun clues about Raskolnikov can still be used. In addition to a clue or two referring to Raskolnikov, the tossup could have clues referring to the Brothers Karamazov and The Idiot, for instance. The question can wrap up by giving some book titles, which are presumably better-known than the names of characters in the books. So, we may only end up using Ray's lead-in, in which case the lead-in of our Dostoevsky tossups tests the same knowledge as the lead-in of Ray's Raskolnikov tossup, but the rest of the question will test other (presumably more widely-distributed) knowledge.

The main point I was trying to make is that it's wonderful to read a book and work on writing a good tossup based on it; but, it's important to think about whether your tossup on the main character of a certain novel, or on a particular poem or whatever, is appropriate for ACF Fall. If you decide that the answer you originally had in mind may be too hard for ACF Fall, you don't have to scrap the idea entirely: you might well be able to use some of the material you garnered from your reading to write a related tossup on the novel instead of the main character, or on the author.

I think it would be ridiculous to have an ACF Fall tossup on something well-known, say, Dostoevsky, without using any of the good, academic giveaways available for that answer.

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Postby recfreq » Thu Nov 17, 2005 4:49 pm

Thanks, Seth, that was very helpful. As promised, I'll talk about a few specific questions and concerns now, now that I'm finally home.

1. I think the colligative properties question was a bit obvious on the Van Hoff clue, b/c I automatically associate that with osmotic pressure, but perhaps that was what was intended.

2. There are times when titles of works can be easier than their creators, e.g. is Cervantes easier than Don Quixote? is Dostoyevsky easier than Crime and Punishment? I think it might be a good idea to ask for titles on these canonical works, and I think they did come up in ACF fall this year, but I'd stretch it a bit to say that perhaps "To His Coy Mistress" is just as gettable as Marvell--just a thought, I think so, but others may not. I think we can still make a concerted effort to write non-biography while keeping the packet to a low level. Witness the "My Antonia" and "Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde," which were both very good and very gettable questions (I got them on the 1st clue but any decently well-read players should get them by the end).

3. Black Paintings was pretty hard for ACF fall, but I'm glad we didn't ask Goya, perhaps 5th of May, if it wasn't a repeat?

4. I was confused by Calvin cycle, b/c it sounded like photophosphorylation after the 1st sentence, esp when it said ferredoxin, but may be I didn't listen closely enough, as I tend to do.

5. The 1/1 social science distr seems to be a departure from the normal 2/2. Since a lot of players are probly social scientists, as opposed to english or history majors, having just 1/1 social science really limits what you can write. This is esp true since there was also 1/1 geography, which is just not really academic at all. I'd prefer having the your choice converted to social science myself, but just a plug.

6. BTW did the editor packets go through the same process of revision as the submitted packets? I'm not saying there's anything wrong with them, but I'm just curious, b/c to be honest, I'd much rather edit ACF fall than play on it, although I would abide by the ACF fall difficulty guideline, which would mean I'd write Wagner and Einstein. Also, do you get paid for editing?

7. I understand the problem with putting questions at the end of packets, but given that there was "Giselle" and "Mountain King" put at the end of my packet, I'm not sure "Choral Sym" and "Snows of Kilimanjaro" wouldn's suffice, and they are by the packet's author, so editors won't have to manufacture new questions like "Giselle" that don't end up being used. (BTW my Hemingway repeat was due to a previous bonus question submitted that Eric thought was too hard, I was told to revise my packet and I had nothing available on hand except for that bonus, but still it was an error on my part. I guess that was the most annoying part, having to revise the packet to address editor concerns, and still not making it into the tournament. BTW I had a bonus on Adrienne Rich where the answers are Emily Dickinson, Thomas Campion, and Mary Wollstonecraft. I'll stop now...)

8. I'm not sure why there was no buzzer race in our room on "mimicry," but saying "behavior" really narrows it down.

9. Is "Hanukkah" really not an acceptable answer? Even though I'm Jewish, I have no glottis.

10. Adenine might be a bit hard; I wrote an adenine question for ACF regs last year, and there's very little you can manufacture other than structural clues before the thymine.

11. I wish people would stop writing acid indicator questions.

12. I'd like to personally thank who ever wrote "Henry Adams."

13. Is Death of Ivan Illyich too hard?

14. Thank you, Andrew, for spelling Henderson-Hasselbalch correctly, most people don't.

15. The PCR question sounded _a lot_ like Southern blot for the longest time. False positive? Perhaps I should have waited.

16. I still don't know who James Meredith is.

17. Title locale + Tchaikovsky = Swan Lake, and I don't think it comes up a lot in ACF fall level questions.

18. Might want to hold on to the serialist period clue on Stravinsky. Who else gettable had periods?

19. Is "ordinary" really needed for differential equations? I said normal and regular before eating the neg, but perhaps you could just point out my ineptitude.

20. Derrida was hard before Of Grammatology.

21. I'd like to personally thank who ever wrote "glutamate," esp the AMPA and NMDA receptor clues. Given that 2/3 of the research on cellular neuroscience involves NMDAR nowaways, I'm glad someone finally thought it would make sense to come up as a clue.
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Postby recfreq » Thu Nov 17, 2005 4:53 pm

cvdwightw wrote:*Fear not! For I have contributed to a still-extant intentionally bad packet! Said packet was a parody of an unintentionally bad packet, submitted to a future edition of the tournament containing that packet.


I really hope Dwight will make the said packet along with the said parodied packet available to the general audience, b/c it's one of the greatest things to come up from west coast QB in a long time. You have Steve Kaplan and Dwight Wynne to thank for it, and USC.
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Postby grapesmoker » Thu Nov 17, 2005 4:56 pm

csrjjsmp wrote:Seth, what is the reason to support having a more well-known answer, if the knowledge being tested is identical? It seems to me that what you propose is just changing a few pronouns, and it's not clear to me how that will by itself make the question easier.


I think typically, the level of knowledge goes as [name of author]->[names of some of his books]->[names of characters in those books]. That said, I think Raskolnikov is sufficiently well-known to be ok, and a tossup on him would certainly be preferrable to a tossup on The Posessed at this level. I would have thought that Snows of Kilimanjaro is sufficiently well-known also. I read that in high school, and I imagine lots of people did too.

Actually, there was a Bertram tossup in the set. It was in Matt Weiner's packet, I believe. Still, I think it's kind of hard for this event; not so hard it shouldn't be asked, but hard enough that it probably belongs in a playoff packet that the best teams at the tournament will play on.

I also second the motion to make the previously mentioned intentionally bad packet available to the public, or at least to me. You know where to send it, posessor of packet.
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Postby recfreq » Thu Nov 17, 2005 4:57 pm

Nathan wrote:"Thus, tossups on "Adonais" or "Oe" or "Saint Joan" or "Raskolnikov" or "Snows of Kilimanjaro"

These, as a set, are too hard for ACF Fall.
With that said, I think Snows of Kilimanjaro or even Raskolnikov would be fine so long as the other three were "easier."


Yes, but none of them made it in; it looked like my lit distribution was just completely written by someone else. This is after I was told by Eric to revise certain questions to make them more acceptable.
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Postby grapesmoker » Thu Nov 17, 2005 5:01 pm

recfreq wrote:19. Is "ordinary" really needed for differential equations? I said normal and regular before eating the neg, but perhaps you could just point out my ineptitude.


The answer is yes. Every singe math class or text I've ever been to or read on the subject has been quite explicit in its differentiation between ordinary and partial differential equations. Also, neither regular nor normal are ever used to describe ODEs.

Sorry dude. I had to penalize my own team on that one, so don't feel like I'm picking on you.

setht wrote:If I recall correctly the question started off with clues about the Lipschitz condition and Picard's existence theorem, which apply specifically to ODEs, not PDEs.


Yeah, of course that's right. I wrote it that way to eliminate any confusion right off the bat.
Last edited by grapesmoker on Thu Nov 17, 2005 6:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby csrjjsmp » Thu Nov 17, 2005 5:17 pm

grapesmoker wrote:I think typically, the level of knowledge goes as [name of author]->[names of some of his books]->[names of characters in those books]. That said, I think Raskolnikov is sufficiently well-known to be ok, and a tossup on him would certainly be preferrable to a tossup on The Posessed at this level. I would have thought that Snows of Kilimanjaro is sufficiently well-known also. I read that in high school, and I imagine lots of people did too.

I agree, I just don't think a question with the same clues, but asking for an easier answer, would really be more "gettable."
But what Seth said in response made perfect sense, it just wasn't what I got out of reading through his first comment.
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Postby setht » Thu Nov 17, 2005 5:17 pm

grapesmoker wrote:
recfreq wrote:19. Is "ordinary" really needed for differential equations? I said normal and regular before eating the neg, but perhaps you could just point out my ineptitude.


The answer is yes. Every singe math class or text I've ever been to or read on the subject has been quite explicit in its differentiation between ordinary and partial differential equations. Also, neither regular nor normal are ever used to describe ODEs.

Sorry dude. I had to penalize my own team on that one, so don't feel like I'm picking on you.


Careful--some authors use the term "regular" to refer to a differential equation (which could be ordinary) that has a regular (nonessential) singularity at a point. The term "regular" is never (at least, not that I've seen) used as a synonym for "ordinary" in the context of differential equations; it's only occasionally used to describe some ODEs with regular singularities. I don't know of any usage of the term "normal" to describe an ODE, but there might be some subset of ODEs that are said to be "normal" in some sense; in the meantime, I'm confident that "normal" is not an acceptable synonym for "ordinary" when referring to differential equations.

If I recall correctly the question started off with clues about the Lipschitz condition and Picard's existence theorem, which apply specifically to ODEs, not PDEs.

-Seth

edited for clarity
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Postby Mr. Kwalter » Thu Nov 17, 2005 5:31 pm

To respond to a few points ray put forth that fall in my area,

6) The editor packets were looked over and changed by their authors' fellow editors.

9) Hanukkah is an acceptable answer, the aside I included was "(Clear your throat, it’s a guttural Ch, not an aspirated H)" which neither says nor insinuates "do not accept Hanukkah." If you really got negged or penalized somehow for not making it guttural, I'm sorry, it was a misinterpretation of a pronunciation guide directed at the readers.

13) Maybe.

17) Tchaikovsky was the giveaway. Of course it = swan lake. Swan Lake is a tough thing to write about without getting overly technical, so if players almost automatically get it after the "giveaway," so be it.

18) That leadin might be a bit easy, but the question is not "who else gettable had periods?" it's "who else gettable had a serialist period?", the answer to which is "Stravinsky, Schoenberg," or at higher levels "Berg, Webern, Part," etc.

I'll let the others chime in on the points related to their areas.
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Postby recfreq » Thu Nov 17, 2005 5:51 pm

ekwartler wrote:17) Tchaikovsky was the giveaway. Of course it = swan lake. Swan Lake is a tough thing to write about without getting overly technical, so if players almost automatically get it after the "giveaway," so be it.
18) That leadin might be a bit easy, but the question is not "who else gettable had periods?" it's "who else gettable had a serialist period?", the answer to which is "Stravinsky, Schoenberg," or at higher levels "Berg, Webern, Part," etc.


Actually, Swan Lake mentioned composer of this work having abandoned Cinderella as the 1st clue, so it was automatically Tchaikovsky pretty quick for me, but still, it was a fair question--I don't want to pick on every little thing, just to point out some stuff that struck me for the editor's purposes. (Perhaps bits of the plot and names coming earlier might have been good, since not many of us have read its plot.)

In regards to Stravinsky, for me personally, I knew it was Stravinsky immediately, b/c why would you begin a question on Schoenberg with the clue "serialist," but perhaps I was aided by knowledge in this case. But, I think it also overlapped with a bonus on Stravinsky on the Berkeley A packet. That's not as good.

BTW does anyone know whether the actual title of the Richardson novel is Clarissa or Clarissa Harlowe? Thanks.
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Postby ValenciaQBowl » Thu Nov 17, 2005 5:52 pm

As the person probably most responsible for inciting much of the nuttiness of this thread, my apologies. But, against all reason, I do want to go back to a couple things.

Senor Litvak is correct when he reminds us (in another thread) that anecdotal evidence blows, but sadly a couple CC teams in Florida have been discouraged by their perception that ACF Fall is too hard for them. This is probably an isolated phenomenon, and CC teams are not ACF's primary constituency. FWIW, I posted to our jucoqb board encouraging CC teams to come and am very glad that my Valencia players went (and always will): they learned a lot from good packs and will be better for it. And overall I think the sets were just fine in terms of difficulty. Interestingly, my Valencia team had the same bonus conversion at ACF Fall as they did at Delta Burke, and I got complaints that my questions were too hard this time. So I can relate.

But since there's been some discussion of particular topics/questions, one bonus stuck out for me when I read packs in practice yesterday. It was in Matt's pack (Matt--your pack was good! You're no elitist! You neither, Jerry! I'm down with you dudes!), and the three answers were Manuel de Falla, Three Cornered Hat, and El Amor Brujo. I remember learning about de Falla for Chicago back in 2000. And this is no knock on Matt's choice--I think it just illustrates the difficulty bleed down thing I've been noticing for a while. Matt writes for PACE and sees novice-type players and probably knows that some of them could answer at least a couple of those parts. But I'm confident that 10 years ago we probably never encountered Senor de Falla outside of ACF Nats or some other very hardcore tournament. That's the bleed down thing I'm talking about.

Again, this is just an observation. I make no suggestion about making ACF Fall packs easier next year. I think knocking a line out of half the tosses is a good idea, not because people completely tune out, but simply because, as many have noted, it may not always help to separate enough folks to make it worthwhile. Probably not too many regions had as many weaker novice teams as Florida did. We had matches finishing 75-50. Those dudes might benefit from some questions being shorter.

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Postby grapesmoker » Thu Nov 17, 2005 6:27 pm

We read some of the later packets (numbers 13-18) in practice last night, and there is some increase in difficulty between the first 12 and those. I think typically at many tournaments, packets get harder towards the end, because the assumption is that seeding has been performed and now many good teams are together in the bracket. There were a couple of things in those packets that I thought were too hard for this tournament, such as a bonus on the works of Selma Lagerloff. I don't know enought about de Falla to go one way or the other on that (Three-Cornered Hat is about all I can come up with but I know doodly-squat about music).

ValenciaQBowl wrote:Senor Litvak is correct when he reminds us (in another thread) that anecdotal evidence blows, but sadly a couple CC teams in Florida have been discouraged by their perception that ACF Fall is too hard for them.


I think "perception" is the key word here. Is it really too hard for them or do they think it's too hard for them? While I realize the important role that coaches play for CC teams, I wonder if they are not unintentionally keeping their teams from attending good tournaments because of unpleasant experiences at a related event 5 years ago. Unpleasant memories fade slowly, so if someone really didn't enjoy an ACF competition then, they are likely to try and keep their team from going in the future. I would encourage teams that still have doubts to play on these questions in practice and confirm for themselves that ACF Fall would be a good tournament for them.

Speaking of which, I don't know when or where we'll be releasing questions. Perhaps Eric or Andrew could speak to that?
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Postby Mr. Kwalter » Thu Nov 17, 2005 6:33 pm

Questions will be up on the archive by next week.

EDIT

Ok, so packets will be on the archive by next week, but until then, they can be found at https://webspace.utexas.edu/egk55/www/fallpackets/ . Like seth said earlier, all of us but Andrew are new at this, so we want to hear what you think.
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Postby Susan » Thu Nov 17, 2005 6:48 pm

Ray wrote:10. Adenine might be a bit hard; I wrote an adenine question for ACF regs last year, and there's very little you can manufacture other than structural clues before the thymine.


Clues relating to cyclic AMP or to ATP would be, I think, easier than structural information but still okay before thymine, and there are thousands of ways to include such clues.

Ray also wrote:15. The PCR question sounded _a lot_ like Southern blot for the longest time. False positive? Perhaps I should have waited.


ACF wrote:One serious drawback to this method is its high sensitivity, as it tends to produce many false positives in an unclean lab. Used diagnostically in some introductory lab courses for the purposes of determining the orientation of an inserted gene, it is also used in site-directed mutagenesis and in quantitative measurement of a specific mRNA in tissue. Cooling is necessary for rehybridization and for attachment of the primers to the original or newly synthesized DNA strands, but near-boiling temperatures will still not denature a certain enzyme of Thermus aquaticus, commonly known as Taq [TACK]. FTP, name this technique developed for large scale amplification of DNA, first proposed by Kary Mullis in 1983.


This question does not begin well; the first sentence could refer to literally any laboratory procedure. The next clue is a bit confusing, as Southerns are more often used for that purpose than PCR is, but it is extremely unlikely that one would perform a Southern in an introductory lab course what with the radioactivity and all. The rest of the clues are specific to PCR (or in one case, RT-PCR).
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Postby csrjjsmp » Thu Nov 17, 2005 7:25 pm

Regarding the adenine question, there was one clue that identified the answer as being studied by Chargaff. But as far as I know, Chargaff studied all 4 DNA bases, so this clue struck me as not very helpful. I think the SN2 question has an analogous problem with the "facilitated by a better leaving group" clue, which is once again true for all 4 nucleophilic reactions and doesn't really help narrow the range of possible answers.
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Postby Matt Weiner » Thu Nov 17, 2005 7:53 pm

Two points:

Chris, what is the standard for CC/Florida circuit teams? I recently heard someone from USF (which, one may observe from the U in front of the name, is not a community college and is in fact a superb team which beat the hell out of me at NAQT nationals last year, although I imagine this is one of their newer players who probably has had only CC experience before) in another venue comparing NAQT high school questions to the standard "Brain Bowl" fare and dubbing the NAQT stuff hard by comparison. If ACF Fall is the only thing that a CC plays during the year outside of high school sets and the Brain Bowl material written just for the Florida circuit, then no, I would not be surprised if it's the hardest tournament they hear, nor do I think that's necessarily a problem. But, as I alluded to way back in this thread, if a team is also playing NAQT Sectionals sets or standard invitationals, and finds those acceptable, but still says ACF Fall is too hard, then there is some sort of perceptual disconnect going on or some very severe distortion in what Florida college students know versus what college students everywhere else know.

Additionally, it seems like my editor packet is ending up the repository for examples of outlying questions in this year's ACF set. I will be compiling some data on packet difficulty once I have it, and I suspect that overall this packet was probably slightly harder than the average for the set, and I want to let everyone know that it was not my intention to make it that way. I'm a strong believer in consistent difficulty throughout a tournament, so even though it's often customary to use the editor packets in the playoffs, I tried to write at the same level as my freelance packet from last year's ACF Fall (when I believe I produced the easiest packet of the set). Various circumstances prevented that from happening, and I don't want to get into the whole process of creating the set here, but, for example, a lot of the easier questions were pulled out to fill holes in submitted rounds. So don't take that packet as an indication of my or the editing team's philosophy of difficulty; instead, take this post as an indication that we think that packet was harder than ACF Fall should be, and that some of the more high-scoring packets of this set should be the standard for the future.
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Postby recfreq » Thu Nov 17, 2005 7:54 pm

csrjjsmp wrote:Regarding the adenine question, there was one clue that identified the answer as being studied by Chargaff. But as far as I know, Chargaff studied all 4 DNA bases, so this clue struck me as not very helpful. I think the SN2 question has an analogous problem with the "facilitated by a better leaving group" clue, which is once again true for all 4 nucleophilic reactions and doesn't really help narrow the range of possible answers.


Yes, but I think only SN2 is concerted, is that right? Help me out here, o-chemists.
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Postby csrjjsmp » Thu Nov 17, 2005 8:15 pm

I'm not a chemist, but as far as I know, SN2 and E2 are both concerted while SN1 and E1 first form a carbocation. Uniquely identifying the answer wasn't the issue, that was done adequately in the first clue (which, as I mentioned earlier, I thought was easier than later clues in the question), I just thought that this one sentence in particular wouldn't have been a very useful clue to me.
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Postby ValenciaQBowl » Thu Nov 17, 2005 10:02 pm

what is the standard for CC/Florida circuit teams?


Well, since you asked, our CC state tournament, run by non-quizbowl folks from way back, uses questions that pretty much blow. Through lots of work by Raj Dhuwalia and myself over the last decade they're much better, but it's still not unusual to have a one-sentence toss-up along the lines of "What British novelist wrote "Women in Love" and "Sons and Lovers?"

But the majority of our CC teams also play my tournament and the USF Novice and UF's Sunshine State Invitational and the CC SCT. I've heard some say they think the SCT questions are hard, too, but perhaps the difference is that they see a clear incentive for playing there: a chance to earn a trip somewhere out of state and play for a championship. I agree this is a bit ignorant, but the huge majority of our players have no HS playing experience and none of the coaches have any playing experience. So they're really separated from our experience/expectations of the game.

Consider also that many of these teams don't trade for packets with four-year schools and don't get harder stuff from the archive, so Matt's right inn hypothesizing that this may be the toughest tournament many of them hear, and I agree that that is indeed okay.

SCT questions are, if nothing else, shorter, and leavened (as far as many players see it) with a little trash and current events, so they likely SEEM easier, though I'm guessing a comparison of answers might not bear that out. That may explain why less-experienced coaches and players here prefer them.
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