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Neg Theory

Fri May 23, 2008 11:39 am

The Power Theory thread leads me to think that maybe we should start a parallel discussion about negs. NAC and PACE don't have them whereas NAQT does; not sure about other formats.

Question #1: If you accept the theory that should be powers, does that necessitate that there should be negs?

Question #2: If you accept the theory that the points earned should vary during the course of a tossup, doesn't that argue that points subtracted should also vary? (For example, shouldn't negs be disregarded once power is off?)

I'm not certain what my own answers would be yet. As I say, I've only just formed the thought based on reading the other thread.

Re: Neg Theory

Fri May 23, 2008 12:14 pm

Ben Dillon wrote:(For example, shouldn't negs be disregarded once power is off?)

Great point, i've thought about that numerous times in the past and wondered if that would be something ever implemented.

Re: Neg Theory

Fri May 23, 2008 12:16 pm

I've honestly thought about it and am unsure how the neg is not a gimmick.

Re: Neg Theory

Fri May 23, 2008 12:18 pm

Interesting thoughts. Let me add this one:

How much of a discouragement are negs to very inexperienced teams? For example, I read a match a few years ago where a team ended the game with -5 points. They were rather distraught, and understandably so, I think. How much can this stifle a team's early development? I know that several people out there would pretty much tell them to "buck up", but let's be serious and realistic about this.

I'm interested in how this topic turns out as I too am open to various viewpoints.

Re: Neg Theory

Fri May 23, 2008 12:29 pm

Ben Dillon wrote:Question #1: If you accept the theory that should be powers, does that necessitate that there should be negs?

I think so. If you're going to add the reward of earning a power, there should be a negative consequence that accompanies it to make trying to earn that the reward all the more riskier.

Ben Dillon wrote:Question #2: If you accept the theory that the points earned should vary during the course of a tossup, doesn't that argue that points subtracted should also vary? (For example, shouldn't negs be disregarded once power is off?)

Depends. If the location of the powers is known in every tossup (for example, PACE), then yes, negs should be disregarded after powers. If the location of the power mark is unknown (for example, NAQT), I don't believe negs should be disregarded because, as far as you know, you're still trying for that power.

That being said, I do prefer NAQT's format to PACE's, especially the difference in powers/negs.

[/$0.02]

Re: Neg Theory

Fri May 23, 2008 12:37 pm

Okay, here we go - I don't get negs. I understand that powers are meant to reward deeper knowledge, but what are negs supposed to do? Penalize aggressive play? I don't see why that should be penalized for starters, and more importantly the neg five isn't the big loss - it's the inability to score points on the toss-up (and, more importantly, bonuses) that is the penalty in missing a question.

So, in Fredland, negs are completely gone.

Re: Neg Theory

Fri May 23, 2008 12:40 pm

Interesting thoughts. Let me add this one:

How much of a discouragement are negs to very inexperienced teams? For example, I read a match a few years ago where a team ended the game with -5 points. They were rather distraught, and understandably so, I think. How much can this stifle a team's early development? I know that several people out there would pretty much tell them to "buck up", but let's be serious and realistic about this.


Well, is there really a tremendous demographic of teams out there that feels significantly worse about 500 - -5 than they do about 500 - 0 (I mean, Id personally feel better, really)? I'd be sort of surprised if there was really a team that might be pushed from quizbowl because of negs (as opposed to one of the dozen other things that can push teams from qb), and in all seriousness it seems like changing a big format characteristic for those teams would be misguided. I'm of course willing to accept that it's a demoralizer to put up negative points, but I can't believe in a team sense people are focusing on the neg 5s when they are being annihilated. On a personal level, maybe, but that's more about wrong answers than the final score, I'd think.

On the other hand, there are definitely people for whom negs can weigh kind of heavy psychologically when they first start out. Again, I see this not as a flaw with negs because its likely enough that wrong answers are the real source. If someone has that kind of a problem with personal stats, it will need to be addressed anyway, negs or no. All in all, I can't see a real clear argument for not using negs, and it's useful enough in evaluating team/player stats (and this from someone whose ppg would go up by like 5-10 without negs).

Re: Neg Theory

Fri May 23, 2008 1:44 pm

I think that, when the question bounces back and the other team can hear the entire rest of the question, then negs are kind of ridiculous, especially in NAQT format where they also cannot hear the bonus but even in PACE when the other team gets first crack at the bonus. Thus, I much prefer formats (PACE and certain tournaments) where the penalty comes in the bounceback. Just an additional note: I've been in multiple matches (both sides) where one team's neg 5 and the other team's subsequent answers put a match to the edge or outside the comeback zone with only 1-2 remaining questions. It's also worth noting that in our local TV format, without bouncebacks, they take away the value of the question for a wrong answer. Point deduction in that case makes sense, but only b/c there are no bouncebacks. That's where I draw the line.
Last edited by Djibouti on Fri May 23, 2008 6:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Re: Neg Theory

Fri May 23, 2008 4:34 pm

I wonder about "late negging", i.e. negging very close to the end of the question. Two rare situations: (1) buzzing a syllable before the end of the question because it's a race (awfully hard to say that those deserve -5 points because of one missing syllable); (2) negging early because a poor reader appeared to be finished (student didn't think a neg was even at risk).

A thought about consistency: If the neg is supposed to penalize an incorrect answer that is early, then why shouldn't both teams be able to neg? (NAQT rules suggest that a power could still be in play after someone negs, so why shouldn't a neg still be possible?)

Re: Neg Theory

Fri May 23, 2008 6:16 pm

Negs have been around since the College Bowl radio show, if I remember my history correctly. It was part of the original format, and most people whose main experience is the college game have never bothered to question it. It's sort of like the three-point shot - it's somewhat gimmicky, but adds another layer of complexity to the game, and it's been around long enough that it's more-or-less accepted.

I think the biggest argument for having powers and negs is the "tangible" reward/punishment. A large number of people on this board have been playing and coaching for a long enough time to understand the "nuances" of the game - a neg hurts because it allows your opponent to pick off the question, and a power isn't really all that great because it just means that you beat your opponent. However, in a 10/0 format, these are "intangible" rewards/punishments - a power does not increase your score beyond the 10 points, and a neg does not decrease your score - in which the benefit is the advantage over one's opponent or the disadvantage at which one puts one's team, and the momentum which one gains or loses. By adding powers, there is a tangible benefit to buzzing early - you get 5 or 10 extra points. By adding negs, there is a tangible risk to buzzing early - you might lose 5 points. In the long run, are these going to matter? Probably not, unless you're going into overtime. Are these 5 or 10 points a lot bigger to newer players that don't understand game strategy and focus on the tangible (points scored, rather than expected point margin) rewards? Definitely.

Most of the scoring is done on bonuses. But to get those bonuses, you have to beat your opponent to tossups. If you buzz in early, and you're wrong, you lose the utility of the rest of the question - and that utility might be zero, if it's something you weren't going to get anyway (consider a physics-poor team playing against a team with Seth, Mike and Jerry), and you might as well buzz in at the first inkling of an idea. You don't lose anything by buzzing in at this point - there's no tangible penalty for getting it wrong, and it's a virtual guarantee that the other team's going to get the question before you. Let's now add the power. You've got slightly more of an incentive to buzz early now - it's five extra points, on top of the ten + bonus - and you're still not really giving up anything since you're not going to get the tossup without being ridiculously aggressive. So you've got even more of an incentive to wildly buzz in. Let's add the neg now. Now, when you buzz, you still lose that near-zero utility from hearing the rest of the question, but you also lose five points if you're wrong (and you're probably going to be wrong). So now you're looking at a near-certain zero points if you're not buzzing and an expected point value somewhere in the negatives if you are buzzing, and the other team's getting the question either way, so now it's in your best interest to just let the other team get the question.

On the other hand, let's consider that the utility is high - you're now the physics-rich team playing the physics-poor team on a physics tossup. By buzzing early, and being wrong, you've given up a huge advantage, since you're virtually guaranteed that question if you just sit and wait for a clue you're sure you recognize. Adding a power mark makes it slightly more enticing to buzz early - but the extra 5 points isn't worth the potential 80 point swing if you're wrong. Adding the neg, and now it's a potential 85 point swing - a slightly greater incentive not to buzz, but not really enough to change strategy. It's the same thing with the double neg - your opponent has already taken itself out of the question, so your utility is extremely high, because your opponent is not going to buzz again, and there's no reason to change your strategy just because you might lose 5 points with a wrong answer.

Put another way, let's assume that your opponent can get every tossup off the giveaway against empty chairs, so your team's job is to "steal" points from your opponent by buzzing in before them (this obviously isn't a valid assumption in every situation, but against the best high school teams it's probably pretty close). Every time you buzz in early, you wager 5 points + utility of hearing more of the question that your answer will be right, and the payoff is 10+bonus points and your opponent losing the 10+bonus points that it would otherwise have had. Without negs, you just wager the utility of hearing more of the question. The utility is a function of two variables: the value of hearing more of the question, and the chance that your opponent will buzz and "steal" those points from you. We might say the the marginal utility (of not buzzing off a certain clue) u = dk(1-p), where d is the expected point differential if you get the question as opposed to them (usually something like 20+BC(you)+BC(them)), k is the chance that the next clue will allow you to buzz with confidence that your answer is right, and p is the chance that your opponent is going to buzz with the right answer off that clue. Obviously k and p have to be estimated, but we can generally consider u as being either high, medium, or low.

When u is high, because the value of hearing more of the question far exceeds the chance your opponent is buzzing in, 5 points isn't going to make a huge difference, because you're already risking so much without the extra 5 points (when your opponent has negged, p = 0, and the marginal utility of not buzzing increases with every clue, so you'd be an idiot to buzz before the end of the question without a different, good reason like time running out). When u is medium, because you're trading off a higher chance that your opponent is buzzing in for additional value from hearing more of the question, then that extra 5 points represents a judgment call - it doesn't matter to many aggressive players, but more passive players would be less inclined to buzz. When u is low, because your opponent is probably going to get the question before you get much additional value out of it, then that 5 points makes a huge difference.

Therefore, it seems like the most important function of the neg is to prevent wild aggression, especially by knowledge-poor teams. Probably the worst example of this is the formats where the question goes dead after a wrong answer. If you don't know anything, you can buzz in ridiculously early with your best guess, and if you're right you get points and if you're wrong no one does, so your best strategy is always to buzz recklessly. These formats, I think, encourage knowledge-poor teams by providing a strategy by which they can win a fair amount of games. Adding a neg now decreases their score most of the time they pull that stunt, and they can't win without getting far more questions right. Even if the question doesn't go dead after the first wrong answer, a knowledge-poor team is going to score more points without negs than with negs, even if their chances of upsetting a knowledge-rich team is near-zero in both cases.

Nowhere is it more true that "the best defense is a good offense" than in quizbowl. By scoring points, you prevent the other team from doing the same. So, in the long run, all the points lost by negs are not going to significantly contribute to the loss (rather, it's the loss of opportunities to score points). However, the neg discourages completely random guessing, because now there is something tangible other than the "utility of not buzzing" being "wagered" on a buzz.

Re: Neg Theory

Fri May 23, 2008 7:55 pm

^^

One of the most intelligent posts i've read on this site. Great ideas, especially the rationalization of the neg when it comes to inexperienced teams. In total agreement, for sure.

I do, however, think that taking out negs after the "for 10 points" stipulation merits some looking at.

Re: Neg Theory

Sat May 24, 2008 12:03 am

Not saying that it wouldn't be a good idea to leave out the penalty after reading for 10 points... it is an interesting idea.

However, it is for some people an interesting concept to only give a neg on the first interrupt and not the (stupid) followup-interrupt from the opposing team.

But for standard tossup/bonus (no powers), we still do have negs. Again it is a general disincentive for obnoxious dummies to enjoy interrupting the flow of the game. Of course, we could just impose a "mercy rule" like they do for Panasonic. Once you hit zero points, you go bye-bye... I would think we could have a similar rule where if a team hits the -20 mark, we just stop the game. :cool:

To really make things confusing, I have heard of the "neg rule" where if you neg, the OTHER team gets 5 more points (rather than your own points being deducted).

Re: Neg Theory

Sat May 24, 2008 12:41 am

ILoveReeses wrote:To really make things confusing, I have heard of the "neg rule" where if you neg, the OTHER team gets 5 more points (rather than your own points being deducted).


Science Bowl does this. You can score up to three times on a given question; once from the other team's neg, once from getting the tossup, and once from getting the bonus.

Re: Neg Theory

Sat May 24, 2008 11:07 am

Our team lost at the regional science bowl finals because of this (and a clock that we could not see). We thought the question was over and so buzzed, got it wrong, time buzzer went off and we ended up losing by 2 points (neg worth 4 for the opponent) The other team claimed they didn't know the answer, so...

Re: Neg Theory

Mon May 26, 2008 2:07 am

[Contrary to what some people seem to be suggesting, unless I'm misreading] I think the +5s and -5s you get from powers and negs are pretty significant in comparison to the 40-point [potential] tossups-bonuses, and especially since it's typically more like 30-35 points assuming 20-25 PPB conversion. As other people mentioned, there have been plenty of matches where the difference was made by powers and negs (that is, matches where the outcome-by-score would've been changed had there been no powers or negs). I think that I am pretty bitter (biased) about this issue though, because in a certain match at Weekend of Quizbowl, during which some of the bonuses were difficult to convert more than 10ish, making an amount of 10 points feel very hard-earned, we ended up negging ourselves into oblivion down the stretch and lost by a small margin. I think in that match we had maybe 7 or 8 negs, and the other team had very few, and if we'd had those 35-40 points back we would've won.

Speaking of which:

ILoveReeses wrote: I would think we could have a similar rule where if a team hits the -20 mark, we just stop the game.


I'm guessing you picked the number -20 somewhat arbitrarily, but that would be pretty harsh at times. I'm sure there are teams around (mine included) that have had scores of -20 and came back to win the match.

Re: Neg Theory

Mon May 26, 2008 8:40 am

AdamL wrote:
ILoveReeses wrote: I would think we could have a similar rule where if a team hits the -20 mark, we just stop the game.


I'm guessing you picked the number -20 somewhat arbitrarily, but that would be pretty harsh at times. I'm sure there are teams around (mine included) that have had scores of -20 and came back to win the match.


Yes I auggested an arbitrary number for no good reason... unlike Panasonic which disconnects your buzzers when you lose the 100-point buffer in your score.

Re: Neg Theory

Mon May 26, 2008 10:20 am

During one of our matches Saturday, we had -20 after four questions and went on to win 375-15.

Re: Neg Theory

Mon May 26, 2008 3:48 pm

AdamL wrote:[Contrary to what some people seem to be suggesting, unless I'm misreading] I think the +5s and -5s you get from powers and negs are pretty significant in comparison to the 40-point [potential] tossups-bonuses, and especially since it's typically more like 30-35 points assuming 20-25 PPB conversion. As other people mentioned, there have been plenty of matches where the difference was made by powers and negs (that is, matches where the outcome-by-score would've been changed had there been no powers or negs). I think that I am pretty bitter (biased) about this issue though, because in a certain match at Weekend of Quizbowl, during which some of the bonuses were difficult to convert more than 10ish, making an amount of 10 points feel very hard-earned, we ended up negging ourselves into oblivion down the stretch and lost by a small margin. I think in that match we had maybe 7 or 8 negs, and the other team had very few, and if we'd had those 35-40 points back we would've won.

What people (mainly, me, I think) are arguing is that by negging you lose 5 points, the opportunity to score 10 points for answering the tossup plus additional bonus points, and the opportunity to prevent your opponent from scoring those points. A single neg-5, in and of itself, is relatively insignificant compared to a potential 80 point swing on every question. Unless it's a tie game going in to the last question or maybe you're up by 5, the neg is typically not what kills you; it's the fact that you're letting the other team have a free shot at the question. You argue that the negs are what killed you in the match. I counter that if you had answered four more bonus parts correctly, the negs would have ultimately been irrelevant. Furthermore, maybe I'm wrong, but surely you could have beaten the other team to at least one of those 7-8 questions had you not negged. And even assuming 10 points on the bonus, that's a 40 point swing you lost as opposed to the 45 you lose with a neg. The lost point value from the negs didn't kill you, since you had plenty of opportunities to make those points up on the bonuses. What killed you was allowing the other team to take tossups that you should have gotten had you not buzzed in early and been wrong.

Re: Neg Theory

Mon May 26, 2008 5:07 pm

cvdwightw wrote: A single neg-5, in and of itself, is relatively insignificant compared to a potential 80 point swing on every question. Unless it's a tie game going in to the last question or maybe you're up by 5, the neg is typically not what kills you


It may not be what typically kills you, but what I was trying to say is that in this particular case, it did. Had there been no -5 penalties, I'm pretty sure (I don't have the exact stats, but I know it was close and that we negged a ton) we would have won despite incorrectly interrupting so many tossups.

cvdwightw wrote:I counter that if you had answered four more bonus parts correctly, the negs would have ultimately been irrelevant.


I'm not seeing how they're ever irrelevant... other things equal, a team would have to answer 4 more bonus parts correctly just to make up for the penalties than if there had been no penalties at all. I agree with you on most points, in case you got the impression that I took issue with your whole post (I mean, it's kind of the "if you answer more questions, you'll win" argument), I'm just saying that the -5 quantity matters.

And yes, definitely...if we hadn't buzzed [incorrectly] when we did, I'm confident we would've beaten the other team to most or all of the tossups anyway - especially because they didn't manage to convert all of them. We probably could've/should've won that match by a few hundred points. If that's what you mean by the negs (40ish points) not mattering as much as the hundreds-of-points swing they caused, I agree with that (and did from the start), but because of, frankly, inferior knowledge and such on their part, we still would've won the match had we not been penalized the 40 points. [/bitter semi-rant]

Re: Neg Theory

Mon May 26, 2008 5:23 pm

AdamL wrote:I'm not seeing how they're ever irrelevant... other things equal, a team would have to answer 4 more bonus parts correctly just to make up for the penalties than if there had been no penalties at all. I agree with you on most points, in case you got the impression that I took issue with your whole post (I mean, it's kind of the "if you answer more questions, you'll win" argument), I'm just saying that the -5 quantity matters.


First, let's break down the costs of a neg: losing 5 points, and the potential for points. In your case, if the opposing team didn't get the tossups, then your only additional cost was the ten points for the tossup and the potential bonus points. It doesn't show up on the scoreline, but it IS a opportunity cost nonetheless and must be taken into account. The 40 (if the other team doesn't get it) or the 80 (if they do) point potential swing is still there, regardless of the tangible consequences.

Re: Neg Theory

Mon May 26, 2008 5:24 pm

Adam, I'm assuming that you're referring to your game against my team at Weekend of Quizbowl. While I do remember a few negs from your team, including one on the last tossup of a close game, it certainly wasn't close to "7 or 8." I believe that we converted almost all of the tossups after your negs. You were never way up in the game; I think that it was tied or within 40 at halftime. If I remember correctly, we also had a few leadin or early-clue buzzes down the stretch, which differs from your description of "negging away the victory." More to the point, this is the third or fourth post I've seen from you about this game, and in each post you've implied that my team is vastly inferior to yours and that we got lucky in winning that game. I'm really not sure why you feel the need to continually post that. If you have any issues with me or my team that is leading you to make these posts about a single game from three months ago, feel free to email me at ian AT eppfam.com or find me on Facebook or something.

Re: Neg Theory

Mon May 26, 2008 5:58 pm

Adam, I'm assuming that you're referring to your game against my team at Weekend of Quizbowl.


Ian, they did the same thing to us, stop talking about how everyone is out to get you. You're paranoid.

Anyway, getting to the point...they negged 4 or 5 times in a row and we ended up beating them, although, I admit, they were a much stronger team than us. And that is the reason I like negs. Negs help upsets happen. Great teams can lose games to far inferior teams because of negs. It can build confidence among unlikely teams to study harder and get better. Plus, for the good teams, it is part of the game that they can try to improve: being aggressive without negging (like negative feedback. don't stop buzzing, just start making better buzzes).

Re: Neg Theory

Mon May 26, 2008 6:34 pm

Haha, thanks for trying Quint, but I was actually was referring to the game against GDS (come to think of it, we did neg a bunch against Maggie Walker B, too).

Ian, maybe I am wrong about the number of negs (again, I didn't have exact stats). In regards to the earlier discussion about negs, let's ignore this particular example, assuming you're right that we didn't neg that many times. Still, though, my point about losing a match by a small margin during which [a team] negged a lot is still valid.

Public apologies for any perceived assholism on my part about ranting about this match. Ian, I'll send you an email so we can talk about it in private.

Re: Neg Theory

Tue May 27, 2008 9:20 am

So, clearly there's a penalty in watching the other team steal your points. Obviously if there's an 80 point swing, it sucks for you, and the -5 is of no real consequence. Thus it must only be a consequence when there's no real blood drawn by negging: consider that you're playing a team that is clearly new/weak/bad, and you know they aren't going to get but a tossup or two even if you just sit there. Does the -5 affect this game? If not, then flush it.

But maybe the point is to impress upon inexperienced players the idea that there are direct consequences for overreaching. Maybe the 80 point swing isn't direct enough for some people.

Re: Neg Theory

Tue May 27, 2008 9:47 am

wowitsquinthaha wrote:Negs help upsets happen. Great teams can lose games to far inferior teams because of negs.



wowitsquinthaha wrote:And that is the reason I hate negs.


Fixed that for you. Seriously, upsets should happen when the "far inferior" team just plays out of its mind against a more complacent great team, or when the packet is just better for the "far inferior" team. But are you seriously advocating that negs are good because they facilitate upsets? An upset without artificial assistance is deserved; one with loses its legitimacy.

wowitsquinthaha wrote:It can build confidence among unlikely teams to study harder and get better.


I frankly don't know what to do for a team if it needs to beat a far superior team to become motivated to get better, especially when neg-related upsets are rare whatever the margin of ability. See for example, TJ '05 vs. Lakeside '05 HSNCT finals.

Moreover, I'm pretty sure that if I wasn't trounced by Solon and DCC at my first ever tournament, I wouldn't have seen how much better I can get. I don't think upsets make you motivated to work harder; I think they breed complacency.

Re: Neg Theory

Tue May 27, 2008 8:38 pm

everyday847 wrote:Moreover, I'm pretty sure that if I wasn't trounced by Solon and DCC at my first ever tournament, I wouldn't have seen how much better I can get. I don't think upsets make you motivated to work harder; I think they breed complacency.


Agreed. I can't get anyone on my team to regularly show up to practice during our VHSL conference play, since we have very little competition there. However, when we go up against better teams at tournaments and lose, they are (temporarily) inspired to work harder.
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