DJ Shadow wrote:So mainstream collegiate quizbowl is going to make itself more accessible and less intimidating to the everyday player, and it will do this by...making packets written in a markup language used only by science nerds?
No one is advocating this. I'm tired of how this discussion inevitably brings someone complaining about science nerditry.
Anyway, let me now address some of the concerns raised in this thread.
First off, this thread branched off from me making a joke about how everyone should write in LaTeX. That was a possibly ill-advised attempt at humor, but it does not actually reflect my real views. While I do think that we would all be a happier world using open source software and writing in LaTeX, I'm pretty realistic about what I can convince people to adopt. So let me just say that I think Andy and Evan are being overly optimistic about the possibility of convincing people to use any kind of LaTeX markup.
Matt is of course right in that there are more pressing concerns when it comes to question writing. We are in fact talking, almost literally in some cases, about teams that may have trouble writing in grammatically correct sentences. The priorities have to be to get teams writing competently and then we can worry about markup and whatnot.
Andrew is also wrong about Google Docs. It's not as though Google Docs requires you to write in any particular format; in fact, you can export a Google document in text just as easily as you can in Word, so that's not an obstacle at all and would not change anything for the editors. Also, as an aside, I don't think you're doing anyone any favors or improving the discussion by telling us to "stop talking about it." But I don't think anyone is going to be convinced unless I present some motivation for why people should write in plain text. I'll try to do so:
A major motivation for having questions in plain text is that plain text that's regularly formatted is easy to parse. If a format is easy to parse, that means it can be employed in any automated process. You can take those packets and stick them in an archive. You can take the same packets and have bot read them on IRC. Someone could write a program that could read you questions (think Text Aloud or similar programs). You could have an automated scoring program (this is my utopian dream) that automatically brings up the next question and keeps track of all stats. All of these fun things are possible with an easily parseable format, which Word is not. Word introduces all sorts of nastiness into the text, some of which I already mentioned and the rest I won't get into.
That said, there are practical considerations to keep in mind. Obviously, we want to make life as easy as possible for the writers and the editors. They shouldn't have to learn a complicated markup, and there's really no need to do so. Moreover, writing in markup when you don't know it all that well can cause problems because you mis-type something or you forget a closing tag or whatever. So with that in mind, I'd like to introduce people to a very simple markup: AFT.
AFT stands for Almost Free Text, and is a markup format designed to produce nice documents with minimally intrusive markup. Its only shortcoming from a quizbowl perspective is that it bizarrely lacks an underline markup, but this should not distress anyone. Basically, an AFT file would looks as follows:
- Code: Select all
* Packet by Brown
A model of this process based on nonideal relay nonlinearities is known as the Preisach model, and thyristors employ positive feedback together with this process to achieve their latching function. In audio tapes, a bias current is often applied to counter the effects of this process, and discrete transitions during this process due to critical domain reorientation are known as the Barkhausen effect. For ten points, identify this phenomenon in which the graph of magnetic flux density varies nonlinearly with applied magnetic field in ferromagnetic materials.
Emile Zola wrote that the artist realized the dream of all painters in this work: placing figures of natural grandeur in a landscape. FTPE:
 Name this 1863 painting which sparked controversy due to its juxtaposition of a nude with fully dressed men.
ANSWER: _Luncheon on the Grass_
 This Impressionist painted ''Luncheon on the Grass'' as well as ''Olympia''.
ANSWER: Edouard _Manet_
 Some scholars believe that Manet was influenced by the painting ''The Tempest'', a work by this Renaissance master who is believed to have also painted ''Sleeping Venus'' and ''The Three Philosophers'', though much of his life remains a mystery.
The underscore character designates bolding, the two single quotes designate italics, and the asterisks designate sections. This is very easy to read, trivial to write, and very simple to parse. Not quite as simple as a true markup like XML, but I've got a script that would read this 100% of the time, so it's not really a problem. You can run the AFT executable on it to produce HTML, or you can just parse it straight up.
This has gone on long enough, but I do encourage people to take this seriously. Most of the objections I've heard voiced to employing such a format are not really valid, and I hope that this kind of markup renders the final objection (too complicated to learn) also null. While I would never advocate forcing people to write in such a format, I do encourage it. I believe that it can open up a lot of interesting opportunities for using technology in a positive way in quizbowl.