How to Get More Moderators

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cchiego
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How to Get More Moderators

Post by cchiego »

The limiting reagent for many events in quizbowl is the supply of willing and competent moderators. Aside from limiting field sizes and leading to frustrating waitlists before a tournament, all it takes is one or two particularly slow moderators to bring a tournament to a crawl or one or two poor moderators to give a team a negative experience. Moderator supply is thus a major challenge in both supporting and expanding quizbowl in the long term.

Even before this year, tournaments in many areas seemed hard-pressed to find sufficient numbers of experienced moderators for the levels of interest at their events. While this past year of online quizbowl was exceptional in many ways, it seemed like despite theoretical access to a far broader pool of moderators around the country and a few heroic supermods who read at events practically every weekend, the ongoing shortage continued.

What has worked in terms of building a stronger long-term moderator base? I'm thinking especially about ways to develop a moderator pool in the long term so that more events can be run with more teams in a given area over a whole season.

Some things that I've seen used over the years that I'd love to hear people's feedback on based on their experiences:

1. Official moderator certification by a state association (does this usually come with some compensation?)
2. Much higher financial compensation (e.g. $80-100 a day)
3. Recognition of moderating experiences (i.e. years of moderating service, number of events moderated each year getting an award)
4. Shorter events (i.e. 7-8 rounds for most mods rather than 10-11)
5. Other perks (hospitality spread for mods, good lunch, buying mods dinner, etc).

I'd also be interested in hearing ways to get more college students to help at other local events as well as alumni. Other ideas/things that have worked?
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entropy
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Re: How to Get More Moderators

Post by entropy »

cchiego wrote: Sun May 16, 2021 4:12 pm Much higher financial compensation (e.g. $80-100 a day)
I ran a survey in the main Discord server back in January to assess how feasible this was; out of 35 players and coaches surveyed, most said that their teams would not pay more than $80 for a high school tournament or more than $140 for a college tournament. To me, this indicates that as it stands quizbowl tournaments cannot increase their prices to a level where staff would be paid minimum wage [!] without alienating a significant portion of the player base.

Anecdotally, my understanding is that the tournaments Romero runs in Texas pay staffers around $80, and that Texan quzbowlers see the $100+ prices that he charges them to play his high school tournaments as unfairly high and difficult to afford. I'm sure an actual Texan could expand more on this point, but just going off from what I've heard it seems that teams simply can't comfortably afford that kind of price.

More generally, quizbowl suffers from overrepresentation of wealthier schools at its events, and I don't think raising the price of its events will help bring lower-income schools into the fold. I would love for staffers [and writers] to be paid in a way that fairly compensates them for their work, but it doesn't seem to me that the player base would be able to deal with the tournament fee increase that would entail.
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Re: How to Get More Moderators

Post by cchiego »

entropy wrote: Mon May 17, 2021 2:14 am I ran a survey in the main Discord server back in January to assess how feasible this was; out of 35 players and coaches surveyed, most said that their teams would not pay more than $80 for a high school tournament or more than $140 for a college tournament. To me, this indicates that as it stands quizbowl tournaments cannot increase their prices to a level where staff would be paid minimum wage [!] without alienating a significant portion of the player base.

Anecdotally, my understanding is that the tournaments Romero runs in Texas pay staffers around $80, and that Texan quzbowlers see the $100+ prices that he charges them to play his high school tournaments as unfairly high and difficult to afford. I'm sure an actual Texan could expand more on this point, but just going off from what I've heard it seems that teams simply can't comfortably afford that kind of price.

More generally, quizbowl suffers from overrepresentation of wealthier schools at its events, and I don't think raising the price of its events will help bring lower-income schools into the fold. I would love for staffers [and writers] to be paid in a way that fairly compensates them for their work, but it doesn't seem to me that the player base would be able to deal with the tournament fee increase that would entail.
I appreciate the response and data. Entrance fees used to be around $55-60 a team back when I started playing in the 2000s, so the $80-90 that many tournaments charge now already feels "high" to me.

I would also be interested in hearing more about the Texas model and comparing it to alternatives. It does seem like staff payments have gone up this year at events across the country (though from $10/20 to $30/40 isn't that much), but I don't know how effective that's been in increasing the supply of moderators.

Based on talking to teachers and admins at a number of schools in low-income communities, I don't think entry fees by themselves are the biggest barrier for those schools. In Philly, for instance, the school district covers the entry fees of all public schools at the city championships and the event is held in a central location easily accessible by public transit (and we prominently mention both of these in advertising the event to new schools), yet there are relatively few takers. I've seen a similar pattern at other tournaments that advertise a "new teams play for free" policy, though it's certainly not a bad policy to have. I've also found that even low-income schools and/or districts are often willing to pay considerable amounts for quizbowl-ish events like National Academic League or Hi-Q that they deem worthwhile (for NAL it seems to be $400-500 a school for a 5-7 match season, for DelCo Hi-Q it's $1,800 per school for a 3-match season). Other factors like the challenge of getting dedicated faculty sponsor interest, the logistics of recruiting and preparing a team, and coordinating travel to all-day events seem to loom larger than entry fees alone.

That said, higher fees would certainly increase the "sticker cost" of any given event (which might have a deterrent effect) and would really add up over time for larger and more active programs. A graduated fee schedule could get complicated very quickly and would be difficult to successfully design as well. One alternative would be to make more of a push for outside funding to both lower entry fees and raise staff stipends at more events, but outside of a few leagues with generous district-level sponsorship I don't think I've ever heard of that happening in any significant way (though I'm curious what some sponsorship setups look like for say, Science Bowl or FIRST Robotics and if that helps attract staff).
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Re: How to Get More Moderators

Post by Cheynem »

At least for me, as a prospective moderator, it's not money, it's time. I work jobs (teaching and online writing) that usually require a decent amount of weekend work. I also am at an age in which I can't really do leisure things with friends who have jobs or families except on the weekends. So giving up a whole weekend or even part of a weekend is tough.

What are tempting to me would be:

1. Ultra-flexible staffing arrangements--this only works for online tournaments, but something like "you read 1-2 rounds and then leave."

2. Fairly short, conveniently located tournaments.

3. Tournaments that offer a lot of attractive packaging--this is a Pandora's Box, of course, because not every tournament can and should do so, but I'm attracted to tournaments that have side events that staffers can play, or perhaps a side tournament the following day. I also like tournaments that offer nice perks for moderators, like travel/lodging/food compensation. It's a lot more tempting to book a whole weekend knowing that the trip and event will be smooth and comfortable and I might be able to do other fun stuff there. Obviously this doesn't work in many cases.
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Re: How to Get More Moderators

Post by matthewspatrick »

entropy wrote: Mon May 17, 2021 2:14 am
cchiego wrote: Sun May 16, 2021 4:12 pm Much higher financial compensation (e.g. $80-100 a day)
I ran a survey in the main Discord server back in January to assess how feasible this was; out of 35 players and coaches surveyed, most said that their teams would not pay more than $80 for a high school tournament or more than $140 for a college tournament. To me, this indicates that as it stands quizbowl tournaments cannot increase their prices to a level where staff would be paid minimum wage [!] without alienating a significant portion of the player base.
In 2019, the average cost of a cinema ticket was $9.26. When you start comparing the cost of seeing a couple of movies with the entry fee for a tournament, $100 doesn't sound so outrageous any more. If movies aren't your bag, then compare the cost to the alternate entertainment of similar duration of your choice.
entropy wrote: Anecdotally, my understanding is that the tournaments Romero runs in Texas pay staffers around $80, and that Texan quzbowlers see the $100+ prices that he charges them to play his high school tournaments as unfairly high and difficult to afford. I'm sure an actual Texan could expand more on this point, but just going off from what I've heard it seems that teams simply can't comfortably afford that kind of price.

More generally, quizbowl suffers from overrepresentation of wealthier schools at its events, and I don't think raising the price of its events will help bring lower-income schools into the fold. I would love for staffers [and writers] to be paid in a way that fairly compensates them for their work, but it doesn't seem to me that the player base would be able to deal with the tournament fee increase that would entail.
I staffed several TQBA events this season. I appreciated the pay I received not so much because it represented full value for my leisure time (it did not, generous as it was compared to other events), but because it demonstrated a respect for the staffers who gave their time so the event could happen. The TQBA events may have charged more than some other events, but in return players got well-run events, with staffers who were compensated decently for their time.

I went back over my calendar, and by my estimate by the end of HSNCT I will have staffed 35 event-days for various quiz bowl events this season. Not all of them were for pay, but it is unlikely that I would have done so many without it. I stay involved in quiz bowl because I love the game and I want to make it accessible to others, but at the same time, there is a limit to what you can ask people to do without compensation.
Patrick Matthews
University of Pennsylvania 1989-94
NAQT Member Emeritus and co-founder
I do not speak for NAQT in any way, shape, or form.
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