theMoMA wrote:One of the hardest parts of moving away from NAQT for me is that I know and like R. Hentzel, and as such I suspect a lot of the nefarious things accused of NAQT are not true. But I do get the feeling that this is true: NAQT reads its quizbowl-community critics as only a small portion of the sales demographic pie. This troubles me.
Well, I won't deny that there is some truth in this. For instance:
As best as I can tell, the single-most common complaints that NAQT gets about its questions (based on the number of people expressing it in person, over the phone, or in e-mail) is that our questions are too long, too hard, and don't have enough pronunciation guides. These are *not* the complaints that we get from hsquizbowl.org; in fact, they are pretty much the opposite complaints.
The idea that the hsquizbowl.org consensus advocates the same things as a majority of NAQT's customers or a majority of the quiz bowl community (as defined by, say, everybody who competes at least once a year on NAQT questions) is simply not true. Without being facetious, I wish that it were true: It would make things a lot simpler.
That said, good/top/elite teams form a very important part of our target audience; we value their opinions and I don't think this job would be worth doing if they didn't value us.
In my opinion, we already do spend a disproportionate amount of effort on trying to produce products that appeal to the top end of the quiz bowl audience; we devote more space and more clues (and thus more editing time) to the first two-thirds of our questions at any level, where the good teams will be squaring off. We spend way more time on our HSNCT set than on any TV set. And so on.
Is this enough of a difference? Well, I think that's open to debate (and may simply boil down to unprovable preferences), but I think it is absolutely not the case that NAQT doesn't care about top teams for whatever reason and wouldn't mind if they left in droves. We do care, and we would mind terribly.
I get the feeling that NAQT conflates the community with "elite players," which couldn't be further from the truth. The quizbowl community extends from the best college teams to the high school teams that come to every pyramidal tournament, lose every game, and say they had a great time even when the questions are way over their heads.
At the risk of taking literally something that may just be a rhetorical device, do you also include teams that play once a year in their local television tournament? Teams that come to one or two pyramidal tournaments a year even if they have easy access to a dozen? That is, more "casual" teams?
If you do, then I fundamentally disagree that this group of players and coaches has anything resembling a consensus on the ways in which NAQT should change to better meet their needs.
I also get the impression that NAQT always reads criticisms coming from "the community" as almost parroted from top players. In other words, I think that when Chris Carter criticizes NAQT, NAQT reads it sort of as Matt Weiner criticizing NAQT through Chris.
We don't--at least I don't--view younger players as parroting top players, but I think many of those players may be "more elite" than they think.
Chris Carter, for example, is currently the #5 scorer (out of 456 people) in the Minnesota High School Quiz Bowl League:
http://www.naqt.com/stats/tournament-in ... nt_id=2679
This nominally puts him in the 99th percentile of quiz bowl players in Minnesota. Now, probably that will fall once the second week's worth of games are recorded and he may have very little shadow effect (sorry, Chris), but I suspect he's still at the 95th percentile. To my eyes, his feedback is feedback coming from a very good, very devoted player. And, of course, it shouldn't be disregarded because of that, but it isn't a data point of feedback from the "typical" player at NAQT tournaments.
This goes back to the elite player-community member conflation; NAQT seems loathe to believe that individual players of all skill levels align themselves with community standards on their own, choosing instead to believe that they have been almost "contaminated" by interacting with elite players or reading hsquizbowl.org.
Well, it's true that we don't believe that. There's no doubt that some individual players do; I think it's also clear that those players are predominantly the better players and the players on better teams. But I don't think that most--or even many--players actually do that.
NAQT would never assert that such an alignment constituted "contamination"; after all, it's a process that all of us went through at some point in our lives. We just don't believe that it's at all a universal process and we believe that there is value in providing a form of quiz bowl that is accessible (hopefully) to the entire spectrum of players.
This hypothesis has extraordinary explanatory power over NAQT's actions and attitudes. If you view community standards as merely a construction of an elite oligarchy parroted by impressionable, "infected" people, you could easily see your mission as sufficiently placating the community so that it will buy your product, while also producing material contrary to community standards to sell to other areas. If you believe that the community will not grow beyond elite players, it makes sense not to grow it, and instead work with the idea that you're producing questions for those of all standards. I see this view as problematic, and NAQT should at least be worried. If the community is not just an echo chamber for elite players, if the community really is something that can grow, NAQT might be in trouble if it does.
Though I wouldn't phrase it in the same way, this paragraph does sound remarkably familiar to me.
As a matter of principle, NAQT is not averse to evolving with the community. If we took a comprehensive survey and found that 90% of our players hated computation questions, I'm pretty sure that we would do away with them entirely. Smaller survey majorities would probably suggest a concomitant reduction. If there were enough teams that wanted to start playing current HSNCT-level quiz bowl throughout the year and we had the resources to do it, I think we'd happily start producing "super invitational series" and kick the HSNCT itself up a notch. Certainly the HSNCT has, for instance, gotten much harder over the past decade in response to a general improvement in team ability.