I think one thing that's been missed in all this noise is that most of the time this stuff happens, it's not like anyone can do anything about it. Disregarding the fact that Mr. Grant's initial posts were ridiculous, what was he going to do? It's not like he could all of a sudden change the question provider for his tournament because a bunch of people think (rightly) that the questions he's going to use for his tournament are almost certainly garbage.
I think one of the most important points in that terrible, terrible thread was made by Jeff Price, who noted that people have to actually see for themselves why terrible quizbowl is terrible and it might take them a couple of years to finally get that Eureka! moment. It's like trying to explain the concept of the solar system to a geocentrist - just because we
know we're right and we have a lot of evidence to show that we're right doesn't mean that we ought to expect them
to immediately understand that they're wrong. They're going to have questions about things; they're going to stubbornly defend bad dogma at first; a few of them are just going to decide to live in their own little world where the Sun revolves around the Earth. Most of them are going to need months if not years to fully understand it. The idea that having a bunch of people posting "you're wrong, and here's why" is going to make someone an instant convert to good quizbowl is laughable at best and downright destructive at worst.
People who didn't know about good quizbowl are going to be absolutely bewildered by the antagonistic response to their first post. They will be confused as to why all of a sudden they're a terrible person and they're going to be pushed away from good quizbowl because they don't want to play with these people that are being mean. Some posters know better, but they haven't fully embraced the concepts of good quizbowl or they can't fully comprehend why bad quizbowl is bad; they're not getting any help from the board regulars when they just get a bunch of attacks (either on the posters themselves or on the questions) without anything helpful to go along with it. Some posters know that they shouldn't be doing what they're doing but they feel that they're justified because to them, the potential positives outweigh the certain negatives. They barely get their reasoning expounded before someone says, "your reasoning cannot be correct because you're using terrible questions, which trumps any reasoning you might have." None of these situations are fruitful for either party.
For the first two cases, it might be good for posters to have a "standard" (courteous or at least not confrontational) reply that documents the problems with a certain question provider and ask the poster if they have noticed the same issues
(if it's a tournament that's completed) or ask the poster to notice whether those issues occur
(if it's a tournament that hasn't run yet). For the third case, it might be useful to likewise denote the negatives, see what the poster views as the "positives" of using bad questions, and try to reason whether better questions could produce the same positives and, if not, try to convince the poster that the trade-offs are worth it. Remember, a lot of these people need to be coached along slowly and it's going to take them a while to fully reject their old ways. Imagine you're a quizbowl coach and your lit specialist continually says that "Charge of the Light Brigade" was written by Keats. You can either yell at him that "Charge of the Light Brigade" was by Tennyson and show him that poem and its author every time he misses that question or explain to him that Keats could not have written that poem because Keats was dead by the time that the event memorialized in the poem occurred. I contend (though I don't have any real evidence) that the former approach is going to lead to the lit specialist calling you an idiot, retreating even further into his shell of ignorance, and quitting the team; the latter approach, though certainly more frustrating and time-consuming, is going to eventually pay off by either the specialist finally getting it or you realizing that the kid's just an idiot and finding some other lit specialist to train. Just because the kid doesn't understand it the first time doesn't mean that he's slow and he's never going to get it.
Lastly, I don't think that Reinstein posted a very good conception of what he views as "bullying." This is a terrible playground analogy for what's happened in a bunch of these discussions: little kid decides one day that it would be fun to throw rocks, because he's trying to provoke a response, or he's just an idiot and doesn't know that throwing rocks is against playground rules, or because he has to throw rocks to fit in with the other little kids who like throwing rocks. Big kid gets hit by a rock and yells about it, which catches the attention of the playground supervisor. Playground supervisor sits the little kid down and tells him that throwing rocks is against the rules and there's this nice basketball court over here where he could play a real game. Kid decides that he's not going to stop throwing rocks just because the playground supervisor tells him to and starts calling playground administrator names. Playground administrator resorts to the kid's tactics and starts calling him names too, since that's apparently the only thing that works on this kid. Meanwhile, a bunch of big kids in other parts of the playground decide to gang up on the little kid so that their big kid friend doesn't get hit with a rock again. Playground supervisor lets it happen because he likes to referee the big kid basketball games and the little kid's still being a jerk. Little kid picks up his rocks and goes crying home to mama about how mean the big kids were and how he's going to stay in his backyard and throw rocks all day because he doesn't like basketball. There's absolutely no question who started the incident, but it's certainly debatable who's responsible for the kid spending the rest of the day throwing rocks at the back fence.
mrgsmath wrote:However I believe a well crafted mid-difficulty question with a straight forward presentation, can be a challenge and educational experience as well. The idea that either a question is acceptable or unacceptable, there can be no middle ground I assume,is based entirely on it being pyramidal is not one that anyone has sold me on.
I too believe that a well-crafted mid-difficulty question with a straight-forward presentation can be a challenging and educational experience. The problem with most of these one-line questions is that only one of three situations can occur:
1. At least one player on Team A knows the answer, and at least one player on Team B does as well. Whoever gets the points is primarily determined by luck or reflex speed.
2. At least one player on Team A (or B) knows the answer, and no one on Team B (or A) does. Team A (or B) gets the points.
3. No one on either team knows the answer. No one gets any points, and we have not differentiated which of Team A or Team B knows more.
Now to some extent, all of these flaws are present in a pyramidal question. However, the pyramidal questions has many clues (as opposed to just one or two) ordered from least likely to be known to most likely to be known. That is, at each point in the question, either situation 1, 2, or 3 will occur; if situation 3 occurs, then we progress to the next-easiest clue and situation 1, 2, or 3 will occur again. With many more clues arranged in order of obscurity, we will get a much larger percentage of situation 2 buzzes per question, because Team A (or B) will know one more thing about the answer than Team B (or A). This is often described as a more rewarding experience, because a player who makes a situation 2 buzz feels like he's rewarded for having knowledge that no one else does. Similarly, players should likewise be motivated to learn more so that they
and not their opponents can make a situation 2 buzz. Also, learning new things to get an edge on the field for the next tournament is typically more rewarding to most players than doing buzzer-reflex exercises so that they won't lose 75% of their buzzer races next tournament.