VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by Magister Ludi »

Matt Weiner wrote:Evan has explained the fallacy of "I will allege that this particular clue in a common link tossup was unimportant and conclude from that that all common link tossups are invalid" better than I planned to, so I'll just post the other thing I wanted to, which is that the dumb appeals to authority/popularity contests that have come into this thread even after I declared war on bad arguments are really odious. Ted literally argued that a question is bad because noted "person who studies literature" Ike Jose didn't like it. I fail to see why Ike Jose, a computer science major who is not exactly known for his mastery of good question writing, is supposed to be some sort of trump card against the literature-writing work of Evan Adams, actual English major and reader of books who has a legitimate case for being the best writer in quizbowl right now.

The arguments against common links have failed to convince me of anything besides the unwillingness of the anti-common link crowd to explain what their real problem with these questions is.
Come on man. It's typical of the way you defend Evan against all rational arguments that you ignore all the content of my post and reduce my ibjection to common link questions to the fact "Ike Jose didn't like it." Really? Really? This avoidance is the probably the worst form of the "declare it's bad" phenomenon you discussed because you have just declared it's good for no reason and back it up by declaring Evan is an English major and is "the best writer in quizbowl right now" and therefore he couldn't have made mistakes. You've engaged in the worst form of the practice you've accused others of. The only reason I cited Ike was because he was frustrated by several common link literature questions using opaque clues on books he has read.

Say what you will about my critique of common link questions but it has always had the same logic behind my claims. In fact you acknowledged the logic behind my arguments when you were yelling at Andrew Hart for allegedly copying my logic. The irony is that while the anti-common link has put forward numerous valid critiques of how poorly artificial common link literature play you have yet to put forward a single convincing argument why we should want common link questions on parrots. As far as I can tell you just find these questions FUNN because they' have different and "creative" answer lines, while ignoring how they objectively play in a room. Just making the sweeping generalization that "The arguments against common links have failed to convince me of anything besides the unwillingness of the anti-common link crowd to explain what their real problem with these questions is" doesn't just make the valid critiques disappear.

If Evan really thinks these common link questions do a better job of rewarding real knowledge than straight forward questions I hope he'll be willing to participate in an experiment. I will write 8 normal questions and 8 common link questions on various creatures, whimsical adjectives, and random professions. Then we can play Evan against Chris Ray in a one on one match-up and see which version of the game he prefers, and would prefer to play against UMD during the upcoming season. Will it be the game with straight questions or the "exciting" and "creative" common link game? Hopefully, if the VCU contingent continues to defend these mediocre common link questions they will be willing to put their money where their mouth is.


Despite the artificial common link questions, I wanted to re-iterate that this was a pretty good tournament and I liked many of the questions (including the organic common link question on Umuofia). It just pains me when excellent writers become blind to the areas where their questions could improve simply because they won't admit when questions played badly and learn from mistakes.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by Matt Weiner »

As Evan previously pointed out, the reason common link questions are a positive good is because they let you reward, in tossups, knowledge that you could not otherwise test without significantly raising the difficulty level of the answer lines. I have in fact made this argument for the past six years.

The one who is ignoring how the questions play is you, who buzzed correctly on most or all of the tossups that you complain punished your knowledge!
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by vcuEvan »

Magister Ludi wrote: Come on man. It's typical of the way you defend Evan against all rational arguments that you ignore all the content of my post and reduce my ibjection to common link questions to the fact "Ike Jose didn't like it." Really? Really? This avoidance is the probably the worst form of the "declare it's bad" phenomenon you discussed because you have just declared it's good for no reason and back it up by declaring Evan is an English major and is "the best writer in quizbowl right now" and therefore he couldn't have made mistakes. You've engaged in the worst form of the practice you've accused others of. The only reason I cited Ike was because he was frustrated by several common link literature questions using opaque clues on books he has read.

Say what you will about my critique of common link questions but it has always had the same logic behind my claims. In fact you acknowledged the logic behind my arguments when you were yelling at Andrew Hart for allegedly copying my logic. The irony is that while the anti-common link has put forward numerous valid critiques of how poorly artificial common link literature play you have yet to put forward a single convincing argument why we should want common link questions on parrots. As far as I can tell you just find these questions FUNN because they' have different and "creative" answer lines, while ignoring how they objectively play in a room. Just making the sweeping generalization that "The arguments against common links have failed to convince me of anything besides the unwillingness of the anti-common link crowd to explain what their real problem with these questions is" doesn't just make the valid critiques disappear.

If Evan really thinks these common link questions do a better job of rewarding real knowledge than straight forward questions I hope he'll be willing to participate in an experiment. I will write 8 normal questions and 8 common link questions on various creatures, whimsical adjectives, and random professions. Then we can play Evan against Chris Ray in a one on one match-up and see which version of the game he prefers, and would prefer to play against UMD during the upcoming season. Will it be the game with straight questions or the "exciting" and "creative" common link game? Hopefully, if the VCU contingent continues to defend these mediocre common link questions they will be willing to put their money where their mouth is.

Despite the artificial common link questions, I wanted to re-iterate that this was a pretty good tournament and I liked many of the questions (including the organic common link question on Umuofia). It just pains me when excellent writers become blind to the areas where their questions could improve simply because they won't admit when questions played badly and learn from mistakes.
I feel like you ignored my post in favor of replying to Matt and challenging me to a mini-lit tournament against Chris Ray. Which I'd love to play. I'm sorry Chris beat you to some literature questions. He's a pretty good lit player. I don't have a lot of sympathy when you approach me during the tournament to tell me that a question is bad because Chris got it before you.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by Magister Ludi »

vcuEvan wrote:Some responses:

A lot of these comments have made it seem like common link tossups made up a large percentage of the literature tossups. That isn't true. Only five or six out of about sixty-five lit tossups were common links.

I'm still not convinced by the arguments Ted and Andrew are putting forth. I haven't seen Ted or Andrew point to a single clue in these questions that would be out of place or illegitimate in a tossup about a work or author. For some reason, these clues become insignificant when put into the common link format. I find this attack on minor details silly. Good questions, including Ted and Andrew's own lit questions, often lead-in with minor details. I thought this was widely understood, but leading in with major details will lead to way too many buzzer races. I'm sure I could go through dozens of questions you've written on books that I have read and find a lot of clues that I don't remember. Apparently all these questions have penalized me for reading.
The point is you are asking someone to name a minor detail, which is much much different than remembering what work it comes from if you hear it. The issue is the answer line not the clues. The whole point is that all the clues are good and would be completely valid in a tossup on a work or author, but the way they're framed penalize people who read the works because they know exactly what you're talking about but can't remember the name of a minor detail. The difference is that I can answer a question on The Ghost Sonata from the parrot mummy, but often cannot name a minor detail from a work if asked only for that detail. Because the way the question is framed it forces someone to remember the minor detail to get the points rather than simply recognizing a detail from something they've read and buzz. It would be like asking a tossup (that for whatever reason) requested you answer with the specific line, "exiled Thucydides knew / all that a speech can say / About Democracy." You might have read the poem and would easily be able to answer a question on the poem or Auden if question just used the line as a clue, but the needless specificity has robbed you out of points on a topic you are very knowledgeable about. I don't know how I can be any more clear about why these questions have played poorly and if you need further proof other than the playing experiences of almost all the good literature players at this tournament I think the experiment I proposed in the earlier post is best way to make the problem with these questions felt.

I continue to be unconvinced why we should frame questions this way that has empirically been shown to prevent people from answering a question about a topic they know because we want an "interesting" answer line. Three of the six tossups common link literature questions were buzzer races in the rooms I played and in every instance players in the room had read a work mentioned earlier in the question. Objectively, these questions often are difficult to buzz on and degrade into buzzer races significantly more than normal questions.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by vcuEvan »

Magister Ludi wrote: The point is you are asking someone to name a minor detail, which is much much different than remembering what work it comes from if you hear it. The issue is the answer line not the clues. The whole point is that all the clues are good and would be completely valid in a tossup on a work or author, but the way they're framed penalize people who read the works because they know exactly what you're talking about but can't remember the name of a minor detail. The difference is that I can answer a question on The Ghost Sonata from the parrot mummy, but often cannot name a minor detail from a work if asked only for that detail. Because the way the question is framed it forces someone to remember the minor detail to get the points rather than simply recognizing a detail from something they've read and buzz. It would be like asking a tossup (that for whatever reason) requested you answer with the specific line, "exiled Thucydides knew / all that a speech can say / About Democracy." You might have read the poem and would easily be able to answer a question on the poem or Auden if question just used the line as a clue, but the needless specificity has robbed you out of points on a topic you are very knowledgeable about. I don't know how I can be any more clear about why these questions have played poorly and if you need further proof other than the playing experiences of almost all the good literature players at this tournament I think the experiment I proposed in the earlier post is best way to make the problem with these questions felt.

I continue to be unconvinced why we should frame questions this way that has empirically been shown to prevent people from answering a question about a topic they know because we want an "interesting" answer line. Three of the six tossups common link literature questions were buzzer races in the rooms I played and in every instance players in the room had read a work mentioned earlier in the question. Objectively, these questions often are difficult to buzz on and degrade into buzzer races significantly more than normal questions.
I think if it was true, the bit about it always being harder to name a detail from a work than to name a work from the detail would be the strongest part of your argument. I don't think that's true though. I've seen countless people recognize an incident or a character from a work, without knowing where it came from. I remember playing a game against you last year when you answered a tossup on someone (might have been Thomas Mann?) from a description of a story. I asked you which story it was, and you said you didn't remember. You remembered the events of the story, but didn't remember its title. Despite remembering events from Scaramouche from reading Scaramouche, Greg Tito was unable to answer the bonus part on Rafael Sabatini this weekend. These aren't isolated instances. People recognize incidents and characters all the time without being able to name a title or an author.

Secondly, even if it were true, it doesn't matter. I think you'd agree with me that we can ask about things one way even if asking about them in another way would make it easier on players. For example, you wrote a bonus part last year in which the answer was "stand and wait." This was a really good idea. Obviously players would have had an easier time identifying Milton if you had given them a line, but you asked about it anyways. This is closer to the ridiculous "exiled Thucydides" answer than anything I wrote. I don't think questions asking people to name things from works are any less valid on questions asking people to name works from things.

Tell me if I'm wrong here: your main problem with common link questions is that many of them have clues on works, which people who have read the works aren't able to answer. I've argued that there is no difference in this instance than in not knowing the early clues of a tossup on a work you've read. But there is one difference. In the common link question, you've been informed of which work the clues are coming from. And I can see why it can be demoralizing a little, to see the clue is from a work you've read but not be able to answer it. So I'll acknowledge that there's a psychological difference there.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

Not that this matters hugely, but some clarification is in order.
Magister Ludi wrote:(1) In the chapter of Platero y Yo named for one of these animals, it belongs to a French doctor and comforts his patients. Jonathan has read Platero y Yo yet was completely unable to buzz on this vague minor anecdote from the book that is unimportant to the larger work. So this question has penalized one person for reading.
(2) In Walcott’s play Pantomime, Jackson strangles one that belongs to Harry Trewe. I believe that Jerry (or maybe Andrew) had read this play but couldn't remember the specific detail. This question has penalized two people for reading.
(3) The mummy in Strindberg’s The Ghost Sonata believes it is one of these animals. I've read this play but couldn't remember the minor detail. Now three people have been penalized
(4) Antoinette is horrified to watch one named Coco burn alive in Wide Sargasso Sea. Now I've read Wide Sargasso Sea and was buzzing at this point, but Jerry beat me to the punch. Theres a pretty good chance that Jerry has read that book as well, but the fact of the matter is we will never know who actually knows more about that novel because the question devolved into a one line buzzer race.
I've read "The Ghost Sonata," and "Platero y Yo," and I remembered a parrot being in the latter work, although I couldn't recall the specific detail. I had also read the plot summary of "Pantomime," and I was pretty sure from that point that "parrot" was the answer, but I waited for a little longer. I had actually not read "The Wide Sargasso Sea," and have no knowledge of any parrot-related clues regarding that work; I was just processing information from previous clues and was trying to convince myself that "parrot" was indeed the answer. I guess what I'm saying here is that I don't agree with Ted's critique about the usefulness of these clues. I've read two of the four works mentioned and the plot summary of a third, and was able to put that together to get the right answer. I don't think any of my knowledge was penalized at all.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

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I would split the common link discussion off but my moderator powers are useless in this subforum.

I think a lot of what irks Ted about so-called "artificial" common links (by the way, I didn't mean to poison the well with the terminology, I just mean to convey that the answer carries no significance other than as a surface connection [though obviously as we have demonstrated with the discussion of "blue" art, there are varying degrees of surface-ness, which is why I want to emphasize that the categories aren't mutually exclusive, or real in any sense other than as potentially useful explanatory terms]) is that many of them start with an idea for an answer line first and then backfill the clues later, resulting in tossups that basically result from a keyword search in Masterplots. This practice can lead to clues that amount to remembering one line from a book. I posit that this is likely disheartening and frustrating for knowledgeable players because knowledge is reduced to a single minute detail; you know Platero y Yo is only coming up once, and it's annoying if it's in the form a somewhat poorly conceived clue that doesn't reward your knowledge of the work. I'm not arguing that questions that don't reward certain knowledge are instantly inferior, but I do think it's poor form for a question to say "tell me what this non-notable chapter was named for (or what the tea was made out of, or various other examples of near-impossibly trivial details, etc.) or you will not be rewarded for reading this book." In other words, it seems to me that Ted objects most strenuously to to a trend that often arises from artificial common links, but is not necessarily inherent in them.

I'm guessing that the tossup on parrots, which strikes me as a bit below ideal (though by no means the worst question ever written, because it seems pyramidal and contains clues from works that people read), began from Flaubert's Parrot/Coeur Simple and led the writer (I'm assuming Evan) to think, hmm, what other books have parrots in them? This can be a dangerous way of thinking; many times I've got it in my head to write a tossup on a word that has one or two well-trod examples (I believe I once wrote such a tossup on "petals" that ended with clues "In a Station of the Metro" and Petals of Blood; it was much worse than the "parrot" tossup bandied about right now), and when those clues are exhausted and I still have four lines of tossup to fill, I turned to a Masterplots keyword search or random Googling to find the rest. This results in tossups with less-than-ideal clues.

To me, the best "artificial" common links are those whose clues unambiguously reward the typical kinds of knowledge that people have (for example, I don't think most people, even those who have read the work, can name chapters of Platero y Yo, but then again, it's the lead-in, so I don't think it's terribly awful, though it's perhaps less than ideal) from top to bottom. I don't have a problem with these tossups at all. But I also think that artificial common links, more often than just about any other identifiable type of question, contain bad clues that often fail to reward the people who are most knowledgeable about the work being described. And I think that happens because of the backfilling I've described above, where a writer finds a topic and then goes back and finds the clues to fit it. I think it should work the other way around: Find a common link that has lots of good clues, then tailor those clues to reward knowledge pyramidally. Writing questions is about giving people chances to show their knowledge; avoid clues that fail to do so and take more caution when employing question formats that tend to amplify the usage of such clues.
Last edited by theMoMA on Tue Aug 16, 2011 10:52 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by Magister Ludi »

You're actually proving the point I am trying to make. I think we actually agree much more than we disagree. Good literature questions jog people's memory on books they have read in the past but whose details might not be on the tip of their tongue. For example, there was an excellent question in this set on Burger's Daughter which I read two years ago. The leadin was about how the protagonist wouldn't give a key to the photocopy room from her office to Clare. Even though I haven't thought about that book for a while and right now couldn't name more than two or three characters off the top of my head I was able to answer that question. Now if the question had asked for a common link on "keys" or "Clares" saying, "In The Burger's Daughter Rosa refuses to give one of these objects to her neighbor Clare" or "In The Burger's Daughter this is the name of the daughter of Rosa's crazy Communist neighbors" there is no way I would of pulled it. I don't think it makes the question any more valid or makes it so it rewards knowledge better to frame it so requires you remember the name "Clare" to answer the question.

Like you say there are many questions in which someone can buzz on a description without knowing precisely where it comes from and this is exactly the reason why artificial common link questions penalize people who read by your own logic. I think the Mann question you refer to might used a leadin from "Disorder and Early Sorrow" (but I don't remember the exact question), but if it has been a while since I've read that story so if it had been a question about whatever discipline Dr. Cornelius is a professor of there is no way I would be able to answer that. By asking minor details it rewards rote memorization as I always do better on common link questions on topics that I have studied or written questions about rather than books I've read. I admit the three lines from Auden example is extreme. A better example would be asking a question on Lowell's "Skunk Hour" that requests you to name the color of cork the decorator fills his fishnets with in his shop. Now someone who knows that poem could probably easily recognize the lines, "And now our fairy / decorator brightens his shop for fall, / his fishnets filled with orange cork,". This question would request needless specificity and would be better as a question on Lowell or the poem itself.

As for your last point about "stand and wait" I think you're distorting the issue because there is a major distinction between bonuses and tossups. I would have no problem with a third part of a bonus on a Pilar or the Mayday movement from The Handmaid's Tale even though I wouldn't remember those details. The point of tossups is not to reward people knowledgeable about the topic in the best way possible. This is similar to what Andrew Hart calls "empathetic" question writing. Initially I thought Andrew's distinction was kind of silly, but now I've come around to strongly agreeing with it. Rather than writing tossups that are designed to screw knowledgeable people because they can't remember a detail, I am convinced that a truly great editor will write tossups that are specifically chosen to reward people who have real knowledge and not screw them on technicalities.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by Magister Ludi »

grapesmoker wrote: I've read "The Ghost Sonata," and "Platero y Yo," and I remembered a parrot being in the latter work, although I couldn't recall the specific detail. I had also read the plot summary of "Pantomime," and I was pretty sure from that point that "parrot" was the answer, but I waited for a little longer. I had actually not read "The Wide Sargasso Sea," and have no knowledge of any parrot-related clues regarding that work; I was just processing information from previous clues and was trying to convince myself that "parrot" was indeed the answer. I guess what I'm saying here is that I don't agree with Ted's critique about the usefulness of these clues. I've read two of the four works mentioned and the plot summary of a third, and was able to put that together to get the right answer. I don't think any of my knowledge was penalized at all.
But that moment of doubt matters, doesn't it? I was also able to piece together a common link question on San Francisco from the clues, but the way the question was framed I was in doubt whether my answer was right, couldn't answer the question confidently, and therefore had a delayed buzz resulting in me nearly missing a question I knew a lot about. Now if a question on The Ghost Sonata just had a leadin about a mummy who thinks he is a parrot neither one of us would of hesitated at all and would of buzzed immediately with confidence. It's this sense of doubt (which often makes people with real knowledge have to delay their buzzes) that serves as an unsavory side effect of many of these artificial common link questions. Because often these minor details in these works are hazy in a player's mind who has read a book, so even when they know the detail they can't buzz with the same confidence they would be able to buzz on a normal question or an organic common link question on something such as Umuofia.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by Matt Weiner »

I mean, I'm sorry if you missed a question (slightly hesitated in answering a tossup you ultimately got right) because you didn't know something well enough. Welcome to quizbowl?
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by vcuEvan »

theMoMA wrote: I'm guessing that the tossup on parrots, which strikes me as a bit below ideal (though by no means the worst question ever written, because it seems pyramidal and contains clues from works that people read), began from Flaubert's Parrot/Coeur Simple and led the writer (I'm assuming Evan) to think, hmm, what other books have parrots in them? This can be a dangerous way of thinking; many times I've got it in my head to write a tossup on a word that has one or two well-trod examples (I believe I once wrote such a tossup on "petals" that ended with clues "In a Station of the Metro" and Petals of Blood; it was much worse than the "parrot" tossup bandied about right now), and when those clues are exhausted and I still have four lines of tossup to fill, I turned to a Masterplots keyword search or random Googling to find the rest. This results in tossups with less-than-ideal clues.
Actually the tossup was originally going to be on parrots in post-colonial Caribbean literature, which I guess would have been in line with your "organic" distinction. I realized this would probably be way too hard for the field, and changed it to the way it is now so that people would actually know the clues. I think the leadin is being mischaracterized here as well. It read: "In the chapter of Platero y Yo named for one of these animals, it belongs to a French doctor and comforts his patients." That's asking for an event from the work, not just a chapter title. You write that "artificial common links, more often than just about any other identifiable type of question, contain bad clues that often fail to reward the people who are most knowledgeable about the work being described." I don't think anyone would have batted an eye at this clue as a leadin for a tossup on Platero y Yo. And yet here, it's a less-than-ideal clue?
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

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Magister Ludi wrote:I would have no problem with a third part of a bonus on a Pilar or the Mayday movement from The Handmaid's Tale even though I wouldn't remember those details.
While I obviously have no dog in this fight and am terrible at literature, I am still confused about your harping on not remembering "minor" details. Who is the arbiter of what is a "minor detail" and what isn't? For example, this is the second time you've claimed that the Mayday movement is a minor detail from The Handmaid's Tale when (as someone who read has read said book and suggested it be included in the May Day tossup) that is extremely far from the truth. You haven't actually presented any actual justification that any of the things you claim are minor are actually minor other than that one person didn't remember them, and, no matter how good a player you are, that isn't really a convincing argument. Not to pick on Jerry, but we all see how that worked out with regard to the Miller effect in the CO thread.

This whole thread seems to now be you either going "someone got this literature question before me, ergo it was bad" or "I/I'm claiming someone else don't/didn't remember this even though I read the referenced work, ergo the question was bad". With particular regards to the latter argument (as the former needs no rebuttal), why does that make a question bad? Was Jonathan (or Jerry) really going to first-line the tossup on Platero y yo that included the clue "In the chapter of this work named for a parrot, it belongs to a French doctor and comforts his patients."? Why did this penalize him for reading it, then? Are actually going to get the The Ghost Sonata tossup based on a mummy believing it is a parrot? If so, why does this penalize you when it asks for _parrot_ instead? I'm sorry if you don't remember that detail, but the entire premise of quizbowl is rewarding people for knowing things, and you seem unable to accept that sometimes people (including you) won't know (or remember) things about the works they've read.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

I mean, maybe I would have pulled "Ghost Sonata" from "One character in this work thinks he's a parrot," (I hope "mummy" would not be in the leadin for that) or maybe I wouldn't have. I have no way of knowing because that wasn't what came up and I have a hard enough time introspecting on things that actually happened without also trying to introspect on hypotheticals. If this had been a tossup on "Ghost Sonata," I'm sure I would have been fine with it; in all honesty I pay very little attention to these things as long as the answer line is reasonable and the clues are good.

People remember all sorts of different things for different reasons. Some characters and incidents stand particularly tall in my mind, and some don't, and this has very little correlation to what's "major" or "known" or anything of that sort. I too do not subscribe to your argument against common links; at no point did I feel like I was being screwed on technicalities or that my knowledge wasn't rewarded. I like common links because they allow you to cover much wider ground (ranging across different literatures/myths/histories) and if I don't remember some early leadin, well, I guess that's my problem. I suppose one could get pretty absurd with those early clues, as in your "Skunk Hour" example, but I don't recall anything that bad in this set.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

SirT wrote:Was Jonathan (or Jerry) really going to first-line the tossup on Platero y yo that included the clue "In the chapter of this work named for a parrot, it belongs to a French doctor and comforts his patients."? Why did this penalize him for reading it, then? Are actually going to get the The Ghost Sonata tossup based on a mummy believing it is a parrot?
Actually I suspect that both Jonathan and I would have buzzer-raced if this had been a question on "Platero y Yo" that started with the parrot clue. And "Ghost Sonata" is the only work I know of with a talking mummy, so if that gets dropped anywhere, parrot or no, I'm buzzing. That said, I don't think I was penalized in any way; I suspected the answer was "parrot," waited for some confirmatory clues, then buzzed.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by kdroge »

Matt Weiner wrote:why did the price discrimination tossup not talk about first, second, and third degree price discrimination" when that was what the first 5 of the 7 lines were about and the phrase "first, second, and third degrees of it" was even used twice
Tim Harford identifies one form of this as "self-incrimination," while Robert Frank's textbook
says that the "hurdle model" is a form of this practice. One model of this practice divides it into
three kinds based on decreasing degree of profitability and information requirement, and names
those degrees complete, direct, and indirect. Arthur Pigou's Economics of Welfare divides this
practice into three degrees of willingness to (*) pay, quantity sold, or market segment. In some situations,
this practice between wholesalers and business operators is outlawed by the Robinson-Patman Act. For 10
points, identify this practice of selling the same good to different consumers at different prices.

The phrase "first, second, and third degrees" is never used in the tossup at all. The first model that you talk about is the separation into complete, direct, and indirect types. This is very confusing because the distinctions "direct" and "indirect" in this model refer specifically refer to means of market segmentation, which is a form of price discrimination, but you don't say that that's what you're trying to talk about. Saying that something has direct and indirect types in general is very vague, and I could see someone having a legitimate case for a protest if they buzzed with "market segmentation" at that point in the question. It's also impossible to process that sentence into the answer line of price discrimination unless you were just waiting off the first sentence in the time that you would have in an actual game. Then you talk about the more traditional model. I can see that you say that there are three degrees of this practice, but that's not helpful unless someone guesses because you don't say that they are named "first," "second," and "third." The description isn't great either- saying "market segmentation is a type of this practice" or "one type of this practice uses the number of units sold to separate groups of consumers" is very different from just name dropping phrases like "market segment" or "quantity sold." Finally, what is important about price discrimination is that it allows sellers to capture consumer surplus, but this is nowhere to be found in the question at all.

More generally, I can understand how a lot of my previous comments were viewed as unhelpful. I find it difficult to separate my opinion on whether a question was too easy or too hard from whether it actually is. In addition, my perception of what the target difficulty for this tournament was off, invalidating many of the things that I said. I think that a thread on how to provide better feedback would be a good idea. Also, I will say that some of the things that I said would obviously make no sense given the context of the tournament that was played at the main site given that some of the questions were altered.

I'll throw in my two cents on the issue of literary common links. I think that there is an important distinction between being able to pull a detail about a work from the description of the scene in which it appears and being able to pull the name of a work or author from a description of the detail or scene. It's far harder to recall exactly those details than to be able to place them in the context in which they appeared. If the goal of a question is to reward someone for reading a work, then I think that asking for the names of details is in general a poor approach to going about this (I feel like the example of recalling the clue about the photocopier key versus recalling the name of the neighbor is a good illustration of what I'm trying to say).
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots »

But isn't precise memory of a work an important part of understanding it? What's wrong with testing for that exactness of knowledge? I actually think those clues are much less likely to reward someone who's just memorized character names and titles.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

Cernel Joson wrote:But isn't precise memory of a work an important part of understanding it? What's wrong with testing for that exactness of knowledge? I actually think those clues are much less likely to reward someone who's just memorized character names and titles.
I would go one better than that and say that there are simply lots of important things and people will differ with regards to what they remember from any given work. That difference is not, in itself, indicative of any problems with the question. Of course there are also minor details, and if you construct a question out of only those minor details, then your question will be bad, but it will be bad for not being pyramidal and not for any other reason. Whether or not the cloak in "Netherlandish Proverbs" is blue may be an incidental detail, but it's a detail you learn from looking at art, so that's fine, assuming later clues give increasingly more prominent uses of blue in art.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by Matt Weiner »

kdroge wrote:One model of this practice divides it into three kinds
and names those degrees
divides this practice into three degrees
So actually, the concept of the three degrees of price discrimination is pretty explicitly mentioned THREE times, though not using that exact phrase. All the other clues except Robinson-Patman and the giveaway are various mainstream theories of what the three degrees are. The tossup is about almost nothing but the three degrees of price discrimination, contra your claim that someone wrote a tossup on price discrimination without mentioning this thing that of course "has to" be in the question (another stupid discussion trope).
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by naturalistic phallacy »

Matt Weiner wrote:
kdroge wrote:One model of this practice divides it into three kinds
and names those degrees
divides this practice into three degrees
So actually, the concept of the three degrees of price discrimination is pretty explicitly mentioned THREE times, though not using that exact phrase. All the other clues except Robinson-Patman and the giveaway are various mainstream theories of what the three degrees are. The tossup is about almost nothing but the three degrees of price discrimination, contra your claim that someone wrote a tossup on price discrimination without mentioning this thing that of course "has to" be in the question (another stupid discussion trope).
Clearly, the answer is no more economics questions ever.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) »

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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by Magister Ludi »

The large scale issues with these common links have not been addressed in any meaningful way, so I’m going to summarize my objections in as simple a way as possible in an effort to get a response. For once I’m tired of carrying on a prolonged argument and don’t want to keep this going for a week, so I’m going to explain both the pragmatic and theoretical problems and let writers decide for themselves how they want to write, but I’m tired of defenders of these questions trying to distort the question by cheerypicking small bits of an argument and avoiding the actual substance.

Pragmatic Problems:

1) Leads to many more buzzer races. At VCU Open this past Saturday 6 out of the 7 common links were buzzer races in the rooms I played in as opposed to 10 out of 49 for normal questions. That is a startling percentage. Now I don’t have as much data about this issue because thankfully these questions have been virtually dead for the last year or two, but the two common links I have in my notes from ICT (ghosts and mothers) were both buzzer races in my room. Now there are several reasons why I think these questions lead to more buzzer races (which I elucidate below) but right now I want to stress that objectively common links are a much less precise way to differentiate knowledge between top teams. When top literature teams play advantages in real knowledge are often flattened by these questions, so they often are reduced to a three or four line tossups riddled with buzzer races. They simply objectively don’t play as well as normal tossups. Generally speaking I find these questions reward playing the game more than real knowledge. I am completely serious when I offer to write a mini-packet between Evan and Chris (if they are willing) because it would provide objective evidence for one side on this debate.

2) Confusion and Ambiguity. I think one of the reasons that common links often tend to devolve into buzzer races is that people with real knowledge often have to delay their buzzes because the first clues are ambiguous, confusing, or request you to name a minor detail. I’m not saying every common link question is confusing, but they tend to confuse players at a much higher rate than normal questions. Objectively, Jasper and Kurtis were confused by the May Day question even though they had read the work and Ike was uncertain what was being asked for on the Troy question even though he had read “Aeneas at Washington” and knew the question was talking about that poem. A good example of how common link ambiguity can be seen in the leadin to the San Francisco tossup. It was ambiguous to someone who has read the Maugham story because the girl actually isn’t sent to either city and it is uncertain whether she will be sent to SF or Sydney at the story’s conclusion. At that point the question was ambiguous so I had to wait a couple clues until I had confirmation that it was an American city and then ended up buzzer racing with Jonathan because he knew the next clue.

3) The Delay Effect. The phenomenon I discussed in the SF tossup is what I call the “delay effect” of common link questions in which knowledgeable players often cannot buzz immediately but must wait for other clues to confirm their suspicions. Another example of ambiguity and the delay effect can be seen if we look at this clue from the music teacher tossup, “A character named for his role as one of these is the mentor of Joseph Knecht in The Glass Bead Game.” A knowledgeable player must wait to answer this question which makes him vulnerable to miss a question on something he actually knows and this could be easily fixed to make the clue unambiguous if it were switched so you had to identify the novel from “Music Master.” For whatever reason there were three clues that Jerry knew about parrots, yet he waited to buzz in. Therefore his superior knowledge about Walcott and the fact he read Strindberg more closely than I did was nearly penalized because I nearly beat him to the question on the next clue. If it had been a tossup on Walcott with Pantomine clues Jerry would not have needed to delay but simply buzzed in immediately with the right answer and there would have been no danger of him getting robbed of the tossup. This kind of doubt has proven endemic to common link questions and is much less prevalent in normal questions.

Theoretical Problems:

1) Framing the question and needless specificity. Evan is getting confused thinking that I am saying minor details make bad clues. There is a significant difference between being able to recognize a detail and name it to earn points. Most of these clues would be fine in an individual question on an author or work, but I am questioning what we gain by framing the question in this manner. By framing these details in this way people with real knowledge who would of answered otherwise are unable to do so. If the May Day tossup had been on Hawthorne both Kurtis and Jasper would have been able to buzz with confidence, if it had been on Handmaid’s Tale with a Mayday clue I would have been able to buzz, if the Troy question had been on Allen Tate Ike would of buzzed, if the parrot question had been on The Ghost Sonata I (and perhaps Jerry) would have buzzed immediately, if the question had been on Walcoot Jerry would of buzzed without hesitation, if the question had been on Maugham rather than an ambiguous detail from the story I would have buzzed immediately.

Why is it better to have knowledgeable players in doubt? Why not frame a question in a way that will let them buzz immediately and with confidence? Why should we frame a question to ask for a detail from a work rather than work itself knowing that it will cost several people with real knowledge points? Is it an acceptable tradeoff to have two people who have read the story (Kurtis and Jasper) be confused out of points for excitement of a slightly different answer line? I thought the answer to this question was self-evident because I thought any responsible editor would be more concerned with rewarding real knowledge than amusing himself with interesting answer lines, but apparently there is a lot of disagreement about this issue. From my perspective, if I had to chose between writing a normal Hawthorne question that rewards people with real knowledge or an “interesting” May Day tossup that will confuse two people with real knowledge ten out ten times I will pick the Hawthorne question. And I hope responsible editors would as well.

What Are the Benefits:

1) The issue becomes if you are going to a write a question that (1) objectively doesn’t play as well as a normal question, (2) has a good chance at confusing several people with real knowledge, (3) and consistently penalizes people who know a book for not being able to name a detail that they would easily recognize—there should be some convincing reasons. As far as I gather these are the different defenses.


Matt claims these questions allow questions to test different types of knowledge without raising the difficulty of the answer line. While this might be a valid argument for writing HSAPQ common link questions it’s completely meaningless at this level. A tossup on Hawthorne or Handmaid’s Tale would be more accessible than a May Day tossup. A tossup on Maugham would be just as accessible as a tossup on San Francisco. And no one is going to freak out at this level with the occasional question on something like Platero y Yo. So this argument has virtually no convincing power, so lets move onto the next argument.

I had an argument with Matt over AIM last night about this issue and I think we came to the conclusion that we just have very different editing philosophies, but one comment in particular was very revealing between our ideological split. When I was complaining that these questions tend to confuse people who read, flatten the finer distinctions made between levels of knowledge and therefore reward generalists who figure things out, Matt said this:
Matt Weiner wrote: chris ray is a really, really good player
i mean in terms of his skill at PLAYING questions
he's as good as i am and i consider myself very good at this
he is being rewarded for a skill
you think this is a problem because it upsets the natural order of who has read the most

He is right, I do think this is a problem. I am willing to accept that it is a valid editorial decision to have some questions that are more focused on rewarding the skill of playing quizbowl than real knowledge, but I personally will never subscribe to that view and cannot suggest that younger writers follow this path. I don’t think that whoever has read the most has a natural right to answer all the literature questions, but rather people who have real knowledge of a book should be able to answer the question with confidence. This is related to what Andrew calls “empathetic” writing. I think a great writer should try to make it is as easy as possible for a knowledgeable player to answer a question and not frame it in a way that might reward someone for the “skill” of playing the game rather than people who have real knowledge. In fact, I actively try to write questions that de-emphasize the “skill” of playing the game and will reward even the least savvy player around so ideally there will be little doubt in his mind if he recognizes a clue from a book he has read what I am asking for. Perhaps this is a flaw in my writing philosophy, so this is just what I have come to believe after seeing countless common ink tossups play out.

To me the defenses of artificial common link question boil down to creativity for creativity’s sake. I see them as the equivalent of FUNN and remain even more opposed to them after seeing that questions written by one of the best literature writers in the game played poorly.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by theMoMA »

Evan Adams wrote:I think the leadin is being mischaracterized here as well. It read: "In the chapter of Platero y Yo named for one of these animals, it belongs to a French doctor and comforts his patients." That's asking for an event from the work, not just a chapter title. You write that "artificial common links, more often than just about any other identifiable type of question, contain bad clues that often fail to reward the people who are most knowledgeable about the work being described." I don't think anyone would have batted an eye at this clue as a leadin for a tossup on Platero y Yo. And yet here, it's a less-than-ideal clue?
I think there's a pretty important distinction between naming the work from a clue, and essentially being asked to name a clue from the work. It seems to me that the standard for the latter is a lot more stringent for the second, because when you use that clue in the tossup on "parrots" you're essentially saying "the reason that I'm mentioning Platero y Yo is because it involves parrots," as opposed to a normal tossup on the work itself, which basically says "the reason I mention parrots is because they're involved in Platero y Yo." The former is, in my opinion, not ideal, because I wouldn't say that parrotness is a particularly important or memorable feature of Platero y Yo, but it's literally the only thing you're asking players to know about Platero y Yo. The latter is perfectly fine because anything that happens in a work is fair game for tossups on that work (and if you don't know it, the question will continue to test your knowledge instead of saying "too bad, you didn't remember that one chapter title, no points").

This is perhaps a good framework for understanding why I think clue for a tossup on "coal mines" from Sister Carrie is perhaps not the best idea, while clues from things like The Road to Wigan Pier and Germinal and various Lawrence works can make a good tossup. Nothing about Sister Carrie is particularly coalminey, while the latter works are all things that, if you don't know involve the theme of coal mining and its social effects, you really don't know much about.

Finally, I think this is probably why I've begun to disfavor what I call "artificial" common links. I just don't think it's good practice to say "I mention this work simply because one of its chapters has the word 'parrot' in it, or because one character once talked about a coal mine," because those clues essentially reduce the knowledge of a work to the name of one of its chapters or the offhand remark of one character. Like I've previously stated, I don't see these tossups as entirely illegitimate, but I don't think they operate as fairly as other tossups do.
Last edited by theMoMA on Wed Aug 17, 2011 1:05 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots »

I'd actually say that if Jarret and Kurtis didn't know that the Maypole of Merrymount was set on (or in the tradition of, whatever) Mayday, that's an integral part of the story that they didn't understand. Similarly, if Ike didn't understand Aeneas at Washington well enough to make the connection that it was comparing Troy to Washington D.C., I don't see why he's entitled to points.

Ted, most of your arguments seem to assume that there's a "right" way a question should play out; i.e., that you can judge a question's quality solely by which player gets it. Empirically, quizbowl is never going to work that way, and I don't think it should. I hate missing tossups on books I've read as much as you do. I even concede that there are certain kinds of questions more likely to benefit certain kinds of knowledge, and we should write questions that people who have read things can get. Your argument, on the other hand, seems to assume a dichotomy between "real" players (You and Evan) and "fake" players (Chris Ray). I know for a fact, though, that you and Evan have read your fair share of plot summaries on things that you don't care about, and Chris Ray has read a lot of books that interested him. Chris is a knowledgeable person and a good player; it doesn't necessarily reflect on question quality if he beats your team or mine to a lit tossup.

This goes back to what I was saying earlier: people keep saying that questions "play out" a certain way, as though they themselves took no part in it. This is not how quizbowl works. As a player, the burden is on you to use your knowledge to arrive at the correct answer. Questions can be bad if, for one reason or another, it's too difficult to arrive at that answer through "real" knowledge, but I'm not convinced that's happening here. Yes, to answer the Mayday tossup, you had to actually know what's happening in the Maypole of Merry Mount. Yes, to answer the Troy question, you had to understand Aeneas at Washington well enough to arrive at the correct answer. So? I'm not going to say I'm a fan of common links that appear to be cheap gimmicks, but on the other hand, I don't see why the answer to every literature question has to be an author or a title. Common links do require more precise knowledge and some effort on the part of the player, but I'm not sure that's a bad thing.

FWIW, I didn't like the "parrots" tossup or the Glass Bead Game clue, either.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by Magister Ludi »

Cernel Joson wrote:But isn't precise memory of a work an important part of understanding it? What's wrong with testing for that exactness of knowledge? I actually think those clues are much less likely to reward someone who's just memorized character names and titles.
My comment about common links rewarding rote memorization was a general comment about common links more than a specific critique of these common links. One of my primary issues with this discussion is that people aren't looking at the large scale implications of what advocating for these common links would be. In the capable hands of Evan they received at best a mixed review (with several extremely negative reactions to them) and they can only get worse when written by a normal writer. Most common link questions will look much closer to these questions from TIT and Penn Bowl:

A virgin of this color titles a novel about a woman who tries to give birth to a brilliant alchemist, written by Fernando Arrabal. This color also appears in the title of a novel in verse by Anne Carson about Heracles and Geryon. In a play by Sean O’Casey, the Star of Bethlehem turns this color. A wheel of this color titles a novel cycle by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Arvid Falk is the protagonist of a Strindberg novel about a room of this color, which also describes the oleanders in the title of a Tagore play. This is the color of an animal given to (*) Jody Tiflin as a present, the titular pony of a Steinbeck novella, and this color is paired with black in the title of a Stendhal novel. It also describes the title “badge of courage” in another novel. FTP, name this color which describes the rose in the title of a Robert Burns poem.
ANSWER: red

In “The Eagle,” Tennyson describes this entity as “wrinkled” and writes that it “beneath him crawls.” This body appears twice in the title of a novel whose protagonist, a famous actor, encounters his former love Hartley Smith after retiring to the coast. This entity titles a Booker Prize-winning novel about Charles Arrowby, written by Dame Iris Murdoch. At the end of “Fern Hill,”(*) Dylan Thomas says that he “sang in his chains like” this. Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach” laments the disappearance of the one “of Faith,” while it begins by stating that this “is calm to-night.” For 10 points, name this body of water, which Captain Nemo travels “20,000 leagues” underneath.
ANSWER: the sea [do not accept anything else]

These questions aren't bad per se but just decent, and they reward the rote title knowledge that I have noticed many artificial common link questions have ended up privileging. Unsurprisingly the "sea" tossup was a buzzer race between John Lawrence and myself when the question mentioned Murdoch and I buzzed on the "red" clue from the Solzhenitsyn novel (a book I know nothing about I might add) in an uncompetitive game but am pretty sure it would of been buzzer race on that title or Arvid Falk in most rooms with good literature players.

I apologize for implying Evan's common links reward title knowledge because that seems to be one issue (among common link question's numerous problems) that the VCU Open questions fixed. But this has been a problem that artificial common links are especially prone to and is another reason why I advocate for writers to write a straightforward question that they can be certain they will execute well rather than a potentially "interesting" common link that will more often than not devolve into a buzzer race rewarding rote knowledge.

As a side note, I have never said there is anything wrong about questioning exactness of knowledge. There haven't been any convincing arguments put forward to explain why we should privilege the ability to identify an exact detail over the ability to recognize a detail and buzz with the work. You have to keep in mind the fundamental difference between bonuses and tossups. Bonuses are about making sharp distinctions in how much a player can identify about a work, and in fact I've always advocated that these precise questions about details make excellent third parts of a bonus. There is only 10 points at stake in each bonus part while tossups have up to 90 points at stake. It's fine to have 10 points in a match ride on how well someone has read a work, so someone might miss a third part on a work they don't remember precisely. But the point is that framing tossups in through these common link questions you are penalizing a player who has read a work 90 points for not being able to name a detail. In my opinion good tossups should try to make it as easy for a knowledgeable player to buzz with confidence as possible and these types of tossups often make it needlessly difficult.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by Magister Ludi »

theMoMA wrote:
Evan Adams wrote:I think the leadin is being mischaracterized here as well. It read: "In the chapter of Platero y Yo named for one of these animals, it belongs to a French doctor and comforts his patients." That's asking for an event from the work, not just a chapter title. You write that "artificial common links, more often than just about any other identifiable type of question, contain bad clues that often fail to reward the people who are most knowledgeable about the work being described." I don't think anyone would have batted an eye at this clue as a leadin for a tossup on Platero y Yo. And yet here, it's a less-than-ideal clue?
I think there's a pretty important distinction between naming the work from a clue, and essentially being asked to name a clue from the work. It seems to me that the standard for the latter is a lot more stringent for the second, because when you use that clue in the tossup on "parrots" you're essentially saying "the reason that I'm mentioning Platero y Yo is because it involves parrots," as opposed to a normal tossup on the work itself, which basically says "the reason I mention parrots is because they're involved in Platero y Yo." The former is, in my opinion, not ideal, because I wouldn't say that parrotness is a particularly important or memorable feature of Platero y Yo, but it's literally the only thing you're asking players to know about Platero y Yo. The latter is perfectly fine because anything that happens in a work is fair game for tossups on that work (and if you don't know it, the question will continue to test your knowledge instead of saying "too bad, you didn't remember that one chapter title, no points").

This is perhaps a good framework for understanding why I think clue for a tossup on "coal mines" from Sister Carrie is perhaps not the best idea, while clues from things like The Road to Wigan Pier and Germinal and various Lawrence works can make a good tossup. Nothing about Sister Carrie is particularly coalminey, while the latter works are all things that, if you don't know involve the theme of coal mining and its social effects, you really don't know much about.
Once again, Andrew is exactly right. Organic common links just don't confuse people the same way because a question on something like Albany from William Kennedy clues would be obvious and a writer can be certain that anyone who has read those books would know the books are set in Albany. But just pulling random clues and framing them in an artificial manner can often make it difficult to buzz. So why frame these questions this way? People don't read Sister Carrie for the coal mines, or Strindberg for the parrots, or Maugham's "Rain" for the fact the missionaries want to send the girl to San Francisco. So I wouldn't fault any reader for not remembering that there is a parrot in Platero y Yo. There are actually very logical reasons why people the Umuofia question played better (and was much better received) than the parrot question--and it's not just that Jonathan, Jerry, Andrew, and myself are stupid for not remembering some detail from a book we've read.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

Magister Ludi wrote: For whatever reason there were three clues that Jerry knew about parrots, yet he waited to buzz in. Therefore his superior knowledge about Walcott and the fact he read Strindberg more closely than I did was nearly penalized because I nearly beat him to the question on the next clue. If it had been a tossup on Walcott with Pantomine clues Jerry would not have needed to delay but simply buzzed in immediately with the right answer and there would have been no danger of him getting robbed of the tossup. This kind of doubt has proven endemic to common link questions and is much less prevalent in normal questions.
I didn't sign up for this! Can you please stop enlisting me in your crusade, which I don't subscribe to? This has nothing to do with this question, which I don't see any problems with, and everything to do with the way I play. I wasn't sure if "parrot," could be the right answer (there are like several animals in "Platero y Yo" besides Platero himself) so I waited for additional clues. Sometimes I do that and I lose the buzzer race; sometimes I do it and I win because I'm already waiting to buzz with the right answer when other people are still figuring it out. By the same token I almost immediately powered the tossup on "conservative" in this same tournament, but elected to wait a little longer to get additional information. If you had won the race, I would have cursed myself for not going in sooner (as, indeed, happened several times during the tournament) but it would have had nothing to do with the question, as far as I'm concerned. I don't consider my knowledge to have been penalized and I'd appreciate if you'd stop using me as an example.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by Cheynem »

I don't want to venture too much into the debate in terms of "what makes the best question," but I answered both the Albany and San Francisco questions at the last two VCU Opens. The Albany one was a good one--I recognized clues from I think Ironweed, and as Ted says, if you know something about Albany, you are aware that it takes place in Albany (similarly, I once tried to write a common link _baseball player_ question using a lot of clues about Phelan). For the San Francisco one, I have read Rain (admittedly a long time ago) and agree with Ted that the mention of San Francisco seems somewhat minute (it's not particularly important to the story that she is from San Francisco). The next clue was something I think about The Sea Wolf which I also have modest knowledge of and either remembered the San Francisco link or just made a rote-association with Jack London. In this regard, Ted is correct in that nobody discusses or analyzes or thinks about that Sadie is from San Francisco. I guess the question would be that I am not sure how dissimilar this phenomenon is to other categories--I've been assailed for writing unhelpful history lead-ins, but there's quite a bit of history or social science lead-ins I've seen which use similarly minute details in their lead-ins. I don't object to these even though I don't think they are usually how a lot of people's lives or events are studied. I am not certain if this is the same analogy for literature questions.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by Matt Weiner »

I will use this post to catalog all the bad premises, stated and implied, by Ted and the other people arguing against these questions, in the interest of seeing how high the number can climb. I'm thinking I can make it to 20 or 30.

1) The right people (Ted Gioia, Ike Jose) should get literature tossups. If the wrong people (Chris Ray, Matt Weiner) get literature tossups, the question is flawed.
2) Even if the right people get the tossup, the question is flawed if the wrong people looked like they were about to buzz or the right people had to hesitate.
3) If you have read a work and do not get a question that involves that work, the question is flawed.
4) The proponents of common link questions write them because they enjoy "provoking reactions."
5) The proponents of common link questions write them because they support funn.
6) "Artificial" common links are bad and "organic" common links are good, even though Ted argued against several of the questions Andrew identified as "organic."
7) Andrew Hart, who not only wrote "lying face down in the mud," "assassinating a Roosevelt" et al in years past, but read me common link tossups he wrote on "the law of things that are underground" and "slipping on a banana peel" as recently as three days ago, is an authority on what kind of common link questions are acceptable.
8) A tossup on "Roman women" which is a series of clues about one answer based on a topic often presented in a class is somehow a "common link" (possibly because it is a social history question and/or a question on something not in the canon).
9) It is unacceptable to penalize a quizbowl player for lack of basic cultural knowledge--e.g., that maypoles are used on May Day. Questions which reward other players for superior knowledge of this area are bad. Instead, we should simply ask people to sign written statements that they have read "The Maypole at Marymount" and award the points, regardless of whether they can play questions in the game or have the sort of general cultural awareness that I was taught in first grade in a New York City public school.
10) It is unacceptable to penalize a quizbowl player for lack of basic mythology knowledge--e.g., that Aeneas comes from Troy. Questions which reward other players for superior knowledge of this area are bad. Instead, we should simply ask people to sign written statements that they have read "Aeneas at Washington" and award the points, regardless of whether they can play questions in the game or have basic knowledge of a category that is explicitly part of the ACF distribution.
11) It is unacceptable to penalize a quizbowl player for lack of critical knowledge of a poem--e.g., that one purpose of "Aeneas at Washington" is to draw an analogy between Troy and Washington. Questions which reward other players for superior knowledge of this area are bad. Instead, we should simply ask people to sign written statements that they have read "Aeneas at Washington" and award the points, regardless of whether they can play questions in the game or have basic knowledge of the meaning of the poems they have read.
11a) We should, instead of testing the most basic interpretation of poems in answerable questions, continue to ask boatloads of useless questions about literary critics themselves. I'm not including this in the numbering since it is an avoidable conclusion of Ted's argument, not a required premise for making it.
12) The only legitimate form of literature knowledge is recognizing plots and buzzing with the name of a work or author.
13) Because some people who study literature for quizbowl have chosen to direct their effort solely at memorizing plots and are markedly worse at other aspects of literature questions, it is unfair to test those other aspects of literature. Literature writing should conform to Ted Gioia's study methods.
14) People who study art never study the significance or symbolism of the use of a particular color.
15) Because at least one common link literature question used an incorrect or imprecise clue, all common link literature questions are bad. The use of the same type of clue or even the exact same clue in a tossup on a work or author would not imply anything about the value of those kinds of questions.
16) It's better not to try to test knowledge of Fernando Arrabal or Anne Carson in Terrapin by writing a common link. It would be preferable either to not attempt to award points to people familiar with more difficult things, or to write regular-season tossups on Fernando Arrabal.
17) If a question "plays badly" among people who are spending the question waving their arms around and whining about the question instead of putting forth the effort to answer it, this is entirely the fault of the question/the question writer.
18) Self-reported data about which questions were "buzzer races" in one room is a reliable way to determine which questions caused more buzzer races.
19) Questions are bad if they make Ike Jose feel bad.
20) If you can find a book in a bookstore about "coal mining in literature" then it's ok to write a tossup on coal mining, but if you can't, then it isn't.
21) Common link questions are always written out of Masterplots.
22) It's never permissible to use Masterplots as a source for questions.
23) Pilar is not an important character in I, the Supreme or For Whom the Bell Tolls.
24) Literature tossups should not start with "minor details."
25) Debates over which kind of literature tossups are best should be settled by playing miniature literature tournaments between Evan Adams and Chris Ray.
26) Questions should not punish ignorance (direct quote from Ted).

Only 26 so far unless I missed something, but I'm sure there will be more.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by theMoMA »

Matt Weiner wrote:"Artificial" common links are bad and "organic" common links are good
me wrote:To me, the best "artificial" common links are those [that have certain characteristics]...I don't have a problem with these tossups at all.
me wrote:I'm not saying that tossups on the "artificial common link themes" are in any way illegitimate...
me wrote:But like I said, I leave the aesthetic choices to the writers. There's nothing intrinsically bad about artificial common link themes, just various difficulties that often come along with them.
You were saying?
Matt Weiner wrote:Andrew Hart, who not only wrote "lying face down in the mud," "assassinating a Roosevelt" et al in years past, but read me common link tossups he wrote on "the law of things that are underground" and "slipping on a banana peel" as recently as three days ago, is an authority on what kind of common link questions are acceptable.
So, I once wrote some bad questions in a form that I now think leads to bad questions. I also recently wrote two tossups for a whimsical side event that had funny answer lines, which apparently has some relevance despite the fact that they're not even the type of questions I've been talking about in this thread (they're both solidly "organic" themes, since the theme itself is more than just a word connecting two things). After considering all of those premises, apparently, I have no authority to speak on question-writing, so my ideas and arguments can be ignored offhand (unless, of course, they're being misconstrued to be much more dogmatically rigid and irrational than I ever stated). Do I have that all right?
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by Matt Weiner »

You're right, it is difficult to grasp just what the hell the argument is when you, Ted, and the other people arguing against these questions are putting up dozens of different ad-hoc arguments that often contradict each other. Thanks for pointing that out. Ted certainly shouldn't be invoking your artificial/organic distinction if he doesn't agree with it--and he doesn't, since he found the tossup on "coal mining" to be organic while you labeled it artificial, and you don't see artificial common links as a problem while he does, plus we're somehow torturing this definition to the extent that "women" is an "artificial" concept while "the law of slipping on banana peels" is OBVIOUSLY a central thread running through American legal education.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by theMoMA »

Matt Weiner wrote:You're right, it is difficult to grasp just what the hell the argument is when you, Ted, and the other people arguing against these questions are putting up dozens of different ad-hoc arguments that often contradict each other. Thanks for pointing that out.
Clearly the only solution is to characterize all of my arguments with Ted's (I don't agree with him on many, many things). There's nothing ad hoc about what I'm advancing. It's pretty easy to grasp that there are two kinds of common links, with some overlap between the two, and that the artificial kind can lead to backfilling with bad clues, and that testing for knowledge of a clue from the work is pretty different than testing from knowledge of the work from the clue. All that considered, I think people should do a better job writing their questions to include more good clues and fewer bad ones, so that questions are in general better.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by Matt Weiner »

theMoMA wrote:It's pretty easy to grasp that there are two kinds of common links, with some overlap between the two
Yeah, there's the kind that Ted or Ike feel good about, and the kind they don't. Every other proposed standard is useless because they back-define the categories based on that.

I will revisit my original premise in this thread, which is that discussion as it currently stands does nothing to help writers. This argument is a prime example of that: if we were to adopt the proposed anti-common link standard, what would a writer trying to satisfy that standard do? Well, first of all, he would probably throw up his hands at confusion over just what the standard is, as I've identified 26 different forms it has taken in this thread alone. Then he would realize that it's impossible to please Ted Gioia, the stated opinions of Andrew Hart, and the Andrew Hart who is revealed through the questions he writes, as any two of those differ on the acceptability of any given example question we've discussed in this thread, so he would probably give up a second time. If our hapless new writer is somehow still with us, he will then have to divine important information such as "does the nearest bookstore to Andrew Hart have a book on 'Chicago in literature'" that would make this common link on "Chicago" I want to write legitimate? Will Ike Jose feel good about a tossup on Chicago? Will Chris Ray beat Ted Gioia to the tossup, and, if not, will it be a buzzer race or will Ted have to hesitate before answering? Am I "confusing" Kurtis Droge if I talk about a work that mentions Richard Daley as "concerning the mayor of this city" and expect them to know what city he was mayor of? Does Ted remember the fact that A Raisin in the Sun takes place in Chicago? Did someone once learn that fact from reading Masterplots? Et cetera. There is absolutely no practical value to a standard that contains this immense number of ad-hoc hypotheses and unrealistic burdens on writers.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by theMoMA »

Matt Weiner wrote:If our hapless new writer is somehow still with us, he will then have to divine important information such as "does the nearest bookstore to Andrew Hart have a book on 'Chicago in literature'" that would make this common link on "Chicago" I want to write legitimate?
me wrote:I'm not saying that tossups on the "artificial common link themes" are in any way illegitimate...
The above quote represents my position all along. You can find it over a dozen posts before the one you just made.

I say nothing more than a fancy form of this: Write better tossups, no matter what form you choose. You're the one who said that we need an "attempt at providing an overall argument for what writers are to do." We need to advance overall theories instead of endlessly nitpicking questions that one person doesn't like for minute and disparate reasons. Except when those theories "[do] nothing to help writers" according to one person, in which case they must be scrapped immediately (well, not before we falsely stat that they give prerequisites for "legitimacy" and disingenuously brand them the "proposed anti-common link standard," that is).

My "overall argument" is simply that the less significant the actual the connective tissue being tossed up is, the more scrutiny writers should place on the clues that they use. For what it's worth, I enjoy well-written common link tossups, even artificial ones (for example, that tossup on "the sea" rewarded me for reading "The Eagle" in Perrine's Sound and Sense almost eight years ago, which I thought was pretty cool). Though I avoid them now more than ever, I still write them on occasion (recall tossups on "Christopher Columbus" and "chickens" at the law bowl; those are both much better examples of the supposed hypocrisy that you're reading into what I'm saying). What I don't particularly enjoy are tossups chock-full of cascading obscurata that almost inevitably traces its origins to the backwaters of Masterplots and Wikipedia disambiguation pages.

I think that when you're asking to name the clue from the work, you should be more careful to ensure that when the formulation is flipped around, it's still a good clue (I think this goes back to question-writing empathy, one of my longstanding clarion calls; in other words, the writer should place themselves in the shoes of the player and ask "if I knew a thing or two about Platero y Yo, would I want someone to ask me to buzz with 'parrot' off of the clues I'm giving?"). I also think you should make sure that you're not backfilling a question with clues that you found to fit the answer, instead of using answers meant to cram in as many awesome clues as possible. I don't think any of this is all that Young Turkish of me to recommend, but a lot of the common links I've played seem to lack these considerations and have (at least what I consider to be) many bad clues. Now, maybe other people think these clues are awesome and I'm alone here, but I really just want people to pay more attention when they're writing to think about this sort of thing even if they come to different conclusions than I would. To me, that seems like a perfectly reasonable and cohesive overall argument that will help writers.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots »

For what it's worth, I wrote that question on "the sea." I won't claim that it's the ultimate question or anything (in particular, I should have described the Murdoch novel much better), but I wanted to ask about Iris Murdoch without writing a tossup on her for a regular difficulty tournament. This answerline let me do that while preserving conversion and testing knowledge of a poem I considered underexposed in quizbowl. Since there were clearly buzzable clues before you and John both happened to go in, is this really so bad?
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by Sam »

Magister Ludi wrote:Objectively, Jasper and Kurtis were confused by the May Day question even though they had read the work and Ike was uncertain what was being asked for on the Troy question even though he had read “Aeneas at Washington” and knew the question was talking about that poem.
Cernel Joson wrote:I'd actually say that if Jarret and Kurtis didn't know that the Maypole of Merrymount was set on (or in the tradition of, whatever) Mayday, that's an integral part of the story that they didn't understand.
If nothing else comes out of this discussion, I still feel better knowing at least one other person confuses the OSU J's.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

I'm all for a little empathy, but to me that means not writing convoluted sentences that involve 4 levels of recursive parsing to understand. If you write something like "This man's father left a sword and a pair of sandals under a rock for him," it's not unreasonable to ask a player to reverse-engineer "Theseus" from that. Likewise, asking people to understand what day "The Maypole of Marymount" is set on or the fact that "Aeneas at Washington" references Troy (explicitly! twice!) isn't some kind of terrible and unreasonable burden. If you're confused, well, you're confused; it happens to everyone.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by magin »

I think Ted and Matt W. are both going a bit too far in their positions here. I think that Ted is discounting the responsibility of players to actually play tossups; sometimes, you forget part of something you've read, or it just doesn't register for you. That sucks when it happens, but it's part of quizbowl, and I don't think it's fair to criticize writers for players not playing a tossup well.

Similarly, I think Matt is discounting the responsibility of writers to think about how players will play tossups. The tossup on Roman women may seem great on paper, but if the majority of players are frustrated while playing it, pragmatically, that's a problem. After all, the point of good quizbowl is that all of the frustration comes not from the questions, but from the players (not playing a question well, or negging, or sitting on a tossup and being beaten to it, for instance).

As for the whole common link discussion: I think there's a reasonable middle ground here. Instead of debating organic/artificial links between the clues of a tossup, I think it's more practical to think about whether each clue, as a standalone clue, is reasonably buzzable by someone with knowledge, or, as Seth Teitler might say, juicy. For instance, Platero y Yo contains an enormous number of short chapters, and it appears that the parrot appears in only one of them. I'm not sure that that's reasonably buzzable, especially considering you're asking for a small level of detail; if you want to write a common link tossup with clues from many literary works, that's cool with me, as long as you take care to make sure that players can buzz on each individual clue.

I think it also makes sense to let your clues dictate your answer, not the other way around. It's understandable to go "I have this great idea for an answerline and a few clues; all I need to do is to pad it out." In practice, searching for those clues is a good way to latch onto details that turn out to be not very important or a bunch of title dropping; looking at your clues and thinking "what would be the best answerline that would fit these clues and have enough good clues to make a solid tossup" seems to me like the best way to write. For instance, I very much enjoyed a common link tossup on Trujillo in Latin American literature that I believe Evan wrote for a previous VCU Open; there are enough good clues on him to produce a tossup that he didn't have to go spelunking for clues to pad out the tossup, and I think that's where writers (including myself) can go astray.

In short, just do your best to find good clues and select an answer line that has enough good clues to avoid hunting after ancillary details, and you'll tend to write good questions.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by Haaaaaaaarry Whiiiiiiiiiite »

As someone who was on a bottom-bracket team, I really appreciated the "hard tossups on easy stuff". It is extremely frustrating for me when there are a bunch of tossups whose answers I don't recognise, and it's a nice relief to actually have an inkling of an idea of what's going on.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by Magister Ludi »

Matt Weiner wrote:You're right, it is difficult to grasp just what the hell the argument is when you, Ted, and the other people arguing against these questions are putting up dozens of different ad-hoc arguments that often contradict each other. Thanks for pointing that out. Ted certainly shouldn't be invoking your artificial/organic distinction if he doesn't agree with it--and he doesn't, since he found the tossup on "coal mining" to be organic while you labeled it artificial, and you don't see artificial common links as a problem while he does, plus we're somehow torturing this definition to the extent that "women" is an "artificial" concept while "the law of slipping on banana peels" is OBVIOUSLY a central thread running through American legal education.
This kind of response is the worst form of tournament criticism. Rather than engaging the logic of any argument you just distort issues into shameless straw men arguments. It's fine if you disagree with me but it's ridiculous to make bold-faced lies about what I said.
Matt Weiner wrote: 1) The right people (Ted Gioia, Ike Jose) should get literature tossups. If the wrong people (Chris Ray, Matt Weiner) get literature tossups, the question is flawed.

19) Questions are bad if they make Ike Jose feel bad.
What I actually said:
Magister Ludi wrote: I don’t think that whoever has read the most has a natural right to answer all the literature questions, but rather people who have real knowledge of a book should be able to answer the question with confidence.
If there is one thing I'm not saying it's that I have a right to a question, but who ever has read a work or has real knowledge of the work whether that person is Chris Ray or Matt Weiner (both of whom have incredible amounts of real knowledge) should be able to answer a question with confidence. Apparently, because I said Ike was confused by one question Matt believes I am arguing that because Ike says a question is bad it therefore is bad.

The worst form of tournament criticism is just attempting to undercut or censure the person making an argument rather than engaging the logic of their argument. And for someone who is the greatest critic of illogical posters, it is somewhat embarrassing for Matt to claim that Andrew Hart's opinion should immediately be invalidated because he wrote some bad common link questions. By this ridiculous logic Matt's opinion on common links would hold the least weight because he has written by far the largest number of terrible common link questions of any active player.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by Magister Ludi »

Cernel Joson wrote:For what it's worth, I wrote that question on "the sea." I won't claim that it's the ultimate question or anything (in particular, I should have described the Murdoch novel much better), but I wanted to ask about Iris Murdoch without writing a tossup on her for a regular difficulty tournament. This answerline let me do that while preserving conversion and testing knowledge of a poem I considered underexposed in quizbowl. Since there were clearly buzzable clues before you and John both happened to go in, is this really so bad?
I want to ask about Harold Brodkey's Stories in an Almost Classical Mode at a regular difficulty tournament, but that doesn't mean I should construct a tossup to ensure I can do so. This is a good example of the mindset that makes artificial common links problematic. A writer has some topic that is too hard for a regular difficulty tournament that he wants to write about and therefore forces a common link tossup so he can ask about his pet topic. But what usually happens is that no one in the regular difficulty tournament field actually knows the fringe topic and the question ends up rewarding people with rote title knowledge (as happened in this case). Moreover, it often becomes a buzzer race on these titles. I am particularly amused by the argument that without artificial common links how could I ask about Ferrando Arrabal at regular difficulty tournaments as though that should be some kind of priority.

You ask is this question "really so bad?" A better question would be " is this question good?" Many of the defenses I have seen people like Weiner put forth is that these questions aren't so bad. But, I think a good writer should strive to write questions that are as good as possible. Taking into consideration issues like how a tossup will play out in reality rather than just saying "Oh, there are a couple of buzzable clues" is something that is critical to going from a good to a great writer. I didn't mean to call you out for this admittedly decent question (in fact I didn't even know you wrote the question when I cited it), but I'm trying to get rational people in this thread (unlike Weiner) to aim for writing questions that do the best possible job of distinguishing levels of knowledge rather than just settling for decent questions.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

Magister Ludi wrote:By this ridiculous logic Matt's opinion on common links would hold the least weight because he has written by far the largest number of terrible common link questions of any active player.
For someone who is quick to call out alleged lies, you sure don't hesitate from promulgating them yourself.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

Magister Ludi wrote:You ask is this question "really so bad?" A better question would be " is this question good?" Many of the defenses I have seen people like Weiner put forth is that these questions aren't so bad. But, I think a good writer should strive to write questions that are as good as possible.
Your problem is that you refuse to acknowledge that any mode of writing other than the one you prescribe qualifies as "good." Your so-called justifications are merely a series of ad hoc rationalizations that have virtually zero bearing on good question writing; your theories are the Ptolemaic epicycles of quizbowl.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by DumbJaques »

I had planned to swing by this thread to post a general reminder that people should not be writing tossups with specific players in mind, in any sense, ever. Similarly, you should not look at the masterplots (or wikipedia; or whatever) source for something and let it negatively dictate how you write a tossup. That's bad! In fact, it's at best just as bad as letting the info on those sources positively determine clues. The solution isn't hard to figure out here - just find a good source, and use clues to construct a tossup that reflects the academic knowledge one might reasonably have on your answer line.

Look, you've already screwed up if you're determining your tossup's contents by some weird, quizbowl meta standard like which players might get it (sidenote: you will not predict this correctly anyway), what X internet source says as about the topic and thus makes "too easy," or whatever clues are chronicled in those goat-fuckingly horrible Michigan Book of Grudges posts. If I had to give a "10 commandments of writing" list to my incoming freshman this year, one of those might really be to not read this thread until you've written like 50 college tossups and are strong enough to resist its evil. Actually, Arun and/or Chris Manners, if you're reading this, time to go. Now. OUT.


Now, I prefaced that by saying I *had* wanted to stop in and say all that, but I realize at this point my objectivity might be questioned as this thread features a number of proposals for writing questions specifically so that I will not get them. I'm. . . not really sure what to do with that, but apparently we're resolving this issue by Evan and I playing 16 tossups on chupacabras in literature or something. I'm under the impression that Evan and I feel more or less the same way about literature (and certainly about literature questions in quizbowl), so I pretty much expect this to be decided on my superior biology knowledge on la chupacabra. Presumably this will result in a huge backlash that will send shockwaves through the cryptid biology and latin american literature subdistributions, both of which will be unrecognizable by the time IO rolls around.

I mean, don't get me wrong, I understand that it makes people really sad when I get tossups, and I'm not going to sit here and say that I don't delight in your misery. I guess it sucks for Ted or whoever that the voice in my head doesn't seem to satisfy "real knowledge of a book" according to their conceptions of it (though that seems kinda judgy, man!). I will however note that only one of us, Theodore, has a notebook filled with pages and pages of "every lit clue that has ever come up anytime, ever." Perhaps advanced literary scholars will appreciate the irony in someone using me as a portable tossup critique while literally holding a gigantic tome of study material dictated solely by what has come up before in quizbowl packets. Actually I'm not really sure if that's ironic or not, because I don't study literature in college and my knowledge of irony has been cobbled together from Alanis Morissette and Kierkegaard; oddly enough, it still seems to get the job done.




EDIT:
I'm half asleep right now, but I know I wanted to clearly delineate that half of this post was serious and people really need to listen to it, while the other half was a joke. I can't remember if I inserted the cut-off marker, but if I didn't I'm sure you can figure it out. I also can't remember if I mentioned that thing about those Michigan posts having intercourse with goats, but I meant to do that too so if I didn't here it is.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by Matt Weiner »

magin wrote:Similarly, I think Matt is discounting the responsibility of writers to think about how players will play tossups. The tossup on Roman women may seem great on paper, but if the majority of players are frustrated while playing it, pragmatically, that's a problem. After all, the point of good quizbowl is that all of the frustration comes not from the questions, but from the players (not playing a question well, or negging, or sitting on a tossup and being beaten to it, for instance).
I agree with your premise that the writer needs to put himself in the player's shoes and consider how clues will be processed by someone who can't see the answer line. On the other hand, I am well aware that some people refuse to play questions like these in good faith because they don't like common links, social history, noncanonical answers, or some combination of the three, and at this point I'm more than indifferent to those people being outbuzzed on said questions, I'm in fact very happy about it. Players being genuinely perplexed at a tossup is the writer's problem; players being too busy to try to answer a tossup because they are pre-composing hsquizbowl posts about how it sucked because it didn't conform to their incorrect ideology is the players' problem. These questions serve lots of good purposes, and the fact that people who are not on a crusade to reshape quizbowl in the image of their notebooks can and do play and answer them is all the proof I need that nothing is empirically wrong with them.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by Cheynem »

I'm counting the people who have criticized the Roman women tossup in this thread (note, some never actually played it):

*Charlie Dees
*Joe Nutter
*Siddhant Dogra
*Me
*Kurtis Droge
*Matt Lafer
*Andrew Hart

PLUS Evan Adams saying how he sees how the tossup can be "very frustrating to play"

Maybe Ted Gioia did too, I don't really feel like sifting through his posts to find it (he wouldn't have played it anyway).

I dispute the assertion that all of these people "don't like common links, social history, noncanonical answers...are on a crusade to reshape quizbowl in the image of their notebooks." In particular, I'd say Dees and Hart are sort of the exact opposite of this stereotype. Kurtis genuinely doesn't seem to like common links, sure, but most of us were not ranting about the concept of common links, social history, or noncanonical answers, but rather expressing displeasure with this particular question.

I'll admit some of us, including myself, were probably too strident in our critiques and could have explained it better (I think Dees, Lafer, and Hart have tried to do this a bit).
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by Magister Ludi »

DumbJaques wrote: I understand that it makes people really sad when I get tossups, and I'm not going to sit here and say that I don't delight in your misery. I guess it sucks for Ted or whoever that the voice in my head doesn't seem to satisfy "real knowledge of a book" according to their conceptions of it (though that seems kinda judgy, man!). I will however note that only one of us, Theodore, has a notebook filled with pages and pages of "every lit clue that has ever come up anytime, ever." Perhaps advanced literary scholars will appreciate the irony in someone using me as a portable tossup critique while literally holding a gigantic tome of study material dictated solely by what has come up before in quizbowl packets. Actually I'm not really sure if that's ironic or not, because I don't study literature in college and my knowledge of irony has been cobbled together from Alanis Morissette and Kierkegaard; oddly enough, it still seems to get the job done.
My arguments have been distorted by people like Matt and Jerry who continue to put forth the logical fallacy that every argument I make is geared towards getting me tossups. My priority as a writer has always been that whoever has read a book or knows the most about the subject should get the tossup. There is a strict divide between what I actually spend my time studying and what kind of questions I think promote should be written.

I actually have an intensely pragmatic approach to studying quizbowl and spend all my studying time preparing for writers who I personally dislike and have no interest in reading. I prepare for what questions I think are actually going to come up regardless of whether those questions meet my standards for a good question. In fact today I spent time making lists of literary tigers and elephants in masterplots to prepare for the unfortunate rise of terrible common link questions that is sure to come from this thread. But the point is that I would prefer to be rewarded for books that I've read and actually matter, and when I say that these common link questions reward people for knowledge of masterplots it’s because I know first hand. I rarely miss a question on a detail on something I've taken notes on but often (like over half the time) miss questions on details in books I've actually read. I couldn’t even remember the clue about “poppy” tea from The Night of the Iguana literally seven hours after I finished reading it, but I would never miss a detail like that from a book I’ve taken notes on.

As a side not, I want to apologize if I implied that everything you buzz on was fake. I actually never said everything like that and it was another one of Matt's countless distortions. What I actually said was that I was frustrated when you beat me to a tossup on a subject that I knew more about than you—just as I would complain about a question if I beat you to a tossup on a subject that you knew better than me. I don’t even know where Matt came up with these categories of “real” and “fake” literature players. I would certainly never create such a stupid categorization because those categories are different for every tossup. On a Faulkner question I might be (what Matt calls) a “real” literature player but on every question about The Unfortunate Traveler I will have as fake of knowledge as anyone out there. The point I was actually trying to make in the hypothetical game between you and Evan was not that every tossup you got over Evan was inherently flawed. Rather I want to stage this mini-tournament to show how common links lead to many more buzzer races and don’t play as well as normal questions.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by DumbJaques »

"Roman Women" was not a common link question.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by Magister Ludi »

grapesmoker wrote:
Magister Ludi wrote:By this ridiculous logic Matt's opinion on common links would hold the least weight because he has written by far the largest number of terrible common link questions of any active player.
For someone who is quick to call out alleged lies, you sure don't hesitate from promulgating them yourself.
I don't care if people want to rationally argue with me, but there is a major difference between Matt objectively attributing claims to me that I have never nor would ever say and disagreeing with my opinions about quizbowl writing. It's an objective lie when Matt says, "[Ted says] tossups should not start with minor details" or "The right people (Ted Gioia, Ike Jose) should get literature tossups. If the wrong people (Chris Ray, Matt Weiner) get literature tossups, the question is flawed." This would be the equivalent of claiming (because you think the occasional question on someone like Munif is fine) that "Jerry thinks all world literature tossups should be on writers as difficult as Munif or Guimaraes-Rosa."

It's these types of unsubstantiated comments that are only meant to take underhanded swipes at writers whose writing philosophies you disagree with that lead to bad post-tournament discussion.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by Matt Weiner »

What Ted does not understand is that we are under no obligation to take his word that he does not believe in "the right people getting tossups" when he has explicitly said in earlier posts that he does believe in this, and made arguments (ie, complaining to Evan that Chris Ray got a tossup) which logically require him to believe it. I don't even know what to make of the 26 different arguments put forth in this thread, but I'm pretty sure examining an argument for its implied premises is what serious Socratic debate is all about. The fact that Ted can't handle being challenged when he asserts something untrue, contradicts himself, or assumes a premise that I do not agree with means that Ted needs to tighten up his rhetoric, not that he is being "distorted."

Ted's latest post introduces yet another problem--without even seeing the clues for some hypothetical tossup on elephants in literature, he has pronounced it terrible. I guess all that stuff about organicness and major details was a waste of time since apparently we are well into just condemning non-title/author questions as a class no matter what clues they use.
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Re: VCU Open 2011 Thanks & Discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

Magister Ludi wrote:
grapesmoker wrote:
Magister Ludi wrote:By this ridiculous logic Matt's opinion on common links would hold the least weight because he has written by far the largest number of terrible common link questions of any active player.
For someone who is quick to call out alleged lies, you sure don't hesitate from promulgating them yourself.
I don't care if people want to rationally argue with me, but there is a major difference between Matt objectively attributing claims to me that I have never nor would ever say and disagreeing with my opinions about quizbowl writing. It's an objective lie when Matt says, "[Ted says] tossups should not start with minor details" or "The right people (Ted Gioia, Ike Jose) should get literature tossups. If the wrong people (Chris Ray, Matt Weiner) get literature tossups, the question is flawed." This would be the equivalent of claiming (because you think the occasional question on someone like Munif is fine) that "Jerry thinks all world literature tossups should be on writers as difficult as Munif or Guimaraes-Rosa."

It's these types of unsubstantiated comments that are only meant to take underhanded swipes at writers whose writing philosophies you disagree with that lead to bad post-tournament discussion.
I don't know if you're being purposefully obtuse or what, but the statement that "[Matt Weiner] has written by far the largest number of terrible common link questions of any active player" is at best unsubstantiated and is more likely to be a complete fiction; a lie, even. In fact, having been playing Matt's questions since for probably close to a decade now, I've consistently found him to be one of the best writers in the game. In general, Matt's common link (and other) questions are generally very tightly written and good at getting people to say the right answer based on useful clues. So if anyone at all is an authority on writing good common link questions, it would be Matt, by virtue of having written a whole ton of them that are actually really good. Sorry if your remorseless crusade against phantoms prevents you from seeing that.
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