Terrapin 2013 General Discussion

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Brian McPeak
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Terrapin 2013 General Discussion

Post by Brian McPeak »

Thanks for coming to our tournament. Here's the discussion of the set-- we want to keep it private because Mike Bentley is holding an online mirror some time in the future. I want to thank all the other editors for working on this with me-- Ike, Chris Manners, Isaac, Ophir, Sohan, Arun-- Gary Weiser for helping me organize things, Tanay Kothari and Nick Jensen for writing some extra questions for us, and SteveJon Guth for giving me feedback on the science.

Here's the distribution by editors/writers:
Lit-- Ike, Chris, and Isaac
History -- Ike and Isaac (American), Arun
Science-- Me and Ike (non-math other science)
Fine Arts-- Ike (painting) Manners (music), and the other fine arts was split between Ike, Manners, and Isaac
RMP-- Ike, Chris Manners (some religion), Sohan (some myth),
SS-- Ike, Isaac, and Arun

proofing was done primarily by Ophir, and also a lot by Isaac and Chris.

I think this is it. Having focused entirely on one section of the distribution, I don't know precisely who did what, so the other editors can be more specific or correct me if they like.
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Re: Terrapin 2013 General Discussion

Post by women, fire and dangerous things »

Maybe someone will create a thread for question-specific discussion and this would be better there, but could you post the questions on lichens, groundwater, and orbitals?
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Re: Terrapin 2013 General Discussion

Post by Ike »

Okay so Brian beat me to the punch. But I wanted to say a few general things about the set before we get too much in discussion.

I decided to join the set for various reasons, the most important of which was that I wanted to make sure that this set met some threshold of quality. I didn't realize how much work I would be putting into the set when I joined, but I was happy learning about new things to write the questions that I wanted to write.

I want to thank Isaac Hirsch, Brian McPeak and Chris Manners for their work direct interface with me. After Arun had to bow out of the set, the three of them and I were able to organize the planning of the rest of the division of labor and logical coordination. People who I didn't interact with over the phone but who did a lot of work include Ophir, who seemed to do a lot of fact checking / proofing. If there's anyone else, I'm sorry I missed you.

Brian McPeak should be singled out for praise on his science work. The week before the set I had some doubts about the nature of the science, even though he was the most prolific worker before the week before this set had to be released. He ended up working closely with Stevejon and me to repeatedly seek critiques and produce good questions. I can't really stress how much work Brian put into the set of all non-other science questions + math.

By and large if there was one mistake Maryland made it was not being able to realize how much time it takes to edit, proofread, etc. I think it's great that new talent get to work head on with a set, but there's no way that doing 95% of the work the week before the tournament is a sustainable model.

If there's only one thing I'm unhappy with, it's that I didn't get an opportunity to playtest the questions. For one, this lead to a huge amount of proofing errors. After I drove back for five hours on Saturday, I stayed up late as I could doing a full pass on the tossups of various packets, re-proofing them. I didn't even come close to the bonuses, but I would have gone insane if I had stayed up to do those as well. For two, there were a lot of whacky ideas in the set, some good some not, (Out of Africa comes to mind.) I certainly wished that I had stamped those out, because I certainly realize now why that question blows. If I had another 2-3 days, I would have hopped onto Skype and brought people into the set who were not going to play and read through all of the questions. Hopefully people can understand that this was a time thing, as I was up all night on Thursday night writing a packet, editing all of music on Wednesday, all of Euro History on Tuesday, world history Monday, etc.

That's all I want to fit into this particular post, I'll probably create a second post where I'll talk about various things about the set itself.

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Re: Terrapin 2013 General Discussion

Post by Ike »

So there's a few things I would like to address where general discussion seems like a good place for this kind of thing:

Quality of Submissions. This is my first packet submission tournament, but by and large the quality of submissions seemed kind of low to me. Even packets from good teams had a high amount of just not good questions that I had to cut. Then there were questions that were too hard. Then there were questions that were just so boring or tested things that have come up many times this year that I ultimately decided to cut.

I can only think of a few times where I said to myself "That's an inspired bonus!" The most prominent examples of which was VCU's excellent philosophy bonus where exegesis was a hard part, or Michigan's bonus part on Robert Walser. But on the flip side of the coin, there were just a lot of questions that were on the same old things. I think I cut more than 50% of the submissions in any particular category except history, mostly because 50% of the submissions in world lit for example were either on Bolaño or Borges. Other examples of hilarity in repeats includes four submissions on Francois Boucher and six or so bonuses on "Name these Platonic dialogues," five of which chose Protagoras as a hard part and decided to use "Man is the measure of all things" as a clue. One such packet also featured a tossup on Socrates as well, using Platonic dialogues as a clue.

I cite the repeats as an example of the way people seem to approach writing a quizbowl packet, not to laugh at some bizarre coincidence. There seems to be a trend to just write on these same old answers over and over without investigating the fact there's a huge amount of things people know about.

To tap into those areas, I wrote a lot of questions on things that don't really get touched these days. Restraining my examples to literature, they include the Garden of Eden from Paradise Lost, Gargantua, farts drawing clues mostly from two of the Canterbury Tales, etc. These are all things that have yet to be subject to a tossup this year (or rather, Paradise Lost, Gargantua, and Chaucer are all things that have yet to be subject to a tossup this year) aside from the Knight's Tale tossup I wrote for IFT. I don't like getting into ideological arguments about how much something like Paradise Lost should be coming up with respect to its real world importance, but the answer is surely a non-zero number. To also be clear, I used a lot of the submissions that were on "plain old things." A lot of them were decent questions that just needed work. I certainly don't believe every tournament needs to have questions on Vera Brittain or The Monk.

There were also a lot of common link ideas that I heard some people didn't really care for, with someone even hilariously suggesting that I'm attempting to sabotage the common link crusaders' movement. It's certainly not true I'm trying to sabotage the common link argument, as I wrote them to incorporate material that can't be asked about in easy venues with traditional answer lines. I don't know how to go about asking Father Matthew Lewis (Gothic Novels) or Vera Brittain (World War 1) without resorting to this. There certainly were bad common links that I wished I had play-tested and replaced; I'm truly sorry for those if they didn't play well. But as our tournament subtitle indicates, they were good faith efforts as writing new things.

tl;dr version: One of the beauties of packet submission is that you're theoretically supposed to get material from many diverse minds that leads to an interesting tournament. That certainly did happen to some extent, but I really wished it happened more.
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Re: Terrapin 2013 General Discussion

Post by Sima Guang Hater »

Before I forget, I wanted to mention that I thought the science in this tournament was really good.

In bio and chem, I thought generally the tossup clues and answerlines in the biology were well-ordered and interesting. There were definitely some bonus parts in bio and chem that were strange and/or difficult (oleasome, reorganization energy, mother of satan, the bonus on chlorophyll was kind of weird) but overall it was really well written. The only complaint I can think of is that I said mutational meltdown for Mueller's ratchet, because the part was kind of confusingly worded (deletion and deleterious aren't synonymous).

The physics I can't really comment on as extensively but it all seemed well written from where I was sitting, with the exception of that pollymers tossup that I already talked to Brian about.

Whenever I criticize other science, I have some difficulty separating out bad questions from stuff I hate. There were a lot of good questions in the other science (I thought density and flatness were pretty inspired), but questions on things like groundwater and geologic eras on Mars (Marsologic eras?) just seem inherently uninteresting and not amenable to good questions. I also really didn't like the axiom of choice question, because it was a game of chicken for a very long time (set theory, huh) but it seemed to be the best possible question you could write on the axiom of choice.

So what I'm really saying is that Brian McPeak should write more tournaments.
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Re: Terrapin 2013 General Discussion

Post by Auroni »

Just wanted to point out a couple of errors I noticed, reading through the set:

There's a bonus part on _Julia_ which claims that Ben Jonson wrote a poem "to" her. He wrote that poem "to Celia" (Herrick was the one who wrote the "Julia" poems).

The bonus part on _Hymn to Aphrodite_ says that she is the daughter of Zeus, which is... not true.
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Re: Terrapin 2013 General Discussion

Post by women, fire and dangerous things »

Tokyo Sex Whale wrote:The bonus part on _Hymn to Aphrodite_ says that she is the daughter of Zeus, which is... not true.
According to Homer, it is (if not Hesiod).
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Re: Terrapin 2013 General Discussion

Post by Masked Canadian History Bandit »

women, fire and dangerous things wrote:
Tokyo Sex Whale wrote:The bonus part on _Hymn to Aphrodite_ says that she is the daughter of Zeus, which is... not true.
According to Homer, it is (if not Hesiod).
Homer gives Zeus/Dionne as the parents, Hesiod tells the Cronus genitals/foam/Crete story. But in Sappho's Hymn to Aphrodite, Zeus is given as her father.
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Re: Terrapin 2013 General Discussion

Post by Sam »

Ike wrote: There were also a lot of common link ideas that I heard some people didn't really care for, with someone even hilariously suggesting that I'm attempting to sabotage the common link crusaders' movement. It's certainly not true I'm trying to sabotage the common link argument, as I wrote them to incorporate material that can't be asked about in easy venues with traditional answer lines. I don't know how to go about asking Father Matthew Lewis (Gothic Novels) or Vera Brittain (World War 1) without resorting to this. There certainly were bad common links that I wished I had play-tested and replaced; I'm truly sorry for those if they didn't play well. But as our tournament subtitle indicates, they were good faith efforts as writing new things.
Do you remember specific complaints? I was struck by how many common links there were in this tournament, but they all seemed pretty good.
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Re: Terrapin 2013 General Discussion

Post by Auroni »

This set seemed to have an unusually high number of common link questions with only one or two middle or easy clues. Some examples I can think of off the top of my head: sleepwalking, shoulders of giants, candles, urns (with pretty difficult clues from "Ode on a Grecian Urn" at the end), theory of relativity. I've been guilty of writing these myself, where I've latched on to two cool clues that share something in common and desperately scrounged for clues to fill out the rest of the tossup. While many of these tossups are answerable by the end, they probably ended up playing pretty top-heavy. So I guess that future editors should reel in some of the giddyness produced when you find a way to clue something really hard, the tournament will be that much better because of it.

Apart from that and some of the errors that I noticed, I actually liked this set.
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Re: Terrapin 2013 General Discussion

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots »

Tokyo Sex Whale wrote:This set seemed to have an unusually high number of common link questions with only one or two middle or easy clues. Some examples I can think of off the top of my head: sleepwalking, shoulders of giants, candles, urns (with pretty difficult clues from "Ode on a Grecian Urn" at the end), theory of relativity. I've been guilty of writing these myself, where I've latched on to two cool clues that share something in common and desperately scrounged for clues to fill out the rest of the tossup. While many of these tossups are answerable by the end, they probably ended up playing pretty top-heavy. So I guess that future editors should reel in some of the giddyness produced when you find a way to clue something really hard, the tournament will be that much better because of it.

Apart from that and some of the errors that I noticed, I actually liked this set.
From what I heard and saw, it seemed like, when salvageable, a few common-links would have been better had they better specified what they were asking for--for instance, the tossup on "ancient Greece" in art called ancient Greece a "polity," which is pretty much the opposite of right. More examples forthcoming.
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Re: Terrapin 2013 General Discussion

Post by Auroni »

Vernon Lee Bad Marriage, Jr. wrote:
Tokyo Sex Whale wrote:This set seemed to have an unusually high number of common link questions with only one or two middle or easy clues. Some examples I can think of off the top of my head: sleepwalking, shoulders of giants, candles, urns (with pretty difficult clues from "Ode on a Grecian Urn" at the end), theory of relativity. I've been guilty of writing these myself, where I've latched on to two cool clues that share something in common and desperately scrounged for clues to fill out the rest of the tossup. While many of these tossups are answerable by the end, they probably ended up playing pretty top-heavy. So I guess that future editors should reel in some of the giddyness produced when you find a way to clue something really hard, the tournament will be that much better because of it.

Apart from that and some of the errors that I noticed, I actually liked this set.
From what I heard and saw, it seemed like, when salvageable, a few common-links would have been better had they better specified what they were asking for--for instance, the tossup on "ancient Greece" in art called ancient Greece a "polity," which is pretty much the opposite of right. More examples forthcoming.
Oh yeah, that tossup was irritating as fuck for that reason; "this region" is better (but still not perfectly ideal).
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Re: Terrapin 2013 General Discussion

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots »

Vernon Lee Bad Marriage, Jr. wrote:
Tokyo Sex Whale wrote:This set seemed to have an unusually high number of common link questions with only one or two middle or easy clues. Some examples I can think of off the top of my head: sleepwalking, shoulders of giants, candles, urns (with pretty difficult clues from "Ode on a Grecian Urn" at the end), theory of relativity. I've been guilty of writing these myself, where I've latched on to two cool clues that share something in common and desperately scrounged for clues to fill out the rest of the tossup. While many of these tossups are answerable by the end, they probably ended up playing pretty top-heavy. So I guess that future editors should reel in some of the giddyness produced when you find a way to clue something really hard, the tournament will be that much better because of it.

Apart from that and some of the errors that I noticed, I actually liked this set.
From what I heard and saw, it seemed like, when salvageable, a few common-links would have been better had they better specified what they were asking for--for instance, the tossup on "ancient Greece" in art called ancient Greece a "polity," which is pretty much the opposite of right. More examples forthcoming.
OK, looking through, a couple more examples of poorly-specified common links:

--This tossup on the word "life" in the titles of films. Matt Lafer pointed out that half the clues aren't even right, since they're about "La Dolce Vita," which is pretty much never translated. The other problem here is that it's kind of pointless as a question. All the clues are either about "The Tree of Life" or "La Dolce Vita," either of which would make a difficulty-appropriate tossup answer. In this case, you're much better off just going with the simpler alternative than writing a really tenuous and confusing common link.

--This tossup on "Butterflies" is better than the other two examples, but still not great. For one thing, you refer to butterflies as "these objects," which is going to mislead basically everyone for no reason. For another, you have this line of clues: "A play whose title mentions one of these animals is about a civil servant named Rene Gallimard who falls in love with an opera singer who turns out to be a man in disguise." Since this is talking about M. Butterfly, that's not really true--he's not an actual butterfly or whatever, that's just a reference to Madame Butterfly. You should just say "these animals" throughout, and use clear clues about actual butterflies in fiction rather than expecting people to get the answer off of appearances in titles.
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Re: Terrapin 2013 General Discussion

Post by Euler's Constant »

Will this set be posted in the archives sometime soon, or are there other mirrors?
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