Oxford Open 2015: General Discussion

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Ewan MacAulay
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Oxford Open 2015: General Discussion

Post by Ewan MacAulay »

First off, thanks for playing Oxford Open! I'm sure the other editors will have more substantive comments and threads of their own, but drop us a line here if you have any feelings on the set as a whole.

I've got a load of people to thank for this:
First to Kyle Haddad-Fonda, who originated the idea of Oxford Open and showed that a UK-written set could actually exist, and once again head-edited the history.
Also to Sean Smiley, for helping us follow in the Beatles' footsteps and expand to a North American audience, as well as writing and editing huge quantities of history, literature and miscellaneous questions.
To Joey Goldman, for taking on the biggest writing commitment of all, and editing most of the literature, painting and philosophy.
To George Corfield, for writing all of the biology and some classical music, as well as doing most of the packetisation.
And to Charlie Clegg, Daoud Jackson, Oli Clarke and Peter Berry, who all contributed lots of good questions to the editors' packets and were a pleasure to work with.

Ta,

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Re: General Discussion

Post by Ndg »

Here are my thoughts on this set based on Saturday's tournament at CMU. These are things I presume you would have noticed once you woke up from your post-all-nighter slumber and looked back over the set, but here we go:

[*] This set was rife with typos, grammar errors, missing words, awkward language, etc.. Not just in an aesthetic way, but in ways that often hindered understanding what the question was trying to say. There were times when I basically had to improvise parts of clues because there were important words (like, say, verbs) missing. It was clear to me that, contrary to what the announcement of this set said, this set was not play-tested.
[*] Despite (again) what the original announcement said, this set was not "tailored to a North American audience" in any meaningful way. I mean, maybe the joke's on me because the only specific promise you made was that there were no cricket questions (which was true), and I think everyone expected the set to have a bit of a British flavor, but if you expected questions on London's underground rivers, Church of England dioceses, and the (??!) Victoria and Albert Museum to play well in the US, you are very, very mistaken.
[*] Short tossups: There were many five-line tossups, and some that were only four lines long. This is not acceptable in a regular collegiate difficulty tournament.
[*] Repeat questions: the Irish potato famine tossup occurred twice, and there were two different tossups on the War of 1812.
[*] Questions that were just flat-out too easy. I'm generally much more lenient about inconsistencies in question difficulty than a lot of other players, but a Raisin in the Sun/Hansberry/Langston Hughes bonus is a high school bonus. This question in particular was obviously written in about three minutes, if that.
[*] No tiebreakers. To all of you aspiring future set editors out there: Don't forget to include tiebreaker questions! (I will take some of the blame for the delay at our tournament for failing to notice this until a tie actually happened.)
[*] The "OldOUQSonians" packet was particularly poor. This was the packet we used for round 1, on which the entire field had 2 ppb less than any other round. In particular, Maryland got 9 ppb across 10 bonuses and lost to a solo Waterloo team. I know that teams have bad rounds sometimes, and Aayush is certainly a good player, but in this case I don't think the questions provided a fair playing field.

I will emphasize that everyone had fun, for the most part. Other than the typos, the majority of the questions were fine, and I appreciated the effort you made to write creative, outside-the-box questions at times (besides the British content, of course).
Last edited by Ndg on Sat Jan 24, 2015 2:10 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: General Discussion

Post by Ndg »

In the "Editors4" packet, bonus 10: Pictures at an Exhibition was originally written by Mussorgsky for piano, and Ravel orchestrated it. You have it the other way around.
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Re: General Discussion

Post by dxdtdemon »

EDIT: I had been distracted from making this post, which was started before Andrew's post came through, and this mainly reiterates some of his points. Sorry for the repetitiveness.
In the future, having mirror sites occur two weeks before the main tournament is probably not the best idea. It seemed like the questions that Ewan, George, and probably Kyle were responsible for had already had the finishing touches put on them and sounded like quality tossups and bonuses you would hear at a normal quizbowl tournament, but the rest seemed to have a significant percentage of typos and the occasional unfinished bonus part.
As for the actual question content, it seemed as if there was a lot less post-1914 British literature and poetry than my team was anticipating was going to be in the set. I'm not sure if there was a significant amount that got removed for the American version of the tournament. Outside of a clue on Andrew Motion and a bonus part on Ben Okri, I don't recall much else. Also, a few questions that referenced assassinations, and nothing on Spencer Percival? Was having two tossups on the War of 1812 because there was one in the original set and the Americanizers added one, or is the repeat in the original set?
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Re: General Discussion

Post by Gonzagapuma1 »

I would like to second Andrew's excellent and thoughtful comments and emphasize that this set was nowhere near what it said it would be for the North American audience. I can accept and anticipated a set with some difficulty cliffs and wild bonus variability, however the amount of British stuff was so high, including an almost-parody tossup IN THE FINALS on a BBC TV show.
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Re: General Discussion

Post by Ndg »

Gonzagapuma1 wrote: an almost-parody tossup IN THE FINALS on a BBC TV show.
To be fair, that packet (nor any packet) was designated as a "finals" packet (I suppose those would have been the nonexistent 13th and 14th packets). I chose, mostly arbitrarily, the order in which the packets were played. The packet used in round 12 was simply the one I received the latest.

(Not that this changes the fact that Peep Show is precisely the sort of "UK-centric trash" that was supposed to not be in this set.)
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Re: General Discussion

Post by Frauny Von Smiley »

Since Andrew mentioned outside-the-box questions, I was wondering if there were any particular questions that stood out as being good, creative ideas.
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Re: General Discussion

Post by Ndg »

Frauny Von Smiley wrote:Since Andrew mentioned outside-the-box questions, I was wondering if there were any particular questions that stood out as being good, creative ideas.
Some of the more interesting questions from quickly going back through some of the packets: Salmon (as I mentioned in the other thread), Koalas/Otters/Lorises, Roma, La Violencia, assassination attempts of popes, sleepwalking, god (philosophy), Seoul Olympics 100m, baby teeth.

Not all of these were executed as well as they could have been, and I'm sure opinions will differ on whether some of these were even good ideas to begin with, but I appreciated the creativity.
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Re: General Discussion

Post by dxdtdemon »

So outside of the tossup on Manny Ramirez, which I assume replaced a cricket tossup, were any other tossups or bonuses replaced?
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Re: General Discussion

Post by Frauny Von Smiley »

cwRsync wrote:So outside of the tossup on Manny Ramirez, which I assume replaced a cricket tossup, were any other tossups or bonuses replaced?
Yes, and all of the non-replacement questions that I wrote I obviously wrote with a North American audience in mind.
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Re: General Discussion

Post by dxdtdemon »

Did Aayush or anyone else who happened to be at both today's and last week's tournaments think that the editing improved over the week?
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Re: General Discussion

Post by cruzeiro »

cwRsync wrote:Did Aayush or anyone else who happened to be at both today's and last week's tournaments think that the editing improved over the week?
Only Aayush or Jay can answer this as the lone people to be at both sites, but my impression from yesterday (only) is similar to many of the comments raised from people who played at the CMU site.
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Re: General Discussion

Post by cruzeiro »

Some question-related quibbles (not clear to me if it should go here or in the other thread; mods please move if necessary):
-the Virgin Islands (Isles) are not split between three countries, they're only British and American; even if you consider the so-called "Spanish Virgin Islands" to be part of the larger island group, they're still controlled by the US as part of Puerto Rico.
-The 1955 Le Mans disaster didn't have 120 fatalities; Wiki and the BBC show 120 as the number injured. The actual death toll appears to be in the 70s or 80s (varies between websites).
-The first clue of the magma question (mafic/felsic characterization) doesn't seem to be uniquely identifying; in my room the other team buzzed on that clue with igneous rock and a cursory search seems to show that as holding for igneous rock.
-The Seoul Olympics/1988 100 metres question begins with "year and event required" but then (per my room's moderator) states that Seoul Olympics 100 metres is an acceptable alternate answer (lacking the year).
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Re: General Discussion

Post by Lighthouse Expert Elinor DeWire »

Ndg wrote: [*] Despite (again) what the original announcement said, this set was not "tailored to a North American audience" in any meaningful way. I mean, maybe the joke's on me because the only specific promise you made was that there were no cricket questions (which was true), and I think everyone expected the set to have a bit of a British flavor, but if you expected questions on London's underground rivers, Church of England dioceses, and the (??!) Victoria and Albert Museum to play well in the US, you are very, very mistaken.
When I converted a NAQT set into Canadian, I realized a lot of the work was actually making all the American flavour accessible to Canadians at the stated difficulty level. A good rule of thumb was to rewrite the hard part as easier than the intended easy part, unless the original easy part was really easy.
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Re: General Discussion

Post by Deepika Goes From Ranbir To Ranveer »

cwRsync wrote:Did Aayush or anyone else who happened to be at both today's and last week's tournaments think that the editing improved over the week?
Not significantly, no. But then I don't know how much of the bad editing (grammar-wise) I was already shielded from by moderator improvisation at the CMU site. The "War of 1812" double-Tossup stayed in, as did the clue in the "Triangles" TU that mentioned "triangles" in the second line, which were probably my two biggest complaints after playing the tournament in Pittsburgh.

The grammar and typos might have improved, but I honestly couldn't tell you unless I sat down to diff the two versions of the tournaments, which I do not care to do.
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Re: General Discussion

Post by bmcke »

I was generally happy with everything I heard. The questions were obviously of a lower quality than Regionals, but certainly of a high enough quality that it was worth the travel / money, and it was interesting and meaningful to sit down and play them all. The British stuff all played worse than the "normal stuff," but I still liked it because those subjects were fresh and the tossups all got converted at the end. I wish only to nitpick the Francois Ozon bonus where the easy part was Francois Ozon.
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Re: General Discussion

Post by dxdtdemon »

odin_envy_me wrote:
cwRsync wrote:Did Aayush or anyone else who happened to be at both today's and last week's tournaments think that the editing improved over the week?
Not significantly, no. But then I don't know how much of the bad editing (grammar-wise) I was already shielded from by moderator improvisation at the CMU site. The "War of 1812" double-Tossup stayed in, as did the clue in the "Triangles" TU that mentioned "triangles" in the second line, which were probably my two biggest complaints after playing the tournament in Pittsburgh.

The grammar and typos might have improved, but I honestly couldn't tell you unless I sat down to diff the two versions of the tournaments, which I do not care to do.
Obviously, that would've been overkill. I just wanted a general impression.
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Re: General Discussion

Post by Edmund »

Ndg wrote:The "OldOUQSonians" packet was particularly poor... the entire field had 2 ppb less than any other round.
I will wait for the set editors to comment on the various issues to do with "de-Briticisation", or lack thereof, but as the lead author of the said packet, I wonder if you could expand on this comment?

Did you feel there were substantive issues with the way the packet or specific questions were written, such that they disrupted a level playing field? Or was the problem simply that it came out more difficult than the rest of the set? There was certainly a proportion of British stuff in there that would not have not played well in the US / Canada if it were not edited for the NA edition of the tournament.
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Re: General Discussion

Post by Ndg »

Edmund wrote:
Ndg wrote:The "OldOUQSonians" packet was particularly poor... the entire field had 2 ppb less than any other round.
I will wait for the set editors to comment on the various issues to do with "de-Briticisation", or lack thereof, but as the lead author of the said packet, I wonder if you could expand on this comment?

Did you feel there were substantive issues with the way the packet or specific questions were written, such that they disrupted a level playing field? Or was the problem simply that it came out more difficult than the rest of the set? There was certainly a proportion of British stuff in there that would not have not played well in the US / Canada if it were not edited for the NA edition of the tournament.
There was definitely a lot of hard British content, so I suppose this post is also directed at whomever was responsible for removing those questions.

These are the tossups that were converted in fewer than four out of five rooms at the CMU site:
  • Solving differential equations (1/5): a strange answerline that just seemed to leave everyone confused.
  • Legal equality for Jews (3/5): an answerline that's probably too specific, and one for which it's hard to write a good giveaway.
  • Bennett (surname) (0/5): British content. No one over here knows who these authors are.
  • Parliament Act (1/5): British content. Too obscure for over here (in the Quinterest database, its sole mention is in a VCU Open tossup).
  • Victoria and Albert Museum (3/5): British content.
And here are the bonuses that were problematic from what I could tell. As an aside, out of 81 bonuses heard across five rooms, only four were thirtied. That's not much.
  • Shakespeare: just one team got more than 10 points, probably in part because all parts 2 and 3 give you are some rather vague quotes.
  • "Women in the Anglican communion": British content. All teams scored zero points on this.
  • AIDS in literature: no teams scored more than 10 points. I don't think either Thom Gunn or Tales of the City are easy enough to be middle parts.
  • "powerful women in 19th-century Europe": one team scored more than 10 points. I suspect this was a shade too hard, but I'd like to hear the opinion of a better history player than me.
  • London theatres: British content. The field combined for 10 points on this.
  • Footballers: No one got more than 10 points.
  • Australian authors: No one got more than 10 points. An Australian authors bonus that leaves out both Patrick White and Peter Carey is almost certain to be too hard. I wouldn't be surprised if neither Richard Flanagan nor DBC Pierre have never come up at any level of quiz bowl.
  • (And the one team who heard the British by-elections bonus earned no points.)
The bonus conversion on the non-British content (removing anglican/theatres/footballers/by-elections) was 12.57. So it looks like part of the issue was that there were more British bonuses than usual, and that they seemed difficult even compared to the British content in the rest of the tournament. But 12.57 is still over a point less than the average bonus conversion in the other 11 rounds, and I think the other issues I listed had something to do with it.

So as far as my "level playing field" comment, I was referring to the fact that matches could potentially swing either way depending on who got a bigger share of these inappropriately difficult bonuses. In the Maryland-Waterloo match, Maryland heard five of these eight bonuses, with Waterloo getting the other three, in addition to 30 points from the Millet/van Gogh/Wyeth bonus which is too easy for regular difficulty.

Hopefully I'm not coming off as rude or pedantic for being so thorough, and I am well aware that you (Edmund) are not to blame for the set not being "Americanized" as advertised. But I figured that I would provide the data so that and others can judge for themselves whether my earlier claim was reasonable.
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Re: General Discussion

Post by dxdtdemon »

I actually thought that the footballers bonus was fine. A typical field of people wanting to play British questions in America would want to hear that bonus. Jordan Palmer would've 30d it, and the moderator in our room seemed to think we were awful for only getting 10 on the bonus, but our team's soccer knowledge isn't that great. At least I think we are talking about the bonus with Alessandro Del Piero and Nicholas Anelka, and not some other soccer bonus.
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Re: General Discussion

Post by Ndg »

cwRsync wrote:I actually thought that the footballers bonus was fine. A typical field of people wanting to play British questions in America would want to hear that bonus. Jordan Palmer would've 30d it, and the moderator in our room seemed to think we were awful for only getting 10 on the bonus, but our team's soccer knowledge isn't that great. At least I think we are talking about the bonus with Alessandro Del Piero and Nicholas Anelka, and not some other soccer bonus.
The bonus in question was Daniel Sturridge/ Luis Suarez/ Gary Cahill.
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Re: General Discussion

Post by Edmund »

Thanks for going through the packet in more detail; it's all interesting to know. The two tossups you cited were ones I was iffy about in the first place and it's good to know that these didn't work well, in their final forms.

I would say that in an average packet Briticisation, starting from 20/20 written for an American tournament, I would replace about 5/5 (a quarter-packet) in order to recover a truly balanced playing field. So I agree that a lot of this should have been lost if the stated aim of having a "North American" version of this tournament was to be achieved. On the specifics, I think commonwealth authors like Australians are I think generally better known in the UK than in the US, and we probably have a longer-standing habit of cluing Shakespeare in different ways. In hindsight I think the latter bonus set worked better on paper, when you can study the quotations, than it did when read aloud.

edit: Worth adding that the medium part of the Australian authors question basically boiled down to "name the person who won the Booker Prize in 2014" which is totally canonical in the UK, because it's the most important English language literature prize from our standpoint.
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Re: General Discussion

Post by jonathanelliott »

I don't know if this should go in this thread or a separate topic, but I would be interested to hear any specific criticism (or praise) of the Forge Masters packet, which I helped write. I was responsible for about half the questions, so any bad ones could well be mine. I have no idea how much it was Americanised (yes, I'm going to spell it with an 's'!), but I don't think there was as much British stuff as in the OUQSonians packet.
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Re: General Discussion

Post by Jason Cheng »

Ndg wrote:
  • I wouldn't be surprised if neither Richard Flanagan nor DBC Pierre have never come up at any level
I'm not trying to defend the huge variability of difficulty in the bonuses (in fact, I was pretty annoyed with it during the online mirror), but I just wanted to note that Flanagan won the 2014 Booker for The Narrow Road to the Deep North and is pretty fair game for quiz bowl in my opinion--Hilary Mantel, whom you've definitely seen come up quite a bit, is askable even to high school nationals level for about the same reason.

I'll also note that I've seen Richard Flanagan come up twice this year before this, although I'm not sure how much more I can say about that since those questions might be live(?). In any case, my teammate Auroni mentioned that I should probably know things about Flanagan some time earlier, and I'm inclined to agree after answering stuff about him a third time at a tournament this year.
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