Can We Stop Doing This Tossup 0 Thing?

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Can We Stop Doing This Tossup 0 Thing?

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots »

Today, after a challenging work week, I woke up at 7 and drove to College Park to spend 8 hours staffing a quizbowl tournament. And it was worth it! It was fun to see people and teams I don't get to spend much time with anymore. But because this is an activity I really care about, and made a real effort to attend, I was pretty frustrated that I was asked to read a joke "Tossup 0" before every match. In their small way, those questions trivialized the effort that the writers, the players, and the staffers put into making the tournament happen. We have to discontinue this tradition, and I've elaborated on why below. Tw: this is emphatically an "asshole MattBo" post. I don't mean to extend my criticisms to the rest of the set, but I do mean to criticize this component pretty harshly.

1. "Tossup 0"s allow for questions on dumb topics that we would never allow in an actual tournament

Why should we continue a practice that only exists to permit terrible questions into a tournament? The only possible purpose of a "Tossup 0" is to let the writer indulge his worst inclinations without consequences in gameplay. It has the same effect on a player's impression of a set as it would if it did count, except that the writer gets to hide behind the shield that it's just a joke. It degrades the quality and professionalism of a fundamentally academic product.

Worse, it wastes creative effort that could be directed to creating some of the very best questions in a tournament. As we just discussed in an Andrew Hart thread, popular culture and weird niche topics are fruitful areas to explore for innovative quizbowl questions. When you replace trash with "Tossup 0," you're throwing away the chance to write on actual, interesting, knowledge-rewarding trash. Instead, we end up with tossups on weird anime stuff, jRPGs, and fringe cartoon shows. Invariably, these questions are poorly-constructed, because the writer thinks they don't actually matter. Again, it sends a terrible message about the kind of pride we take in our work. This is doubly awful, because:

2. "Tossup 0"s are the first impression a player gets of each packet

When players, moderators, and online readers see a Tossup 0 opening every packet in the set, that sticks in their memory much more than an ordinary bad tossup would. Ideally, you want to put your primo material on your prime real estate; it's a really bad idea to devote that real estate to the worst question in the packet. Fair or not, it sends the signal that you're not treating your work seriously. That your packet is a joke. And that's embarrassing for reason 3:

3. "Tossup 0" isn't even funny

When this trend started, writers used their joke "Tossup 0"s as, like, actual jokes. The idea of a joke is to create an unexpected juxtaposition, like a fake tossup where a real tossup should be, in order to elicit laughter. The joke becomes shockingly unfunny when you expect it every single round, when the tossups are just shitty trash, and when you're stealing the whole thing from previous tournaments anyway. You're that guy in the fourth row in high school who thought "HAHA! GAY PEOPLE!" was the funniest shit ever, over and over again. Don't be that guy.

Please take your tournaments seriously by not writing trite fake questions for them. Thank you.
Last edited by The King's Flight to the Scots on Sun Feb 14, 2016 12:00 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Can We Stop Doing This Tossup 0 Thing?

Post by Cheynem »

YOU DA REAL MVP.
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Re: Can We Stop Doing This Tossup 0 Thing?

Post by Bloodwych »

Yeah, you're better off just skipping it.
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Re: Can We Stop Doing This Tossup 0 Thing?

Post by Cody »

Listen to MattBo.
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Re: Can We Stop Doing This Tossup 0 Thing?

Post by theMoMA »

I agree with Matt. Also, if you and your co-editors/writers come up with some silly ideas for tossup zeroes, why not compile them into an IRC packet?
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Re: Can We Stop Doing This Tossup 0 Thing?

Post by Wynaut »

Okay, as the obvious target of this post (since no recent tournament, at least, in my memory, had Tossup 0s except MFT, and since I wrote some of the offending tossups -- Auroni and I were the only people who wrote Tossup 0s for MLK), I'll put in a few words.
Childeric III wrote:Yeah, you're better off just skipping it.
...which was a perfectly doable option as well. I forgot to emphasize to readers at other sites that they were optional, but I asked the teams at the Michigan site whether or not they wanted to hear the Tossup 0s. No one declined in my room; can't say the same for sure about the other rooms.

I'm a bit surprised that excessive "anime/JRPG/random cartoons/probably other Japan stuff" was specifically brought up, seeing as only 2/15 of the Tossup 0s in MLK fell under that umbrella (unless you're including MFT in that criticism, of course. In retrospect, one of those aforementioned two tossups was probably the worst idea I ever had for a tossup.) I was expecting people to notice the fact that music questions came up as much as movies and TV did combined, or that no sports tossups showed up at all. Those were products of me filling the missing half of Tossup 0s with unused trash tossups I wrote a long time ago and tidied up on the day before the tournament.

By no means did I intend these tossups as "joke" tossups (except one, which still could've been perfectly fine even outside the context of the joke, and probably wasn't even read at the Maryland site). But I definitely see why people want Tossup 0s gone.
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Re: Can We Stop Doing This Tossup 0 Thing?

Post by Cheynem »

I'll expand on my point:

As someone who writes a fair amount of vanity tossups, there's nothing wrong with writing whatever you want to write on. But to see it from another perspective, it would seem odd if I took random super-hard American history questions (or anything, that's just an example) I wrote and appended it to MUT. It takes up time and it might be off-putting for those who don't share those interests. On the other hand, if I said "hey, at lunch or after the tournament, I'm going to read a packet's worth of American history tossups I wrote," I don't think anyone would object.
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Re: Can We Stop Doing This Tossup 0 Thing?

Post by naan/steak-holding toll »

I mean, about half the time these things fell kind of flat and the other half of the time they were somewhat amusing to play on. If the tournament writers are spending time writing tossup zero that would otherwise be spent writing tossup one, then that's a problem. If these were lying around and the authors wanted to include them as low-key, optional amusement, then I don't see a gigantic problem with that if it's not an official ACF/NAQT set.

EDIT: That said, I don't think it's quite AS amusing/funny when it comes before every single round, i.e. DRAGOON's execution of "tossup zero" in Packet 1 probably had a lot more net amusement-per-tossup-zero than MLK/MFT.
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Re: Can We Stop Doing This Tossup 0 Thing?

Post by Cheynem »

I think it still strikes me as a professionalism thing to some extent. If there were optional knock knock jokes appended to every packet, should we read them as well?

(Note: I am not disparaging the writers of MLK, which I haven't seen. I also didn't play MFT. I'm speaking in general here, and also addressing things like in-jokes, etc.).
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Re: Can We Stop Doing This Tossup 0 Thing?

Post by Ike »

I don't think the issue here is that tossup 0's suck moreso than the fact that people suck at writing it. If people write tossup 0s so that they're more of an aperitif rather than an unappetizing piece of day old sauerkraut, then sure, we should have more tossup 0s. As an example of what I'm trying to say: the one* tossup 0 I let in my career was the tossup 0 on Mike Bentley at ACFNATIONALS, and that tossup was great for many reasons, one of which was that it shows what a true genius Andrew Wang can be.

I agree with MattBo and others that tossup 0s as executed by clowns may be off putting. That's a serious issue, but the bigger issue is that you shouldn't be letting clowns have that much control over your question set anyway. If someone is truly destroying your set by writing tossup 0s, they are probably destroying your set in more insidious ways (like writing a non-tossup 0 tossup that sucks too.)
When you replace trash with "Tossup 0," you're throwing away the chance to write on actual, interesting, knowledge-rewarding trash. Instead, we end up with tossups on weird anime stuff, jRPGs, and fringe cartoon shows.
Tou can write interesting, knowledge-rewarding trash on all three of these things. I'm not saying that you should be doing it for a reg difficulty tournament, but this bizarre Weiner-grouch position just seems to be muddling the true issue here.

*I did not sanction nor authorize the tossup 0 for DRAGOON that appeared.
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Re: Can We Stop Doing This Tossup 0 Thing?

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots »

Ike wrote:I don't think the issue here is that tossup 0's suck moreso than the fact that people suck at writing it. If people write tossup 0s so that they're more of an aperitif rather than an unappetizing piece of day old sauerkraut, then sure, we should have more tossup 0s. As an example of what I'm trying to say: the one* tossup 0 I let in my career was the tossup 0 on Mike Bentley at ACFNATIONALS, and that tossup was great for many reasons, one of which was that it shows what a true genius Andrew Wang can be.

I agree with MattBo and others that tossup 0s as executed by clowns may be off putting. That's a serious issue, but the bigger issue is that you shouldn't be letting clowns have that much control over your question set anyway. If someone is truly destroying your set by writing tossup 0s, they are probably destroying your set in more insidious ways (like writing a non-tossup 0 tossup that sucks too.)
When you replace trash with "Tossup 0," you're throwing away the chance to write on actual, interesting, knowledge-rewarding trash. Instead, we end up with tossups on weird anime stuff, jRPGs, and fringe cartoon shows.
Tou can write interesting, knowledge-rewarding trash on all three of these things. I'm not saying that you should be doing it for a reg difficulty tournament, but this bizarre Weiner-grouch position just seems to be muddling the true issue here.

*I did not sanction nor authorize the tossup 0 for DRAGOON that appeared.
It's fine to have a question on a jRPG. It's not as OK when you have four different Square Enix tossups, like we had at MFT. It's not OK for any niche to take over a subdistribution, even when they don't count for in-game points.

I really disagree with almost everything in this post. Like, I think you're saying that "tossup 0"s are a scapegoat and the real problem is bad writers. But at MFT, and QUARK, and MLK, the "tossup 0"s really were different and worse than the rest of the set. That suggests the problem is the accountability mechanism inherent in that tossup style. Since the questions don't affect the score, writers feel free to write them badly.

The fact that there have been some good and appropriate "tossup 0"s doesn't change any of that. And if you have a really good trash question, or a really funny question...put it under trash, in the real set! There's absolutely no reason that "Mike Bentley" The point is that we should hold every question and distribution to a real standard.

If you do have some funny question you want to include, but can't, why not write a vanity packet and read it at lunch or online? That seems like the much more logical solution here.
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Re: Can We Stop Doing This Tossup 0 Thing?

Post by Ike »

I mean, yeah the real problem is bad writers. Tournaments are "experiences," each question should be crafted to reflect that; if you're just ramming in a bunch of shitty questions as tossup 0s, your problem isn't tossup 0s, your problem is the fact you have shitty questions in your tournament!

I just went through MFT's tossup 0s just to see what you were talking about. They suck - like you shouldn't even be turning those questions into IRC packet material. What I'm saying is that there seems to be two separate issues - shitty questions, and the tossup 0 phenomenon.

For professional ACF and NAQT events, tossup 0s have no place. The point of these tournaments is to determine the best team in the country, get new teams into qb, etc. and I just don't think it really makes any sense to have a tossup 0 under any circumstance. But if you're writing an open tournament where everybody knows each other, or some kind of goofy tournament where the points matter, but the Mysterium-like rapture dimension you're about to enter equally matters as well, there are perfectly good reasons to have questions not worth points: you can use it to set the mood, send a message to players, or really, anything -- the sky's the limit. I disagree that tossup 0s are inherently a bad idea, especially if you know what you're doing and the audience you're writing for. The thing is though, you have to treat them like a special kind of question - not just some place where you shove the most vanity of tossups. I have a feeling that the tossup 0s for MFT, and possibly MLK, were written by a sleepwalking Mr. Magoo; so by all means call them out for it.
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Re: Can We Stop Doing This Tossup 0 Thing?

Post by naan/steak-holding toll »

The King's Flight to the Scots wrote:And if you have a really good trash question, or a really funny question...put it under trash, in the real set!
Or don't because you had other ideas for academic content and don't want to use any of your 20/20 on trash? Honestly, there's enough debate about what trash is "important" and what isn't, with a lot of it essentially boiling down to peoples' random personal interests and cultural backgrounds (a big grumble about NAQT is how much it focuses on "Americana") aside from a few universally agreed-upon topics which basically everyone has heard of. This never seems to be nearly as much of an issue in the rest of the distribution.

While in an ideal world we'd be able to find some algorithm to actually determine what's important, instead of heavily skewing the distribution in some way that somebody's going to not like, in the interim it seems like a perfectly logical decision to ignore this debate by settling on the one source of common ground that quizbowl players have: it's an _academic_ competition. ACF Nationals does this, and I think it's a better set for it. Tossup zero also solves this issue by making the trash tossup irrelevant, while still adding something of a light-hearted "break" from straight academic content.
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Re: Can We Stop Doing This Tossup 0 Thing?

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots »

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:
The King's Flight to the Scots wrote:And if you have a really good trash question, or a really funny question...put it under trash, in the real set!
Honestly, there's enough debate about what trash is "important" and what isn't, with a lot of it essentially boiling down to peoples' random personal interests and cultural backgrounds (a big grumble about NAQT is how much it focuses on "Americana")
Pretty sure that's just your complaint.
While in an ideal world we'd be able to find some algorithm to actually determine what's important, instead of heavily skewing the distribution in some way that somebody's going to not like, in the interim it seems like a perfectly logical decision to ignore this debate by settling on the one source of common ground that quizbowl players have: it's an _academic_ competition.
The fact that half of all tournaments have trash suggests that we don't have that source of common ground at all. Your personal experiences are, again, not universal.

I think most tournaments should have trash and we should hold it to the same standards as every other category. The best way to hold questions to standards is to make them worth points. My view is that perceptions of "complaints about trash" are hella skewed by the way those questions affect the best teams, anyway. Contenders tend to suck at trash and complain about it, while the other 90% of teams don't see the difference.
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Re: Can We Stop Doing This Tossup 0 Thing?

Post by Cheynem »

I don't really care if side events have tossup zeros, or I guess really summer opens or whatnot either.

But if we're talking about tournaments that are taking place during the regular circuit for regular collegiate teams, I think it's not asking too much to have rules of play that actually follow quizbowl. I disagree with what Ike and Will are saying here. Under Ike's logic, editors could do all sorts of things to set the mood: they could read knock knock jokes before each packet, they could play music, etc. We don't do those things on a formal level because they're not part of regular academic quizbowl and neither really is unscored vanity or trash questions. If you have good ideas for trash questions but no trash distro in your tournament, put them in a separate trash packet, and read it after the tournament or on the IRC or in a trash tournament. I don't think is that absurd--would we ask college basketball teams to heave up full court shots for the hell of it right before the tip to set the mood or provide a light hearted break?
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Re: Can We Stop Doing This Tossup 0 Thing?

Post by naan/steak-holding toll »

The King's Flight to the Scots wrote:Pretty sure that's just your complaint.
No, it isn't. I'm terrible at trash no matter where it comes from, but there are definitely more people than me who find NAQT's cultural focus skewed.
The King's Flight to the Scots wrote:The fact that half of all tournaments have trash suggests that we don't have that source of common ground at all.
If you compared the number of people who played quizbowl because they're generally interested in learning about and answering questions on academic content, as opposed to the number of people who are there only to play a pretty small number of pop culture questions, then I'd like to think that indeed the general principle of "academic competition" is the common ground among quizbowlers unless I'm dramatically understating the amount of trash capture out there. Yes, perhaps a lot of folks enjoy these questions disproportionately, but I think that even among these folks, they'll generally recognize that the point of quizbowl is to be an "academic competition." People come for the academic competition and maybe enjoy a few bits of pop culture.
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Re: Can We Stop Doing This Tossup 0 Thing?

Post by vinteuil »

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:
The King's Flight to the Scots wrote:Pretty sure that's just your complaint.
No, it isn't. I'm terrible at trash no matter where it comes from, but there are definitely more people than me who find NAQT's cultural focus skewed.
I've complained about this many times, but I still agree with Matt that there is such a thing as a good way to write trash questions, and that most tournaments should have at least some marginal or non-academic content. (Especially considering how many academic fields study or even focus on "non-academic" content!)
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Re: Can We Stop Doing This Tossup 0 Thing?

Post by The Ununtiable Twine »

So tossup 0 also has some unwanted side effects. Trash, when written well, is one of the ways we can make the game more accessible and fun to play for newer participants in the game. From empirical observations, people who are new to the game often buzz most confidently on things they're either extremely familiar with or...you guessed it...trash. Players get a thrill from buzzing on something they're so intimately familiar with. Only, with tossup 0, the moderator has to inform the player that his or her buzz doesn't actually count for points. In fact, for those not familiar with the idea of a "tossup 0" (and why the hell should they be familiar with it, ask yourselves!), moderators have to stop the match occasionally to explain what "tossup 0" is meant to do. Not only do they have to stop the match to explain, which makes the tournament run ever-so-slightly later than it normally would, they also waste time reading questions which are irrelevant to the results of the match. Not to mention, if you're that 5-10 ppg player who is the team's trash expert, I guess it sucks to be you! Now on to the questions that are actually worth points because, you know, the writers have determined that your knowledge is worth nothing. In addition, they've determined a way of demonstrating this to you. How profound! In all seriousness, tossup 0 is a great way of turning some people off to competitive quizbowl. Either put more well-chosen answers in the set (preferably) or don't.
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Re: Can We Stop Doing This Tossup 0 Thing?

Post by Auks Ran Ova »

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:
The King's Flight to the Scots wrote:Pretty sure that's just your complaint.
No, it isn't. I'm terrible at trash no matter where it comes from, but there are definitely more people than me who find NAQT's cultural focus skewed.
Am I reading this wrong? Is your concern that NAQT's pop culture questions are too dominated by...American pop culture? As opposed to...?
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Re: Can We Stop Doing This Tossup 0 Thing?

Post by naan/steak-holding toll »

I'd rather not go into this much, but by "Americana" (as opposed to "American pop culture in general") I mean something similar to what Austin Brownlow is referring to in this thread: http://www.hsquizbowl.org/forums/viewto ... =Americana

Obviously, any tournament made in the United States should focus on American pop culture in its trash distribution.
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Re: Can We Stop Doing This Tossup 0 Thing?

Post by Rococo A Go Go »

I think Tossup 0 reinforces the un-serious jokey attitude towards trash that exists in every tournament except perhaps NAQT tournaments. That of course stems in part from attitudes like Will's, which seek to rigidly enforce a dichotomy between "real academic content" and "pop culture," but it certainly doesn't help that trash questions are basically a huge in-joke that we're all in on. It's an actual pain to play some of the trash questions written based on the personal whims of question writers, but most of us brush that off because it's part of quizbowl culture. Whether or not this makes the game more inviting to newcomers is not something I can say with any certainty, but the general tendency towards in-jokes that seem ridiculous to outsiders has long been cited as a barrier to entry for this game.
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Re: Can We Stop Doing This Tossup 0 Thing?

Post by Mike Bentley »

Ike wrote:I don't think the issue here is that tossup 0's suck moreso than the fact that people suck at writing it. If people write tossup 0s so that they're more of an aperitif rather than an unappetizing piece of day old sauerkraut, then sure, we should have more tossup 0s. As an example of what I'm trying to say: the one* tossup 0 I let in my career was the tossup 0 on Mike Bentley at ACFNATIONALS, and that tossup was great for many reasons, one of which was that it shows what a true genius Andrew Wang can be.
Eh this tossup should have had more on War of the Adepts and less on my Crazy Taxi FAQs.
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Re: Can We Stop Doing This Tossup 0 Thing?

Post by Auks Ran Ova »

Mike Bentley wrote:
Ike wrote:I don't think the issue here is that tossup 0's suck moreso than the fact that people suck at writing it. If people write tossup 0s so that they're more of an aperitif rather than an unappetizing piece of day old sauerkraut, then sure, we should have more tossup 0s. As an example of what I'm trying to say: the one* tossup 0 I let in my career was the tossup 0 on Mike Bentley at ACFNATIONALS, and that tossup was great for many reasons, one of which was that it shows what a true genius Andrew Wang can be.
Eh this tossup should have had more on War of the Adepts and less on my Crazy Taxi FAQs.
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Re: Can We Stop Doing This Tossup 0 Thing?

Post by touchpack »

I'd like to point out that of two of the examples in this thread of a better execution of tossup 0 (at ACFNATIONALS and DRAGOON), neither of them were explicitly written as tossup 0s--in both cases the writer put in work to make sure he wrote a good question, but the editors decided that the topic was a little too fringe for the main set, but was amusing enough that teams could derive some enjoyment out of them as tossup 0.
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Re: Can We Stop Doing This Tossup 0 Thing?

Post by Oh No You Didn't »

touchpack wrote:in both cases the writer put in work to make sure he wrote a good question
i think you're remembering the ACFNATIONALS writing process very differently than I am
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Re: Can We Stop Doing This Tossup 0 Thing?

Post by touchpack »

Black Miao wrote:
touchpack wrote:in both cases the writer put in work to make sure he wrote a good question
i think you're remembering the ACFNATIONALS writing process very differently than I am
Can you show me any evidence you've ever put more effort into question writing?
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Re: Can We Stop Doing This Tossup 0 Thing?

Post by The Ununtiable Twine »

touchpack wrote:
Black Miao wrote:
touchpack wrote:in both cases the writer put in work to make sure he wrote a good question
i think you're remembering the ACFNATIONALS writing process very differently than I am
Can you show me any evidence you've ever put more effort into question writing?
i've never seen a more flawless question than the one on the fat chocobo
Jake Sundberg
Louisiana '04-'10, '14-'16, '18-'xx
Alabama '10-14
President, University of Louisiana at Lafayette Club for Academic Competition

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