Distance Proofreading

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Dan Greenstein
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Distance Proofreading

Post by Dan Greenstein » Sun Mar 23, 2008 10:08 pm

I am putting forth this idea because of the last two tournaments I have been to.

The first tournament, Penn Bowl in January, featured all rounds being read off of laptops. I had a chance to read one of the rounds during the day. My opinion of running a tournament with all laptops instead of paper packets is much less Luddite than it was before I had read that round. It is much easier to scroll up and down a Word document than it is to flip pages of paper between tossups and bonuses. My only concerns are laptop security and structural integrity, as I am quite risk averse.

The second tournament, the first day of the Weekend of Quizbowl at George Mason University, put forth another problem that is frequent in tournaments: poor copy editing. There were many, many examples of typos, bad grammar, and even sentences and whole bonuses that were cut and pasted in a spectacularly bad fashion that were not caught before the set was printed. Even more astounding was the fact that the packets I read were used in a tournament a few weeks previous and these errors were not flushed out!

Copy editing of tournament packet sets is one of those tasks that is considered to be low priority, but moderators will notice when the task has not been done and think less of the tournament for it. There is usually just not time for copy editing, seeing as many, many tournament editors are working on the packets up until a few hours before the start of the tournament. Copy editing gets pushed aside in favor of just getting the packets printed, buildings opened, breakfast obtained, etc. on the morning of the tournament.

However, with the more frequent use of laptops to read questions during rounds, there are tournaments where packets do not need to be printed prior to the start of the tournament. This means the packets can be worked on up until Round 1, and even during the tournament. Also, most tournament locations now have access to a campus wireless network, meaning they have electronic access to the outside world. In addition to being able to consult Internet sources during a tournament in order to resolve challenges, this allows the packets themselves to be sent back and forth through the ether on the day of the tournament.

My proposal is close-to-real-time proofreading. This would involve a copy editor who is available all day in front of a computer, anywhere.

1. The off-site copy editor (CE) would coordinate with the on-site tournament director (TD) means of instant communication, such as gchat or AIM, as well as phone, as well as a means of passing question packets back and forth electronically, such as email or ftp.

2. About half an hour before each round, the TD would send the unpolished packet to the CE via the previously agreed to channels. Alternatively, the TD could send all of the packets of the tournament at once and the CE could send each packet as it is polished.

3. The CE would proofread the packet for grammar, spelling, and repeats. The CE would also inform the TD of other problem areas, such as content errors that may have escaped the editing process or alternative answers that would be helpful to add to the ANSWER line of a question.

4. The CE would send the polished packet back to the TD to be read off of the laptops at the tournament.

5. The TD would make the polished packet available to the moderators at the start of the round. Alternatively, the TD could then print out each packet for all moderators or all moderators not using laptops, but this would require a longer lead time for the CE.

I would like to experiment with this idea at a future tournament that is conducted with some or all moderating done with laptops. However, first, lets hear some feedback.

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ecks
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Re: Distance Proofreading

Post by ecks » Mon Mar 24, 2008 1:28 am

First, a little note about my own experience: I've TD'd three tournaments, two collegiate and one high school, all of which used laptops instead of paper packets.
Dan Greenstein wrote:My only concerns are laptop security and structural integrity, as I am quite risk averse.
I'm not really sure what you mean by "structural integrity", but the security issues with laptops can be very easily mimized. First of all, the risks are really quite low - quizbowlers are, by and large, a pretty scrupulous bunch and there aren't very many teams that will deliberately go onto moderator laptops and look at future packets. Secondly, you can easily put each round in an individual .zip file and give each .zip a unique password. If you want to be really security-minded about it, you can have the moderators walk to tournament central after each round and get the passwords from the TD, but you could also just print out a sheet of the round-by-round passwords to hand out to the moderators.

As for the CE idea... it sounds cool, given enough manpower. If the TD isn't running around doing other things, and you have the extra manpower to have a CE, it would work okay... maybe a bit complicated, but not too bad. My feeling, however, is that many if not most tournaments don't really have that much manpower to throw around. That feeling isn't really backed up by any sort of objective data, so it might not be an accurate reflection of reality, but yeah.
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Re: Distance Proofreading

Post by NoahMinkCHS » Mon Mar 24, 2008 2:31 am

If I were the TD, I would likely be losing my mind worrying that the network would go down, either in my building or at the copy editor's end. Having real-time editing would cut it a little too close for me. Still, I'd be interested to see how this might turn out.
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AKKOLADE
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Re: Distance Proofreading

Post by AKKOLADE » Mon Mar 24, 2008 8:34 am

I would rather have a rabid wombat shoved in my pants than deal with the last minute distribution of rounds while TD'ing.
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Re: Distance Proofreading

Post by Susan » Mon Mar 24, 2008 8:58 am

This seems like a crazy, potentially tournament-derailing amount of trouble to go to for a minimal problem. By and large, competent moderators don't have problems with poorly copy-edited rounds.
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fleurdelivre
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Re: Distance Proofreading

Post by fleurdelivre » Mon Mar 24, 2008 8:25 pm

seriously, good copy-editing doesn't need to be such a high-stakes endeavor. an outside proofreader is a good idea, but for this to be feasible you really need to have finished content-editing by a reasonable hour the night before, with proofing left for the wee hours. If you don't have your rounds organized, passworded and distributed by the time the teams arrive, you're just asking to go down in the annals of logistical nightmares.

that said, I copy-edit, and will do so for anyone who doesn't mind a grammatical nitpick rearranging their phrases at 2am on a saturday.
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Re: Distance Proofreading

Post by PaladinQB » Mon Mar 24, 2008 9:04 pm

At the risk of repeating what's already been said in this thread, let me make this point: I honestly think that this is a solution in search of a problem, because I disagree with the assumption implicit in:
Dan Greenstein wrote:Copy editing of tournament packet sets is one of those tasks that is considered to be low priority, but moderators will notice when the task has not been done and think less of the tournament for it.
that TD's care what the moderators think about the tournament. It seems to me that a tournament set will (and should) be judged by what the players think of it. Given a decent moderating staff, non-ridiculous copy-editing mistakes should be invisible to the teams. If the players don't notice, who cares?
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Re: Distance Proofreading

Post by Byko » Tue Mar 25, 2008 9:49 am

PaladinQB wrote:At the risk of repeating what's already been said in this thread, let me make this point: I honestly think that this is a solution in search of a problem, because I disagree with the assumption implicit in:
Dan Greenstein wrote:Copy editing of tournament packet sets is one of those tasks that is considered to be low priority, but moderators will notice when the task has not been done and think less of the tournament for it.
that TD's care what the moderators think about the tournament. It seems to me that a tournament set will (and should) be judged by what the players think of it. Given a decent moderating staff, non-ridiculous copy-editing mistakes should be invisible to the teams. If the players don't notice, who cares?
Define "non-ridiculous copy-editing mistakes." I'm frankly kind of tired of reading at tournaments where there are multiple sentences that simply aren't readable, usually because they aren't even sentences to begin with. Reading a question effectively is about more than just saying one word after another as quickly as possible with no inflection, and egregious copy editing problems make it a lot more difficult to read effectively.

The real problems are the following:
a. Questions don't get completed until the very last second.
b. There aren't enough people who see this as a problem.

Until both a and b are resolved, unfortunately, nothing will change. Those haven't changed for years, and there's nothing I've seen to indicate that those are going to change now. C'est la vie.
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Re: Distance Proofreading

Post by vandyhawk » Tue Mar 25, 2008 12:43 pm

With a caveat I'll get to, I like the idea of someone doing copy-editing only (much easier if said person hasn't seen the questions before and isn't tempted to breeze through them), but certainly the night before at the latest. While it's true that experienced readers can usually gloss over simple mistakes, many tournaments don't have the luxury of great readers, and it can get tiring after a while even for those good readers. I have to say, though, that I don't really understand how some sets/editors are so prone to copy-editing mistakes in the first part. As my former teammate Katy (fleurdelivre) can attest, I'm quite anal in my editing, and questions coming from me will have very few typos and such. It doesn't seem to really cost me any more time, as it's just something I look for while editing content. I guess a lot of others just don't have the same mentality, and it's not something that can be easily instilled imo, so given that, I think some editors would certainly benefit from an additional copy editor (or just more time to look at it themselves, but that's another discussion...)

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Matt Weiner
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Re: Distance Proofreading

Post by Matt Weiner » Wed Mar 26, 2008 6:18 pm

Honestly, even typos are not that big of a deal. You can almost always (as either a moderator or player) figure out the word from context. What annoys me more as an editor is when people just pile phrases one on top of the other without regard to grammar, and write whole sentences without pronouns whose relationship to the tossup answer is unclear. That really does confuse and mislead players.
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