I'm glad the EFT discussion has gotten underway. Like Eric said, thanks to everyone who helped playtest the questions, and thanks to Jonathan Magin for providing some much-needed writing help at literally the 11th hour. I'm glad that people seem to have enjoyed this latest edition of EFT, and I want to comment on various parts of the set and give my own opinions of it, which, while not intended to prejudice other people's reviews, may help explain some of the aspects of this tournament.
First of all, in my opinion this was a pretty good set with some minor flaws. One obvious problem was the 5 or 6 repeats that plagued the October 4 mirrors and the problems with grammar. This was due to the fact that we didn't have time to do a final read-through (although we did do one the week before), and that was obviously a problem, so my apologies for that. Those issues were fixed for the October 11 mirrors, but they shouldn't have been a problem in the first place. The second problem is that some of the bonuses for the October 4 mirrors ended up being a lot harder than we had intended, so we had to make a couple of changes there as well. There were definitely a few instances in one of my packets where the bonuses were just too hard for the field.
With that in mind, I'd like to engage in some meta-commentary in order to give context to certain editing decisions.
rylltraka wrote:The only important complaint I had was about the length of the bonuses: often, they were excessively verbose and further slowed down play, leading to a long day despite a relatively small number of rounds.
I'm trying to understand what exactly was "excessively verbose" about these bonuses. Almost no bonus went over 2 lines per part, which is par for the course in virtually every tournament. If it's plausible to suppose that each bonus took about 5 seconds longer to read because of the length (relative to what, exactly?), it looks like the time to read a round would be extended by about 2 minutes. Over the course of the whole day this is maybe half an hour that could be attributed to question length, though frankly I'm pretty skeptical that even this much time is actually eaten up by reading these supposedly long bonus parts. I'm also frankly puzzled by the remark about the "relatively small number of rounds." There were 14 rounds in this set, which, while not nearly as impressive as Chicago Open's 19 rounds this year, is in no way "relatively small," at least if a typical tournament is being used as a benchmark.
The more important thing to note here is that bonus parts and leadins have a purpose beyond just getting you to answer them and score points. They have a didactic purpose as well, which increases their length. For example, a leadin/first bonus part that reads
Answer some questions about an American author, for ten points each.
 Identify this author of Moby Dick
is certainly short, but it teaches you nothing at all about Melville that the typical high school student doesn't know. However, a part that reads,
Among his non-fiction works is an account of a trip to the Galapagos Islands entitled The Encantadas, and he wrote of the title character's exploits on a Mississippi steamboat in The Confidence Man. For ten points each:
 Identify this author, perhaps better known for his short novella about a "foretopman," Billy Budd.
is infinitely more useful for learning something about the works of Melville. In particular, it mentions two works which are not typically well known to people whose only Melville background comes from the high school canon and hopefully encourages you to seek them out (if you like Melville). Note that there are any number of clues that could go into the leadin, including critical clues, clues about the appearance of Melville in other works of literature, and so on. All of this is designed to teach you something about the subject at hand, and of course telling you that this guy is the author of Billy Budd
also enables those who don't know The Confidence Man
to answer the question at the end. The point being, none of this is just filler inserted because we love typing. This actually ties in to some remarks I have about listening to questions and how you ought to do so, which I'll make further down.
On the subject of music tossups, I can't really provide any specific insight as I know next to nothing about music. I only hope that at a tournament clearly designed for novice players no one is buzzing and giving Grieg's Piano Concerto as an answer. In general, I'm not sure what to think about writing a tossup describing a piece of music, as I understand the ambiguity that can creep into the question in those situations. I like Jonathan's suggestion of writing about concrete bases of works and specific orchestrations and such things.
yoda4554 wrote:Here's a difficult point for very good players trying to write a relatively accessible tournament: since you're supposed to get 20s and 30s on bonuses at hard tournaments, your perspective on what constitutes "easy" can get, relativistically, a bit wacky. This is okay on tossups (though it shows up in the difficulty cliffs on things like the Hamlet tossup), but more of a problem for bonuses. For instance, on a bonus you'll try to write an "easy" part, a part that's a bit harder, and then a hard part. The problem is, from the perspective of those of us who have been around for a while, that may seem to describe a bonus which is structured as "name the losing Republican candidates of 1960 and 1964, then something harder" as well as it does "name some works by Don DeLillo" (that's not exactly what is was, but not far); I have a strong suspicion that for your target audience of new players, these difficulty levels are quite different.
I'm trying to figure out what this means. If you're an experienced player and you're playing in a tournament that doesn't stray from the novice canon, wouldn't every bonus sound like "something easy, something easy, something a little harder?" With that DeLillo bonus, for example, Libra
was obviously the hard part, although a clue was provided that was intended to help people get that part, but I would think both DeLillo and White Noise
are both sufficiently well known that a middling team could get 20 on that bonus and most others could get 10.
yoda4554 wrote:In general--I'd like it if people would, for common link tossups or other tossups referring to "sections of this work," allow a lot of leeway and prompting. For instance, in the last round we had someone buzz on "Sinbad the Sailor" off the "Old Man of the Sea" clue in the 1001 Nights and be ruled incorrect, as well as someone buzzing on "London Symphonies" off a clue relating to a London Symphony in the Haydn symphonies tossup and be similarly judged. These were both cases where people clearly knew what they were talking about in re: the clue on which they buzzed. If there could be some broad, qb-wide policy statement on this, that'd be good, I think.
I have to strongly disagree with this. If the question is asking for "1001 Arabian Nights" and you buzz on the Sinbad clue (which came at the end of the tossup) and say "Sinbad" you will be negged and you should not be prompted, and likewise on the symphonies of Haydn. I view this the same way that I would view someone buzzing in on Dubliners
and giving Two Sisters
as an answer on a clue about that story. In fact, I would find a tossup on Sinbad the work rather than the character to be somewhat confusing, since, as a folk tale, it does not really have a canonical title. But more importantly, it doesn't make sense to prompt on a more specific answer than what is being sought, whereas it makes perfect sense to prompt on a more general one. That is, since "1001 Arabian Nights," is a strict superset of "stories about Sinbad," most things that are true of "Nights," (e.g. clues of the variety, "In one section of this work this happens, in another section that happens.") will be true of Sinbad as well. If we wanted to ask about Sinbad, the reasonable thing to do would be to either ask about the character or to mention at the outset that it is a subset of a larger work.
Moreover, I find the premise articulated in a later post by Dave that if we got to clue number n
that means no one knows the answer on clue number n-1
to be incorrect; indeed, anyone listening to the question in this way is making a mistake in their approach to the tossup. First of all, it may well be the case that someone recognizes clue n-1
but cannot place it immediately; this happens to me all the time. Second, it should not be assumed that because a question was not answered on clue n
that this clue does not help the listener. For example, if I were reading you a tossup on some battle that mentioned Stonewall Jackson and you buzzed on a clue which might have also identified a European battle (say, the maneuvers were identical, or it was fought near an identically named town; this is a hypothetical) and gave that as an answer that would be a dumb thing to do regardless of whether or not the clue you buzzed on was correct. In other words, even if you don't know the previous clues, they nevertheless establish a context for what the answer is going to be like. In the case of "1001 Nights," you know that what is being sought is a work with a definite title which contains many sections which tell various stories. It's possible to stretch one's imagination to have this description include the stories about Sinbad (though certainly not to include Dubliners
) but, it's a much more tenuous connection than "1001 Nights." Anyone who knows anything at all about Sinbad knows that it's a subset of that collection, so even if you think the answer is "Sinbad," you should still say "1001 Nights," given the words that were used to describe the desired answer.
This is what I mean when I say you should be listening to the question attentively; if you reflex-buzz, you will be right some of the time, but if you think while listening to the question and narrow down the possibilities based on other things you know, you will be right much more often. Andrew Yaphe once outlined this process very well in one of his posts
, which you would all do well to consult for an explanation of how to reason during a tossup. I don't think it's asking too much for people to be cognizant of the words being used to describe the answer while the tossup is being read and to pick the answer that best suits that description.
This partially ties in with my response to Trevor:
Pilgrim wrote:The amount of common link tossups in the philosophy and social science distributions seemed to be a little excessive. I don't really like these questions because they often seem to devolve into "fill in the blank" in a title you know, as the descriptions are often not enough to get you to buzz. In addition, even when you do know what work the question is going for, it can lead to guessing games about what word is wanted (for example, I knew we were talking about Ayer, but had no idea which of Language, Truth, or Logic was going to be the answer before the others were mentioned).
One thing that's important to recognize is that the philosophy and social science canon at this level is actually quite small. Since I'm bored to death by tossups about Heraclitus and very few people are going to be answering tossups on The City in History
, the common link tossups are a good middle ground that introduces new material while remaining answerable. I get the "fill-in-the-blankness" feel of some of these questions, but it should be obvious that if we're going for a definite answer, the best way to identify this answer is to link it to a title (though, for example, the "language" tossup used Wittgenstein's discussion of private languages in a later clue). That way, there is no ambiguity about what is being sought. In so far as anyone figured out the Ayers title but didn't know which of the three things to pick, if you had been listening to the question, it would have been pretty easy to discount "truth" as a possible answer (since the title "Truth of Thought" seems like a pretty unlikely book name). You can also rule out "logic" since the previous clue is about Mill's A System of Logic
which is explicitly mentioned. If you have enough knowledge to identify the Ayers work from description and you've been listening to the tossup carefully, you'll know to buzz there and say "language."
squareroot165 wrote:1) I think there was only one geography tossup in the 11 rounds we heard: the one on Madagascar. I would have liked to hear somewhere close to a typical ACF distribution, which I think is 1/24 tossups.
2) I know it has been said, but there seemed to be an especially large number of common link TUs. They generally seemed to be on fine topics, but I would have preferred not to have more than one in a round.
3) A couple of the mods at the Vandy site thought there was excessive use of the word "titular." I'm not sure why, and I thought there was nothing strange about it, but I figured it should be mentioned.
Regarding point 1, I'm sorry about that; we had budgeted 1/1 geography per round, but somehow it seemed to all get eaten up by trash. There should have probably been a few more geography tossups here and there (I take it you did not hear my "Bishkek" question). About point 2, I've explained the rationale for common-link tossups; I see no reason to have a quota for how many to have per round. Point 3... well, like others have said, welcome to quizbowl.
Ukonvasara wrote:There were some other issues, like a godawful tossup on "P2P applications" that nearly provoked violence,
I'm curious about this: is it the tossup itself or the answer choice that got people riled up? Because I'll be the first to admit that it was by no means the Platonic ideal of tossups on "P2P applications" but I will defend the answer choice since it's a legitimate thing that people in computer science actually work on. I can provide a cite to the source I used for the question if you doubt that assertion. Anyway, I'll agree that it wasn't a very good question which is too bad since I think it's an interesting topic.
Ok, that's a lot of words and I want to just emphasize that the point behind all of them is to explain why certain editing choices were made and not others, and not at all to criticize the critics, as it were. All feedback is welcome and useful and again, I'm glad that people enjoyed the questions.