How to write packets on time

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How to write packets on time

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Fri Nov 06, 2009 2:47 pm

I foreshadowed this post by grousing in other threads, and since I'm still waiting for 2/2 science from Minnesota and Chicago (to be written by Shantanu and Andrew Hart, respectively--that's right, I went there) for FIST, and since Dallas is in one of two midterms so he can't give me answers to write on to help finish HFT, I have time to be an internet person. GREAT.

So here's the thing, quizbowl. In sixth grade we all found the equation "distance equals rate times time" in our pre-algebra books. We scoffed at its simplicity. "Surely," we said, "we should be taught more profound things than this!" We understood, then, that if you run really fast, you go really far in a given time interval, compared to how far you'd go if you ran slowly.

No one in quizbowl seems to understand this thing.

Let us say that I am a quizbowl team from outer space, quizbowl. I write one packet a year for ACF Fall, and that is that. I start my packet on 8/20 and I turn it in on 9/19 for the fifty dollar discount. The editors send roses to my door. I don't spend too much to play a tournament.

Alternatively, let's say I am a quizbowl team composed of players who (despite the potential for public shaming on this forum) decide that they're going to work on a different schedule. They start their packet on 9/24 and turn it in by the fifty dollar penalty on 10/24. Both teams took thirty days to write the packet. One team is $100 poorer and made the editors' lives sadder.

But look: they both did the same work over the same period of time. There is no way in which the former team worked any harder. They shifted a time interval further away from the tournament.

Now, let's look into the future, quizbowl. Let's suppose that both of these teams realize that they want to play TIT/IO, too. Well, the latter team is paying a twenty-five dollar penalty even if they write this next packet in a day! The former team, on the other hand, has until October 3 to catch the biggest discount.

Here's one of the deceptive things, quizbowl. It sometimes seems that a quizbowl team has an excuse because, say, they were writing a tournament during some of the prime write-a-packet months. Well, here's the thing: both the early-deadline team and the late-deadline team have to do the same quantity of work (tournament plus packet, or packet for other submission events 1 to n plus packet for this one, or whatever) in the same period of time. And so even in this situation, it's no harder to simply shift one's writing calendar back six weeks and make editors happy instead of harried.

Now, going forward, quizbowl, this will result in a little bit of a crunch. Because the transition is what's hard: all the late-submitters will have to do more work in less time in order to move earlier and earlier up the deadline calendar. But once they're there, they can stick there without doing more work. So I don't expect this to change next week, and I don't expect that no one will ever have an unanticipated personal emergency. But I think this is a practical goal that we should strive for.

Now, back to work on my tossups on the catalytic properties of thiazolium salts.
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Re: How to write packets on time

Post by Lapego1 » Fri Nov 06, 2009 3:00 pm

Crazy Andy Watkins wrote:Minnesota and Chicago (to be written by Shantanu and Andrew Hart, respectively--that's right, I went there)
I think there is a problem with your "respectively" definition.
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Re: How to write packets on time

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Fri Nov 06, 2009 3:00 pm

Apparently communication problems made it unclear to Andrew that these questions needed to be written. So no love lost there!

That said, quizbowl, it's better to have communications problems six weeks ago.
Lapego1 wrote:
Crazy Andy Watkins wrote:Minnesota and Chicago (to be written by Shantanu and Andrew Hart, respectively--that's right, I went there)
I think there is a problem with your "respectively" definition.
That's what YOU think.
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Re: How to write packets on time

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Fri Nov 06, 2009 3:05 pm

I don't think your solution is universalizable. People are simply too different.

I find that I work much better under pressure, and producer higher quality work as well. By contrast, when I begin a project far in advance, I find that I take much slower to write and put out a lower quality product. This is almost certainly because I'm aware, on some level, that I have time and can afford to take it slow. So your solution would never work for me. There are certain other people for whom it will not work because they do not consider arbitrary deadlines to be legitimate. Etc.

Just put a heavy penalty on being late, and people will be incentivized to not be late by whatever process works best for them.
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Re: How to write packets on time

Post by setht » Fri Nov 06, 2009 3:08 pm

Crazy Andy Watkins wrote:I'm still waiting for 2/2 science from Minnesota and Chicago
What are you missing from our packet?

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Re: How to write packets on time

Post by Haaaaaaaarry Whiiiiiiiiiite » Fri Nov 06, 2009 3:17 pm

Whig's Boson wrote:I don't think your solution is universalizable. People are simply too different.

I find that I work much better under pressure, and producer higher quality work as well. By contrast, when I begin a project far in advance, I find that I take much slower to write and put out a lower quality product. This is almost certainly because I'm aware, on some level, that I have time and can afford to take it slow. So your solution would never work for me. There are certain other people for whom it will not work because they do not consider arbitrary deadlines to be legitimate. Etc.

Just put a heavy penalty on being late, and people will be incentivized to not be late by whatever process works best for them.
People tend to complain about question quality when said questions were written right before the tournament, so I'm not sure how well that holds up.
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Re: How to write packets on time

Post by grapesmoker » Fri Nov 06, 2009 3:18 pm

As strange as it is to find myself in agreement with Bruce, I have to say he's right. As much as I love things to get done on time, I tend to be a bad offender on the lateness front (sorry, FIST dudes). I'm definitely working to try and fix that, especially with Regionals looming, but the truth is that shit happens all the time, I'm running around trying to do 5 million things (like everyone else) and questions fall by the wayside until it's 3 days from the tournament and I find myself having to write an entire packet.

Of course, Andy is right. We should endeavor to write our questions sooner so that we're not killing ourselves (and our editors) at the last minute. Even if we are bad at discipline (like I am), we should still try our best to attain this goal. It makes everyone's life easier.
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Re: How to write packets on time

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Fri Nov 06, 2009 3:24 pm

Whig's Boson wrote:There are certain other people for whom it will not work because they do not consider arbitrary deadlines to be legitimate.
Which is entirely a nonsense argument that only happens because people who make it aren't seeing the bigger picture. If deadlines were arbitrary, they'd be illegitimate, of course; the trick is that they're not arbitrary: they're set precisely so that a project can happen as it ought to. Now, of course, tournaments still happen despite deadlines being abused. But their quality is limited by when packets come in (which Harry alludes to): deadlines are set according to how to maximize quality.
setht wrote:
Crazy Andy Watkins wrote:I'm still waiting for 2/2 science from Minnesota and Chicago
What are you missing from our packet?
Shantanu's writing the bio and chem either now or soon. Everything else is chilling like a villaing, as they [don't] say.
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Re: How to write packets on time

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Fri Nov 06, 2009 3:26 pm

Earthquake wrote: People tend to complain about question quality when said questions were written right before the tournament, so I'm not sure how well that holds up.
Not my questions.

Again, just like Andy's solution is not for everybody, mine isn't for everybody either. You need to figure out what works for you. That was the point of my post.
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Re: How to write packets on time

Post by Not That Kind of Christian!! » Fri Nov 06, 2009 3:28 pm

My personal strategy (aside from visualizing an evil TD snatching late fees out of my not-quite-bulging bag of funds while simultaneously crying because of the pain late questions cause) is to give myself a set of deadlines for writing questions or packets that fits into my academic schedule, setting up incentives as necessary (cookies!). It's a stupid, childish reward system, but it's always helped me get my stuff in when I want it to be in, particularly since I can construct a deadline-pressure situation as I wish.

That and, you know, the money thing. Late fees suck.

EDIT: The other thing, Bruce, is that even if you turn in high-quality questions late or late-ish because it works better for you, it might not work better for the editors who have to eliminate repeats and generally wring their hands hoping that your questions will be in when they want them and at the quality they want them.
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Re: How to write packets on time

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Fri Nov 06, 2009 3:30 pm

Whig's Boson wrote:
Earthquake wrote: People tend to complain about question quality when said questions were written right before the tournament, so I'm not sure how well that holds up.
Not my questions.

Again, just like Andy's solution is not for everybody, mine isn't for everybody either. You need to figure out what works for you. That was the point of my post.
In a policy I'll be sending to the club soon, fees incurred due to missing the earliest packet deadline are incurred (barring extraordinary circumstances) by the packet authors, not by the club, and are to be paid back to the club. Do people think that this is a policy that would help make writers feel the pressure of the first deadline, instead of only the last deadline (allowing them to work faster and better, if they have enough Bruceness)?
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Re: How to write packets on time

Post by Matt Weiner » Fri Nov 06, 2009 3:30 pm

Maybe I contributed to the problem by handing in my part of a FIST packet on Wednesday night, but I guess it might still be of value to note that the old-school approach to packet submission that this tournament took (submit a packet if you want to, or not, and come up with whatever discount you want to, or not...is my team still getting the discount we negotiated since we missed our offered deadline by a few days? I have no idea, Ryan never mentioned it) has proven not to work time and time again, particularly at the several UTC tournaments that have tried to run on this model. Setting very clear, inflexible requirements for who has to write, when they have to do it by, and what will happen if they don't, and sticking to them, really does help.
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Re: How to write packets on time

Post by Strongside » Fri Nov 06, 2009 3:33 pm

Here is one theory that I have. In a given time frame, a team has to decide whether they want to or don't want to go to certain tournaments. It may sometimes be difficult to decide whether a team is going to a tournament a few weeks in advance, or even a few days in advance. A bunch of stuff can come up between a tournament is announced and a tournament happens. Also, tournaments can be canceled, and it is frustrating to write a packet for a tournaments early, and then learn the tournament is canceled, or you and/or your team will be unable to make it. This is generally less likely to happen the closer to a tournament you submit a questions.

Also, I agree it can be easier to be productive and get things done when a deadline is coming up.

Editors generally don't want to bar teams from playing tournaments, nor is it realistic in most situations to charge them hundreds and hundreds of dollars to play. Plus, a late packet, is generally better than no packet at all.

I don't know the best solution to this problem.
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Re: How to write packets on time

Post by grapesmoker » Fri Nov 06, 2009 3:35 pm

Oh, a thing: please don't assume that because I can write two packets in one day and have them be acceptable that you can do the same. I mean, I shouldn't be doing that either, and I try not to, but if I find myself in a crunch, I can produce decent questions pretty fast. That's mostly because I'm old and I know what I'm doing; if you're a second-year writer, you probably don't so your questions, if produced at the last minute, will probably not be as good.
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Re: How to write packets on time

Post by Not That Kind of Christian!! » Fri Nov 06, 2009 3:39 pm

Brendan wrote:Here is one theory that I have. In a given time frame, a team has to decide whether they want to or don't want to go to certain tournaments. It may sometimes be difficult to decide whether a team is going to a tournament a few weeks in advance, or even a few days in advance.
This might apply to, I don't know, Penn Bowl, but to ACF? writing high school questions for HSAPQ or the NSC? writing for a non-packet-sub tournament as part of a club or conglomerate of players? Plus, exactly how often does a team up and decide two weeks or five days before a tournament like FIST that they want to go after all?
Brendan wrote: Also, tournaments can be canceled, and it is frustrating to write a packet for a tournaments early, and then learn the tournament is canceled, or you and/or your team will be unable to make it. This is generally less likely to happen the closer to a tournament you submit a questions.
When's the last time a packet-submission college tournament was cancelled within a month of its proposed date?
Brendan wrote:Editors generally don't want to bar teams from playing tournaments, nor is it realistic in most situations to charge them hundreds and hundreds of dollars to play.
Maybe it's the newspaper editor in me talking, but I'm a huge hardass for deadlines, and if I were writing a tournament, I'd be perfectly content to tell teams that they'd have to pay exorbitant amounts to play if they turned in that late packet. I'm not barring you; you're barring yourself.
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Re: How to write packets on time

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Fri Nov 06, 2009 3:40 pm

Matt Weiner wrote:Maybe I contributed to the problem by handing in my part of a FIST packet on Wednesday night, but I guess it might still be of value to note that the old-school approach to packet submission that this tournament took (submit a packet if you want to, or not, and come up with whatever discount you want to, or not...is my team still getting the discount we negotiated since we missed our offered deadline by a few days? I have no idea, Ryan never mentioned it) has proven not to work time and time again, particularly at the several UTC tournaments that have tried to run on this model. Setting very clear, inflexible requirements for who has to write, when they have to do it by, and what will happen if they don't, and sticking to them, really does help.
Yeah; I'm a fan of strict deadlines. (Particularly, ones that cover every day up to the tournament, since that's such a relevant timeframe.) If we run a packet-sub tournament in the spring, which is still kind of a possibility, there will be rigorously set deadlines.
Strongside wrote:Here is one theory that I have. In a given time frame, a team has to decide whether they want to or don't want to go to certain tournaments. It may sometimes be difficult to decide whether a team is going to a tournament a few weeks in advance, or even a few days in advance. A bunch of stuff can come up between a tournament is announced and a tournament happens. Also, tournaments can be canceled, and it is frustrating to write a packet for a tournaments early, and then learn the tournament is canceled, or you and/or your team will be unable to make it. This is generally less likely to happen the closer to a tournament you submit a questions.
This is actually a very good point. Thankfully, if you write a packet for TIT and then end up not going, chances are you can submit it to Penn Bowl. This works for everything up to perhaps Nationals, at which point--unless you play CO and can beef up a question or two--you might not have another time to submit it until the following year's MO.

I suppose then, if you're not playing, you could sell your packet to a team that's facing deadline problems for a few dollars less than the next deadline they could feasibly make. Jesus, I sound like Bruce.

In any event, there's always an out.
grapesmoker wrote:Oh, a thing: please don't assume that because I can write two packets in one day and have them be acceptable that you can do the same. I mean, I shouldn't be doing that either, and I try not to, but if I find myself in a crunch, I can produce decent questions pretty fast. That's mostly because I'm old and I know what I'm doing; if you're a second-year writer, you probably don't so your questions, if produced at the last minute, will probably not be as good.
That's actually important; I think this practice is legitimized by the fact that respected people on this board are the ones who do it (and that they're great players, almost without fail, too). That said, the fact that it's almost exclusively those people who do it indicates that novices are being pretty good about not getting cocky.
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Re: How to write packets on time

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Fri Nov 06, 2009 3:50 pm

Crazy Andy Watkins wrote: In a policy I'll be sending to the club soon, fees incurred due to missing the earliest packet deadline are incurred (barring extraordinary circumstances) by the packet authors, not by the club, and are to be paid back to the club. Do people think that this is a policy that would help make writers feel the pressure of the first deadline, instead of only the last deadline (allowing them to work faster and better, if they have enough Bruceness)?
I mean, you got the idea from me. This policy has successfully modified my behavior in the past. (Incidentally, I don't think I've missed an earliest-discount deadline yet this year).
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Re: How to write packets on time

Post by dtaylor4 » Fri Nov 06, 2009 4:25 pm

Not That Kind of Christian!! wrote:Maybe it's the newspaper editor in me talking, but I'm a huge hardass for deadlines, and if I were writing a tournament, I'd be perfectly content to tell teams that they'd have to pay exorbitant amounts to play if they turned in that late packet. I'm not barring you; you're barring yourself.
I've brought up similar ideas before, and had them shouted down.

My observation is that recent solutions to this implemented by editors have not worked, period. Why not try something that a number of people think might work?

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Re: How to write packets on time

Post by DumbJaques » Fri Nov 06, 2009 5:31 pm

you play CO and can beef up a question or two
Oh so not related, but why in the world would you look at an average packet that was played at Nationals this year and go "needs more impossible before I submit it to CO?"
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Re: How to write packets on time

Post by aestheteboy » Fri Nov 06, 2009 6:36 pm

I think the best policy for a tournament host is to accept the fact that some people are irrational (or have a lot of money and/or do not care about your welfare) and write a bunch of editor's packets. If people submit questions on time, great: you can use the questions you wrote for other tournaments that you either write or submit questions to. If people don't submit questions on time, that's ok: you get extra money AND you still get to run a quality tournament. It's the dominant strategy, and one that I will surely take if I ever decide to edit a packet-submission tournament!
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Re: How to write packets on time

Post by Sargon » Fri Nov 06, 2009 9:02 pm

One should note there are special problems with getting the questions done early for larger programs that regularly send multiple teams (read Chicago, but I think there are others). Once the packet is written it is very difficult to redistribute people on teams. If one or two players decide not to go, the gap cannot be plugged by people already planning on going to the tournament (one could end up, for instance, with an A team with two people but fully manned B,C, and D teams). Even if enough people drop that an entire team can be dissolved and its players redistributed, the resulting arrangement would almost certainly not be the best arrangement that could be made (e.g. overlapping specialties or a novice player spending the day on the A team and never getting a chance to buzz). Furthermore, any extra packets would only be usable at tournaments when its writers either play again on the same team, or do not play. Thus if the packet is reused, it will probably be at a tournament when at least some of its writers are not playing.

I'm not really sure how to fix the problem. The only way I can think to partially solve this problem is to allow players to divide up the packet and submit portions individually. This would make shifting people around only slightly easier, but would allow players to more easily reuse their questions at a later date. Unfortunately I think this sort of thing would be far too much hassle for the limited benefits it would provide.
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Re: How to write packets on time

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Fri Nov 06, 2009 9:33 pm

aestheteboy wrote:I think the best policy for a tournament host is to accept the fact that some people are irrational (or have a lot of money and/or do not care about your welfare) and write a bunch of editor's packets. If people submit questions on time, great: you can use the questions you wrote for other tournaments that you either write or submit questions to. If people don't submit questions on time, that's ok: you get extra money AND you still get to run a quality tournament. It's the dominant strategy, and one that I will surely take if I ever decide to edit a packet-submission tournament!
Yeah; I think this is the process most tournaments we take; it's certainly the one I always have. That said, there's always a sneaking bit of faith, particularly when packets are actually promised.
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Re: How to write packets on time

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Fri Nov 06, 2009 9:49 pm

DumbJaques wrote:
you play CO and can beef up a question or two
Oh so not related, but why in the world would you look at an average packet that was played at Nationals this year and go "needs more impossible before I submit it to CO?"
Hm. Maybe this was a judgment too focused on the subjects I know well; they certainly were harder at CO than Nationals.
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