A lot of us know or have heard of Weiner's Laws, those most famous of tongue-and-cheek adages. But over the span of 15+ years, there has been a lot more advice (much of it of a more serious nature) from Matt Weiner to various other people. In the event that he doesn't come back to these boards, I'll use this thread codify some things Matt Weiner has said or taught me (mostly verbally or over the Internet, but a few by example) over the years which are still worthwhile or never made it to a permanent post. They're not in any particular order. And posting these isn't necessarily an endorsement of the content or the way in which they were said, though I suspect most of the content is at least worth stewing over.
- I forget the exact wording here, but Mattw used to give a pep talk to new VCU players before their first tournament of the year, whose basic point was that you never know when a question that you'd be really good at will come at you, and therefore have to stay engaged and listening to every question. This requires being attentive and awake; in other words, you need to "keep your eyes on the moderator, your buzzer in your hand, and your HEAD OFF THE -ING DESK".
- It usually takes 3 to 6 months for anyone, even someone who knows a lot for real which regularly comes up in-game, to get used to the game of quizbowl enough to actually buzz regularly on stuff they already know. Being aware of this learning curve is helpful in dealing with brand-new players.
- The game of quizbowl looks a lot less insurmountable when you break it down into small segments that come up over and over. I unfortunately never got the lecture notes for this talk, but Mattw told me he used to do a talk each fall with new VCU players in which he'd draw a big bubble on the board for a large category like "LITERATURE", then ask people to call out smaller and smaller subcategories, which got drawn as smaller bubbles off the bigger ones (from there to "NOVELS," perhaps, and then to "RUSSIAN NOVELS"). Eventually you'd get down to the level of a granular answer, or a set of things just small enough to consistently appear as an answer at pretty much every tournament ("TOLSTOY"). The "bubble chart" exercise is meant to show people that they can get a grasp on an area of knowledge which is large enough to consistently get them points at every single tournament they attend -- and the way to do that isn't (at least at first) to go "I'm gonna study LITERATURE" and then bang one's head against a wall. Rather, starting small can help people know they're going to reliably get something, from which it's very possible to scaffold up.
- What it takes to start a new team: Just get on the road and start going to tournaments. Really, that's it. Recruiting people, getting official funding/recognition, etc. all comes later, and treating those as insurmountable obstacles before one even shows up to a nearby event is not the right attitude. For years, the VCU team was just Mattw himself going to everything he could, and it wouldn't have grown into the self-sustained team it is today without those prior years having been there. Resources like Zipcar and Megabus make it easier than ever even as rates of car ownership (and driver's license possession) among college students go down.
- "Learn the -ing Rules." "Read the -ing Rules." An astounding feature of quizbowl compared to many other competitive enterprises is the extreme lack of rules knowledge and rules consciousness even among the very most dedicated participants. But the rules exist publicly and can be known, instead of guessed at or made up, and it's to your advantage to learn what they actually are so no one can pull a fast one on you over issues such as immediate answer correction or protests.
- Train successors and assistants. Your legacy isn't just about you as an individual player, writer, logistician, or editor -- it's also about how many people you were able to bring up into the system behind you, and how well they do.
- If you set real expectations for teams, many teams will rise to meet them and enjoy doing so in the process. Before consistently good high school quizbowl was a reality, it was a dream in the heads of select people, who may not have been able to foresee back in 2000 just how far teams would come over the last fifteen years. (Seriously; go back and look at high school questions from 2000, and then try imagining that's all you ever knew. You want something like what we have today, but the vision is quite hazy.) But it's only because those early dreamers foresaw rightly that teams could do it, blowing past the naysayers who warned that everything would be IMPOSSIBLE or that nobody would be interested once games weren't 20% math computation and 25% non-academic fluff. The analogue for today, now that good quizbowl is real and available in many places, is this: if you / your team / your circuit / your community assumes that players won't know anything real, that will sure enough become a self-fulfilling prophecy and nobody will bother to learn anything. The fault if that happens is not with the questions, but with your setting the bar low and assuming no one will clear it.
- Just offer to do stuff for the community if it looks like it needs doing, without flailing about whether you're "allowed" to or whether it'd be hard to accomplish -- start a forum! start a team! why not? (In later years, this advice came with a creeping sense that a generational shift is afoot -- that more people my age and younger just look at obstacles [bureaucratic or otherwise] and give up. I don't know if I agree.)
- There are some people who are just bad people who "can't be bought or reasoned or bargained with". When it is abundantly clear that someone is such a person, it is important to get that information out there so they can't do further damage.
- If you want to become good and you want facts to stick, you have to do more than just binary-associate or read Wikipedia -- you have to read real stuff.
- Related to the above: there is a world of difference between "competent" and actually "good". There is yet another world of difference between "good" and "title contender". Being "competent" -- understanding the contours of what quizbowl asks about, recognizing middle clues from past exposure, playing the game as a game instead of merely relying on what one would have known without it -- is only the beginning of the improvement process, and it will get you less and less far as time goes on and more teams see competency as the baseline it ought to be rather than a distant prospect. You've only begun to play the game when you can start getting most tossups at the giveaway -- and mass binary association or undirected packet reading won't get you much further than that.
- (by example) There's a lot of "quizbowl history" which it's worthwhile for younger players to hear about and learn from elders in the game before those elders move on. From funny and frivolous anecdotes about past players to more serious lessons about what bad quizbowl was like and how it was overcome, to every shade in between, historical memory is quite uncommon in this game, as so few people last much longer than their playing careers (and few bother to transmit that information forward). Because this is a community that has only lived up to its ideals in terms of question content for a few years now, it's easy to assume there was nothing worth remembering from its more distant past, and that couldn't be further from the truth. Ask your elders about quizbowl history and see what they say. Then do your part to keep it alive!
- Many circuits and teams have a big problem because they engage in too much "cargo cult" thinking": doing things or espousing principles in what seems superficially to be the good quizbowl way without understanding why they're done that way. Understand the reasons for why you do what you do.
- "We do things this way because we do things this way" is not a valid argument, even though people in the quizbowl community use it all the time.
- Everything within the quizbowl world is interrelated. Matt Weiner is one of very few people who was able to get a sort of god's-eye view of the entire quizbowl ecosystem across many eligibility levels, locations, companies, and levels of engagement, and this is a big lesson which came out of that. I feel like I've gotten a similar view at times as well. Ideally in the future, nobody should have to be working simultaneously for as many organizations as either of us did this year (I think I maxed out at five simultaneous commitments, though for most of the year it hovered around 3). But that shouldn't prevent anyone from wanting to see what the big-picture view looks like -- how overcommitment on one end of the high school community might prevent good writers from working on SCT, etc. etc. -- or from thinking 5 (or 10 or 15) years ahead about what the whole country's quizbowl engagement will look like at that point.
- (By example) You can't do everything; don't bite off more than you can chew. Especially important to keep in mind for people who get into a habit of procrastinating or working last-minute: There are certain amounts of procrastination that are just mathematically impossible to recover from. If you're banking on a last-minute surge of creativity or productivity to save you, or get in the habit of requiring one, it's only a matter of time before it doesn't come and you're sunk.
The following paragraph will become applicable when I finish Part 5
At this point, I believe I have put forward a pretty comprehensive viewpoint for this game's future (which runs to just under 100 single-spaced pages in Google Drive across the threads I wrote last summer and this summer). I will be taking a step back from making long comprehensive posts on these forums for the foreseeable future, be that in critiquing sets, theory discussions, or elsewhere. I'll still check in pretty regularly, of course, and jump in with smaller discussion points where it seems fitting. And I may well change my mind about some things as discussion continues. But I think most of what I want to say from here on out has already been said, and it's more useful for people to just to look back at my previous posts rather than expect new ones. This isn't to say I have anything against these forums or the way discussions have gone recently; it's merely to say that there are better ways for me to spend my energy than in writing manifestos for a community which is doing decently at finding its hearings. Our fortunes will rise or fall from here largely independently of whatever observations I can make. Now that I've made them, though, decision-makers at all levels are free to determine for themselves how much they want to take my views into account going forward.