PSA to independent set writers

Anything that's on topic but doesn't fit elsewhere, including related events that might be of interest to quizbowl players.
Post Reply
User avatar
jonpin
Forums Staff: Moderator
Posts: 2194
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2004 6:45 pm
Location: BCA NJ / WUSTL MO / Hackensack NJ

PSA to independent set writers

Post by jonpin »

My team wrote a set this year, and last week my captain forwarded this email he had received:
Image

The header of this email, along with the lack of identifying details in the message, leaves me with the impression it was probably sent to every independent set writer Bryce Avery could find. Mr. Avery has a reputation on this board for mediocre questions, a rash temper, and on at least one occasion threatening a high-schooler with a lawsuit over complaints about a set his company wrote. However, it's been a while since he was around these parts, so many of you may not be familiar with him.

I don't officially say this on behalf of the forum staff nor PACE, but I sure do say it as a private individual and coach of a high school team. If you received this email: Do not accept this offer. Do not work with Bryce Avery.

Besides the disqualifying nature of the individual making the request, the request itself is also awful in multiple ways. To take questions played in one year and "edit/integrate/modify" them for use in a following academic year, is a recipe for disaster. The fact that this would be brushed off with "it is highly unlikely" that fields would overlap doesn't really give me confidence that that's accurate. Obviously, were you to take up this offer (which has been sent to probably everyone sight unseen--the equivalent of a mass email to the whole school asking them out to prom), you could not post your questions online at the end of the academic year, as is standard procedure for every question provider and independent set writer other than NAQT.

My captain did confirm with me that he knew enough to not remotely consider this offer, so I don't know what his response would be to various price suggestions, but there is not a price high enough for the reputation hit anyone would take by handing their questions over for use by Avery Enterprises.
Jon Pinyan
Coach, Bergen County Academies (NJ); former player for BCA (2000-03) and WUSTL (2003-07)
HSQB forum mod, PACE member
Stat director for: NSC '13-'15, '17; ACF '14, '17, '19; NHBB '13-'15; NASAT '11

"A [...] wizard who controls the weather" - Jerry Vinokurov
User avatar
Ciorwrong
Tidus
Posts: 684
Joined: Fri Dec 20, 2013 8:24 pm

Re: PSA to independent set writers

Post by Ciorwrong »

Thanks for posting this. I got his email probably because I'm the head editor for POMMSS. I was skeptical because I knew Avery questions were suspect, but my club would have appreciated the money. I hadn't responded yet because I didn't know enough about his business ventures.

My quick searches indicated that Avery hadn't posted on this site in several years. If he is asking for already used questions, he must be getting real desperate for cheap writers! :lol: I will unequivocally not sell my questions to him. Selling your questions to him only keeps bad quizbowl alive and there is no way he could offer you fair market value per question.
Harris Bunker
Grosse Pointe North High School '15
Michigan State University '19
UC San Diego Economics 2019 -

at least semi-retired
User avatar
El Salvadoreno
Rikku
Posts: 346
Joined: Wed Nov 30, 2016 7:45 am
Location: Northwest Suburbs, IL

Re: PSA to independent set writers

Post by El Salvadoreno »

As someone who has been listening to Avery's crummy questions at my sister's IESA events, I can only hope this means his company will kick the bucket and maybe a good middle school writer will get the job. One can dream right?
Ricky "Slick Rick/Rico Suave" Rivera
Carmel Catholic- Class of '17
Notre Dame (Mendoza)- Class of '22

My Namesake
User avatar
Ciorwrong
Tidus
Posts: 684
Joined: Fri Dec 20, 2013 8:24 pm

Re: PSA to independent set writers

Post by Ciorwrong »

El Salvadoreno wrote:As someone who has been listening to Avery's crummy questions at my sister's IESA events, I can only hope this means his company will kick the bucket and maybe a good middle school writer will get the job. One can dream right?
I think a lot of the crappy quiz bowl companies are struggling to make ends meet with the expansion of NAQT questions into both middle and high schools around the country. Doe anyone know if KMO still writes new questions as an example?
Harris Bunker
Grosse Pointe North High School '15
Michigan State University '19
UC San Diego Economics 2019 -

at least semi-retired
User avatar
cchiego
Yuna
Posts: 835
Joined: Fri Jun 06, 2008 7:14 pm
Contact:

Re: PSA to independent set writers

Post by cchiego »

Progcon wrote:
El Salvadoreno wrote:As someone who has been listening to Avery's crummy questions at my sister's IESA events, I can only hope this means his company will kick the bucket and maybe a good middle school writer will get the job. One can dream right?
I think a lot of the crappy quiz bowl companies are struggling to make ends meet with the expansion of NAQT questions into both middle and high schools around the country. Doe anyone know if KMO still writes new questions as an example?
It doesn't matter if "Academic Hallmarks" does or doesn't write new questions; they charge rock-bottom prices and their customers just don't seem to care at all about question quality. If these numbers from the Colorado Knowledge Bowl are correct and describe the total cost of the questions, then $201 bought enough "pristine" questions for 60 teams to compete on at state. One would think that these organizations using these questions would be willing to pay a little bit more for fair, non-trivial pursuit-desk-calendar-level questions.

My personal suspicion is that they often write a bunch on very similar topics. I saw in the 2012-2013 sets for instance like a number of questions on a particular Amendment that looked like they just looked up a couple of clues and then composed 7-8 different variants on the same topic. They also have very obvious pet topics that they like to write on a bunch anyways, so it's not like they have to go looking up that much new information when they could write yet another question about random Western novels, the Jabberwocky, or some random earth science glossary word that the AUK likes. They might also write a "new" question using similar clues from previous years; given that there are often only one or two "clues" in the questions, it would be very easy to do.
Chris C.
Past: UGA/UCSD/Penn
Current: Central Coast CA
User avatar
Ciorwrong
Tidus
Posts: 684
Joined: Fri Dec 20, 2013 8:24 pm

Re: PSA to independent set writers

Post by Ciorwrong »

cchiego wrote:My personal suspicion is that they often write a bunch on very similar topics. I saw in the 2012-2013 sets for instance like a number of questions on a particular Amendment that looked like they just looked up a couple of clues and then composed 7-8 different variants on the same topic. They also have very obvious pet topics that they like to write on a bunch anyways, so it's not like they have to go looking up that much new information when they could write yet another question about random Western novels, the Jabberwocky, or some random earth science glossary word that the AUK likes. They might also write a "new" question using similar clues from previous years; given that there are often only one or two "clues" in the questions, it would be very easy to do.
I also noticed this when I read at the Honors College Michigan state tournament in 2016. There were a ton of questions where the answer was "Ireland" that used some variation of the clues that it a) has a capital at Dublin and b) it knows as "the Emerald Isle". It also contained a ton of repeats--some of which I caught while "reviewing the set" but they put ~100 one line questions per pack and sold the Honors College 20 packets so I'm sure there were a ton of repeats. One of the current MSU players even said there was a repeat in the same packet when he played KMO at the state tournament last year :roll: .

Pet topics ranged from kerogen and shale to Alaskan authors (I had never heard of any of these guys) to horribly written computational math problems that usually involved a ridiculously binary calculation (eg 9999999 in binary in 5 seconds) or some brain dead easy, one step algebra problem. My theory is that because AUK has so many questions in their database thing that they just slightly change them each year and make sets. The Honors College said that if we did not work faster writing questions and assembling packets, they would replace us with KMO. I had no idea how this was possible one month out but apparently KMO can make 20 packets in the span of a month given their reserves of "new" questions.

This shouldn't need to be said: but don't let people buy these horrible questions. Basic supply and demand should eliminate these atrocious questions because they are overpriced garbage.
Harris Bunker
Grosse Pointe North High School '15
Michigan State University '19
UC San Diego Economics 2019 -

at least semi-retired
User avatar
dhumphreys17
Wakka
Posts: 145
Joined: Sat May 23, 2015 3:16 pm

Re: PSA to independent set writers

Post by dhumphreys17 »

Progcon wrote:Pet topics ranged from kerogen and shale to Alaskan authors
Also bat guano. We lost a game to Utica Academy last year at states because we didn't know that the third main component of bat guano besides phosphates and nitrogen was potassium. That was not bull - :capybara: ; it was bat - :capybara: .
Devin James John Bartholomew Humphreys
Team Captain, Sacred Heart Academy High School (MI), Class of 2017
Michigan State University, anticipated Class of 2020
User avatar
Stained Diviner
Auron
Posts: 4830
Joined: Sun Jun 13, 2004 6:08 am
Location: Chicagoland
Contact:

Re: PSA to independent set writers

Post by Stained Diviner »

Two rumors I heard recently from reliable sources:

1) Several middle school matches and a middle school Saturday tournament were recently cancelled because they ordered questions from Avery and found out too late that there were too many repeats in the questions to play the matches.

2) His question quality has gotten worse over time. His questions used to be better than Questions Galore (a very low bar), but he is now sending questions to former Questions Galore clients that are worse than what those customers are used to.
David Reinstein
PACE VP of Outreach, Head Writer and Editor for Scobol Solo and Masonics (Illinois), TD for New Trier Scobol Solo and New Trier Varsity, Writer for NAQT (2011-2017), IHSSBCA Board Member, IHSSBCA Chair (2004-2014), PACE Member, PACE President (2016-2018), New Trier Coach (1994-2011)
User avatar
dtaylor4
Auron
Posts: 3733
Joined: Tue Nov 16, 2004 11:43 am

Re: PSA to independent set writers

Post by dtaylor4 »

Big Y wrote:Two rumors I heard recently from reliable sources:

1) Several middle school matches and a middle school Saturday tournament were recently cancelled because they ordered questions from Avery and found out too late that there were too many repeats in the questions to play the matches.

2) His question quality has gotten worse over time. His questions used to be better than Questions Galore (a very low bar), but he is now sending questions to former Questions Galore clients that are worse than what those customers are used to.
Can confirm, am forced to read his questions every other week or so for local middle schoolers because he bought out the company that had the contract with the IESA. Contract is through next year, so no change for 17-18.
Post Reply