Online Quiz Bowl Can Be Improved

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kammajos000
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Online Quiz Bowl Can Be Improved

Post by kammajos000 »

After playing and staffing a bunch of online tournaments since the start of COVID, I think there are a number of ways online tournaments can be improved. I don’t mean to say that there’s one “right” way to do online quiz bowl, or that the people involved with the online tournaments I’ve participated in so far (or online tournaments in general) have been doing a bad job; I just wanted to put some ideas out there for people to think about when it comes to deciding how to run an online tournament. I’m mainly arguing against the model that has been implemented at ACF Fall and Winter.

Why online tournaments need to be improved

Some of the main problems I’ve seen with online tournaments are length, technical issues, and the possibility for cheating. It’s become clear that a round in an online tournament takes longer than a round at an in-person tournament, sometimes by quite a lot, depending on moderator experience, technology, answer times, etc. Over the course of a tournament, these online delays can add up to be quite a bit of time, so that a normal 9-10 round tournament can run past 6:30. Another problem with the format is the technical issues that can pop up. Some technical issues are unavoidable when they are simply due to bad connection, but in my experience, Discord has had worse audio quality than Zoom, and the system of buzzing using Discord chat can add length to the tournament and, on occasion, result in moderators continuing reading for a while after a buzz. These can be helped by using other technologies. The issues with length and format is a problem because it is a deterrent to many players, especially those who are newer or lower scorers. After attending some online tournaments, we have had players here at UMN state that they will be reluctant to play in future online tournaments or won’t play at all because of the length and format of those tournaments. I’m concerned that players at other schools feel the same.

Making Cheating Harder

The issue of online cheating has been talked about a lot since the pandemic began, which is why I am surprised more hasn’t been done about it. Some online cheating can’t really be prevented, but there are some formats that make it a lot harder than others, which I think would help with reducing cheating (or at least the perception that online tournaments are rife with cheating and are easy to cheat at). In particular, I think longer questions, more time to answer, and lack of video/audio are factors that would make it easier to cheat. With longer questions and 5+ seconds to answer after a buzz, it simply gives potential cheaters more time to google the answer. If you drop a title in the first or second line of a 7+ line regular-level tossup, there’s plenty of time to do a quick search, and even if it takes a while to load, you have 8 seconds to answer! On shorter questions, by the time you type everything in and do your search, then alt-tab back to discord, the other team might have already buzzed or the tossup is pretty much over anyway. I’ll admit that I prefer shorter questions regardless of online or in-person status, but online they have extra benefits, which are deterring cheating and reducing length of already-long rounds. The same goes for time after buzzing to answer. I can understand having a bit more time on bonuses better, but I think 4-5 seconds would be plenty of time to answer a tossup, because there’s no communication with teammates involved. Finally, having video/audio on helps a lot too. When someone is muted with camera off, they’re free to type away as much as they want or have their eyes dart to their second monitor or whatever, and nobody can possibly know. Turning it on at least makes it a good deal harder because they have to be a lot more discreet about it. It also has the added benefit of making the game more like real quiz bowl instead of playing with/against faceless voices from the chat.

Managing Length

As I mentioned earlier, length can be an issue with online tournaments. A normal quiz bowl tournament that runs really long isn’t very fun, and a long online tournament makes it worse. Spending 9+ hours on Saturday sitting in front of your computer is exhausting. Tournaments should make ending at a reasonable time a priority, recognizing that it’s ok to make some sacrifices in terms of optimal format for X number of teams. It’s better for a tournament to run too short than too long, in my opinion. On October 3rd, UMN ran a Collegiate Novice event that had 6 rounds and went from 9:00 to 2:00, including lunch. We asked for feedback for the tournament and although 2 staffers said it was slightly too short, no player thought it was too short, with all but one saying it was just the right length (the 1 said it was slightly too long). I think tournament directors should acknowledge that rounds take longer and try to cut down the schedule to 6-8 rounds. I commend ACF for reducing the required number of games for their tournaments to 7, but I wish more hosts would implement that (and not just for ACF tournaments). Shorter questions and times to answer for other tournaments would also add up over the course of a day as well, like I said earlier.

Zoom over Discord

I know this topic has also been discussed quite a bit, and it’s totally fair for people to have different preferences, but I think more people should give Zoom a try. The UMN Collegiate Novice tournament was run using Zoom without any major technological issues or delays. The feedback we got after the tournament was in favor of using Zoom. Also, this summer I participated in a few sessions with MNHSQB members to experiment with different technologies to use for an online quiz bowl tournament, and we ended up favoring Zoom over Discord, which has now become the standard for MNHSQB tournaments this fall. These tournaments have also run pretty smoothly. I think Zoom is friendlier for new players, more professional, and has better audio/video functionality. One common criticism I’ve heard is that it takes way longer with Zoom because of the need to work the breakout rooms. However, breakout rooms aren’t actually necessary, and all Zoom tournaments I’ve staffed run well without them. If each moderator (or scorekeeper) creates a meeting room for the day, each room code/link can be posted on a central document with the schedule that players will look at and can easily use to get to their room. With waiting rooms on, there is no danger of players entering a round before they should, and this eliminates the need for any bot commands, which I think tend to be confusing, especially for moderators who are older. I made a template for such a schedule document here that can be easily modified depending on the size of the tournament. This can also be combined with a discord server that would be used for communication between players and staffers about announcements. The one major downside of this Zoom format is that it requires at least one staffer in every room that has a premium Zoom account. Hopefully that shouldn’t be much of an issue with college-hosted tournaments, but otherwise Discord would have to be used.

Other Technologies

Using Discord text chat to buzz is another aspect of online tournaments that I think can be improved. Third-party buzzer apps make it easier on moderators and makes it less likely for buzzes to get mixed up or unnoticed by the moderator. The two that I’ve used that work are buzzin.live and gamenightbuzzer.com. Both are pretty good and easy to use, but I think buzzin.live is usually people’s favorite. By posting the buzzer code with the Zoom code, it is easy for players to transition between rooms. These buzzers play a sound to the moderator when a buzz is made, so they don’t have to fiddle with Discord settings or keep an eye on chat when reading, which I have personally found difficult. They also lock people out and show a clear record of who buzzed. They also have reset functionality, which is a lot cleaner than posting delimiters in Discord chat between questions, which is a hassle for moderators and often forgotten. It’s quicker and easier to just reset the buzzer.

Online scoresheets are the other part of what’s needed to run a tournament. There are already a bunch of good scoresheets out there with some great features, but I’ll link one I developed anyway in case anyone ends up having a preference for it. It does math and some error checking, but is fairly simple. I tried to make it as thin as possible while still making it readable and easy to follow, because I’ve found some other scoresheets are a bit big to fit on my small screen when moderating with other technologies. It also got good feedback at our Collegiate Novice tournament. Link to the scoresheet

I also made this guide that can help moderators learn the virtual format in advance. It references Zoom, gamenightbuzzer, and the scoresheet I linked above, but these could easily be swapped out.

I hope people find at least some of this useful or thought provoking. Once again, I want to say that I don’t mean to say that we’ve got it all figured out here at UMN, and I’m not trying to disrespect any TDs or ACF, which I think generally does a great job. Let me know what you think.
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Re: Online Quiz Bowl Can Be Improved

Post by Jack »

When the realization that qb would have to be online first hit, I mostly felt that Discord would be preferable to Zoom for online qb. I now feel the opposite. Having staffed over both Discord and Zoom and having played over Discord, I think at this point Zoom seems to be better in nearly every regard in terms of running a smooth tournament and in terms of gameplay, provided that these online buzzer websites are actually good. I have not used them myself, but it seems like a lot of high school tournaments are using them without issue.

As I'm sure most college students realize by now, Zoom definitely has better audio and video capability. I think the thing I have noticed most is that Zoom seems to do a much better job at ambient noise suppression from peoples' backgrounds, not to mention being clearer in general.

At the Zoom tournament I staffed, the biggest logistical issue was getting people assigned to breakout rooms and figuring out who should go where. Although you already pointed out why this may not even be necessary, Zoom's latest update allows hosts to permit users to pick their own breakout rooms. This basically eliminates that bottleneck, since you can post a schedule and name your breakout rooms ahead of time and users can join the room they need to -- then hosts can pick up the stragglers and manually move them to where they need to go (or you can give moderators all co-hosting power and they can move people if they aren't in their correct room). People will point out that allowing people to join other rooms was originally seen as a possible way users could cheat, but as Emmett Laurie so aptly pointed out during our ACF Winter mirror on Discord when he made it so that players could join any room, joining a room you aren't supposed to be in would be one of the most obvious and ineffective ways of actually cheating and there's no way anyone could possibly get away with this.

Conversely, though it has been made easier by the use of bots, Discord tournaments now (despite my original belief to the contrary) seem to require more effort to organize and pull off. Players need to each be given roles and these roles need to be set up with very specific permissions. Our ACF Winter tournament had multiple issues with this -- understandably. Rebracketing took a while because the bot interface to reassign our roles didn't work as intended and it was about a 25 minute or so wait to get it all sorted out. Everyone knew where they had to be, it was just a matter of figuring out how to tell Discord what rooms everyone needed to go to. With Zoom, all that's needed as of the latest update is just a list of named breakout rooms and a new schedule posted.

Buzzing, though, is something where I think Discord has the edge. using Zoom notifications to see buzzes is a bit more difficult than reading Discord buzzes, at least in my eyes. As that is one of the most important aspects of getting online qb right, I can understand why this fact alone may incline some to use Discord over Zoom. That said, having experienced this problem myself, it seems Discord tends to be much less reliable, historically, in terms of latency or server stability than Zoom. There was a huge Discord outage (though brief) at the beginning of ACF Winter that caused delays, and people, such as myself, throughout the day had random latency in buzzing. At one point, it actually caused my buzz to appear after someone else buzzed (though it popped up before chronologically once it finally went through) and I had to interrupt the mod to prevent the other team from wrongfully answering. This is why I think these online buzzers are worth exploring. I don't know much about them, but if they work well (and can be used in combination with a lockdown browser, perhaps, to mitigate cheating), then I would say Discord loses its advantage.

Other minor things I would note: Discord's video overlay doesn't really work as well as Zoom's. It's annoying to pop out and, as far as I can tell, uses more CPU resources than Zoom does. I don't have problems with that, but others may. From the perspective of a mod who wants to look at their players, I could see why Zoom has an advantage here -- I know I certainly think Zoom does better here based on my own modding experience. It also may be the case that Zoom's "pick your own breakout room" feature is all or nothing in that you cannot designate certain breakout rooms as "off limits," meaning that TDs can't have a dedicated, "secure" room accessible by permission only for staff to talk about whatever they need to talk about (though again, if someone really wanted to cheat by joining a Zoom room this way, it would be incredibly obvious, not to mention you could just record the audio in Zoom and get a log of who joined the call as a failsafe). Finally, having the open breakout rooms in Zoom also makes it easier to hear your own packets being read at packet submission tournaments. At Winter, Emmett had to spend time figuring out how to give us permission to view one specific room during a certain round, which took time away from him. At other tournaments, there's no problem here.

Discord certainly is a bit more fun with its emojis and whimsy and whatnot, but personally, if I were going to run a tournament online today, I would use Zoom as long as I could find a decent online buzzing system. College hosts certainly have enough premium accounts or whatever to pull them off. If enough people can speak to their credibility or recommend a good online buzzer, it may be time to go the way of Zoom rather than Discord.

EDIT: I'll add one more plus to Zoom's side: professionalism. The (high school) Zoom tournament I staffed had a few teams whose districts required them to use Zoom. School districts can make school-affiliated accounts with Zoom, whereas Discord is just students using their own personal accounts. For college tournaments that really won't matter, but for high school events I think this is something that shouldn't be overlooked -- Zoom has become the "industry standard" of sorts.
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Re: Online Quiz Bowl Can Be Improved

Post by Red Panda Cub »

I don't understand why this has not been adopted as standard outside of the UK yet, but there is an incredibly easy way, when cameras are on, to make sure people aren't cheating. Just require players for whom it is possible to do so to keep one hand on screen at all times. You can keep the other hand off screen, since obviously it needs to be on the keyboard to buzz. UKQB requires this as a standard for players at their online tournaments, and it seems to have been pretty effective. If a player is systematically avoiding the rule, then you have a rules based challenge to them, rather than less founded suspicions.

If one hand is in view of everyone, then it can't type, and one handed typing is (a) slower and (b) more obvious to see on camera, since you have to move around a lot more.

My teammate, Daoud, at yesterday's French also innovated on this by setting up so that he could have two hands on camera at all times. He did this by connecting a gamepad to his computer, and binding 'b', 'u', 'z' and 'enter' to relevant buttons. This also seemed to improve the experience in ways other than cheat-prevention, since if someone echoes this setup, they can lean back in their chair and relax rather than hunching over their desk for 6+ hours in a row.

Edit: Similarly, a camera setup that just shows someone from the chin up is basically useless for cheat prevention, imho.
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Re: Online Quiz Bowl Can Be Improved

Post by Mike Bentley »

A few thoughts:

I agree that Zoom is the simpler platform to host a tournament on. It also generally has better audio and video, although it's a relatively small difference and I've anecdotally heard some people having better experience with one vs. the other.

I do like Discord's chat features, place for announcements, ability to see multiple text channels at once, and feedback channels better than Zoom. For an experienced tournament director who knows how to efficiently use bots, I think you can run a slightly higher quality tournament on that platform (assuming no audio issues). But I'd recommend any TDs new to the online quizbowl experience to go with Zoom + a buzzer app.

Interested to hear that the "one hand up" system has worked effectively in the UK. My initial impression about that is that it's (a) exhausting depending on how you're doing it and (b) likely to lead to a lot of accidental non-compliance which leads to the norm of people not doing it. At the same time, I do tend to instinctively adopt a bit of a Thinker pose when listening to questions so I can see how it would work.

In general, I agree though that tournaments should treat cameras more seriously. You as a player should spend at least a little effort making sure you're at least visible and not just showing off your forehead.
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Re: Online Quiz Bowl Can Be Improved

Post by frasier »

The one hand system is working well in the UK. I really don't think it's exhausting at all, it's quite easy to be in a comfortable position for it. There are other ways of achieving the same sort of thing (e.g. an external webcam so that the keyboard can partially seen or most of someone's torso is in view), but I think in general showing one hand is fine and sufficient to reduce the temptation to cheat that online play clearly stirs up in some people.
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Re: Online Quiz Bowl Can Be Improved

Post by Red Panda Cub »

Mike Bentley wrote: Sun Nov 15, 2020 10:23 am Interested to hear that the "one hand up" system has worked effectively in the UK. My initial impression about that is that it's (a) exhausting depending on how you're doing it and (b) likely to lead to a lot of accidental non-compliance which leads to the norm of people not doing it. At the same time, I do tend to instinctively adopt a bit of a Thinker pose when listening to questions so I can see how it would work.
I haven't found it tiring at all, personally, but I am able to set up my camera so that it is fairly far from me, so I can even have my off-hand resting on my desk rather than free-floating. Also, it's less tiring in a TU/bonus format, since you can "rest" during the other team's questions.
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Re: Online Quiz Bowl Can Be Improved

Post by Jack »

Mike Bentley wrote: Sun Nov 15, 2020 10:23 am I agree that Zoom is the simpler platform to host a tournament on. It also generally has better audio and video, although it's a relatively small difference and I've anecdotally heard some people having better experience with one vs. the other.
I've personally experienced quite a noticeable difference between the two. One of my clubs I'm involved with at school uses both Zoom and Discord routinely, and a couple of my friends who don't have dedicated headsets or use earbud mics, upon switching to Discord from Zoom, begin to have their audio quality drop significantly, in that Discord transmits more ambient noise. Two of my friends who use their laptop mics without headphones, who had no issues with sound leaking back into their mic from their speakers on Zoom, began to have that issue once we switched to Discord. In fact, when they enabled the "Krisp audio suppression," or whatever Discord has, it actually somehow made things worse for both of them, and we had to go back to Zoom to avoid this. I think at the point many players and most staffers probably aren't using laptop mics with no headphones, but if they are, in my mind Zoom has the edge. A few staffers at our Winter mirror were using earbud mics, and each time we played in their room I heard background noise form their roommates(?) leaking through. It wasn't a huge deal and it's not their fault, but on this point alone I'd rather go with what's more consistent and will reduce that interference.
Mike Bentley wrote: Sun Nov 15, 2020 10:23 am I do like Discord's chat features, place for announcements, ability to see multiple text channels at once, and feedback channels better than Zoom. For an experienced tournament director who knows how to efficiently use bots, I think you can run a slightly higher quality tournament on that platform (assuming no audio issues). But I'd recommend any TDs new to the online quizbowl experience to go with Zoom + a buzzer app.
FWIW, I actually agree with you on this. Personally, I think I feel slightly more engaged while using Discord as opposed to Zoom while playing, just by the nature of its design and interface. There's something to be said about its centrality. It's easier for staffers to DM relevant people; teams can have their own private chats (something LIT did that I really liked!), you can pin messages, etc.. But other than the centralization of communication, most of these have easy substitutes -- a google doc that gets updated with relevant info for players and emailed in advance -- which honestly tournaments should be doing anyway whether they use Zoom or Discord -- having a facebook messenger group or slack, which many IRL tournaments seem to do, or even just also having a discord server up for communication between the staff while running the tournament on Zoom! I actually used this last method while staffing a Zoom tournament. It didn't add any extra hassle and it worked best for general questions that were not pressing issues. Ultimately this method seems pretty much the same as what one would have in an IRL tournament.

Since a lot of more involved quiz bowlers are used to Discord one way or another I think it makes sense that it was the go-to. Heck, I'm approaching my 5 year Discord anniversary! But I think when it comes down to the "fundamentals" of the tournament, the no-compromise features that need to happen, Zoom with something like buzzin.live (which as people have now told me, actually works well, apparently) seems to have the edge. I think, first and foremost, efficiency, stability, and clarity need to be prioritized above things like qualitative appeal or a slight bump to engagement. Zoom tournaments require less technical skill of both host and player to run, now. In my experience, though Discord isn't at all poor in its stability, Zoom has an edge here, too (coincidentally, as I am typing this up, one of my Discord servers is not loading messages :sad: ). And as much as I like buzzing on Discord with the :b: emoji, apparently online buzzer systems work very well and are impossible not to notice. Given that the biggest gripes with online QB so far seem to be 1) ending time and 2) cheating, I would rather use the system that ostensibly does a better job. With Zoom's latest updates it's difficult for me to see how Zoom would not be an improvement regarding 1) when compared to Discord. Hosts can make their own decision on what to use, but I think, especially for tournaments that presumably will need to be on the longer side of things like Regionals and SCT, (and probably also any national tournament) we really ought to think which option will make for a more efficient tournament with fewer problems.
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Re: Online Quiz Bowl Can Be Improved

Post by naan/steak-holding toll »

I still find Discord much more centralized, more engaging, and better optimized for any sort of game experience when you're doing more than just talking and listening to other people - which you are in a quizbowl tournament. Discord is also, frankly, much more fun - and this can't be underestimated as a benefit when you're playing online tournaments. Perhaps for high schoolers with coaches Zoom is better, but in a student-run setting, I find Discord to be much more convenient. Discord also is much easier for archiving messages, going back and responding to previous messages, etc. which is helpful for communication and, occasionally, protest resolution.

Zoom's chat features are also very inconvenient - it's really easy to accidentally send a message to the entire group when you're just trying to talk with your teammates, you have to click on each name individually to do so, etc.

I would prefer use of buzzin.live for future events given the lag issues that seem to crop up in buzzing for Discord tournaments with some regularity, but I understand this may be difficult to implement.
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Re: Online Quiz Bowl Can Be Improved

Post by kammajos000 »

Red Panda Cub wrote: Sun Nov 15, 2020 9:14 am I don't understand why this has not been adopted as standard outside of the UK yet, but there is an incredibly easy way, when cameras are on, to make sure people aren't cheating. Just require players for whom it is possible to do so to keep one hand on screen at all times. You can keep the other hand off screen, since obviously it needs to be on the keyboard to buzz. UKQB requires this as a standard for players at their online tournaments, and it seems to have been pretty effective. If a player is systematically avoiding the rule, then you have a rules based challenge to them, rather than less founded suspicions.
I do think this method would be worth trying, though there would definitely be some points to work out, like Mike mentioned. I made an effort to have a hand in frame during most tossups at least during ACF Winter and didn't find it to be too annoying. It does seem like accidental non-compliance would pop up pretty often though.

naan/steak-holding toll wrote: Sun Nov 15, 2020 12:58 pm I still find Discord much more centralized, more engaging, and better optimized for any sort of game experience when you're doing more than just talking and listening to other people - which you are in a quizbowl tournament. Discord is also, frankly, much more fun - and this can't be underestimated as a benefit when you're playing online tournaments. Perhaps for high schoolers with coaches Zoom is better, but in a student-run setting, I find Discord to be much more convenient. Discord also is much easier for archiving messages, going back and responding to previous messages, etc. which is helpful for communication and, occasionally, protest resolution.

Zoom's chat features are also very inconvenient - it's really easy to accidentally send a message to the entire group when you're just trying to talk with your teammates, you have to click on each name individually to do so, etc.
I think these advantages you see in Discord should take second place to the potential benefit in audio/video quality that many see in Zoom. Also, this comes down to personal preference of course, but I and some teammates find Zoom to be more fun than Discord. With Zoom I've had smoother, more professional tournament experiences, which I find makes it more about the pure quizbowl and thus more fun. I do agree that Discord is good for archiving messages and easing communication across teams/staffers, and I think these benefits could be retained with a hybrid model, using a central Discord as a communication hub/control room, but then using Zoom for actual gameplay. As far as sending private messages during gameplay to teammates, I haven't found that necessary.


If anyone has any thoughts about reducing tournament length, I'd love to hear them.
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Re: Online Quiz Bowl Can Be Improved

Post by Mike Bentley »

Some quick thoughts after playing ACRO-DEMIA this weekend: I was reminded that buzzer apps generally work well, but have the disadvantage of requiring the window to be focused for your buzz to work. Since you typically don't have a great visual indication of this when you have it opened side-by-side with the Zoom call, it can lead to cases of you pressing the space bar in the Zoom chat rather than in the buzz window.

The model of separate rooms having separate Zoom meetings helps reduce time spent reassigning breakout rooms. But if it's not supplemented with, say, a central Discord server for communication, you get into these periods of just waiting around after rounds with no indication of when the next phase is starting. I'd argue that sitting in a waiting room without anyone else to chat with / no indication of how far along the other rooms are increases the perceived delay of the tournament even if the actual delay is reduced.
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Re: Online Quiz Bowl Can Be Improved

Post by ryanrosenberg »

I liked the in-game experience of Zoom + buzzer app more than Discord, although I agree with Mike that not having a good way of communicating rapidly with everyone detracted from the experience. A Zoom tournament utilizing a Discord server for communication might be the best way to go.
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Re: Online Quiz Bowl Can Be Improved

Post by i never see pigeons in wheeling »

kammajos000 wrote: Sat Nov 14, 2020 6:59 pm Using Discord text chat to buzz is another aspect of online tournaments that I think can be improved. Third-party buzzer apps make it easier on moderators and makes it less likely for buzzes to get mixed up or unnoticed by the moderator. The two that I’ve used that work are buzzin.live and gamenightbuzzer.com. Both are pretty good and easy to use, but I think buzzin.live is usually people’s favorite. By posting the buzzer code with the Zoom code, it is easy for players to transition between rooms. These buzzers play a sound to the moderator when a buzz is made, so they don’t have to fiddle with Discord settings or keep an eye on chat when reading, which I have personally found difficult. They also lock people out and show a clear record of who buzzed. They also have reset functionality, which is a lot cleaner than posting delimiters in Discord chat between questions, which is a hassle for moderators and often forgotten. It’s quicker and easier to just reset the buzzer.
At least for this point, it's worth noting that this problem is totally solved by pinging the mod with a buzz, which gives an instant notification. It's only slightly more typing than just typing any of the various buzz characters (like you can prepare by having in the text chat "b @handle," where the handle can be autocompleted. If you really want to speed up the process of typing the buzz command, there's probably a bot that has a profanity filter that could be reconfigured to use the words buzz/bzz/bz/b etc. to ping the staff in the room. An underestimated feature of in-chat buzz is that it produces a log that can be audited, unlike online buzzing platforms. The delimiter problem is simple--scorekeepers or even players will put the delimiters in Discord chat if you ask them, which doesn't require clicking away to yet another window (tournaments--especially NAQT tournaments--already involve a whole lot of windows to click on, and adding yet another one is suboptimal for the moderator experience).
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Re: Online Quiz Bowl Can Be Improved

Post by Important Bird Area »

Many of the suggestions made by Joe in the first post in this thread echo the advice in NAQT's online tournament guide. Because we think audio quality and network stability are critical elements of running online tournaments, we prefer the use of Zoom as a videoconferencing platform. We recommend using an online buzzer site such as BuzzIn.Live so that moderators need not monitor a text channel for buzzes. We recommend using an electronic scoresheet (and provide one) to make it very easy to collect game results and to prevent arithmetic errors. We caution hosts and participants that online quiz bowl runs quite a bit slower than in-person quiz bowl; many hosts have found it necessary to adjust their tournament schedule and/or format in order to complete their event in a reasonable timeframe.

For tournaments using NAQT questions, we also recommend using NAQT's online question system. Questions are displayed in a web browser one tossup-bonus cycle at a time, with clearly labeled buttons that make it faster and less error-prone for moderators to navigate through the packet. The system helps avoid mistakes in which teams are playing or which packet is read in a given game room. The system also provides the tournament director with status reports on each game's progress, which aids in making sure all game rooms are running smoothly.

We will be offering two webinars in the next week on running and participating in online quiz bowl tournaments. If you're interested in hearing more about how we think the online quiz bowl experience can be improved, we hope you'll join us, and we invite you to write to [email protected] with any questions you'd like to see addressed during the webinars.
Jeff Hoppes
President, Northern California Quiz Bowl Alliance
former HSQB Chief Admin (2012-13)
VP for Communication and history subject editor, NAQT
Editor emeritus, ACF

"I wish to make some kind of joke about Jeff's love of birds, but I always fear he'll turn them on me Hitchcock-style." -Fred
benchapman
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Re: Online Quiz Bowl Can Be Improved

Post by benchapman »

Regarding seeing buzzes while using Zoom, what I've found works is putting zoom with the chat on the left side and the packet on the right, so you can see in your peripheral vision when the Zoom chat moves.
Ben Chapman
Hunter College High School, Class of 2021 (2016-)
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Re: Online Quiz Bowl Can Be Improved

Post by osbornrj »

As someone who plans to run a couple of online tournaments in the upcoming months, I REALLY appreciate this thread! The information I've found here is incredibly helpful. Thank you!
Robin Osborne
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cchiego
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Re: Online Quiz Bowl Can Be Improved

Post by cchiego »

1. I think having a list of clear procedures for mods and players on what to do with common in-game issues like:

a. "a player just disappeared from the room mid tossup"
b. "a player buzzed in, looks like they are talking, but the mod can't hear them"
c. "the mod calls time several seconds before the players respond, but it appeared to the players like it was within time and they're angry"
d. "a player just discovered their camera is somehow not working and can't fix it and is upset"

would be helpful, especially in terms for setting out expectations for new-to-online players and teams. NAQT has a very good section on what to do in response to Technical Problems that covers some of these issues that I'd like to highlight here, but I think making something like this into a handy reference sheet that could be easily distributed to all players (who might not otherwise read the extensive guides) would be helpful and potentially modifiable for events not using NAQT rules. I'd be happy to help work on this if anyone else is interested in creating something like it.

2. Much depends on having the TDs, staff, and players experienced with the platform that's being used. I can't stress enough the need for tournaments to have all teams and all of their staff experienced in whatever setup that they're using (including the scoresheet management system) before the event. This is where requiring some kind of pre-tournament online testing or practice session for every team, especially those who are new (but even experienced online teams may not be familiar with a given setup), would be quite good. I would definitely recommend people who are going to TD future events online to see if they can "observe" an event or two from the standpoint of the TD of another event if possible since running an online event is very different from even just attending it.

3. In general, online events definitely need more staff. If you're trying to run a tournament that requires a lot of manual assignments of permissions or additions to rooms and such, you probably need 2-3 TDs for any tournament over, say, 16-18 teams. I'd say something like 1 TD for every 16 teams might be a good rule of thumb, especially since it's very easy for any 1 TD to get dragged into resolving a specific issue and the whole event falling behind. Scorekeepers can also play a big role online, especially in terms of monitoring players via video and reducing the burden on the mods. You really need as many rooms as possible with 2 staffers for online quizbowl.

4. I agree with everything in Joe's original post about managing length as well as the points in NAQT's online essentials. I especially agree that shorter questions and times to answer can really be helpful for reducing fatigue and overlong matches. I'd also note that this helps as an anti-cheating deterrent; no more 8-second waits for an out-of-nowhere pull on a hard part after missing the medium part and less of a chance someone can get off a Google on a 4 line TU than an 8 line one. I've liked the way Pennsylvania tournaments have done prelims as TU-only with only the playoffs adding bonuses as well and I'd be interested in hearing more ways that tournaments have shortened rounds.

5. Even after the COVID restrictions end, I think well-run online quizbowl has a lot going for it in terms of reducing the burdens on teams to constantly organize transportation to events and connecting schools from outside of the most-active circuits to many more tournament opportunities. It's worth trying to improve as much as possible even if the end of some of the COVID restrictions may soon be in sight.
Chris C.
Past: UGA/UCSD/Penn
Current: Central Coast CA
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