This post seems largely helpful, and thanks for linking to it again, Eric.Hello Quizbowl. Recently, I've noticed that there have been several instances of clues either not being uniquely identifying in isolation, or being vague enough to refer to multiple things. Let me offer a solution to this longtime problem: Reverse Clue Lookup.
You know how usually the way you pick clues is to take your answer, search for it, and pick out the facts that are interesting? Reverse clue lookup is essentially doing this backwards, i.e. searching for your clue and seeing what answers would fit it. For example, if you were writing a tossup on Coulomb's law, saying that it follows an inverse-square pattern isn't uniquely identifying, and a simple search would show that to you. As another example, if I were writing a tossup on Josef Pilsudski, I could say that he came to power under the terms of the Small Constitution - however, looking up "Small Constitution" on google reveals that there have been several Small Constitutions in history, so it would be somewhat unfair using that clue in isolation.
Now, let me offer some ways in which Reverse Clue Lookup can be accomplished:
1. Googling. Usually this is enough, especially if the clue is about a Named Thing. This is somewhat more difficult if your clue is a description.
2. Packet archive searching. This may capture more instances than simple googling, because your clue will be written in quizbowl language and so will any instances of it in the packet archive.
3. Playtesting. This is by far the best method; there are many retired/ineligible quizbowlers who can listen to your questions and catch these kinds of errors. Bruce Arthur and Matt Weiner, for instance, should easily be able to catch the Small Constitution error that I wrote about above.
Hope this helps.
I have a couple observations. First, there's a fine line between clues that are fine in context but might fail to reward a specific piece of binary knowledge, and clues that are outright ambiguous. If the extent of your knowledge is that Small Constitution >> Pilsudski, well, that binary might not always work. If that binary causes a player to neg a tossup that's obviously talking about stuff in the 1980s and 90s and happens to mention another Small Constitution, greater tragedies have happened. It's obviously good to reduce ambiguity in questions whenever possible, but there's some common-sense judgment involved, too.
Second, to the extent reverse-clue lookup is helpful, I don't think it can rely on playtesting, no matter how knowledgeable the players are. Unless the playtesters literally know every clue of every tossup you're playtesting, they'll miss things. And because the clues earlier in the question are the ones that can cause the worst problems because there's no context (and are also the ones that playtesters are least likely to know), you'll probably miss the most important things.
As a side note to the second point, I think quizbowlers are very often over-reliant on individual expertise, especially in protest resolution. Quizbowl is a game in which the best players know a minority of the clues that come up in their categories, and even then, often neg because of imperfect memory. It's impossible to write questions from memory without making awful mistakes. The internet is literally in your pocket. And yet I hear tons of protest resolutions along the lines of "I went to Noted Expert X and he summarily said it was wrong." GAH! Take thirty seconds to look it up! How is this still happening the better part of a decade after Hermann/Arminius?