Burnout

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Cheynem
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Burnout

Post by Cheynem »

I believe one of the unspoken but deepest problems facing quizbowl today is "burnout." For the purposes of this post, I am using "burnout" to refer to not being enthused to work on quizbowl writing/editing projects for whatever reasons (note, important: burnout does not mean "screwing up" necessarily--this is anything from bailing on a tournament to not wanting to write to falling behind, etc.).

Let's look at some of the tournaments this year so far.

The good: the institutional tournaments--ACF and SCT sets--were seemingly very smoothly written.

The bad: the vast majority of other tournaments had a lot of issues. ICSS was a set rushed into production at the last minute because of the sudden removal of Collegiate Novice. DEES required a magical bailout. Several other tournaments (Penn Bowl, MUT) were not rush jobs but had writers understandably become bogged down due to other commitments and needed some assistance.

That's not even counting the Matt Weiner implosion which required massive, massive bailouts that are still ongoing and are so massive people are already starting to get burned out on a bailout project.

I have no real manifesto in analyzing this; I just think this is a deeper problem than we want to admit. I have a couple thoughts:

1. Quizbowl needs to get better, not more prolific. I question the need for some of these sets. It is okay to have some holes on a schedule if that means quality, better tournaments over time.

2. Quizbowl needs to avoid models of tournament production (on high stakes tournaments anyway, not so much side events) that rely heavily on "one or two people write everything."

3. Quizbowl should discourage overstretching one's self. I feel like there's a lot of us in quizbowl who are writing and editing a lot, which is good, but all of that can be a brutal workload over time. I also like we as a community subconsciously guilt trip everyone else a lot--"if you really care about quizbowl, you'll help bail out this project or chip in a few questions." We should feel free to say no and not feel guilty.

Does anyone else have any thoughts?
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Re: Burnout

Post by Bloodwych »

This is tangentially related and perhaps self-serving from my recent experience, but I think that it's unwise to have a packet submission tournament in the spring (a la STIMPY, TITs of past times), both for the benefit of the submitting teams and the editors. I would wholeheartedly recommend to the writers of next spring's event (whomever they may be) that they commit to a housewrite instead of a packet submission event. I believe that packet submission events are way better off if they occur in the fall semester. Potential conflicts with ACF Regionals/Nationals submissions only contribute to the burnout experienced by teams and hurt submission quality overall.

It's entirely possible that this view is ignorant, as I have no idea of the difference in submission quality between fall and spring events. I would appreciate any further enlightenment if I am wrong in this regard.
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Re: Burnout

Post by Ike »

I have a lot to say on this after ACF Nationals, but I will say this right now:

I have been working on a lot of sets this year: everything from chipping in a few questions to Penn Bowl, to writing a lot of questions for ICT, to writing a massive amount of questions for ACF Nationals, to writing huge chunks of high school sets, to bailing out DEES. I find it hard to turn people down when they need help - I want teams to play questions. But I'm not superhuman: I almost went a little bonkers from helping out with all these sets the other day, so I took a few days off and played video games. Then it really hit me: we just don't have enough writers to handle the "marathon" of producing a large amount of questions that quizbowl needs over the long haul.

The one thing that I want to discuss is that I think everyone who puts in hard work into any question set needs to be praised: I made a "negative," albeit, constructive post in the George Oppen thread. I think that led people to supposing that the entire tournament sucked, but thankfully Evan Adams made a post reminding us that it didn't. Between no Oppen and Oppen, I would choose Oppen all the time. In particular, I think it's fucking inexcusable for someone like Ted to come in and say that Auroni doesn't have the capability of writing a hard tournament like Oppen, and not provide a single shred of up-building criticism, when he himself has only worked on one major tournament in the last four years. Well, you know what? Auroni should be commended for the fact he's willing to write a hard tournament, willing to produce questions for almost every difficulty year in, year out. That's not to say he's immune from criticism, but we need more writers who are willing to do the hard work of producing question sets often.

The reason why I think destroying this aura of bitching about questions is important is that we should be actively promoting question writers on all levels: numerous times I have heard from a decent player that they don't write questions because people will rip them apart. I stopped reading the boards entirely for about six months after Matt Weiner's post about 2011 Illinois Open and wasn't planning on writing anything ever again until Marshall Steinbaum asked me if I could help out with Peaceful Resolution. That's fucking horrible behavior from Weiner, and I think we, as a quizbowl community, should remove that "thick skin" requirement of writers, since the amount of financial compensation or "resume padding" we get isn't remotely worth the pain and effort we put into our questions.

Therefore, all of the writers that we train have to do it because they love quizbowl. So the next time you make a post about how horrible something is, realize that many of the writers, especially the new ones, are seeking some sort of validation. Thank people for putting on a side event, even if the question didn't have enough of what you like, so it pissed you off. Send a private email to the editors if you really liked a question set. Send a private email to a question author if you really liked it, even if it's something to the extent of "Thanks for writing this really awesome tossup on Jordanes!" Let them know that their effort was appreciated by someone.

I will have MUCH, MUCH, more to say on this later, and I encourage people to discuss this in person at the ICT with each other on the Sunday off. In particular: I think the other huge issues worth discussing are: how to develop more writers from senior high schoolers and incoming freshmen, handling the rate of expansion of quizbowl, (for example, if NHBB's cousin, the National Music Bee and Bowl or the National Science Bee and Bowl just all of a sudden sprung up, how would we handle it), and getting more people to contribute a small amount of questions to sets for a lower level than they are. I'm sure there are others, those are the things that popped into my head.

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Re: Burnout

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

Quizbowl relies on a relatively small number of people to produce the vast majority of questions because only a small number of people can be relied upon to consistently write good questions in large numbers. Naturally, an arrangement like this carries a risk of burnout, and when it happens it causes great trouble.

It would be very easy for me to follow up that observation by launching into a tirade about how quizbowl people are lazy and would rather write a 30 line screed about how the middle clue of somebody else's tossup was bad than write a 7 line tossup of their own. Indeed, that was my original plan for what to do with that post.

But instead I think I'll piggy-back off what Ike said, and suggest that quizbowl use Matt Weiner's flameout as an opportunity to shift tactics away from public shaming and towards positive reinforcement, praising of reliable writers, and emphasis on encouraging new people to join the ranks of tournament writers and editors.

I'm only half joking when I suggest that much of quizbowl could benefit from reading Dale Carnegie.
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Re: Burnout

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

If alien anthropologists (or, heck, human anthropologists who are unfamiliar with quizbowl, which is most of them) came to Earth to study quizbowl, one of the things that would initially puzzle them is the high status that quizbowl society gives to Ryan Westbrook.

Now, I love Ryan. But if you look at him objectively from a non-quizbowl perspective, he does not have the hallmarks of somebody who enjoys great status and influence in his world. But he does, because over the last decade he has proven to be one of the most reliable writers of high quality questions. Think of all of the CO's and MLK's he has written, all the tournaments that he has edited history for. Apart from a few flameouts (and there truly is nobody without a flameout or two in the ranks of the top writers) they have been mostly well-liked and uncontroversial. Indeed, Ryan Westbrook is probably one of the best writers in the entire history of quizbowl. And ultimately the quizbowl community respects that and treats him with due regard.

I say this not to launch into a discussion about Ryan Westbrook specifically, but to point out that if you start writing quizbowl questions, good ones, in large numbers, you will eventually enjoy a number of rewards. You will get status, people will respect you in spite of other flaws you might have. You will win influence - you'll get invited to join self-perpetuating oligarchies like ACF or PACE and be able to make both tactical decisions that help major tournaments run better and weigh in on strategic decisions that impact the future of quizbowl. You'll get more pedestrian forms of respect too, such as praise on the forums for specific questions you wrote. Heck, during the heyday of my writing, I would get freshmen coming up to me at tournaments and saying "You're Bruce? I read your question set to study for this tournament, I really enjoyed the tossup on...". It was the closest I've come to being treated like a celebrity. You'll even get some money. Not good money compared to a job, but pretty decent money for a late teens/early 20's person to be making off a hobby. I once paid for a European vacation entirely with money that Dave Madden gave me for writing questions, that's pretty good.

So if we're speaking about the need for positive reinforcement, we're not totally failing at that. Eventually, if you stick with writing long enough, you'll get praise, status, and influence from the quizbowl community, no matter how unsavory you might otherwise be.

I think the question is more how do you encourage people who have never written a large number of good questions to get started, and how do you encourage them to stick with it before they become really good at it.

I played quizbowl for three years before I started writing questions in large numbers. Probably what pushed me into writing was an email I got from Seth Teitler in the spring of 2007 asking if I would edit the history for 2007 Chicago Open. I was flattered and instantly agreed.

Then, a few weeks later, I sent Seth a second email saying I would no longer be available to help him edit CO. Why? Because the confidence he gave me encouraged me to write my own history tournament, 150 questions of it, instead. That tournament didn't end up being that good, but it put me on a track to write hundreds more questions each year for the next 4-5 years.

That email probably only took Seth about 15 seconds to write. It was not much effort on his part.
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Re: Burnout

Post by Cheynem »

Seth created a monster!
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Re: Burnout

Post by Stained Diviner »

I think the best reward of being a writer and editor is knowing that you are playing a major role in making quizbowl good. Unfortunately, that's also one of the reasons that it is difficult to say no to various projects that come up. Additionally, at least two events this year, first DEES and more importantly Weiner, are naturally causing an acute sense of burnout in the people who are stepping up to address those shortcomings, and that is in addition to the burnout that is always present in some people to some degree. I'm feeling a bit burned out, and I wasn't directly impacted by those things.

Many of the suggestions upthread are good. At some point, people will need to figure out what sets will get written/edited next year, and it's possible that the number will go down. At some point, the types of comments on this board should evolve as much as quizbowl evolves.

It is more difficult for new writers and editors to feel like they are contributing than it was years ago. When I started writing Solo in 2001, it was better than the other high school sets being used in Illinois because my competition was vendors like QQQ and Patrick's Press. When I got the Masonics job, it was an improvement because I replaced Questions Galore. We need to find a way to convince people that their contributions are needed even though they are regularly playing and practicing on sets that are better than sets that they could produce. I had a few students who went into question production, and one of the motivating factors was that they as high school seniors could produce better questions than the ones they played on--that motivating factor isn't really there any more.

It's also true that the number of sets seen as fundamental generally increases over time. We now have lots of NAQT sets (including SSNCT), HSAPQ, NSC, NHBB, and NASAT on the high school and middle school levels, and fortunately lots of good writers who could produce college level questions are contributing to those sets. Those people are also producing college and open sets. As the number of fundamental sets increases, it may follow that the number not fundamental sets can decrease.
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Re: Burnout

Post by Adventure Temple Trail »

Thank you, Mike, for making this post. In the sublimest of ironies, I am unable to post at length because I am busy writing a large number of questions. I suspect I will have many more thoughts, both about this topic and the broader "where do we go from here," when I have more time to compose them, perhaps in early May and/or mid-June. But here are some. They are not organized.

Question writing is a weird thing that doesn't really have an analogue in any other activity. Once, I was talking about the quizbowl community to a non-quizbowler whom I'm close with, explaining how dozens of teams each write packets for packet-sub tournaments multiple times a year. I got the response back that no other activity pushes that insane an amount of effort on its players -- that it'd be like asking every participant in a tennis tournament to hand-craft their own tennis balls before participating. Of course, there are are a lot of positives a team derives from writing questions (i.e. direct improvement at playing) that Rafael Nadal wouldn't derive from manufacturing his own tennis balls before Wimbledon, but the analogy is an interesting one that I thought I'd share.

The number of people who can successfully write a good quizbowl question to today's higher standards has skyrocketed over the past 7-8 years. However, the number of good questions that are being written (across all high school, college, open, and now middle school sets) has exploded as well, to a number outpacing even the boom in interested writers. I think every quizbowl organization needs to have a serious discussion within itself about what the CHB thread called "priority" -- think, for each event in existence, "does this event really need to exist? Is the benefit the community gets from its existence worth the effort required to make it happen? Do we have to write new questions for it or can we share/collaborate/mirror? And if we were to cancel this, but channeled the same amount of effort into projects that matter more, where and how would we do that?"

I believe that the optimal range of committed writers for an average-size non-submission quizbowl set is between 3 and 5, inclusive. Below that (i.e. only 1 or 2 writers, despite the successes of Manu, Arrabal, and George Oppen) you run the risk of individual burnout wrecking the project, and don't have multiple people able to look over questions and give commentary on each other's work. In this range, you have multiple people who can encourage each other to do more, or pick up the slack when some other members of the core team fall behind. Above about 5 committed writers, you start to get diffusion of responsibility (though in my experience, most regular-size sets with very large writing teams tend to converge on a model of "1 to 5 volume writers do most of the work, and other people pitch in as they can" regardless of how they're initially set up). As sets grow larger, the optimum number of writers increases somewhat.
Last edited by Adventure Temple Trail on Mon Mar 23, 2015 3:33 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Burnout

Post by Nabonidus »

Sorry if this is a bit off topic, but I'm not familiar with the American side of quiz bowl and can't be sure whether Bruce is simply being sarcastic. That said:
Skepticism and Animal Feed wrote:You will get status, people will respect you in spite of other flaws you might have . . . if you stick with writing long enough, you'll get praise, status, and influence from the quizbowl community, no matter how unsavory you might otherwise be.
There are plenty of good reasons to write questions for collegiate quiz bowl. Multidisciplinary learning is key in the development of well-rounded intellectuals.

But (with absolutely no disrespect intended) I think the idea that "people will praise you without necessarily liking you as a human being" is a terrible motivation for almost any sort of commitment. Not only is that need assuaged more easily outside of quiz bowl, it's the sort of thinking that used to be embodied by Charles Atlas advertisements... People who receive gratification from the very idea of being influential tend not to use that influence well. And I'm not exaggerating when I suggest that tying one's sense of "status" into a particular hobby - especially a young person's hobby - is a recipe for disaster.
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Re: Burnout

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

When I say status, I mean within the quizbowl community. Obviously, quizbowl status doesn't translate into status elsewhere.

I do think that status-seeking within one's community (or at least status-enjoying) is inherent to man.
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Re: Burnout

Post by Adventure Temple Trail »

Skepticism and Animal Feed wrote:When I say status, I mean within the quizbowl community. Obviously, quizbowl status doesn't translate into status elsewhere.

I do think that status-seeking within one's community (or at least status-enjoying) is inherent to man.
Bruce worded it a little grandiosely, for sure, but it's certainly true that there are some people whose motivations include "I want to be recognized for doing something important in my community", and it's also true that writing a bunch of well-received questions is a good way of getting such recognition in the quizbowl world. That's not particularly controversial to me. I don't think there's anything wrong with Derek for not feeling that type of motivation, and I also don't think it's necessary to judge those who do have it, particularly if the status-motive spurs them on to write great questions that otherwise wouldn't exist. And I'm glad Bruce made that post, because it's something newer or more on-the-margins people (folks who don't get a Seth Teitler reaching out to them personally) might not have actually known about the rewards of becoming a good writer before today.

People are impelled to write questions by a variety of motives, and desire to have that "oh, we played your questions in practice the other day -- they were fun" conversation (or a blazon on QBWiki, or to have college freshmen's heads turn when you walk in the room, or to earn the grudging respect of players who thought nothing of you during your younger days, whatever) is a perfectly cromulent motive. Other such motives include, but aren't limited to: boredom, desire to learn for its own sake [the one Derek prizes most], desire to learn for points, need for a little extra spending money, a sense that the community needs it, a packet-sub requirement. I think what Mike wants to accomplish is a world where "I feel pressured to write a lot these extra sets that I didn't originally sign up for, because the community would collapse otherwise" is far less common as a motivator than it is now among the 50 to 100 people who write questions the most regularly to keep the community afloat as is. And I certainly hope, once this competition year is over, to talk more about how to get there. Until then, it's back to the question crank for me.
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Re: Burnout

Post by Cheynem »

Yeah, I agree with what Matt's saying. People can write for whatever motive they want, but I just want them to actually want to write. At a certain point, around February or so, combined with some personal problems, quizbowl writing became incredibly not fun for me.
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Re: Burnout

Post by Tees-Exe Line »

First of all, I'd like to endorse everything that Ike said. It's immensely discouraging to put a lot of time and hard work into a tournament and have it publicly ridiculed and your attempts at wider collaborations rebuffed. Ike (and Will Alston, following in Ike's prodigious footsteps) are admirable for coming back from that to become consistent contributors to the circuit.

Second, by way of constructive comment: why was ACF Winter discontinued, and might it make sense to create another ACF-managed collaborative editing venue, rather than rely on "the free market" to provide mid-season, mid-difficulty tournaments that are evidently plagued by spotty editing? It seems to me that ACF does a decent job identifying promising talent, giving them opportunities to edit Fall, and then moving them up the hierarchy of tournaments if they want to take on additional responsibilities. However, the editing responsibility seems to fall on a smaller and smaller circle of willing contributors as you get beyond Fall, and it could be that that contributes to burnout. Is it feasible to re-institute another ACF tournament, thus providing a playing opportunity the demand side seems to want, while managing the supply side to both offer promotion to junior writers and preventing too much of the burden from falling on senior people? How would a requirement that all active ACF members at least subject-edit one tournament per year work (with provision for, say, the treasurer or communications person to fulfill his/her requirement that way)? At the same time, there could be sharper policing of the standards for staging a mid-season circuit tournament outside ACF's umbrella.
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Re: Burnout

Post by Cody »

Let me preface this by saying that after 2011 IO, Ike completely turned around his writing. And he's a swell human being (he just helped me out on MUT, for example). So none of the following is a reflection on his current status as a question writer (he's prolific and great), or even his 2012-to-present status as a question writer.

The particular aspects of Ike's writing that made 2011 IO so bad were well known going in, and people were expecting it to be some flavor of bad - but not nearly as bad as it out. This is a key factor in why the condemnation of 2011 IO was so harsh. I am sure that 2011 IO was written with a good heart and so that people would enjoy it, but it was a very, very bad tournament (and many people rightly did not enjoy it). (of course, my favorite: it even upset Evan's normally calm demeanor so much that he half leaped out of his seat and shouted "stop writing on that!" after getting the God's Bits of Wood tossup).

And I think the harsh criticisms of 2011 IO served their purpose: to discourage Ike from continuing in the vein he had been writing for two or three years. It would have been better for Ike to stop producing questions that to continue to produce questions like those for 2011 IO and his previous writing projects. Though, obviously, I (and presumably quizbowl as a whole) are extremely thankful that Ike turned his writing around.

This is not to say that tournament criticism doesn't sometimes get out of hand. Nor to say that we shouldn't be more kind to writers. But I think the specific examples brought up in this thread (2011 IO, presumably Modern World) are the examples par excellence where very harsh criticism was justified* and produced results. And even then, Ted Gioia made some good posts in the discussion thread about ways in which Ike could build on the tournament and become better. I agree we could use more of that.

*there's two aspects here: in both cases, the tournaments were very bad. and in both cases, the particular aspects that made them bad had already been noted and criticized beforehand; in 2011 IO's case, so much so that Dwight Wynne made this post.
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Re: Burnout

Post by Strongside »

I wrote a few questions for one of Bruce Arthur's side events (Spring Offensive at 2010 HSNCT).

After the tournament, Bruce sent me this email.



Hey Brendan,

Just wanted to let you know that Jonathan Magin, Jeff Hoppes, and Andrew Hart each told me that they thought your Battle of Maldon tossups was one of their favorite tossups. I don't remember another time when a single tossup was independently praised by so many top players in a tournament I edited.



As Ike mentioned, doing things like this can be really helpful, as I would have otherwise not known the tossup was so well received.
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Re: Burnout

Post by Ike »

Okay I only have thirty minutes to go before I have to submit this post, so I apologize for the grammar issues in advance.

First of all, the content of that discussion thread really didn’t improve my writing after Weiner’s post because I didn’t really read it. If anything, it was the fact that Jonathan Magin spent countless hours talking to me about individual tossups and bonuses in the next set of questions that I wrote, Eric Mukherjee spent countless hours talking to me about why ~Micrographia~ and science history questions that I wrote weren't ideal, Chris Ray discussing with me how to make tournaments better received, and finally junking Mike Sorice’s theory of difficulty. While I have no doubt that the collective reaction of the thread was a motivator after I decided to write again, it’s not the case that the thread happened and my writing turned around. It was a very slow and incremental process that only happened because there was people that actually cared. I don’t know about Will Alston’s case in particular, but I do know he sought out my advice and I gladly gave it to him. I don’t think that the Modern World reception just caused his writing to turn around all of a sudden.

Here’s the full story behind why I didn’t give a fuck about my reputation pre-Illinois Open:

Andrew Hart for HSAPQ one night asked me to write 5/5 computer science for high school. This was during my first semester (2009) at Illinois, and I had no idea what exactly computer science was yet - I didn’t buzz on CS tossups until after my second semester at Illinois. I struggled to come up with answers, consulted another player on the quizbowl team who was a CS grad student and finally came up with five answers, including the now infamous tossup on France - because in class the previous week, we had discussed a bunch of French mathematicians and Cs theoreticians who were instrumental in developing the field. I don’t deny that the resulting tossup was ill-advised, but if you recall, this was around the time HSAPQ was shoving organic chemistry down the throats of high schoolers, and I thought I was being merciful by not writing on “bozosort.”

Some days later, Trygve Meade showed me some correspondence that Matt Weiner made in which he thought I wrote the “worst tossup ever” or something akin to that, even though I had spent 3-4 hours staying up late one night to fill a computer science quota. This is just downright sociopathic behavior, especially given, that I was willing to eschew my free time to fill out a CS quota. Mike Sorice pointed out to me that Weiner was one of those people who 1.) doesn’t know what science is like and 2.) should just be ignored because he doesn’t matter. This behavior precluded me from wanting to ever join ACF Fall as a writer - it was suggested that I continue to help with housewrites and produce them since I didn’t have to deal with nonsense like this.

My point in relaying this anecdote is to show that all of this type of behavior has deeper impacts in ways that are just more than “lol, let’s make fun of this bad writer.” When Austin Listerud came to the University of Illinois in 2011, he really didn't care about writing because he thought that discussion thread was way out of line. It was only after discussing this topic with me and telling him that he'll get better as a quizbowler that he picked up a pen and tried writing.

Now, look, I really did puke after staying up all night two nights writing Illinois Open + doing course work. There was one class in particular that kicked the shit out of me with 40-50 hours a week of outside work in the spring of 2011, so it really felt like a cosmic struggle to balance writing that tournament with coursework and with whatever else I was doing during my life at the time, which was probably nothing. I don’t know if it has ever been that dramatic for anyone else, but I imagine that a lot of us who are on the side of question production have extreme challenges balancing our work, life, and quizbowl studying and writing, and I think it’s absolutely unfair to foist any more mental distress onto people.

Fun fact: Also IO was advertised was Nats prep difficulty - which was true that year. In fact, it probably didn’t prepare everyone enough.
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Re: Burnout

Post by Muriel Axon »

Two quick thoughts:
1. In the vein of Bruce's example above, I had a pretty bitter taste in my mouth about question-writing after the UD/MSU housewrite, and particularly the Joe Brosch debacle. Part of what got me excited about question-writing again, beyond small-time NAQT stuff, was encouragement from others, including Ike. (In case you were concerned about whether he practices what he preaches.)
2. The reason the JL-Ted debate bores me so is that the stakes are so, so terribly low for anyone who's not JL or Ted. It's vastly more important to take decent young players and teach them how to write fairly good questions (even if they never help write/edit a tournament) than to argue with someone who's already good at writing questions (like JL or Ted) about how to write ever-so-slightly better questions. Given that the problems with tournaments like Oppen are often like "I just didn't have enough time to refine or replace bad questions," training more capable writers could make it such that mega-writers like Andrew don't have to take on so many projects, and such that submissions for packet subs are better. We should all be thinking more about what we're doing to train and encourage young players at our universities to write questions.
Shan Kothari

Plymouth High School '10
Michigan State University '14
University of Minnesota '20

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ryanrosenberg
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Re: Burnout

Post by ryanrosenberg »

To build off of Shan's point about encouraging young writers, I found PADAWAN to be a very good experience as a young-ish writer, and hope similar writing arrangements become fashionable.
Ryan Rosenberg
North Carolina '16 | Ardsley '12
PACE | ACF

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1992 in spaceflight
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Re: Burnout

Post by 1992 in spaceflight »

The Predictable Consequences wrote:To build off of Shan's point about encouraging young writers, I found PADAWAN to be a very good experience as a young-ish writer, and hope similar writing arrangements become fashionable.
Seconding Ryan's opinion on PADAWAN. I also hope that this kind of tournament becomes a staple of the fall.
Jacob O'Rourke
Washington (MO) HS Assistant Coach (2014-Present); MOQBA Secretary (2015-Present)
Formerly: HSAPQ Host Contact; NASAT Outreach Coordinator (2016 and 2017); Kirksville HS Assistant Coach (2012-2014); Truman State '14; and Pacific High (MO) '10


"And here we are as on a darkling plain, Swept by confused alarms of struggle and flight, Where ignorant armies clash by night."
Matthew Arnold, Dover Beach.

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grapesmoker
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Re: Burnout

Post by grapesmoker »

Good thread. For the moment, allow me to put on my ACF Member Hat and reply to Marshall.

ACF Winter was discontinued largely for the reasons being discussed here. First, we didn't feel like we could reasonably organize another tournament on the timeline that Winter required without compromising the quality of submissions to other ACF events. Winter was intended to run right around when schools came back for their winter quarter/spring semester, which was typically somewhere in the vicinity of MLK Day, and that just didn't work well with Regionals coming down the pike so soon after. Also, ACF was smaller then and it was harder to assemble an editing crew for it without, again, compromising editing crews for other tournaments.

I suspect that Winter will not be making a return any time soon. Personally, I think that's just as well; I'm much happier with ACF producing 3 high-quality events per year than trying to stretch ourselves beyond what we think we can reasonably accomplish and placing an additional strain on the circuit schedule. Despite some not-insubstantial progress toward schedule harmonization, quizbowl remains an inherently decentralized (I don't think "market" is the appropriate metaphor) activity, and there's no governing body that could possibly level sanctions of the type that Marshall mentions. At the moment, I think the schedule strikes a nice balance between centrally edited/written events (3 ACF events and 2 NAQT events) and independently produced events, and if the latter have been slightly shaky in quality this year, I don't think that means we need to change everything. I'd rather people dedicate themselves to doing a few things well rather than doing many things poorly.
Jerry Vinokurov
ex-LJHS, ex-Berkeley, ex-Brown, sorta-ex-CMU
code ape, loud voice, general nuissance

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bmcke
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Re: Burnout

Post by bmcke »

I'll revive this thread to say that the standards of "writing good tournaments" have gotten a lot higher in the last few years. Ike's post in the Nationals thread shows an elite writer spending "hours on every question" for a tournament. It is obviously great that the big college tournaments have such incredible research and writing, but I hope it doesn't set crazy expectations for submitters or editors, or for the lesser tournaments on the calendar.

I hope people won't mind if future tournaments, even future ACF tournaments, are not as perfect as this year's crop. I am pretty sure that no one is getting paid much to do all this work.
Brendan McKendy
University of Ottawa 2011
Ontario QBA 2019

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