Could High-Level College Quizbowl Stand to be Easier?

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Could High-Level College Quizbowl Stand to be Easier?

Post by naan/steak-holding toll »

Since this topic seems to come up a lot of the time (including last night at dinner after CO History) I figured it would be worthwhile to make a proper discussion thread for it. Put simply, college quizbowl above the ACF Fall level isn't easy by any means and hasn't really shown any signs of getting much easier in recent years. On the contrary, sets regularly overshoot their difficulty targets and people almost never think "this set was too easy" (the last I can remember was WIT, and most people respected the outcome of that tournament's editorial decisions) - not that it's a good thing for a set to be too easy, but it's generally less of a problem than it being too hard.

This year's CO definitely seemed like it made an active effort to control wackiness and difficulty while still providing the feel that Chicago Open is supposed to, i.e. being full of new, exciting, and generally quite difficult material that humbles even the mightiest of players and certainly humbles more middling ones. That being said, I think a tournament may be going a bit overboard when a team of Auroni Gupta (the majority of the muscle behind UCSD getting over 17 PPB at ACF Nationals), Matt Jackson (a Top 3 player from 2013-14) and the Tommy/MattBo duo (most of the quizbowl power behind the past two years' dominant UVA squad) can't manage to crack 20 PPB during it. Certainly the excellent reception of Stephen Liu's Visual Arts set seems to indicate that this is well within the realm of possibility.

Could collegiate quizbowl above the Fall/Regionals-minus level stand to be a bit easier in general? I want to hear not only just what other people think, but also some suggestions for how to avoid pitfalls about making tournaments too hard without muddying the battlefield for the best teams too much. I, for one, really don't want to overshoot with the set that I'm working on for this fall.
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Re: Could High-Level College Quizbowl Stand to be Easier?

Post by magin »

I was going to post something about difficulty in the CO thread, but now that this one exists, I'll do it here.

First of all, I've always strongly believed that editors should strongly control the difficulty of tournaments. Even at hard opens like CO, if you don't exercise strict discipline over your answer choices, you're going to end up with a lot of questions that just go dead in many rooms. It just sucks when you're playing a tournament and tossups keep going dead one after the other and bonuses seem impossible; it's deflating. Not to delve too deeply into psychology, but there's something to the flow of a good match where teams are alert and answering most of the questions and really competing on bonuses. On the other hand, packets with like 6-7 or more dead tossups and brutal bonuses don't have that same kind of fluidity. In my experience, they're much more psychologically taxing.

All this may or may not correspond to other people's experiences, sure. But it's more fun to me to play and moderate rounds with that kind of flow.

More practically, I think editors often make the mistake of being too lax regarding difficulty. Not that every tossup has to be easy, but in my opinion, when you're editing a category, you need to do your utmost best to make certain that the vast majority of tossups can be answered. You earn the right to write a few tossups on hard things by competently writing/editing a large number of questions on reasonable things. For instance, I wrote a tossup on Religio Medici this year for CO. Maybe that's not hard for some of you, but I felt that it was pretty hard. In order to include that tossup, I made sure that almost all of the other British lit tossups were easier. Including that Religio Medici tossup in CO, to me, was my reward for writing and editing many other tossups that I was sure lots of teams could answer. I feel like that approach helped make CO feel a little easier this year, at least from what players told me.

On the other hand, I'm less worried about the winning CO team not breaking 20 PPB. They were a very impressive team, no doubt, but they almost hit 20, and I feel like that's good enough for the hardest tournament of the year. I'd be more worried if no team broke 15 PPB or half the teams couldn't break 10 PPB.
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Re: Could High-Level College Quizbowl Stand to be Easier?

Post by Ike »

I think this year's Chicago Open difficulty was fine. I don't really think this tournament should be any easier, or really much harder - after all a 20ppb metric isn't really a metric of quality or anything, it's just kind of arbitrary.

There was only one packet - the one with tossups on the Philadelphia protein, Kołakowski, and a few other things that struck me as really hard. Of course that's entirely subjective, but I think difficulty at a tournament like Chicago Open should be much more subjective than objective - if people feel the tournament is too hard, rein it in next year. If people feel like the tournament isn't getting their blood flowing enough, perhaps it's time to finally ask about something more exciting. After all, the same people keep on coming back year after year to Chicago Open.
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Re: Could High-Level College Quizbowl Stand to be Easier?

Post by Sima Guang Hater »

Ike wrote:I think this year's Chicago Open difficulty was fine. I don't really think this tournament should be any easier, or really much harder - after all a 20ppb metric isn't really a metric of quality or anything, it's just kind of arbitrary.
I agree. These are the top ppbs at the last few Chicago Opens:

2015 - 19.77 PPB (Bollinger/Jackson/Gupta/Casalaspi)
2014 - 19.42 PPB (Bollinger/Casalapsi/Adams/Mukherjee)
2013 - 18.47 PPB (Graebner/Steinbaum/Mukherjee/Weiner)
2012 - 20.22 PPB (Bollinger/Lawrence/Ray/Mukherjee)
2011 - 18.34 PPB (Hart/Hoppes/Koo/Teitler)
2010 - 17.38 PPB (Magin/Teitler/Koo/Arthur)
2009 - 18.26 PPB (Weiner/Byrne/Carson/Hart)
2008 - 20.59 PPB (Magin/Weiner/Vinokurov/Mukherjee)

It seems fairly rare for the top team to break 20 PPB, as it's only happened twice. I don't really see a problem with this in itself.
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Re: Could High-Level College Quizbowl Stand to be Easier?

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed »

There's a difference between something like ACF Nationals, where the goal is to crown a national champion, and something like Chicago Open or a Chicago Open Side Event, where the goal is to give a bunch of crack addicts their high.

Granted, it's no fun to lose a tournament like CO because the questions in your subject are so hard they go dead, but on the flip side getting a tossup on some obscure pet interest of yours at a CO-like tournament is a high you just can't get anywhere else.
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Re: Could High-Level College Quizbowl Stand to be Easier?

Post by grapesmoker »

Ike wrote:I think this year's Chicago Open difficulty was fine. I don't really think this tournament should be any easier, or really much harder - after all a 20ppb metric isn't really a metric of quality or anything, it's just kind of arbitrary.

There was only one packet - the one with tossups on the Philadelphia protein, Kołakowski, and a few other things that struck me as really hard. Of course that's entirely subjective, but I think difficulty at a tournament like Chicago Open should be much more subjective than objective - if people feel the tournament is too hard, rein it in next year. If people feel like the tournament isn't getting their blood flowing enough, perhaps it's time to finally ask about something more exciting. After all, the same people keep on coming back year after year to Chicago Open.
Oh, you didn't like answering tossups on Leszek Kolakowski? Well, I'm sure the submitted tossup on "The Main Currents of Marxism" would have pleased everyone!

But seriously, I'd have worked to make CO bonuses easier this year across some categories if I'd had time; on the other hand I was generally happy with most of the tossups.
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Re: Could High-Level College Quizbowl Stand to be Easier?

Post by Lagotto Romagnolo »

The Quest for the Historical Mukherjesus wrote: It seems fairly rare for the top team to break 20 PPB, as it's only happened twice. I don't really see a problem with this in itself.
Three times, but it doesn't change the picture:
Jeff Hoppes, in an old thread wrote: ...no team in history has ever put up 22 ppb on Chicago Open (and only one team even cracked 21: the Yaphe/Teitler/Kemezis/Matthews team from 2005).
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Re: Could High-Level College Quizbowl Stand to be Easier?

Post by Cheynem »

Short answer: Yes.
Long answer: Yes, but this year's CO was pretty much fine by my standards (and to be honest, no CO has really stood out to me as too hard). As Bruce pointed out, CO is the place for hard stuff because you have the best players, mostly playing on the same teams. I think quizbowl at the level of regular difficulty and ACF Nationals level difficulty could and should be easier.
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Re: Could High-Level College Quizbowl Stand to be Easier?

Post by minusfive »

Short answer: No.
Long answer: CO is NOT Collegiate quizbowl. The average age of CO players is (I would assume, just based on who is playing and what I know their day-jobs are) much higher than a Collegiate tournament, and its open format allows the current record for consecutive playing to begin in 2001. CO's hardness (or in the case of some of those TUs, lack thereof) isn't really totally derived from the questions themselves, but the players answering them.
Finally, because apparently I can never hold an opinion that the "quizbowl community" (to paraphrase Prince Charles, whatever that is) holds, I like it when TUs go dead, because that means there's still some ceiling room in quizbowl, and I also thought CO (which touts itself as super-hard) should have been harder. I guess if Arrabal and Sn'F come back, this need would be lessened?
Also: Bring Back the Trash distribution in CO for the love of god.
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Re: Could High-Level College Quizbowl Stand to be Easier?

Post by AKKOLADE »

The difficulty of CO doesn't matter, as it's designed exactly for an audience who loves hard questions and showing off on those hard questions.

The difficulty of "normal difficulty" or ACF Regionals or SCT or whatever centering mark you want to use for collegiate difficulty, and the difficulty of everything based off of that level, certainly matters and should be reviewed regularly if college quiz bowl wants to appeal to a wide swath of teams.

These are completely separate issues.
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Re: Could High-Level College Quizbowl Stand to be Easier?

Post by grapesmoker »

minusfive wrote:I guess if Arrabal and Sn'F come back
They won't.
Also: Bring Back the Trash distribution in CO for the love of god.
Edit CO, do what you want.
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Re: Could High-Level College Quizbowl Stand to be Easier?

Post by Captain Sinico »

Jordan's got the distinction right: CO's for hard-ass hard questions that super-teams of hard-question-loving ballers struggle to eke out 18-19 PPBs on. As I said elsewhere, this year's was just about right with respect to difficulty. It could have been a bit easier, and might have suffered had it been much harder, but it's as close to what it should have been as anything I can remember.

On the other hand, for actual college events, I've long thought difficulty could stand to ratchet down a little. My impression is that this has already been happening over the past several years, through the efforts of many. However, the natural tendency seems to be for writers to produce harder material over time, especially for submission, so there's an equilibrium that requires hard work by editors to maintain there. Good job, editors!

M

PS: Please don't take me to agree with everything Jordan's saying! That last idea, for instance, I disagree with very much. As much as I've loved my CO-game-clinching buzzes on "Big Balls" and "Suffragette City" and 30d bonuses on "Love Street" from past iterations, that's just never struck me as right for CO. Play CO trash - that's where that stuff's fun!
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Re: Could High-Level College Quizbowl Stand to be Easier?

Post by naan/steak-holding toll »

Yeah, I agree with Mike about trash. This is probably biased by me being an utterly abysmal trash player, but trash in quizbowl already can suffer from a bit of a vanity problem. At least in the other COs I played, trash questions often prompted the most negative reactions - I recall my team and Magin's team each having less than 100 points at the half in 2014 because there were a number of dead tossups, most prominent among which was some tech company nobody had ever heard of.
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Re: Could High-Level College Quizbowl Stand to be Easier?

Post by theMoMA »

There was trash at CO last year, though all but the tossup on Brian Scalabrine were designed to meet a standard of "cultural importance" that was perhaps lacking in the examples Mike cited above. In any event, I wouldn't mind seeing people shooting for "trash that interests the academically inclined" at future COs; I also don't mind if future CO editors decide that trash isn't for them. (Also, unless he's thinking of yet another tossup on "Big Balls," I think that was a 2008 MO question rather than CO.)
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Re: Could High-Level College Quizbowl Stand to be Easier?

Post by Sima Guang Hater »

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote: most prominent among which was some tech company nobody had ever heard of.
That was a science question; it was on the company that makes AutoCAD. I actually like having trash questions at CO, and would rather have a 1/1 CE/Geo/Trash distribution than the 1/1 "Other" distribution that we had this year.
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Re: Could High-Level College Quizbowl Stand to be Easier?

Post by vinteuil »

The Quest for the Historical Mukherjesus wrote:I actually like having trash questions at CO, and would rather have a 1/1 CE/Geo/Trash distribution than the 1/1 "Other" distribution that we had this year.
I wouldn't object to "borderline academic" topics (basically what Andrew is talking about as "culturally significant" trash) going into the "other" distribution, and would have appreciated a slightly more varied "other" distribution in general.
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Re: Could High-Level College Quizbowl Stand to be Easier?

Post by Lighthouse Expert Elinor DeWire »

I think everything's fine as it is in terms of what ACF and NAQT sets are at. The notion of "regular" difficulty should be easier, and there should be more tournaments at this easier "regular difficulty". That being said, Division 1 SCT and ACF Regionals should stay the same. It should be a challenge for a weaker team to make nationals, but it shouldn't be a challenge for this weaker team to enjoy themselves at an increased number of tournaments at a fall or fall+ level.
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Re: Could High-Level College Quizbowl Stand to be Easier?

Post by Cody »

That Autodesk question was the bomb! (and is an example of an extremely real-world-important topic -- I'd wager a flat majority of buildings are designed using Autodesk's ofderings)
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Re: Could High-Level College Quizbowl Stand to be Easier?

Post by Ike »

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:Yeah, I agree with Mike about trash. This is probably biased by me being an utterly abysmal trash player, but trash in quizbowl already can suffer from a bit of a vanity problem. At least in the other COs I played, trash questions often prompted the most negative reactions - I recall my team and Magin's team each having less than 100 points at the half in 2014 because there were a number of dead tossups, most prominent among which was some tech company nobody had ever heard of.
Yeah, that was a science tossup, and it's a technology company that is responsible for many things you take for granted. Almost all 3d modeling (which is needed for movies, video games, designing buildings) uses software - AutoCad and Maya - made by them.
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Re: Could High-Level College Quizbowl Stand to be Easier?

Post by sonstige »

Ike wrote:Yeah, that was a science tossup, and it's a technology company that is responsible for many things you take for granted. Almost all 3d modeling (which is needed for movies, video games, designing buildings) uses software - AutoCad and Maya - made by them.
As an engineer in real-life, I've always been curious if it was appropriate in the quiz bowl world to label questions on things like ANSYS, ProE (Creo), Siemens NX, AutoCAD, etc. as "other science" or if these can be filed under "computer science" (given that these things are programs) or even "physics" (that they can be applied to computational analysis). Not that I'd ever expect to see a TU on something like Abaqus, but could certainly see it being reasonable to have a bonus on "solid modeling /drafting software" or "finite element / CFD programs".
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Re: Could High-Level College Quizbowl Stand to be Easier?

Post by grapesmoker »

Ok, so as someone who has also used some of these tools in the past, I'm sort of confused as to why people would want questions on them. It's not that they're not important and useful, but I think most of the questions written on these things are going to either immediately reward someone who uses them all the time or not give anyone any points. I've written multiple questions on things like "finite element analysis," which I think is a fine topic; it's good to know FEA, it's a lot less useful to know some particular tool that may not even be standard.
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Re: Could High-Level College Quizbowl Stand to be Easier?

Post by sonstige »

grapesmoker wrote:
minusfive wrote:I guess if Arrabal and Sn'F come back
They won't.
Not that it's a huge point, but I've been working on reviving SnF as a side-project since around January. I'm about 80% finished (with the promise of history questions from a few folks who I've asked to help).

I don't have a final date projected for completing this (it's a side-project, after all) --- however, when I do get it closer to completion I'd be happy to have some people take a look at it with feedback before I make it available for others to actually play. I've read through most of what I've put together to date with Borglum, Billy, and a few other usual suspects locally, just to ensure that what I'm writing is of reasonable quality and appropriate clue density by today's standards.

I promise it won't look like Ahmad's final versions of SnF; instead, I've been targeting a difficulty and distribution closer to current ACF Regionals-type events. I do fear it'll still be a bit harder than what our local, DB-loving CC's will be used to --- but for the general circuit it should be reasonable.

Anyway, this is a minor tangent --- I don''t want to interrupt the main course of this thread.
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Re: Could High-Level College Quizbowl Stand to be Easier?

Post by Cody »

grapesmoker wrote:Ok, so as someone who has also used some of these tools in the past, I'm sort of confused as to why people would want questions on them. It's not that they're not important and useful, but I think most of the questions written on these things are going to either immediately reward someone who uses them all the time or not give anyone any points. I've written multiple questions on things like "finite element analysis," which I think is a fine topic; it's good to know FEA, it's a lot less useful to know some particular tool that may not even be standard.
This is on point.
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Re: Could High-Level College Quizbowl Stand to be Easier?

Post by Ike »

Cody wrote:
grapesmoker wrote:Ok, so as someone who has also used some of these tools in the past, I'm sort of confused as to why people would want questions on them. It's not that they're not important and useful, but I think most of the questions written on these things are going to either immediately reward someone who uses them all the time or not give anyone any points. I've written multiple questions on things like "finite element analysis," which I think is a fine topic; it's good to know FEA, it's a lot less useful to know some particular tool that may not even be standard.
This is on point.
Concur, if only because I really don't want people to start doing this. AutoDesk is a well known thing that you all should know about and one-off for Chicago Open.
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Re: Could High-Level College Quizbowl Stand to be Easier?

Post by fett0001 »

The Last 21 Stanley Cup Winners wrote:I think everything's fine as it is in terms of what ACF and NAQT sets are at. The notion of "regular" difficulty should be easier, and there should be more tournaments at this easier "regular difficulty". That being said, Division 1 SCT and ACF Regionals should stay the same. It should be a challenge for a weaker team to make nationals, but it shouldn't be a challenge for this weaker team to enjoy themselves at an increased number of tournaments at a fall or fall+ level.

At D1 SCT and Regs, opponent quality should keep teams from making nationals, not question difficulty. If teams aren't enjoying themselves at those tournaments, as you imply, then the difficulty of the questions should decrease.
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Re: Could High-Level College Quizbowl Stand to be Easier?

Post by Lighthouse Expert Elinor DeWire »

fett0001 wrote:
The Last 21 Stanley Cup Winners wrote:I think everything's fine as it is in terms of what ACF and NAQT sets are at. The notion of "regular" difficulty should be easier, and there should be more tournaments at this easier "regular difficulty". That being said, Division 1 SCT and ACF Regionals should stay the same. It should be a challenge for a weaker team to make nationals, but it shouldn't be a challenge for this weaker team to enjoy themselves at an increased number of tournaments at a fall or fall+ level.
At D1 SCT and Regs, opponent quality should keep teams from making nationals, not question difficulty. If teams aren't enjoying themselves at those tournaments, as you imply, then the difficulty of the questions should decrease.
There definitely should be more easy tournaments, but D1 SCT and Regionals shouldn't be those easy tournaments. Even with having been neck and neck with Ottawa for just a year, it seems like both national qualifier tournaments had the appropriate difficulty - even as teams in the mid 20s rank. I don't think it's right to give weak teams their level of tournament for a national qualifier.
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