Packet submission

Elaborate on the merits of specific tournaments or have general theoretical discussion here.
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Packet submission

Post by 1.82 » Tue Oct 25, 2016 5:48 pm

This year, there will be four* packet-submission tournaments: ACF Fall, ACF Regionals, ACF Nationals, and Chicago Open. Other than ACF tournaments and Chicago Open, there have been exactly two* packet-submission events in the last three years: DEES in fall 2014 and STIMPY in spring 2015. It seems that the independent packet-submission event is more or less a thing of the past.

*excepting foreign tournaments that are not played in the United States

The disadvantages of using packet submission seem obvious. It limits the sizes, since teams who don't submit packets far enough ahead of time can't play, it means that the tournament can't be finished until packets come in, and it doesn't even guarantee that the process of writing the tournament will be easier if submissions are low-quality. Moreover, now that nobody runs packet-submission tournaments anymore, there's no reason for a club to even consider making their own new tournament packet-submission.

Is it fine that packet submission is falling by the wayside now, or are there some benefits to the format that are being lost?
Last edited by 1.82 on Wed Oct 26, 2016 7:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Packet submission

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Tue Oct 25, 2016 6:00 pm

Considering how far in advance open teams are formed these days, as well as the recent trend of reducing fees for school teams as opposed to open ones, I'd like to see the return of the packet-submission-optional open tournament. The demand for opens is pretty high these days, given the number of active alumni, so I imagine this would make the editing team's job a lot easier to carry out.

I would happily work with a team to submit a packet for such a tournament.
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Re: Packet submission

Post by Cheynem » Tue Oct 25, 2016 6:06 pm

I am not a member of the "cult of packet submission," but I think there are some good things about the format:

*It theoretically makes people more used to writing questions, thus not throwing people for a loop when they are tasked with producing questions for some reason (including, for example, a college student writing for a high school set). I happen to think this advantage is somewhat murky since people could (and do!) just submit crap anyway.

*It lightens the editors' load somewhat. Maybe you only get a couple great questions per packet, but that still means a few less questions you have to write. I think this is a reasonable advantage but still not as big as you might think because even great questions can be problematic if there's an imbalance in a subdistribution (like if three teams submit great tossups on Civil War battles).

*The most important advantage in my opinion is that you add an extra layer of variety and innovation because you get exposed to new ideas. This is what I liked best about the CO submissions--a lot of times I got exposed to a great idea I hadn't thought of, even if I had to rework the question. In fact, in the future, I wouldn't mind if teams just submitted like storyboard-type outlines listing an answerline and potential clues instead of the actual questions.

CRANKY OLD PERSON THOUGHTS:

*I personally dislike ACF Nationals being packet submission. I think the stakes perversely encourage people to write on topics they do not know well, and the tournament frequently ends up getting warped by difficulty.

*I don't really care if packet submission goes by the wayside, but I think we should strive to have a few per year. ACF Fall is actually one of the least interesting packet submission tournaments because your answer space is somewhat constricted anyway (although you can still get fresh questions on easy stuff).

*A lot of times people will point out in the old days almost every tournament was packet submission. I would counter that yes, but most of them sucked.

*I learned almost nothing about writing from packet submission stuff, aside from how to write fast and what BCS theory is.

*Professional packet writers could make a few quick bucks if the submission model returned.
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Re: Packet submission

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Oct 25, 2016 6:24 pm

If ACF Nationals were not packet submission, the editors would have to write something on the order of 17 packets for even a standard-length Nats to occur, nevermind something like 25 for the multi-day Nats that we've had for the better part of the last decade.
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Re: Packet submission

Post by Cheynem » Tue Oct 25, 2016 6:30 pm

How many packets does ICT require?
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Re: Packet submission

Post by Ike » Tue Oct 25, 2016 6:30 pm

Cheynem wrote:How many packets does ICT require?
18
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Re: Packet submission

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Tue Oct 25, 2016 6:42 pm

Back when I was editing tournaments (like, 5 years ago), I found editing packet submission tournaments to be more annoying than editing house-written tournaments. It was relatively easy for me to sit down, and write dozens of tossups in a single Word document, all in the same format, same font, etc. Something about having to work with a bunch of different documents, different styles, different formats, and making the entire thing assonant just struck me as really annoying. I worked on a lot of house-written events, and secretly I kinda looked down on people who made their tournaments packet submission. I don't think I was right to, but I did.

Today, I view the fall of the packet submission tournament the way that my mother views the fall of Communism in Europe: as an amazing thing that I never thought would actually happen. It means that there has been a miracle: suddenly, there are a large number of people willing to put in the tremendous work of writing an entire tournament from scratch. I don't know whether it's something in the water that makes today's editors more prolific than editors from my time, or if it's just that the internet has allowed greater collaboration, and that today instead of three schools each putting together a packet sub tournament, those three schools collaborate and write a nationally-mirrored set. Or maybe there's just more people in quizbowl, meaning that more freakishly prolific editors and writers emerge by pure chance.

I'm sure that people will post in this thread a number of benefits to packet submission. Yes, packet submission encouraged people to learn to write. Yes, packet submission meant that new ideas entered quizbowl. Yes, packet submission meant less of being subjected to the editor's peculiarities, pet interests, stock phrases, etc.

I argue you can replicate all of those in the house-written format. Instead of asking the new people on your team to write 5/5 for a packet, invite them to write 20/20 over a longer period of time for your team's house written tournament. Instead of getting diverse answerlines in your tournament by having teams submit them, combat your tendency to produce homogeneous questions by actively searching out other writers who are very different from you, and shoot them an email saying "hey I am editing this tournament - wanna collaborate with me?" One of the biggest risks probably is that there's less entry-level work in writing when packet submission is gone: so people organizing tournaments will have to be more pro-active about identifying potential writing talent, bringing it into the writing stable, and developing it.

EDIT: Jerry is right, however, that if ACF Nationals were to go to no packet submission, the question of "who is going to write all of those questions?" needs to be answered, and currently there's not an answer. A tournament that almost every good, active player in the country wants to play and wants to win is not one that is going to attract a lot of volunteers to sit the tournament out and write. NAQT can solve that problems in ways that ACF as it exists today cannot.
Last edited by Skepticism and Animal Feed on Tue Oct 25, 2016 6:47 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Packet submission

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Oct 25, 2016 6:43 pm

Cheynem wrote:How many packets does ICT require?
ICT has an entirely different writing model. I think there are very good reasons for why that model would be hard to replicate with Nats. That aside, I also think that writing questions has value for players and for the community.
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Re: Packet submission

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Oct 25, 2016 6:47 pm

Today, I view the fall of the packet submission tournament the way that my mother views the fall of Communism in Europe: as an amazing thing that I never thought would actually happen. It means that there has been a miracle: suddenly, there are a large number of people willing to put in the tremendous work of writing an entire tournament from scratch. I don't know whether it's something in the water that makes today's editors more prolific than editors from my time, or if it's just that the internet has allowed greater collaboration, and that today instead of three schools each putting together a packet sub tournament, those three schools collaborate and write a nationally-mirrored set. Or maybe there's just more people in quizbowl, meaning that more freakishly prolific editors and writers emerge by pure chance.
What happens in ten years when all the current writers are no longer active and no one remembers how to write questions? Sure, we're living in a golden age, but if Civ 5 taught me anything, it's that golden ages don't last forever. Writing questions is an activity that needs to be perpetuated, and I worry that without a fresh influx of writers, that will cease to be the case. Maybe I'm wrong about this and the virtuous cycle is real so that we will forever and ever retain our unvarnished enthusiasm for question production without having to compel it, but I don't think we can make that call at this particular time.
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Re: Packet submission

Post by Cheynem » Tue Oct 25, 2016 6:51 pm

Many of the current, active writers did not come of age in the packet submission era (and we still have some submission tournaments). I think that those who are invested enough in the game will write and learn how to write regardless of packet submissions; of course, my theory is, like yours, just a concern/theory, and there may be other serious concerns caused by the lack of submission tournaments.
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Re: Packet submission

Post by jonah » Tue Oct 25, 2016 7:01 pm

Ike wrote:
Cheynem wrote:How many packets does ICT require?
18
Well, it depends on how you count. For the last two years or so, for each division, we've written 16 regular packets, one twelve-tossup tiebreaker packet, one second-round-of-the-finals packet that is carried over into next year* if it's not used, and one backup packet that is carried over into next year* if it's not used.

So in any given year, we could have to write between 16.25 and 18.25 packets per division.

*If each of these packets isn't used, its questions get released into the main set for the next year.
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Re: Packet submission

Post by Progcon » Tue Oct 25, 2016 7:35 pm

I was thinking of posting the exact same thread today. I was obviously not around in the packet submission era, but a professor at MSU who sometimes attends practice asked me why we weren't running a packet submission college tournament. I answered that if we decided to run a packet submission tournament, the quality would not be where I'd want it to be due a lack of experience on the team. Additionally, editing a packet submission tournament would take a lot of time I do not have thanks to my job, class, writing for other things, internship apps, etc. The professor was surprised because when he played tournaments in the 90s, packet submission was all he knew. He specifically mentioned writing for one of the first Penn Bowls.

I don't bring this up to offer an opinion on packet submission. Since I wasn't around in that era, I am not sure how I could have an opinion. I have read DEES, some of SUBMIT, etc. and I think they are all pretty solid. I think the anecdote about our professor, however, just shows how different the perceptions of people who played in each era can be.
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Re: Packet submission

Post by vinteuil » Tue Oct 25, 2016 10:24 pm

Isn't the solution to Jerry's problem for editors to collectively invest in one "PADAWAN-like" set each year? This fall alone, we have two tournaments so far in that style (EFT and Terrapin; granted, neither is completely open to all writers), a trend I really like.
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Re: Packet submission

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Wed Oct 26, 2016 12:20 am

vinteuil wrote:Isn't the solution to Jerry's problem for editors to collectively invest in one "PADAWAN-like" set each year? This fall alone, we have two tournaments so far in that style (EFT and Terrapin; granted, neither is completely open to all writers), a trend I really like.
For what it's worth, the plan next year is to bring on a new set of less-experienced (though not totally inexperienced) writers with ideally a similar editing crew. I encourage more tournaments to do this - but you have to make sure the experienced people have the final say.
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Re: Packet submission

Post by Edmund » Wed Oct 26, 2016 6:04 pm

Skepticism and Animal Feed wrote:I'm sure that people will post in this thread a number of benefits to packet submission. Yes, packet submission encouraged people to learn to write. Yes, packet submission meant that new ideas entered quizbowl. Yes, packet submission meant less of being subjected to the editor's peculiarities, pet interests, stock phrases, etc.
In the last few years the UK circuit has enjoyed an explosion of (at least partially) packet submission tournaments that have become annual fixtures - Oxford Open, MKULTRA, and the mixed academic-trash QLL Buzzer. It's interesting to hear your historical perspective, since it feels like we're at a stage where plenty of much less experienced writers are cutting their teeth by submitting to these events, while some of the more practiced writers (and stronger players) are preferring to contribute to the editing teams of US sets.

When this whole quizbowl lark was new, packet submission was pretty influential in setting out the British canon for the British stuff. With Oxford Open leaning more towards a housewritten set, and the Cambridge Open set to be fully housewritten in 2017, it looks like we're evolving in the same direction.
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Re: Packet submission

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Thu Oct 27, 2016 7:05 pm

It may just be my particular approach to writing and editing, but I believe ACF Nats would be immensely more work for a team of editors if it were not packet submission...and would probably be lower quality overall as a result. I don't think that packet sub increases or warps difficulty at all - if anything, the team-submitted packets are usually easier than editor-created packets.

Further, I believe that packet submission brings in a variety of styles and answer ideas to a tournament, whereas a tournament that depends solely on the editors themselves to come up with answer choices and writing styles tends to feel more stale and uninspired, on the whole (though this is not true of side events or vanity-type events, I think...because those are not really beholden to the same rules as a standard tournament).

All that said, in order for packet sub to be worth a damn, you have to have at least a good handful of people playing the tournament who know how to write decently. If 90 percent of the attendees can't write to save their life, the value of packet sub is quickly erased.
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