ACF Fall Packet-Submission Discussion

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ACF Fall Packet-Submission Discussion

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Mon Aug 05, 2019 6:27 pm

This has been split from the 2019 ACF Fall announcement thread. --Moderators

I don't understand why a team with this many competent editors and writers needs to require submissions, especially from a lot of lower skill teams and players for whom ACF Fall is one of the few accessible tournaments per year. In my experience, submissions from such teams often require a very substantial amount of work, such that it's not much more work to write a completely fresh tossup - and for such teams I suspect submission is a pretty substantial barrier to entry. Coupled with a very high entry fee of $150, it seems like ACF is putting up a big barrier to entry for a lot of teams.

I get that Fall heavily subsidizes ACF Nationals, but this sort of cost creep looks pretty egregious given that ACF Fall is basically a high quality, HS nats-minus or regular-plus tournament. Costing the same as ACF Regionals in particular seems pretty unnecessary and Fall is already one of the most lucrative editing positions available in college quizbowl. $150 plus sending in a packet is a lot to play a set like this, especially if the editors are very likely to not use your questions at all.
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Re: 2019 ACF Fall Global Announcement: November 2, 2019

Post by vinteuil » Mon Aug 05, 2019 6:40 pm

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:
Mon Aug 05, 2019 6:27 pm
Coupled with a very high entry fee of $150, it seems like ACF is putting up a big barrier to entry for a lot of teams.
Since the packet submission requirement is aimed explicitly at teams of upperclasspeople or underclasspeople who got college playing experience in high school, are you saying that these people should have their barrier to entry lowered to play a set aimed at relatively inexperienced underclasspeople?

[EDIT: Ugh, that's a mouthful. All I mean is: the people who are required to submit a packet are on the upper edge of the target audience for Fall anyway, so I don't think it's a problem to either have them put in a little elbow grease or just plain discourage them from playing.]

Likewise, are you sure that, for highly qualified but inexperienced editors like most of these, the a) experience of editing submissions b) added benefit of at least some good questions from upperclasspeople and underclasspeople with high-level experience isn't worth it?
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Re: 2019 ACF Fall Global Announcement: November 2, 2019

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Mon Aug 05, 2019 6:49 pm

I think there are a solid number of people who are juniors and seniors in college who are not super skilled and for whom ACF Fall is still a very appropriate tournament to play. I think quizbowl tournaments should put the players first, rather than collectively imposing hundreds of writing-hours on inexperienced writers to send a boatload of questions that likely will not get used for the purpose of helping train editors.
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Re: 2019 ACF Fall Global Announcement: November 2, 2019

Post by vinteuil » Mon Aug 05, 2019 6:54 pm

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:
Mon Aug 05, 2019 6:49 pm
I think there are a lot of people who are juniors and seniors in college for whom ACF Fall is still a very appropriate tournament to play.
Given that "ACF Fall is basically a high quality, HS nats-minus or regular-plus tournament" (I agree), does this mean that these people have a "high school" level of knowledge?

(We're explicitly not talking about newcomers to quizbowl here, since such teams don't need to submit a packet.)

More abstractly: I probably learned more about how to construct a good quizbowl question by editing other people's questions than by writing my own. And again, most Fall submissions contain at least a few usable questions, or good ideas that the editor would not have thought of.
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Re: 2019 ACF Fall Global Announcement: November 2, 2019

Post by Auroni » Mon Aug 05, 2019 7:18 pm

Not speaking as a member of ACF, but as a person who in the far-flung past has played Fall: I actually chose to submit a packet (a full one, since the half packet requirement is fairly new) even though I wasn’t required to, since it was my third or fourth college tournament ever. Some of my questions got used, many were cut. But it was a uniformly positive learning experience, and I am glad that I did it. I believe many new teams choose to write packets just to see what this experience of packet submission is like, and a lot of them do get to see their questions get into the set. Keep in mind also that early-submitted packets have a high chance of being used, as perfectly fine/good questions aren’t discarded simply by virtue of other questions on the same answers/topics having already being written or edited.
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Re: 2019 ACF Fall Global Announcement: November 2, 2019

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Mon Aug 05, 2019 7:19 pm

vinteuil wrote:
Mon Aug 05, 2019 6:54 pm
Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:
Mon Aug 05, 2019 6:49 pm
I think there are a lot of people who are juniors and seniors in college for whom ACF Fall is still a very appropriate tournament to play.
Given that "ACF Fall is basically a high quality, HS nats-minus or regular-plus tournament" (I agree), does this mean that these people have a "high school" level of knowledge?

(We're explicitly not talking about newcomers to quizbowl here, since such teams don't need to submit a packet.)

More abstractly: I probably learned more about how to construct a good quizbowl question by editing other people's questions than by writing my own. And again, most Fall submissions contain at least a few usable questions, or good ideas that the editor would not have thought of.
Not everyone gets a lot better at quizbowl in college, nor is everyone interested in actively trying to get better or writing questions! Some solid to good high school players, for whom high school tournaments are appropriate, get worse in college. Others stay the same or improve at some areas and get worse at others. Yet another group of people start playing in college and improve a bit over time as they play the game, take classes, and learn things, but don't get much better.

For a tournament like Fall aimed at the largest audience in college quizbowl, I think it's defeating the purpose of the set to erect high barriers to entry, or to suggest that some of these barriers are nudges towards becoming better players when that's not really everyone's goal, and the people for whom that is not really a goal are among those for whom Fall is one of the most important tournaments each year. It's one thing to have submission for national qualifying tournaments or CO, it's another for a set that's not too far removed from a high school tournament.

EDIT: To put it another way, ACF Fall cannot, and should not, exist to make Will Alston, Jacob Reed, or Auroni Gupta better editors. Its primary goal is to produce an incredibly important product for the players. If it serves as a useful set of training wheels, all the better!
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Re: 2019 ACF Fall Global Announcement: November 2, 2019

Post by vinteuil » Mon Aug 05, 2019 7:31 pm

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:
Mon Aug 05, 2019 7:19 pm

EDIT: To put it another way, ACF Fall cannot, and should not, exist to make Will Alston, Jacob Reed, or Auroni Gupta better editors. Its primary goal is to produce an incredibly important product for the players. If it serves as a useful set of training wheels, all the better!
Of course not, I was referring to all of the talented first-time editors who are actually involved in the production of the set....
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Re: 2019 ACF Fall Global Announcement: November 2, 2019

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Mon Aug 05, 2019 10:13 pm

Based on some discussions I've had with folks, I don't think I've been entirely clear. I think compensating quizbowl writers adequately is important,
and if we need to raise entry fees then so be it. But I think the fact that adequately paying people for work on questions is at the root of this reveals how much of a cost packet submission really is for people.

I know that $5 per question is generally thought of now as medium or low, and I take it that Fall typically pays more than this, but I'll use it for sake of argument here. At a valuation of that magnitude, a half packet of 24 questions is worth $120. If half of them are usable, then the value of the submission is $60. The real value of the entry fee for Fall is thus over $200 for many teams, and this is still low balling it if you consider the true opportunity cost of their time. In terms of real economic value, packet submission tournaments are extremely expensive.

I understand that people need experience writing if they want to get good, but I think there are better ways to go about this. As the quizbowl community grows, we can and probably should shift towards a model where not everyone needs to do everything and the folks who want to learn how to write (and do so well) can find systems that will let them practice doing so. A strong mentorship program is a good start, and in my opinion an improvement over requiring people who may not want to write and who aren't particularly good at it to do so if they don't want to be shut out of high quality, accessible tournaments.
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Re: 2019 ACF Fall Global Announcement: November 2, 2019

Post by High Dependency Unit » Mon Aug 05, 2019 11:14 pm

So I actually run a team that has some concrete, rather than hypothetical, issues with the requirements and price structure of Fall

With regards to the packet submission, I get why it exists, how it's incredibly helpful to the editors in the production process, and how it can help spur newer players to write and given them a chance to see their questions included in a tournament. However, it puts teams like mine in a situation where we have to ask someone not planning on playing fall (me) or several inexperienced players will have to write 12/12 in order to play this tournament. 24 questions is not at all a trivial commitment, and requires probably 4-5 hours of work at a minimum for players who haven't taken the time to learn to write before.

That's not as big of a deal if the registration fee is low or if the packet sub discounts are substantial, but that's absolutely not the case here. $150 is a lot of money for any Saturday tournament, and even if we submitted a half-packet within the first week of class we'd still be paying $120 (which, it's worth noting, was the standard fee just three years ago!). Getting that meager discount would require figuring out who wants to play fall, requesting a distribution, training people to write (unless ACF likes piles of hot trash), and actually writing that 12/12 in the span of a month. As much as my guys want to play quiz bowl, I can guarantee they don't want to play fall that much, and the story is probably similar for some other teams as well.

Ultimately, it would make more financial and time-commitment sense for us to use our resources to attend a different fall tournament, given our limited resources and the fact that we're not planning on attending more than 3 events each semester anyways, and I know that's not what fall is trying to accomplish. As the major low-difficulty event of the first half of the year, Fall should ideally be very easy to attend for any team that's not going to be quite comfortable at regular/regular-plus tournaments, but neither the packet sub requirements nor the pricing reflect that.
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Re: 2019 ACF Fall Global Announcement: November 2, 2019

Post by Aaron's Rod » Tue Aug 06, 2019 5:17 pm

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:
Mon Aug 05, 2019 7:19 pm
Not everyone gets a lot better at quizbowl in college, nor is everyone interested in actively trying to get better or writing questions! Some solid to good high school players, for whom high school tournaments are appropriate, get worse in college. Others stay the same or improve at some areas and get worse at others. Yet another group of people start playing in college and improve a bit over time as they play the game, take classes, and learn things, but don't get much better.

For a tournament like Fall aimed at the largest audience in college quizbowl, I think it's defeating the purpose of the set to erect high barriers to entry, or to suggest that some of these barriers are nudges towards becoming better players when that's not really everyone's goal, and the people for whom that is not really a goal are among those for whom Fall is one of the most important tournaments each year. It's one thing to have submission for national qualifying tournaments or CO, it's another for a set that's not too far removed from a high school tournament.
I see a fair amount of hand-wringing here by people who were very good in college. But I think that the bolded section perfectly describes my experience in undergraduate collegiate quizbowl, so I hope that speaking to that experience (not as an ACF member) might be informative.

The second time I ever had to work on a packet submission was for my junior year of college for 2014 ACF Fall. I don't think I ever even told the team that full packets had become optional. Being that I then discouraged using the forums, and given our social and physical distance from the community at large, they wouldn't have found out anyways. In happier years, we viewed packet submission as extra homework, yes, but we tried to turn it into team bonding. In 2014, despite having someone on the team who was actively hostile towards me, I got the team to submit a full packet by the first deadline. And...it was used!

The first time I ever heard my questions played was one of, if not the most, gratifying moments of my undergraduate quizbowl career. Given how hard it had been to wrangle a difficult teammate, seeing people play on the fruits of our labor almost moved me to tears. I remember my shock when I heard one of my questions that, by the time someone buzzed, was unchanged from my submission. When I later got a copy of the set, I saw that the only two schools whose packets weren't combined with other schools' were Berkeley and Lawrence, which I was immensely proud of.

There are a lot of things that my team didn't know about packet submission. For example, I'm not really sure we knew just how high the correlation was between early submission and getting our questions used--perhaps that's worth communicating to schools when half-packet submissions are sent out. It was also several years until I heard that people submitted packets "defensively" or "strategically," i.e., they would write about things they didn't know a lot about, so they didn't have to play those questions. We wrote on the things we liked because it was easier and more fun.

This experience hardly catapulted me immediately to Nats editor and two-time ACF officer. It did make me want to write questions more often, but with a program that could have never produced a housewrite and with so few connections in the quizbowl world, I didn't really know how to get involved or with what. In fact, other than a further ACF Fall submission in 2015, I don't recall writing another question until the spring of 2017 for EMT. I think the community has started to make writing and editing opportunities available to a wider set of people, which is great, but I really would not discount ACF Fall as a place where a lot of people might start and then realize that they enjoy it. Even if I hadn't gotten more involved in the quizbowl community, and even if we hadn't gotten to hear our questions played, submitting questions for ACF Fall still provided a great experience for my teammates and I to kick off the school year as a team, learn new things, and think about how quizbowl questions work.
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Re: 2019 ACF Fall Global Announcement: November 2, 2019

Post by Cheynem » Tue Aug 06, 2019 5:29 pm

This is neither an argument for or against the packet submission rules, but the landscape of quizbowl has changed a lot since ACF Fall first began. There are almost no packet submission tournaments around. The only ones that consistently are packet submission are ACF (during the regular season). For many teams, ACF Fall probably represents their first or perhaps only time they will submit a packet over the academic year.
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Re: 2019 ACF Fall Global Announcement: November 2, 2019

Post by justinfrench1728 » Tue Aug 06, 2019 6:32 pm

Aaron's Rod wrote:
Tue Aug 06, 2019 5:17 pm
The first time I ever heard my questions played was one of, if not the most, gratifying moments of my undergraduate quizbowl career.
I agree that writing questions and hearing them played is a very gratifying experience. However, packet submission is a really bad way to write questions.

There are loads of sets that exist. Many side events, high school sets, and (to a lesser degree) college sets have been written by groups of people that vaguely know each other who decided that they wanted to write. Unlike packet submission, writers for these sets can work closely with editors, solicit more helpful feedback, and actually earn money.

Additionally, while packet submission occasionally leads to rewarding experiences, it quite often leads to discouraging experiences as well. Working hard on a question only to see it cut without feedback or rewritten almost completely is incredibly discouraging. While this happens with every set, it happens much more with packet submission.

Since we're pulling out personal anecdotes, I will say that probably the most discouraging moment of my quiz bowl career was having our ACF Nationals packet discount entirely revoked due to an honest mistake. This left such a sour taste in my mouth that I have no intention of playing any packet submission tournaments ever again. Had I made this same mistake as a writer for a set, I would have been reprimanded, fixed it, and then learned from it, which I believe would have been better for everyone involved.

Finally, requiring packet submission for a tournament creates an implicit requirement that all teams playing it should be playing seriously. This is incredibly damaging! ACF Fall is the best tournament for casual teams to play, and this rule inhibits them from playing. Many circuits rely on casual teams to reach a reasonable field size for a tournament, so casual teams are not expendable. Furthermore, having less casual teams leads to less revenue for the editors— if we want to fairly compensate writers, we should increase the field size instead of increasing prices.

At best, packet submission is an unnecessary and inferior alternative to writing for a set. At worst, it takes advantage of writers to extract cheap labor and gate-keeps casual players from playing tournaments. It should not be considered a viable method to produce questions for a tournament like fall.

[Disclaimer: I am speaking in my capacity as a member of a club in a small circuit, NOT in my capacity as an editor for this set— my goal as an editor is to write/edit excellent questions whether or not packet submission is involved.]
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Re: ACF Fall Packet-Submission Discussion

Post by theMoMA » Tue Aug 06, 2019 7:21 pm

ACF's editing model would be hard to maintain without submissions. For Fall in particular, which tries to give newer editors a chance to work on a meaningful event, I think it would be difficult to avoid submissions altogether, simply because asking unproven editors to write an entire tournament worth of questions in their categories might weigh too heavily on some people. Having submissions makes it easier not just to produce all of the needed questions, but for the head editors to set and enforce deadlines that ensure a relatively smooth workflow as the set goes from nothing to full. From experience on both the managing and production side, I can say that that is generally harder to do when editors are writing big chunks of questions on their own, regardless of what internal deadlines are set.

In any event, ACF has tried over the past few years to limit the number of submissions--both in terms of who has to write and how much they have to write--so that the amount of material is more in line with the amount needed to hold the event. I assume this will continue unless we reach a point where the balance is right where it should be. It may be worth looking into whether Fall and Regionals can move to a voluntary, as opposed to required, packet submission model. But it's also worth considering how concentrating writing duties with people who already want to write might harm the circuit as a whole by making it so that fewer people have to learn at least the basics of writing through packet submission.

All that said, I'd mainly like to dispute some of the economic claims made in this thread. First, a $150 fee is not significantly higher than $120; it's less than $10 a player. Fall's base fee has been $120 for a very long time--at least ten years. The money from Fall helps ACF pay editors and leadership throughout the year, and on costs such as bringing in high-quality moderators for Nationals, and entry fees need to keep pace as costs rise. Quizbowl production is underpaid as it is; my own stance is that I would never criticize someone for charging a higher fee as long as it was still reasonable, because quizbowl is already a huge bargain when you consider the huge amount of time it takes to produce a good set and the small amount of money that those who are capable of doing so are paid. Second, I'd dispute the attempts to place monetary value on submissions that some people have raised above. The quality of submissions varies to such an extent that claiming a $5/question valuation seems highly suspect to me. (That said, even a poor submission has value to editors, even it has no value on the open market.) Rather than focus on the monetary value of questions, I think it's better to recognize that writing takes time, that it's important to respect people's time, and thus, that it's incumbent on anyone doing packet submission to do their best to make sure that people aren't being asked to spend lots of time on questions that aren't really helping anyone.
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Re: ACF Fall Packet-Submission Discussion

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Tue Aug 06, 2019 8:45 pm

Andrew's point about valuation is well taken, though I did assume half the questions were unusable. What is valuable though is the time people put into writing, which is probably even higher.
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Re: ACF Fall Packet-Submission Discussion

Post by username1 » Tue Aug 06, 2019 8:55 pm

Would the experience of relatively inexperienced editors working on Fall be worsened if the questions came from new or inexperienced writers of the general community as opposed to solely the college community? If packet submissions were optional for teams playing ACF Fall, why couldn't the remaining questions be written by, say, high schoolers who want to get writing experience?

If teams playing Fall were required to decide early on whether they wished to submit questions, then determining a total workload for external writers would be relatively simple. I'm sure there would be a decent amount of high schoolers, non-Fall attending college players, and perhaps college grads with little writing experience that would be interested in such an opportunity. These external writers could either participate as part of a "mentorship" program or as part of a pre-editorship process wherein writing good questions for Fall/steadily improving throughout the writing process would give you a leg up in applying for Fall editorship the following year(s). Given that packet submissions would be optional, it would also be easier to pay these writers since there would be less discounts handed out for Fall attendees. I'm sure something like this has been suggested before, but is there a reason why this is not viable? There seems to be growing interest particularly in the younger community to get involved with writing and editing, and I think it would make sense for ACF to capitalize on that.
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Re: ACF Fall Packet-Submission Discussion

Post by Doga (Dog Yoga) » Wed Aug 07, 2019 12:25 am

As someone who's edited ACF Fall, let me tell you that (at least in science) close to ~70% of the submissions are unusable, ~20% are usable with significant edits, and maybeeee ~10% are usable with minor editing. As ACF Fall draws in more teams I can't imagine the percentage of usable questions going up. I wish we could post some examples of the kind of stuff we get submitted, but I guess that's probably unprofessional. Save the editors the massive timesuck of having to wade through tons of unusable submissions and essentially rewriting a bunch of submitted questions from scratch by getting rid of packet sub.
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Re: ACF Fall Packet-Submission Discussion

Post by Cheynem » Wed Aug 07, 2019 12:32 am

I wonder if there are some potential reforms such as:

1. More strongly encouraging good packet submissions, with perhaps the definition of "good" being slightly relaxed for ACF Fall, by the use of discounts. Having edited packet submission tournaments, you get a sense of what packets are of good quality, which packets are of good faith good quality attempts, and which packets are thrown together crap. I would try and strongly reward the first and reasonably reward the second.

2. Doing something in which teams may be responsible for only quarter packets depending on their team roster and makeup. That way, for teams like the one Michael describes or others, where only one experienced player may exist, that one player doesn't have to write a whole packet by themselves or try to corral inexperienced or apathetic teammates into writing. Instead, under a revised system, that player only has to submit 5/5 or 6/6, and provided they are of good faith good quality attempts, that could satisfy their packet requirement.
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Re: ACF Fall Packet-Submission Discussion

Post by A Very Long Math Tossup » Wed Aug 07, 2019 1:00 am

Cheynem wrote:
Wed Aug 07, 2019 12:32 am
I wonder if there are some potential reforms such as:

1. More strongly encouraging good packet submissions, with perhaps the definition of "good" being slightly relaxed for ACF Fall, by the use of discounts. Having edited packet submission tournaments, you get a sense of what packets are of good quality, which packets are of good faith good quality attempts, and which packets are thrown together crap. I would try and strongly reward the first and reasonably reward the second.

2. Doing something in which teams may be responsible for only quarter packets depending on their team roster and makeup. That way, for teams like the one Michael describes or others, where only one experienced player may exist, that one player doesn't have to write a whole packet by themselves or try to corral inexperienced or apathetic teammates into writing. Instead, under a revised system, that player only has to submit 5/5 or 6/6, and provided they are of good faith good quality attempts, that could satisfy their packet requirement.
Both of these seem like excellent ideas. In addition, would it be possible to include an option on the registration form for which categories teams feel comfortable writing, in order to better assign distributions?
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Re: 2019 ACF Fall Global Announcement: November 2, 2019

Post by Benin Rebirth Party » Wed Aug 07, 2019 1:59 pm

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:
Mon Aug 05, 2019 6:49 pm
I think there are a solid number of people who are juniors and seniors in college who are not super skilled and for whom ACF Fall is still a very appropriate tournament to play. I think quizbowl tournaments should put the players first, rather than collectively imposing hundreds of writing-hours on inexperienced writers to send a boatload of questions that likely will not get used for the purpose of helping train editors.
I agree with everything Will Alston has said in this thread. Sure, we can call ACF Fall a glorified high school tournament, but not everyone is coming into collegiate quizbowl with experience in high school. Furthermore, if you play an easy tournament in your freshman year, quit, and then return two years later, there shouldn't be a barrier to entry for precisely the one tournament best suited for you. This is also the exact reason Queen's never sent a team to ACF Fall around 2013-15. Relaxing the requirement from 1 "experienced" to 2 "experienced" players helps a bit, but it doesn't solve the problem entirely.
Aaron's Rod wrote:
Tue Aug 06, 2019 5:17 pm
I really would not discount ACF Fall as a place where a lot of people might start and then realize that they enjoy it.
I don't think this demographic should be *forced* to write (half a) paсk. Due to survivorship bias, I think a lot of the voices in this thread will be those who went out of their comfort zone to write for pack-subs and found that experience really educational and fulfilling (and that includes me); the players who did not aren't going to have their voices heard.
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Re: ACF Fall Packet-Submission Discussion

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots » Wed Aug 07, 2019 8:32 pm

While ACF has modified its packet submission requirements in the past, and will consider several of the reforms proposed in this thread, its use of submitted packets is not up for debate. We strongly believe in the point Alex has made: packet submission helps democratize the question-production process, giving teams without the connections to produce housewritten tournaments a chance to see their questions used. Like the editor applications we've launched, packet submission promotes the values of collaboration and openness at the core of ACF's identity. I would encourage anyone looking for a more in-depth explanation to read this guide written by Matt Jackson. We hope this helps explain our general packet submission policy, and will continue to listen to community concerns as we update its details.
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