A Plea for No More Excuses

Elaborate on the merits of specific tournaments or have general theoretical discussion here.
Post Reply
User avatar
Periplus of the Erythraean Sea
Auron
Posts: 2077
Joined: Mon Feb 28, 2011 11:53 pm
Location: New York, NY

A Plea for No More Excuses

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Sun Oct 06, 2019 7:03 pm

So, I've been talking a lot about planning to quit working on college tournaments, and I'll probably quit working on high school tournaments (outside of NAQT) after I finish my obligations for TJ's tournament. The biggest reason why is that I'm absolutely fed up with the number of people in quizbowl who seem to think it's okay to completely blow off duties on projects that they signed up for without giving advanced notice. This has happened four times on major quizbowl projects I've worked on in the past two years:
  • On ACF Regionals 2018, where one of the editors had not completed their work by the Friday before the tournament
  • On SGI, where I ended up writing 300 questions in part because people didn't define responsibilities well, and others didn't step up to the plate to write their stuff in a reasonable time frame
  • On PACE NSC, where the original philosophy editor completely blew the project off and contributed exactly one question to the set
  • On this year's EFT, where I originally intended to write maybe 50 questions and explicitly indicated so at the project's beginning, but ended up writing close to 200 - partly because some people (wisely) stepped out early when they felt burned out, partly because others simply didn't live to writing commitments they had agreed to in January and/or blew off the clear timelines I had set (though admittedly I chose not to enforce them).
Most people I worked with on these projects were very productive, got their stuff done well in advance, and did their best to avoid causing last minute stressing situations. However, a few slackers cause a hell of a lot of stress for the people who have to pick up the slack at the last minute.

In many ways, this sort of social loafing is understandable. I get that quizbowl tournaments are something like a "group project that doesn't count for grades" in many ways. Outside of NAQT, there are no promotion evaluations, no grades, etc. People who repeatedly screw up suffer very few consequences, if at all. The pay is at best decent for some of these events (EFT) and at worst mediocre (PACE) but it's not really enough to motivate people, particularly when commitments are in the far distance. That being said, dropping the ball has real consequences for real people around you, including on their mental and physical health when they have to put in 20+ hours per week, in addition to full time jobs/student lives, in order to pick up the slack.

If you legitimately thought you could do the work but end up having issues, reach out. If you're not committed enough to follow through, save others the last minute scramble and don't commit in the first place. But if you commit anyways and just don't care enough to follow through, then you really ought to think more carefully about the burden you are imposing on other people in this community. It's incredibly disrespectful, and I'm quitting editing because I refuse to deal with it anymore.

(Belated addendum: To be clear, I will still take on NAQT work and side events, because those are fun and don't require much dependence on others obligations)
Last edited by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea on Tue Oct 15, 2019 11:06 am, edited 2 times in total.
Will Alston
Bethesda Chevy Chase HS '12, Dartmouth '16, Columbia Business School '21
NAQT Writer and Subject Editor

User avatar
Cheynem
Sin
Posts: 6639
Joined: Tue May 11, 2004 11:19 am
Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan

Re: A Plea for No More Excuses

Post by Cheynem » Sun Oct 06, 2019 7:48 pm

To be honest, I actually wonder if something like a "teachers evaluation" type thing for editors/writers might be a good idea. Editors/writers who consistently flake out or have acquired a recent reputation for questionable behavior should probably have such information made publicly available.
Mike Cheyne
Formerly U of Minnesota

"You killed HSAPQ"--Matt Bollinger

User avatar
Skepticism and Animal Feed
Auron
Posts: 3188
Joined: Sat Oct 30, 2004 11:47 pm
Location: Arlington, VA

Re: A Plea for No More Excuses

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Mon Oct 07, 2019 8:48 am

A lot of people in our society shy away from difficult or awkward conversations, even when these conversations are necessary. The fact that people who cannot write the questions they signed up to write find it easier to just not talk to their editor than to email their editor early on and say "sorry, I can't do this" (or at least delay doing the latter until the last possible moment) is just one manifestation of this much larger trend. Perhaps it's not even the only manifestation in quizbowl either.
Bruce
Harvard '10 / UChicago '07 / Roycemore School '04
ACF Member emeritus
My guide to using Wikipedia as a question source

User avatar
UlyssesInvictus
Yuna
Posts: 821
Joined: Thu Feb 10, 2011 7:38 pm

Re: A Plea for No More Excuses

Post by UlyssesInvictus » Mon Oct 07, 2019 12:09 pm

I think some of the nuance in this issue is that not only are people reluctant to admit to their editor they can't finish questions on time, they're reluctant to admit it to themselves, too ("It's fine, I'll just sit down this weekend, crack open a beer, and write them all," which we know won't happen.)
Raynor Kuang
quizdb.org
Harvard 2017, TJHSST 2013
I wrote GRAPHIC and FILM

jinah
Lulu
Posts: 75
Joined: Sun Oct 18, 2015 8:32 pm

Re: A Plea for No More Excuses

Post by jinah » Mon Oct 07, 2019 12:25 pm

I think it’s helpful to talk to people that have worked with writers in the past -- the Regionals and Fall writers’ applications have a “references” section for this reason.

Flaking out on your commitments is bad, but please, please do not lie and claim that you have questions written that you did not, in fact, write. It’s a huge disservice to everyone on the set and leaves people scrambling at the end to make up for a sudden deficit they didn’t know they had. Even if you’re “planning on writing them soon,” just say you haven’t written them yet.
JinAh Kim
University of Pennsylvania, '18

User avatar
Cheynem
Sin
Posts: 6639
Joined: Tue May 11, 2004 11:19 am
Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan

Re: A Plea for No More Excuses

Post by Cheynem » Mon Oct 07, 2019 12:44 pm

I alluded to this some years ago, but one of the reasons I think that this behavior is so prevalent as well is, because, well there doesn't seem to be any sort of consequences. I (and probably many of you) have been on projects in which someone flaked out or was far less productive than he or she promised, resulting in a massive call for help or last-minute completion drive. Obviously, you have to do this or the set doesn't get finished and that screws everyone. But I think sometimes the offending party (and other offenders down the line) get the impression that all will be for the best, no matter what.
Mike Cheyne
Formerly U of Minnesota

"You killed HSAPQ"--Matt Bollinger

User avatar
Mike Bentley
Auron
Posts: 5862
Joined: Fri Mar 31, 2006 11:03 pm
Location: Bellevue, WA
Contact:

Re: A Plea for No More Excuses

Post by Mike Bentley » Mon Oct 07, 2019 2:10 pm

It's not really been my observation that people who flake out in a major way on producing a set then sign up for a major commitment on another set. Although I don't pay especially close attention to these things.

Obviously it would be great if everyone always fulfilled their commitments. But it should be a responsibility of the head editor of a set to check in on contributors/editors throughout the production and take action early enough in the process to not make it a disaster. This action could include a public call for more people to work on the set (something I rarely seen done). It's more difficult when you have someone actively lying to you (rarer in my experience than people admitting they can't complete their work), but a combination of communication + incremental deadlines can help with this.
Mike Bentley
VP of Editing, Partnership for Academic Competition Excellence
Adviser, Quizbowl Team at University of Washington
University of Maryland, Class of 2008

User avatar
Thiccasso's Guernthicca
Wakka
Posts: 139
Joined: Sun Oct 15, 2017 10:01 pm
Location: Chicago, IL

Re: A Plea for No More Excuses

Post by Thiccasso's Guernthicca » Mon Oct 07, 2019 3:14 pm

While I do strongly agree with this post overall and also believe that people should not be dropping the ball with regards to their set writing and editing commitments (having also worked on sets where people have dropped the ball and subsequently having had to spend time and labor to make up for it), I do feel as if the tenor of this post, mostly in the way that it addresses mental and physical health, could be a little more understanding. As I'm sure many people have experienced – whether it be in quizbowl or outside of quizbowl – anxiety and depression often manifest in a crippling inability to reach out to those who need to be reached out to first, and it could be quite difficult for those who are unable to fulfill their original commitments due to their mental health to take the initiative on informing the set editors about their current state. I personally believe that it could be potentially more productive for set editors to first reach out to their fellow writers and editors and continue to check in with them about their well-being – physical, mental, academic, or otherwise – throughout the production of the set, regardless of how well you think their mental health or set work have been doing.

(Not to imply Will does or doesn't do this already – I've never worked on a set with him – but I'm just going off the way that the original post addressed on whom the onus falls to set up a clear line of communication in regards to mental health and other factors that may impact one's ability to contribute to the project.)
Wonyoung Jang
Belmont '18 // UChicago '22
Writer, NAQT

User avatar
Periplus of the Erythraean Sea
Auron
Posts: 2077
Joined: Mon Feb 28, 2011 11:53 pm
Location: New York, NY

Re: A Plea for No More Excuses

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Mon Oct 07, 2019 4:49 pm

Thiccasso's Guerthnicca wrote: I do feel as if the tenor of this post, mostly in the way that it addresses mental and physical health, could be a little more understanding.
Just to be clear - I've skipped entire nights of sleep, worked full workweeks on tournaments in addition to actual workweeks to finish tournaments, and most recently juggled intense recruiting/events, a full suite of classes, and finishing a set (no, MBAs are not all parties, at least not at Columbia). Beyond this, I've been on antidepressants since I was in middle school, come from a family where basically everyone has chronic depression, and I've experienced near-terminal illness before. I know what I'm talking about when it comes to mental and physical health, with regards to quizbowl and outside of quizbowl.

Consequently, I was frank about "please feel free to message me if you have questions or concerns / would like to reduce your assignment" throughout the most recent tournament I worked on and individually messaged most of the writers about this, because I was not only extremely conscious of the fact that it's often hard to back out of stuff publicly, but also that if we didn't get stuff almost entirely done before September, I would be absolutely miserable. Unfortunately, this did not occur, and I was in fact miserable for several weeks, as some of my cowriters can attest. Obviously this is extremely personal, but I'm goddamn sick of pulling 20, 30, and 40 hour weeks AFTER having already having written hundreds of questions for a set. It's even more galling that PEOPLE DO THIS FOR THE PACE NSC TOO LIKE SERIOUSLY AT LEAST RESPECT THE PLAYERS EVEN IF YOU DON'T RESPECT YOUR COWRITERS.
Mike Bentley wrote:It's not really been my observation that people who flake out in a major way on producing a set then sign up for a major commitment on another set. Although I don't pay especially close attention to these things.
The original philosophy editor for this year's NSC ended up doing the philosophy for this year's Chicago Open (quite well, I might add). I guess editing 1/1 isn't really that "major" from my perspective, but for others I'm sure it's a big deal.
Will Alston
Bethesda Chevy Chase HS '12, Dartmouth '16, Columbia Business School '21
NAQT Writer and Subject Editor

User avatar
heterodyne
Rikku
Posts: 399
Joined: Tue Jun 26, 2012 9:47 am

Re: A Plea for No More Excuses

Post by heterodyne » Mon Oct 07, 2019 10:18 pm

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:
Mon Oct 07, 2019 4:49 pm
The original philosophy editor for this year's NSC ended up doing the philosophy for this year's Chicago Open (quite well, I might add). I guess editing 1/1 isn't really that "major" from my perspective, but for others I'm sure it's a big deal.
Just want to clarify some things, since (spoilers!) this was me. I was experiencing some health issues, the details of which I would prefer not to share, so Ike and I agreed that he would take over the philosophy. I regret my conduct to the extent that I was not more communicative earlier in the process. I had already committed to Chicago Open at this time; I would not have committed to it otherwise and have no current intention to commit to further projects in light of my condition(s). I don't mean this as an intervention in the wider conversation in this thread, which I would prefer to stay out of; I simply wanted to provide some context to one of the examples.
Alston [Montgomery] Boyd
Bloomington High School '15
UChicago '19
UChicago Divinity '21
he/him/his or they/them/their

User avatar
Taper or die. Can you do any less?
Rikku
Posts: 279
Joined: Tue Aug 14, 2012 2:42 pm

Re: A Plea for No More Excuses

Post by Taper or die. Can you do any less? » Tue Oct 08, 2019 10:36 am

Thiccasso's Guernthicca wrote:
Mon Oct 07, 2019 3:14 pm
I do feel as if the tenor of this post, mostly in the way that it addresses mental and physical health, could be a little more understanding.
I don't necessarily disagree with this, and think we can always afford to "be a little more understanding". Having said that, I do want to state that I found Will to be extremely accommodating and thoughtful while working on this set -- far more than I expected, to be perfectly honest.
Periplus of the Erythraean Sea wrote:
Mon Oct 07, 2019 4:49 pm
I was frank about "please feel free to message me if you have questions or concerns / would like to reduce your assignment" throughout the most recent tournament I worked on and individually messaged most of the writers about this, because I was not only extremely conscious of the fact that it's often hard to back out of stuff publicly, but also that if we didn't get stuff almost entirely done before September, I would be absolutely miserable. Unfortunately, this did not occur, and I was in fact miserable for several weeks, as some of my cowriters can attest.
I know that this thread isn't necessarily about specifics, but I didn't want Will's claims to have to stand alone. Everything he said here is true. I personally received more than one "Hey, if anything in your life might make it hard for you to meet your commitments, let me know, we'll make it work, your life is more important" message from him. I think that's about all you can ask for.
Aayush Rajasekaran (he/him or she/her)
University of Waterloo, 2016
University of Waterloo, 2018

alexdz
Rikku
Posts: 391
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2008 7:29 pm
Location: Philadelphia, PA

Re: A Plea for No More Excuses

Post by alexdz » Tue Oct 08, 2019 11:10 pm

UlyssesInvictus wrote:
Mon Oct 07, 2019 12:09 pm
I think some of the nuance in this issue is that not only are people reluctant to admit to their editor they can't finish questions on time, they're reluctant to admit it to themselves, too ("It's fine, I'll just sit down this weekend, crack open a beer, and write them all," which we know won't happen.)
I think Raynor is very much on to something here. I know I do this to myself all the time (most of the questions I write are for my own projects, not for others). I'm constantly guilty of pushing things off for whatever reason (lots of other work, lack of motivation, etc.) and convincing myself that I have plenty of time to do the projects later. Spoiler alert: sometimes I didn't have the time later, and the event suffered at least a little for it.

So what can we do about this? For one, the suggestions above for editors to check in more often are good ones (though they don't help me with work I both write and edit). Editors could also consider assigning smaller chunks of the set up front and requiring some submission at early deadlines before releasing more work to a writer. For example, you could say "No one writer may have more than 15/15 of the set outstanding at any one time." If those numbers are realistically small (for the format and difficulty of the set), the constant pushing off of the work may be less likely as the load is less daunting.
Alex Dzurick
====
Owner/Editor, SAGES Quizbowl Questions
Coach, Harcum College (PA)
====
Former midwesterner (South Callaway - Mizzou - UIUC) coping with life on the east coast.

Post Reply