This Time, A Stern Warning

Elaborate on the merits of specific tournaments or have general theoretical discussion here.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by csheep »

theMoMA wrote: Sun Apr 12, 2020 6:15 pm It's simply the case that, at an online tournament, there is really nothing stopping people from cheating in a modest way, and because of that, I assume that many people in this community, if they were being honest with themselves, would have to admit that they did something at an online event or packet reading that they never would have done in person. (I have specifically avoided playing tournaments online because I assume people are (modestly) cheating, and because I don't want to be tempted myself.)

I don't think we will get rid of that problem by responding to admitted misbehavior with draconian punishment. I think it would set a bad precedent to impose a harsh punishment, because that would make people afraid to come forward and have the necessary conversations about how to make online quizbowl a better place, given how easy it is to look something up online while playing. More to the point, to punish someone harshly for succumbing to an obvious structural temptation that I have to assume many other people have also succumbed to (but simply haven't had the misfortune of being found out) is, in my opinion, wrong.

Put another way, if we are simply treating the problem of cheating online as a problem of "bad people," we're not going to get very far, because people are going to clam up and become afraid of talking about the reality of online tournaments. If instead we think of this as a problem of obvious temptation that normal people might succumb to in a moment of weakness, then we set the stage for a discussion of how to make online quizbowl better.

With that in mind, I appreciate Eric coming forward and admitting what he did. For my own part, this hardly changes any opinion I have about him. I don't think he's the kind of person who would do anything like steal the packets to a tournament. He is now admittedly the kind of person who would succumb to the temptation of looking up a handful of things online during an online tournament, but quite frankly, I thought he was that kind of person before this, not because he's particularly dastardly, but because I think everyone has that temptation inside of them.

I think it would be nice if people who have done the same would open up as well, although given some of the punitive rhetoric in this thread, I would guess that we need to create a better space for that kind of conversation before people feel comfortable doing so. In the interest of having that kind of conversation, and moving this dialogue past the rhetoric of punishment, zero-tolerance, and individual bad actors, I think we need to focus on honest discussions about the temptation of cheating online and the ways it can be mitigated or prevented, either through social or technological means.

With that in mind, I would call on people to discuss a standard "online cheating" punishment--perhaps a ban of a period of months from online events--and once we have figured something like that out, I would call on people in this community who have competed unfairly online to come forward so we can have an honest discussion about online tournaments as they are currently run.
I very much agree with Matt Bollinger's point on differentiating between experiencing temptation and succumbing to it.

More broadly I disagree with most of Andrew's post. In particular I take issue with making certain broad, declarative statements and assessments of QB behavior and passing them off as factual premises. For example:

1. The assertion that "many people" have conducted themselves dishonestly online - I do not doubt people cheat, but I question the validity of passing this off as an ignorable everyday transgression and not regrettably frequent cases of behavior that should be strongly opposed. Or, again as Matt Bollinger pointed out, "trivializing" the issue.
2. The idea that this is not a "bad people" issues - bad defined here as people who have acted poorly. I very much believe that this is, in fact, a bad people issue!

I come from a position that I would hope is uncontroversial - cheating is bad.

It derives from this simple position that when people cheat, the initial response should be to look for ways to deter further cheating and to, as appropriate, punish cheaters. The response should not be to immediately use that as a jumping point to launch into a criticism of the circumstances of cheating - in this case online tournaments.

I'm unsympathetic to the idea that cheating is more "understandable" - or some other mitigating concept - when there are greater temptations to do so.
I'm similarly unsympathetic to the idea that cheating in online tournaments should be viewed less seriously because it's easier.

While not explicitly stated in Andrew's post, I believe a lot of Andrew's point dovetails with the strand of discourse that has centered around a broad criticism of online tournaments in general, with the prevalence of cheating as a major pillar of that stance. I think this line of reasoning has come dangerously close to being distorted toward the idea that online quiz bowl is somehow to blame for cheating, and that online quiz bowl is the issue we should address instead of cheating. I think this course of action is tempting because we have a comparatively easy and concrete way to address online tournaments by simply not hosting any more of them. Cheating is a far thornier issue to tackle at a structural and systematic level.

Removing all online tournaments certainly will remove all instances of cheating in online tournaments - but that strikes me as a distinctly less ideal outcome than addressing cheating instead. I've always held a fairly cynical view towards cheating on online tournaments, in that I generally view it as commonplace and much more widespread than some others have thought. However, I also think the numerous advantages of online quiz bowl and the boost in overall participation in quiz bowl outweighs the negatives of cheating. We should definitely work to discourage cheating and that's part of the larger ongoing conversation; but I very much push back against any sort of discourse that somehow conflates "cheating is bad" with "online quiz bowl is bad."
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by VSCOelasticity »

I generally take the stance of Matt and Chris, that wanting to cheat and cheating are different. That being said, I agree with Andrew that draconian measures don't really work, and, furthermore, that bans won't deter cheaters. People cheat for many reasons, and I don't think people who cheat will be thinking of the ban while in the act of cheating. I would like to offer an alternative to bans.

The central issues with cheating are ruining the questions involved, and losing the community's trust. Banning assures the former will never happen again, but does not address the latter. Additionally, banishing punishes someone indefinitely for a temporary lapse in judgment (this is assuming the cheating takes the form of searching the internet, not wholesale packet stealing). How would the community feel about implementing a structure where if someone cheats at a tournament, they must moderate X number of tournaments or contribute X/X editor-approved questions to tournaments? This way, the person can show an act of good faith, and provide retribution for the labor/time of others that was invalidated. This structure addresses both aforementioned issues by making the cheater contribute their time so that others can play more questions, and makes the cheater demonstrate that they are invested in being a part of the quiz bowl community. I want to make it clear that the person should be compensated for their questions/moderation equally to whoever else is writing/moderating said tournament.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by Stained Diviner »

VSCOelasticity wrote: Sun Apr 12, 2020 9:53 pmHow would the community feel about implementing a structure where if someone cheats at a tournament, they must moderate X number of tournaments or contribute X/X editor-approved questions to tournaments? This way, the person can show an act of good faith, and provide retribution for the labor/time of others that was invalidated. This structure addresses both aforementioned issues by making the cheater contribute their time so that others can play more questions, and makes the cheater demonstrate that they are invested in being a part of the quiz bowl community. I want to make it clear that the person should be compensated for their questions/moderation equally to whoever else is writing/moderating said tournament.
Be careful about proposing a solution that might make sense for Eric but that would not make sense for any of the other cheaters, either because they did not have reputations for being good writers or because the community wanted to get rid of them completely.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by jonpin »

VSCOelasticity wrote: Sun Apr 12, 2020 9:53 pm I generally take the stance of Matt and Chris, that wanting to cheat and cheating are different. That being said, I agree with Andrew that draconian measures don't really work, and, furthermore, that bans won't deter cheaters. People cheat for many reasons, and I don't think people who cheat will be thinking of the ban while in the act of cheating. I would like to offer an alternative to bans.
The worst case scenario for a punishment is that it isn't a deterrent to cheating, but it is a deterrent to admitting it.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by VSCOelasticity »

Stained Diviner wrote: Sun Apr 12, 2020 10:34 pm
VSCOelasticity wrote: Sun Apr 12, 2020 9:53 pmHow would the community feel about implementing a structure where if someone cheats at a tournament, they must moderate X number of tournaments or contribute X/X editor-approved questions to tournaments? This way, the person can show an act of good faith, and provide retribution for the labor/time of others that was invalidated. This structure addresses both aforementioned issues by making the cheater contribute their time so that others can play more questions, and makes the cheater demonstrate that they are invested in being a part of the quiz bowl community. I want to make it clear that the person should be compensated for their questions/moderation equally to whoever else is writing/moderating said tournament.
Be careful about proposing a solution that might make sense for Eric but that would not make sense for any of the other cheaters, either because they did not have reputations for being good writers or because the community wanted to get rid of them completely.
That's valid.

I think reading and/or scorekeeping should be acceptable for "moderating" because of that point. The questions could also be for a trash tournament or a novice high school/middle school set, which, while they should be taken seriously, have lower knowledge barriers.
jonpin wrote: Sun Apr 12, 2020 10:49 pm
VSCOelasticity wrote: Sun Apr 12, 2020 9:53 pm I generally take the stance of Matt and Chris, that wanting to cheat and cheating are different. That being said, I agree with Andrew that draconian measures don't really work, and, furthermore, that bans won't deter cheaters. People cheat for many reasons, and I don't think people who cheat will be thinking of the ban while in the act of cheating. I would like to offer an alternative to bans.
The worst case scenario for a punishment is that it isn't a deterrent to cheating, but it is a deterrent to admitting it.
I agree. My proposal came from the desier to make admission less scary, as compared to never being able to play online quiz bowl ever again.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by Cheynem »

Yeah, I also worry with the sort of "pay it forward" approach that it benefits people who are like extremely involved--i.e., not that I think people really rationalize this, if I know I was going to staff such and such tournaments in the future anyway, that's not much of a punishment to be forced to do it, as opposed to a person who is not plugged into the community.

I do agree that punitive measures probably don't result in lessening cheating, but I also think they do serve to signal it is serious business. I would not call for overly punitive measures. For example, in many cases, I think a relatively short suspension from online play is probably all that is needed for a first time offense (i.e, several months). Depending on the breadth of the crime and the person's response to it, a longer suspension or a suspension of IRL tournaments could also be justified.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by Borrowing 100,000 Arrows »

I'm glad Eric confessed and apologized. Many people make dumb decisions. Confessing to cheating should be embarrassing, it should sting, but, as long as the cheater apologizes and shows contrition, we shouldn't ostracize them from the community. I do think Eric should, at least, receive a temporary ban from playing online events, but I would caution against making the punishment too severe lest it deters others from confessing in the future.

I think this incident really underscores the problems inherent to online tournaments. First, cheating is rampant in online tournaments. Eric's cheating isn't an isolated event. Just a week before the TO mirror, multiple players were reported to have cheated at the online MWT mirror. Second, the rampant cheating has created a toxic culture around online tournaments where people often make wild, and frequently baseless accusations against others. This is, in many ways, as damaging as the actual cheating, because it undermines relationships in the community, and spreads suspicion. I do not want to live in a world where after every online tournament we spend several weeks arguing over a regression analysis of the stats.

I think online quizbowl can be good *in small doses*. It allows teams like Colorado and Washington to play more events, and it allows us to continue playing games in the middle of a global pandemic. However, I think that this incident illustrates why online tournaments should not become a large part of the quizbowl ecosystem.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by nsb2 »

Obviously, it's both disappointing and frustrating to see cheating in any context, particularly one that quizbowlers paid money to participate in. However, speaking from personal experience, I feel that it is also important to discuss what might influence people to make these decisions.

In my senior year of high school, driven mostly by the fact that I had fallen behind with studying, I told myself at the start of the year that I had to make Team Illinois no matter what. I did well at the in-person tryout, but when the first online tryout started, I was slow to buzz in and missed many tossups that I should have gotten. About halfway through, worried about the potential implications of my performance for selection, I Googled clues for one or two tossups, answered them, regained my self-confidence and never looked up anything thereafter.

Thankfully, my feelings of inadequacy never again made me try and gain an unfair advantage, but in retrospect, the competitiveness of playing quizbowl at a high level negatively impacted my mental health and made me develop bad habits and attitudes that were not natural to me - which is one of the main reasons I opted to step away. If one of the greatest players ever, who has a medical degree and a job (and thus a significant life outside quizbowl), feels the need to Google several clues and answerlines to have great stats, I can't even begin to imagine how much pressure those at the absolute highest level must face.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by Æthelred the Unready Steady Cook »

Fair play to Eric for confessing.

Stepping back a little, I think the rancour all round, the poring over slightly contrived statistics and gigaton of psychic effort exerted in purging cheaters as well as the negative aspects of the cheating itself should hopefully show people that the ultimate, pleasant solution to this persistent issue is disincentivizing cheating rather than finding out who has cheated.

It may be that bans help to incentivize people not to cheat but its still the case that were it not for Eric's magnanimity, no-one would have actually been in a position to be banned despite the intense attention paid to this tournament. This was a high profile tournament which people have spent 100s of hours scrutinizing and the subjects of attention have been people with long track records to root analysis by. What use is a system where the only cheaters you can stop are guilty veterans.

Whether you want to include montweazles, use video conferencing to show people's faces or hands while playing or whatever else, I think very few people are likely to come out of this situation with any real sense of satisfaction. Its been well established that the temptation to cheat appears to be widespread. We can frame this whole discussion in terms of prevention and cure, but I think that what this whole incident underlines to me is that avoiding any of the bitter taste of cheating is probably a price worth paying for in some slightly onerous prevention measures.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by Mike Bentley »

Borrowing 100,000 Arrows wrote: Mon Apr 13, 2020 2:39 am I think this incident really underscores the problems inherent to online tournaments. First, cheating is rampant in online tournaments. Eric's cheating isn't an isolated event. Just a week before the TO mirror, multiple players were reported to have cheated at the online MWT mirror. Second, the rampant cheating has created a toxic culture around online tournaments where people often make wild, and frequently baseless accusations against others. This is, in many ways, as damaging as the actual cheating, because it undermines relationships in the community, and spreads suspicion. I do not want to live in a world where after every online tournament we spend several weeks arguing over a regression analysis of the stats.

I think online quizbowl can be good *in small doses*. It allows teams like Colorado and Washington to play more events, and it allows us to continue playing games in the middle of a global pandemic. However, I think that this incident illustrates why online tournaments should not become a large part of the quizbowl ecosystem.
I'll post more on this later but I reject the idea that we should make online tournaments any less a part of the quizbowl ecosystem than they already are. I've personally enjoyed the 6+ years of playing these tournaments and can find fun in them even if it appears that sometimes people are cheating on the other end. In particular, I think the rise of the playtest mirror has been a great trend and think this should continue.

As I mentioned on the Discord, I'm open to experimentation to discourage cheating. I haven't yet seen a great proposal for how to do this, but I think TDs have gotten decent enough at the regular online tournament experience that for at least one tournament something else can be tried.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

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The King's Flight to the Scots wrote: Sun Apr 12, 2020 6:42 pm I take exception to this bit:
He is now admittedly the kind of person who would succumb to the temptation of looking up a handful of things online during an online tournament, but quite frankly, I thought he was that kind of person before this, not because he's particularly dastardly, but because I think everyone has that temptation inside of them.
I think this quote elides the difference between being tempted to do something and acting on it. Lots of people might be tempted to cheat at an online tournament but I don't agree that makes everyone the "type of person" who would cheat. Many writers had easy access to the NAQT security flaw that Andy used to cheat, and surely many were tempted, on some level, to take advantage of it; I don't think that means every NAQT writer from that time is morally equivalent to Andy.

In Eric's case, what he confessed to is not comparable to what Andy did. I don't want us to take a vindictive approach here either and I don't have specific preferences on what the consequences should be. But I think the quoted line of thought runs the risk of trivializing cheating at online tournaments.
What I meant to convey, but perhaps did not do so carefully enough that the intent shines through in that snippet alone, is that I think most people have that temptation inside of them, and once we're talking about a temptation that takes so little to act on, and where acting is so unlikely to be discovered, we're into a territory where a normal person in a relatable moment of weakness might so act. This is clearly a much different kind of misdeed than the kind of organized premeditation required to cheat in person, such as stealing the packets or exploiting a tech loophole as Andy did.

So, what do we do with that insight? Well, obviously one could simply disagree with some facet of it, probably the part where I say a "normal" person in a "relatable" moment of weakness. Perhaps some people simply do not feel the temptation to compete unfairly while playing an online tournament, and could not imagine that such a temptation is "normal." Perhaps others would see the temptation as "normal," but would think that succumbing to it would not arise in a situation that is "relatable" to them. I think these are valid lines of argument, but I'll confess that it's hard for me to see how this could be tested in the abstract. These are questions about the actual shape of reality, i.e. how many people actually do cheat at online events. Which is a practical reason to favor "truth and reconciliation," as I do, over a harsh system of punishment that will obviously stop people coming forward. Without an encouragement to honesty, it will be almost impossible to know the true scale of the problem, which makes it all the harder to solve.

One could also take the tack that Michael has, above, and essentially say that, no matter how tempting it is to cheat online, no matter how relatable it might be to succumb, and no matter how many people actually do succumb, we should be content to label cheating a "bad people issue!" and take on faith his position that a community response premised on personal responsibility and individual bad actors will deter cheating in the future. It should be evident that I find little in this position to recommend it. In particular, it strikes me that treating this as an issue of individual bad actors preserves all of the incentives to cheat and all of the opportunities for doing so, and consequently is a much more anti-online qb position than mine, which actually attempts to put people on firm ground for talking about and addressing persistent issues with online qb. (I admit that I do not enjoy "serious" online events for myriad reasons and will continue not to play them if they are administered under current conditions--but attempting to improve those conditions is one of the reasons I am participating in this dialogue.)
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

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theMoMA wrote: Mon Apr 13, 2020 9:29 am
The King's Flight to the Scots wrote: Sun Apr 12, 2020 6:42 pm I take exception to this bit:
He is now admittedly the kind of person who would succumb to the temptation of looking up a handful of things online during an online tournament, but quite frankly, I thought he was that kind of person before this, not because he's particularly dastardly, but because I think everyone has that temptation inside of them.
I think this quote elides the difference between being tempted to do something and acting on it. Lots of people might be tempted to cheat at an online tournament but I don't agree that makes everyone the "type of person" who would cheat. Many writers had easy access to the NAQT security flaw that Andy used to cheat, and surely many were tempted, on some level, to take advantage of it; I don't think that means every NAQT writer from that time is morally equivalent to Andy.

In Eric's case, what he confessed to is not comparable to what Andy did. I don't want us to take a vindictive approach here either and I don't have specific preferences on what the consequences should be. But I think the quoted line of thought runs the risk of trivializing cheating at online tournaments.
What I meant to convey, but perhaps did not do so carefully enough that the intent shines through in that snippet alone, is that I think most people have that temptation inside of them, and once we're talking about a temptation that takes so little to act on, and where acting is so unlikely to be discovered, we're into a territory where a normal person in a relatable moment of weakness might so act.
This is a premise that I’m not willing to accept solely because you think this way. I believe you that more people than we’d like to think have been tempted to quickly look up a clue during a one-off packet reading, or whatever, and that the means and opportunity are certainly there. But this seems to me to be a far stronger conclusion than is warranted given that all we have is really just armchair psychologizing.

I believe the general response to Eric’s confession, and the discussion of a course of action has been characterized by a great deal of magnanimity, because Eric is a respected, long-tenured member of the game. I strongly doubt the tenor of the discussion would look like this if the person who confessed was an arbitrarily chosen active college quizbowl player. We really need to interrogate our biases in this particular situation and decide upon a consistent, fair course of action if anybody confesses to/is caught cheating at online tournaments in the future.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by theMoMA »

Auroni wrote: Mon Apr 13, 2020 9:49 amThis is a premise that I’m not willing to accept solely because you think this way. I believe you that more people than we’d like to think have been tempted to quickly look up a clue during a one-off packet reading, or whatever, and that the means and opportunity are certainly there. But this seems to me to be a far stronger conclusion than is warranted given that all we have is really just armchair psychologizing.
I believe I anticipated this objection in my original post (portion not quoted). If we're essentially arguing over whether cheating is, in fact, widespread, would you acknowledge that the best way to find out who is right would be to create an environment in which people feel comfortable talking about whether they have felt the temptation to cheat and whether they have, in fact, cheated? If not, how would you propose determining the scope of the cheating problem with online quizbowl?
I believe the general response to Eric’s confession, and the discussion of a course of action has been characterized by a great deal of magnanimity, because Eric is a respected, long-tenured member of the game. I strongly doubt the tenor of the discussion would look like this if the person who confessed was an arbitrarily chosen active college quizbowl player. We really need to interrogate our biases in this particular situation and decide upon a consistent, fair course of action if anybody confesses to/is caught cheating at online tournaments in the future.
For what it's worth, I believe my position on online cheating has been completely consistent going back to even before these events unfolded, when people were discussing online cheating in the context of high school and middle school players. While others were oscillating wildly between making proclamations about the p values and the Higgs boson, and then the next day proclaiming the absolute innocence of the accused parties, I maintained what I think remains a sensible and even-keeled position on the persuasiveness of statistical data in these analyses. I also, at the end of my second-most-recent post, said that we should come up with a standard community punishment for online cheating so that people can come forward and take a spoonful of bitter medicine to help us sort out all of these issues and make these tournaments work better for everyone moving forward. If you are talking to other people here, then so be it, but I believe I have been completely consistent in the way my thinking applies to just about everyone who has been or could be accused of cheating at online tournaments.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by Auroni »

theMoMA wrote: Mon Apr 13, 2020 10:11 am I believe I anticipated this objection in my original post (portion not quoted). If we're essentially arguing over whether cheating is, in fact, widespread, would you acknowledge that the best way to find out who is right would be to create an environment in which people feel comfortable talking about whether they have felt the temptation to cheat and whether they have, in fact, cheated? If not, how would you propose determining the scope of the cheating problem with online quizbowl?
To me, and sorry in advance for the invocation of further statistics, this seems like a question of what we should take the null hypothesis to be. The diligent, responsible thing to do would be to start with a presumption of the less extreme possibility that no, most people haven’t been tempted to cheat. I don’t know what a responsible test would be, but one thing that I can think of is for people who done something truly minor, like Googling during a one-off internet packet or during a practice, to come forward of their own accord before a group of peers with some guarantee of understanding/lack of censure.
For what it's worth, I believe my position on online cheating has been completely consistent going back to even before these events unfolded, when people were discussing online cheating in the context of high school and middle school players. While others were oscillating wildly between making proclamations about the p values and the Higgs boson, and then the next day proclaiming the absolute innocence of the accused parties, I maintained what I think remains a sensible and even-keeled position on the persuasiveness of statistical data in these analyses. I also, at the end of my second-most-recent post, said that we should come up with a standard community punishment for online cheating so that people can come forward and take a spoonful of bitter medicine to help us sort out all of these issues and make these tournaments work better for everyone moving forward. If you are talking to other people here, then so be it, but I believe I have been completely consistent in the way my thinking applies to just about everyone who has been or could be accused of cheating at online tournaments.
I was describing your post along with the posts of others, which seem to too readily offer Eric back a path to the fold or applaud his bravery at having confessed.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by vinteuil »

Auroni, I agree with you that Andrew is eliding some crucial differences. (Hell, Andrew's already taken the moral high ground with respect to those differences by saying that that's why he himself doesn't play online tournaments!) But, like,
Auroni wrote: Mon Apr 13, 2020 10:19 amtoo readily...applaud his bravery at having confessed.
What kind of environment, exactly, would you like to create for people to confess to their misdeeds? (And how easy do you think it is?)
Last edited by vinteuil on Mon Apr 13, 2020 1:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by Justice William Brennan »

Auroni wrote: Mon Apr 13, 2020 9:49 am I believe the general response to Eric’s confession, and the discussion of a course of action has been characterized by a great deal of magnanimity, because Eric is a respected, long-tenured member of the game. I strongly doubt the tenor of the discussion would look like this if the person who confessed was an arbitrarily chosen active college quizbowl player. We really need to interrogate our biases in this particular situation and decide upon a consistent, fair course of action if anybody confesses to/is caught cheating at online tournaments in the future.
I am particularly biased because Eric was my primary quizbowl mentor when I first entered college, but I think it's impossible to interrogate our biases in this situation and we should consider Eric's own history as a pillar of collegiate quizbowl when we evaluate how to proceed.

Unlike random college player X, Eric is extremely plugged in to the circuit and I suspect his quizbowl relationships are one of, if not the, most important relationships/communities in his life. I can't imagine any punishment can be more painful to him than the understanding that his reputation among such a cherished community is irreparably stained, and that his fame in quizbowl's historical memory will quite possibly become lasting infamy. Random cheater X could--particularly in high school, where the consensus is the majority of cheating occurs--disappear from the quizbowl circuit and presumably find themselves socially and emotionally intact. I think it's pretty likely that Eric will enter something akin to self-imposed exile out of shame/regret/etc. (whether or not a formal or informal ban is levied) and suffer enormously from the sheer awkwardness of interacting with quizbowlers after all of this.

I'm as dismayed as anyone about Eric's cheating, and especially his pattern of behavior in between the allegations and his confession. Despite this, it makes much more sense to me to evaluate whether Eric is likely to cheat again (which I doubt), Eric's history of positive contributions to the community through editing, mentorship, and playing (we should not drive exemplary contributors like Eric out of the community), and his voluntary admission (for which we should give credit even in light of Ike's revelation; to stonewall would have been possible and seems to be the norm with past cheating incidents), rather than worry that Eric must be punished to set an example. Any future incident should be considered on its own merits, and I hope this one is. I know of at least two ways Eric has voluntarily performed penance, which is two ways more than many people who have violated quizbowl's trust in the past. Further punishment would be superfluous at best and likely harmful to the community's further attempts to honestly grapple with cheating.
Last edited by Justice William Brennan on Mon Apr 13, 2020 3:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by 1.82 »

My views on this subject accord most closely with Andrew's and Jonathen's, of the views expressed in this thread. I think it is reasonable to describe Michael Zhuang's position as being that cheating is a bad thing done by bad people, and any attempt to differentiate between forms of cheating or interrogate its motivations is bad because it diminishes the evil of cheating. I find this stance to be profoundly unhelpful.

The typical form of online cheating consists of googling a clue while a question is being read. The typical form of in-person cheating consists of accessing the answers ahead of time. These are not equivalent, no matter how much people online declare it to be so. The former is something that anyone can easily do on the spur of the moment; the latter requires premeditation and meaningful advance effort. Obviously both are bad, but they are not the same; even if they were equivalent in magnitude, which they are not (a person may very easily only google clues for a few questions, whereas accessing questions in advance typically means having access to every question), it nevertheless remains an established custom of our society to regard a premeditated act as more heinous than an act of passion. I think that it would be silly to assume that googling questions would be a gateway drug into cheating at in-person tournaments.

I have no real opinions about the appropriate level of punishment in terms of playing online tournaments. I agree with Andrew that punitive sanctions and broken windows thought are not particularly helpful. In terms of in-person tournaments, we ban people from playing in-person tournaments when they have shown that they are hazardous to the community. Amit Bilgi and Dimitri Halikias demonstrated this through their actions; were they to ever decide to sign up for a tournament again, their bad moral character and established contempt for the community would obviously disqualify them, since there would be no reason to assume that they were not cheating. By contrast, Eric's actions do not give reason to believe that he would jeopardize a physical tournament just because he googled answers online. My position is not motivated by personal friendship, since Eric and I are not friends, but we do live in the same part of the country; I would have no issues with Eric's presence at a physical tournament here in the Southeast, whenever those resume.

I have other thoughts on the form of this investigation, but they can wait for another time.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by Woody »

I feel like a 12 month ban from organized online competition for a first offense is eminently reasonable.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by Cheynem »

Disclaimer: I like Eric a great deal.

I would like to find a balance between the thoughts proposed in this thread. I do not think Eric is a bad person nor that labeling cheaters "bad people" is necessarily productive, unless they have done extremely bad things (like Andy Watkins and his ilk).

Almost everyone is saying that Eric should face a penalty of some sort--most are saying a temporary ban (a year?) of online tournament play makes sense. Even Andrew Hart, who takes a more forgiving stance than most, acknowledges this. So we're really all on the same page here. I would hope there be a formal recommendation on this from perhaps the tournament directors or ACF or...somebody, just to get the recommendation formalized and recorded (and to be in place for future incidents).

I agree with Nitin that we should weigh aspects of Eric's background and experiences into any decision of punishment. Eric has contributed an immense amount to quizbowl. You'd be foolish to dismiss this over one incident. But this also cuts both ways--he wasn't a young kid eager to make an impact or an immature high schooler, he was a very successful player (who very highly likely would have won the tournament anyway). I would also say in weighing all of the extenuating factors, things come out a wash--Eric showed great courage and decency in confessing, but waiting to do so and until he was prodded is not as courageous. He showed contrition, which is extremely admirable, but as people pointed out, he waited until he had played two more online tournaments first.

The question now comes, "Should Eric also face penalties in real life?" I'm willing to say my mind is not made up on this. I would say yes, but I'm willing to be convinced otherwise and I'm also willing to say perhaps not as long as the online ban. My reasons for saying in real life penalties make sense are:

1. Eric is not an active player. I'd be hesitant to hand out stiff penalties to active high school or college players because they would be missing many more tournaments and also hurting their school. In Eric's case, he will probably miss a couple opens tops.

2. By waiting to confess until after he had played online tournaments, Eric kind of avoided having the online ban be worse.

The reasons for perhaps not supporting in real life penalties:

1. They seem unnecessarily harsh for the crime, especially considering the background of the person and the unlikeliness of being a repeat offender (one would hope).

2. If the point of a punishment is to prevent and deter cheating, it is extremely unlikely Eric is going to cheat in real life at any tournament.

3. Since we do not believe Eric is a bad guy and he seems genuinely contrite, it might make more sense to move him away from areas of quizbowl (online play) that have proven problematic for him but allow him to remain plugged in to other forms of quizbowl, else we run the risk of him just wandering away from quizbowl altogether. I do not want that.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by Captain Sinico »

I see a dichotomy arising in the recent few posts, but it's one that rings false. Online cheating is both a willfully bad act by a fairly small fraction of individuals, and more rife and perhaps more forgivable than in-person cheating for a variety of structural reasons. Any solution that doesn't account for both of those isn't really addressing the problem.

The first face leads pretty inevitably to the conclusion that in the (rare) instances where cheating is certainly known, it's reasonable or even necessary that it should bring punishment. I'll further add: I don't see the problem with that punishment being "harsh" in a quizbowl context, since any consequences in the context of quizbowl are not very harsh in the final analysis of any reasonable person. (If you know the degree to which I love this game, you know that last statement is not made lightly.) It may be reasonable to say it shouldn't be as harsh as the punishment for serious in-person cheating, but it has to be something.

An important thing we should bear in mind is that serious informal consequences are going to happen to proven cheats regardless of what any of us say here. Indeed, those are exactly why accusations shouldn't be leveled lightly. To speak very bluntly: you're a fool if you think I'll trust a grown adult whom I know to be a cheater, including at online quizbowl – the same would apply to, say, a rinky-dink home poker game, or petty shoplifting. In fact, I feel strongly enough about that to say: if you're not viewing things that way ("Whom can I trust? Under what circumstances?"), I urge you start doing so immediately, before you get cheated out of something of much greater value than your Discord tournament experience and entry fee. If you're proposing truth and reconciliation for cheaters, you should be aware: I ain't reconciling - not fully, anyway; you can tape up the window, but not un-break it. Further, I'm not alone, and anyone cheating does so knowing there are plenty of people like me around.

For the same reason, worrying about the magnitude of in-game formal consequences dissuading admissions of cheating is chimerical. The informal consequences and potential formal consequences outside the game are much greater*. This is not to say that, say, being banned from all quizbowl wouldn't hurt, but consider: if you're a cheater, how much do you really care about the community's good will? You just wiped your ass with that contract by cheating. If you know my history, you'll know some of the experience in which that statement is grounded. Now, of course, that doesn't mean organizations, down to people running tournaments, should do nothing – on the contrary, it is essential that they do and be seen to do whatever measure of justice possible. However, the large informal consequences (in essence: being known as a cheater) will always strongly tamp down on admissions of cheating. To put it another way, it's a rare bird who's cunning enough to cheat, but gullible enough to fall for a line like "Admit cheating, but expect to be reconciled because the All-Party Quizbowl Truth and Reconciliation Committee says you will be."

In summary, it's clearly proper to view the current state of online quizbowl as unsatisfactory and illegitimate, vis-a-vis the in-person game. It's reasonable to view cheating in the online game as it's currently played as more common and, possibly, less serious that in the in-person game, but it's not reasonable to absolve people of individual responsibility - they are still a small fraction of players, and still knowingly doing something seriously wrong. It will always be possible to spot anomalous performances and cry foul - that used to happen routinely in in-person quizbowl 15-20 years ago, for instance. The fact that it's happening now regarding the online game is ultimately an effect of the background sense that a lot of people are cheating.

I'll close with two points of action. First, it's imperative that we pick a lane here: do something to fix this and be seen to do that thing, or be honest with people writing, editing, and playing online tournaments that everyone knows that an unacceptable fraction of people are going to cheat, and that's just how it is. It's obvious to me which of these is preferable, but just be real: if the good one isn't possible, tear off the bandage - we're in some weird, uncharted waters right now.

Second, if you're going to try to fix this consider many sorts of fix: technical, yes, but also social (How do people earn trust online? What happens when trust is broken? How do deal with people who haven't earned it yet? etc.); rules-based/punitive; etc. A good fix will probably do all of these things and there's every reason to consider all of them and more.

*We could consider excepting from this statement a tiny fraction of people who earn their living from this game

[EDIT: Typo. "if" is just like "is"!]
Last edited by Captain Sinico on Mon Apr 13, 2020 3:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by 1.82 »

Cheynem wrote: Mon Apr 13, 2020 2:41 pm I would hope there be a formal recommendation on this from perhaps the tournament directors or ACF or...somebody, just to get the recommendation formalized and recorded (and to be in place for future incidents).
With regard to this recommendation, it should be pointed out that Ike and his associates have carried out their investigation entirely of their own initiative, without including anyone involved with the tournament or set. Ike has informed the TD and editors of "statistical evidence" against Eric, but has not elaborated on this evidence. Elsewhere Ike has stated his interest in informing NAQT and ACF of the details of his investigation, but as far as I am aware he has indicated no intention to inform the director of the tournament he has privately been investigating of his results. Consequently, it would be inadvisable for the TD to issue any recommendation, given that the TD has not been (and, as far as anyone knows, will not be) presented the details.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by Cheynem »

Sure, this is assuming the TD eventually does get the information and assesses the information to be valid.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by Captain Sinico »

1.82 wrote: Mon Apr 13, 2020 1:57 pmThe typical form of online cheating consists of googling a clue while a question is being read. The typical form of in-person cheating consists of accessing the answers ahead of time. These are not equivalent, no matter how much people online declare it to be so. The former is something that anyone can easily do on the spur of the moment; the latter requires premeditation and meaningful advance effort. Obviously both are bad, but they are not the same...
This, I think, is a very important point. It should also cause us to consider the many forms cheating takes off-line. The cheating we're anchored on, when we think about it, is gaining access to questions in advance, because those were high-profile, high-impact instances. However, people cheat in many ways in the in-person game, too.

In fact, benefit from my being old and paranoid by considering my vast experience with what people do in-person, in addition to just jacking the whole set ahead of the tournament. People look things up on phones or in books. They bring in other illegal materials. They signal to and get signals from people outside the game. They sneak peeks in-round at a packet that isn't guarded zealous enough. They get a glance at the whole set on an unsecured computer. They steal single paper rounds. They confer with teammates during tossups. They spectate and hear a packet in advance due to round desynchronization, then don't mention it when they play the same round later. They get advance knowledge by hearing from people online who've already played a round (again, initially innocently or by design). They attend tournaments on a set they've already heard (sometimes by by mistake, sometimes by design). A confederate who knows the questions tailors their practice materials. These are all things that do and have happened, and they are all cheating of various degrees.

The point, then, is that in-person cheating takes many forms and degrees of severity, commonality, and punishment. We could view part of our task here as deciding where in that assembly "Intentionally Googling stuff at a formal online event" falls, but it's on there somewhere.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by naan/steak-holding toll »

1.82 wrote: Mon Apr 13, 2020 3:02 pm
Cheynem wrote: Mon Apr 13, 2020 2:41 pm I would hope there be a formal recommendation on this from perhaps the tournament directors or ACF or...somebody, just to get the recommendation formalized and recorded (and to be in place for future incidents).
With regard to this recommendation, it should be pointed out that Ike and his associates have carried out their investigation entirely of their own initiative, without including anyone involved with the tournament or set. Ike has informed the TD and editors of "statistical evidence" against Eric, but has not elaborated on this evidence. Elsewhere Ike has stated his interest in informing NAQT and ACF of the details of his investigation, but as far as I am aware he has indicated no intention to inform the director of the tournament he has privately been investigating of his results. Consequently, it would be inadvisable for the TD to issue any recommendation, given that the TD has not been (and, as far as anyone knows, will not be) presented the details.
It sure would fucking help if you guys weren't hiding the advanced stats from everyone! I don't think you guys are doing this on purpose to obstruct investigations - not in the slightest - but come on now, can anyone at this point blame people for not wanting to work with Maryland considering how much foot-dragging you have done on absolutely everything???

In other words, people should dismiss Naveed's concern trolling. We've gotten results and he's chirping in on the sidelines. If you want to cooperate and help us do the right thing, then reach out.

EDIT: Look, this post is very hot-headed, but I'm sincerely extremely frustrated that Naveed insists on bringing up red herrings like this for what looks like nothing more than cheap attempts to score points. My limited conversations with members the Maryland team indicated that saw nothing suspicious, so I looked down a different avenue. Gatekeeping on advanced stats is a discussion for another time, but this is useless concern trolling which is wholly inappropriate at this time.
Last edited by naan/steak-holding toll on Mon Apr 13, 2020 5:27 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by Carlos Be »

1.82 wrote: Mon Apr 13, 2020 3:02 pm Elsewhere Ike has stated his interest in informing NAQT and ACF of the details of his investigation
Cheynem wrote: Mon Apr 13, 2020 2:41 pm I would hope there be a formal recommendation on this from perhaps the tournament directors or ACF or...somebody
I don't believe this will actually happen, but I would be strongly opposed if ACF makes a formal recommendation on punishment for cheating that had nothing to do with ACF or any of their tournaments. I think this would be equivalent to a formal recommendation originating from an insular groupchat.

This ties into some broader questions that haven't been substantially addressed. Who gets to decide what Eric's punishment is? Who has to abide by the decision? What precedent does that process set for future disputes?
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by cchiego »

One question: Is there a list somewhere of all people who are known/suspected to have cheated? Based on the posts in this thread, it's highly implied that there are (many?) other suspected cheaters out there. Are all these people receiving the same kind of intense statistical and social scrutiny as Chris R. and Eric did?

I'm also a bit skeptical of the whole "TDs can/should take care of this" approach recommended above. While TDs certainly should be consulted before a vigilante investigative committee forms (much less issues its findings), do we want more posts like this?

I was impressed that the quizbowl community overcame the anarchic structure of quizbowl and came together to protect players and address other "open secrets" last year. Why not form something like that for adjudicating cheating allegations instead of these dumpster fire threads of rumor, accusation, and piecemeal statistical analysis?
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by Ike »

Carlos Be wrote: Mon Apr 13, 2020 4:54 pm
1.82 wrote: Mon Apr 13, 2020 3:02 pm Elsewhere Ike has stated his interest in informing NAQT and ACF of the details of his investigation
Cheynem wrote: Mon Apr 13, 2020 2:41 pm I would hope there be a formal recommendation on this from perhaps the tournament directors or ACF or...somebody
I don't believe this will actually happen, but I would be strongly opposed if ACF makes a formal recommendation on punishment for cheating that had nothing to do with ACF or any of their tournaments. I think this would be equivalent to a formal recommendation originating from an insular groupchat.

This ties into some broader questions that haven't been substantially addressed. Who gets to decide what Eric's punishment is? Who has to abide by the decision? What precedent does that process set for future disputes?
Just to clarify, what Naveed said is incorrect (if he's referring to the Discord comment I think he's talking about). My comment was along the lines that my personal preference that NAQT and ACF take strong stances on online cheating by creating policies of their own. That has nothing to do with the investigation.

In the event that I were to take the formal step of submitting such investigative material to ACF and NAQT, I would list myself as the only complainant.

EDIT: The statistical method that I did devise however in the general case, I will have no problem submitting to NAQT and ACF for future use.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by 1.82 »

Ike wrote: Mon Apr 13, 2020 5:09 pm
Carlos Be wrote: Mon Apr 13, 2020 4:54 pm
1.82 wrote: Mon Apr 13, 2020 3:02 pm Elsewhere Ike has stated his interest in informing NAQT and ACF of the details of his investigation
Cheynem wrote: Mon Apr 13, 2020 2:41 pm I would hope there be a formal recommendation on this from perhaps the tournament directors or ACF or...somebody
I don't believe this will actually happen, but I would be strongly opposed if ACF makes a formal recommendation on punishment for cheating that had nothing to do with ACF or any of their tournaments. I think this would be equivalent to a formal recommendation originating from an insular groupchat.

This ties into some broader questions that haven't been substantially addressed. Who gets to decide what Eric's punishment is? Who has to abide by the decision? What precedent does that process set for future disputes?
Just to clarify, what Naveed said is incorrect (if he's referring to the Discord comment I think he's talking about). My comment was along the lines that my personal preference that NAQT and ACF take strong stances on online cheating by creating policies of their own. That has nothing to do with the investigation.

In the event that I were to take the formal step of submitting such investigative material to ACF and NAQT, I would list myself as the only complainant.

EDIT: The statistical method that I did devise however in the general case, I will have no problem submitting to NAQT and ACF for future use.
I have no desire to unnecessarily derail the conversation, but this is what I am referring to:

Image
5:18 PM | anson [brown]: @Ike if you don't want to post that's fine but I'm curious what statistical evidence you assembled that was so damning
5:20 PM | Ike: i'm trying to figure out what's the most neutral way to disseminate it, i can say that NAQT and ACF will get a copy of what I did at a minimum.
5:20 PM | Ike: just so institutions can figure out how to detect cheaters.
If I was in any way "incorrect" in what I said, it was not because of any failure to interpret the plain meaning of those words.

In any case, I think that it would be a very bad thing for the community if self-appointed vigilantes were to continue leveling accusations that we have to take on faith, because not even the director of the affected tournament is allowed to see the supposedly "damning" evidence.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by Mike Bentley »

I'm confused as to the seeming secrecy around the statistical evidence that has been rumored to be what prompted Eric to confess.

I'm also a bit confused on the Terrapin Open side of things of the delay in releasing advance stats. I've been interested in these since the first in-person mirror as I would be in seeing advance stats for any tournament in which I played.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by vinteuil »

Mike Bentley wrote: Mon Apr 13, 2020 5:33 pm I'm also a bit confused on the Terrapin Open side of things of the delay in releasing advance stats. I've been interested in these since the first in-person mirror as I would be in seeing advance stats for any tournament in which I played.
I presume that, as with most advanced stats, this is Ophir's decision and has very little if anything to do with the editors.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by Cheynem »

Regarding ACF's role, ACF's rules specifically say they can impose penalties for misconduct not happening at their own tournaments, which makes sense--we would not expect ACF would allow Andy Watkins to play ACF tournaments because he didn't cheat at ACF tournaments. While I wouldn't expect ACF to take the lead in this, because as Justine correctly points out Eric was not playing an ACF tournament, as one of the major college quizbowl organizations, I think their opinion does have some weight (and for non-retired players, their position is probably more relevant).
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by Borrowing 100,000 Arrows »

vinteuil wrote: Mon Apr 13, 2020 5:41 pm
Mike Bentley wrote: Mon Apr 13, 2020 5:33 pm I'm also a bit confused on the Terrapin Open side of things of the delay in releasing advance stats. I've been interested in these since the first in-person mirror as I would be in seeing advance stats for any tournament in which I played.
I presume that, as with most advanced stats, this is Ophir's decision and has very little if anything to do with the editors.
That is correct.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by Ike »

Mike Bentley wrote: Mon Apr 13, 2020 5:33 pm I'm confused as to the seeming secrecy around the statistical evidence that has been rumored to be what prompted Eric to confess.
The seeming secrecy is that while I would like to explain what I did, I want to put in as many caveats as possible to show that you must subject your own methods to intense scrutiny. Going around using this kind of method to hunt for cheaters may be a big no-no if you tailor your datasets or statistics wrongly. In other words, I would like to cross all my ts and dot my is before talking about it. I fear there is a danger that one could easily abuse this method to create a number of "false positives," that is, where you accuse a player of cheating when they have not cheated. Look, a lot of the way this thread played out was sub-optimal, and I would appreciate the time to make sure that when I post and explain, it goes off with fewer hitches.

I'm also very tired and emotionally drained, and would appreciate a few days off from this.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by MorganV »

1.82 wrote: Mon Apr 13, 2020 5:26 pm In any case, I think that it would be a very bad thing for the community if self-appointed vigilantes were to continue leveling accusations that we have to take on faith, because not even the director of the affected tournament is allowed to see the supposedly "damning" evidence.
Clearly the evidence was compelling enough that it prompted Eric to come clean after defending himself for the past week. One potential downside to revealing the method to the community at large would be that future cheaters, having internalized this thread, may change their behavior in a manner that circumvents the method used here. Given Eric's confession, I don't see much to be gained in further litigating the stats.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by Ike »

MorganV wrote: Mon Apr 13, 2020 7:30 pm
1.82 wrote: Mon Apr 13, 2020 5:26 pm In any case, I think that it would be a very bad thing for the community if self-appointed vigilantes were to continue leveling accusations that we have to take on faith, because not even the director of the affected tournament is allowed to see the supposedly "damning" evidence.
Clearly the evidence was compelling enough that it prompted Eric to come clean after defending himself for the past week. One potential downside to revealing the method to the community at large would be that future cheaters, having internalized this thread, may change their behavior in a manner that circumvents the method used here. Given Eric's confession, I don't see much to be gained in further litigating the stats.
Yes, for right now it's best to consider the statistical evidence as "evidence that helped a friend to see the light." Look, everyone who posted statistical evidence in this thread effectively ended up retracting their statements. In my view, when you accuse someone there should be no backsies; that's why I didn't in this thread when it began. Adam Fine is right, some amount of credit should be given to Eric; a statistical defense attorney could have a field day with my assumptions. However, I like to think that I did enough work (with helpers) so that I could have made a strong enough case to withstand an intense amount of scrutiny.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots »

Many people in this thread and on Discord have suggested that Eric's confession should count for less because it was prompted by new, damning evidence. I wanted to add that I actually don't think Ike's statistical analysis, as it was shown to me, proved the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Ike did work the math out much more thoroughly and formally than previous analyses did. Now that Eric's confessed, I think his analysis uncovered an important, previously-unidentified pattern. If he had posted it without Eric's confession, though, I think it would have been received in a similar fashion as the z-score analysis was. People would have questioned the assumptions and methodology, and we would have gotten another series of different opinions on the study from different physics players. Eric had plenty of room to continue denying it; so, I think what prompted his confession was being confronted by his friends, rather than being threatened with exposure.
Last edited by The King's Flight to the Scots on Mon Apr 13, 2020 8:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by Daedalus »

MorganV wrote: Mon Apr 13, 2020 7:30 pm Clearly the evidence was compelling enough that it prompted Eric to come clean after defending himself for the past week. One potential downside to revealing the method to the community at large would be that future cheaters, having internalized this thread, may change their behavior in a manner that circumvents the method used here. Given Eric's confession, I don't see much to be gained in further litigating the stats.
I disagree with every sentence of this post. It seems like, while writing this, Matt and Ike have covered the first sentence so I'll skip that. I don't think there's much risk of cheaters modifying their behavior to get around this one statistic either - I have heard that Ike's statistic is also power-based, so cheaters could already just google things and buzz late in the question or google bonus parts, for instance. Furthermore, the fact that no one is talking about, for example, whether or not Tejas cheated (5 powers on FO to 17 powers on TO????) means that cheaters already know that they have a decent amount of leeway to get a few google-powers without being suspicious, unfortunately.
Lastly, I think Ike has the correct sentiment - further litigating the statistics will help determine whether or not Ike's statistic is sufficiently powerful to both detect cheaters reliably and prevent tons of false positives. I eagerly await Ike's explanation of his statistic, whenever he feels ready to share it.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by Oh No You Didn't »

Daedalus wrote: Mon Apr 13, 2020 8:00 pm
MorganV wrote: Mon Apr 13, 2020 7:30 pm Clearly the evidence was compelling enough that it prompted Eric to come clean after defending himself for the past week. One potential downside to revealing the method to the community at large would be that future cheaters, having internalized this thread, may change their behavior in a manner that circumvents the method used here. Given Eric's confession, I don't see much to be gained in further litigating the stats.
I disagree with every sentence of this post. It seems like, while writing this, Matt and Ike have covered the first sentence so I'll skip that. I don't think there's much risk of cheaters modifying their behavior to get around this one statistic either - I have heard that Ike's statistic is also power-based, so cheaters could already just google things and buzz late in the question or google bonus parts, for instance. Furthermore, the fact that no one is talking about, for example, whether or not Tejas cheated (5 powers on FO to 17 powers on TO????) means that cheaters already know that they have a decent amount of leeway to get a few google-powers without being suspicious, unfortunately.
Lastly, I think Ike has the correct sentiment - further litigating the statistics will help determine whether or not Ike's statistic is sufficiently powerful to both detect cheaters reliably and prevent tons of false positives. I eagerly await Ike's explanation of his statistic, whenever he feels ready to share it.
Didn't Tejas play... in real life? (or at least a simulacrum set in college park?)
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by Carlos Be »

Daedalus wrote: Mon Apr 13, 2020 8:00 pm whether or not Tejas cheated (5 powers on FO to 17 powers on TO????)
Are you accusing Tejas of cheating?
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by vinteuil »

Carlos Be wrote: Mon Apr 13, 2020 8:16 pm
Daedalus wrote: Mon Apr 13, 2020 8:00 pm whether or not Tejas cheated (5 powers on FO to 17 powers on TO????)
Are you accusing Tejas of cheating?
I hope this is a joke—Adam is clearly referring to the high threshold we have to have when looking in "power gaps" to avoid a huge number of false positives.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by Carlos Be »

vinteuil wrote: Mon Apr 13, 2020 8:17 pm
Carlos Be wrote: Mon Apr 13, 2020 8:16 pm
Daedalus wrote: Mon Apr 13, 2020 8:00 pm whether or not Tejas cheated (5 powers on FO to 17 powers on TO????)
Are you accusing Tejas of cheating?
I hope this is a joke—Adam is clearly referring to the high threshold we have to have when looking in "power gaps" to avoid a huge number of false positives.
There is nothing clear about Adam's intentions. When you post "5 powers on FO to 17 powers on TO????" (five question marks!) in a thread on cheating, there is clearly room to interpret that as an accusation.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by Daedalus »

My point re: Tejas was that, despite the fact that his power count more than tripled between FO and TO, he was not an outlier in my data set (my original post mentions him 5 times as an example of someone who clearly didn't cheat but had comparable-ish stats to Chris - clearly if I was accusing Tejas of cheating I would've done so in my original long post accusing people of cheating?). Therefore, cheaters who start from a low enough power count have a lot of room to Google questions without their numbers being suspicious.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by Noble Rot »

I don't want to move the topic away from the topic of how to prevent cheating, but just want to mention that if we are considering whether or not Eric acted on pure motives or not, we should consider that Eric also payed the full amount of all teams' mirror fees, allowing me to reimburse the people and teams that played Terrapin Open Online and were effected by his cheating. I'm not downplaying his earlier actions, or saying what the right course of action should be, but that shows a serious attempt to atone for his mistakes, in my mind.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by ArnavS »

There's been some discussion of how cheating works differently for "elite" players (for lack of a better term) vs others. Maybe they have higher pressures, different motivations, etc. Maybe being a community luminary is a mitigating factor, maybe otherwise. As a decidedly non-elite player, there is one thing I'd like to point out:

Quiz bowl, in many respects, is dependent on people voluntarily getting the shit kicked out of them. We do this (a) because we like the game itself; (b) we get questions once in a while; and (c) we have faith that the elite players with the monstrous stats earned them justly. But it doesn't mean that losing horribly is enjoyable. Eric's team at TO had games that went 555-85, 525-70, 535-95, and 485-65, among other margins. I'm sure playing on the right hand side of those scoreboards was not fun.

My point is that being a top player comes with an additional obligation to be gentle, because you will so comprehensively beat so many teams. We don't know where, exactly, the 8 or 10 tossups Eric mentioned came up. But if they fell in any of these blowout games, that would be certainly be an aggravating factor in my mind.

Edit: Rephrasing for clarity.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by k120 »

A question, because I haven't been following discussions about cheating until very recently: Before Eric, has anyone else confessed, or been confirmed beyond reasonable doubt, to have cheated in online quizbowl? If so, what consequences did they face?

(Also I don't have anything to add to it, but I just want to say I wholeheartedly agree with Arnav's post above.)
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by vinteuil »

k120 wrote: Tue Apr 14, 2020 9:33 pm A question, because I haven't been following discussions about cheating until very recently: Before Eric, has anyone else confessed, or been confirmed beyond reasonable doubt, to have cheated in online quizbowl? If so, what consequences did they face?
Most famously: viewtopic.php?f=21&t=14710
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by Stained Diviner »

k120 wrote: Tue Apr 14, 2020 9:33 pm A question, because I haven't been following discussions about cheating until very recently: Before Eric, has anyone else confessed, or been confirmed beyond reasonable doubt, to have cheated in online quizbowl? If so, what consequences did they face?
QBWiki has a category for it. The Quizbowl scandals category has some additional cheaters. I don't know whether Eric is the first person to confess.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by Justice William Brennan »

theMoMA wrote: Sun Apr 12, 2020 6:15 pm I think it would be nice if people who have done the same would open up as well, although given some of the punitive rhetoric in this thread, I would guess that we need to create a better space for that kind of conversation before people feel comfortable doing so. In the interest of having that kind of conversation, and moving this dialogue past the rhetoric of punishment, zero-tolerance, and individual bad actors, I think we need to focus on honest discussions about the temptation of cheating online and the ways it can be mitigated or prevented, either through social or technological means.
I strongly agree with pretty much everything Andrew Hart has said in this thread.

I think it is so painfully easy to cheat in a Discord tournament, that short of Steven Hines levels of absurdity we will never be able to prove cheating beyond a reasonable doubt unless the cheaters themselves admit it. Eric had a historically good performance at Terrapin Online and he was cleared from suspicion by hours and hours of statistical analysis at the beginning of this thread. Even with Ike's supposed considerable statistical evidence, I can imagine that all Eric had to do was stonewall into oblivion or appeal to our emotions and the presumption of innocence would have carried him through until we laid the matter to rest. Eric can't possibly be the only person who has cheated at a Discord tournament in the past two months; anybody who can type a couple dozen words per minute can probably nab a few powers at a Discord tournament without ever falling under suspicion! So I worry that all this case has done is teach other Discord cheaters that no good will come from confession and that they're better off just keeping it to themselves and living with their guilt.

I think Will Alston and Pranav Sivakumar's confessions are a model for what we can learn from this thread. Players--sometimes very good players--have cheated majorly and minorly, and most of them I think carry a certain amount of guilt about it. Nobody is going to come forward and admit that they did these things if they know they're going to face a ban from playing quizbowl from it during their limited years of eligibility. I suspect I am in the extreme minority, but I think the social disgrace of being a confessed cheater is a fine punishment for someone who admits to googling their way to a handful of undeserved questions. I would much rather this be a moment where we allow amnesty for people who admit their wrongs, take stock of just how prevalent cheating is, convey that googling clues is a violation of the community's trust, and make it clear that serious bans will be laid down for this kind of cheating in the future. As I see it, this is the only way to get a sense of the extent of cheating in online quizbowl and to have "honest discussions about the temptation of cheating online and the ways it can be mitigated or prevented," as Andrew Hart puts it.
Last edited by Justice William Brennan on Wed Apr 15, 2020 4:01 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by Cheynem »

I agree with a lot of what Nitin is saying (even though I think there must be penalties for in-tournament cheating, perhaps not from like years ago, but certainly in the present). I can certainly agree with what a few Discord comments have noted--it's going to be harder to get people to confess if they're just going to get verbally abused and mocked online.
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Re: This Time, A Stern Warning

Post by kdroge »

So I think that the revelations of this thread have been overall pretty disappointing.

I used to be of the opinion that maybe a couple people cheated online, but that overall the quiz bowl community deserved the benefit of the doubt due to the inherent variance of quiz bowl and of online gameplay in particular, and that many people were being overly suspicious of cheaters. Obviously, individuals should be treated as innocent until proven guilty- this thread clearly shows how fickle the court of public opinion can at times be- but my evaluation of things as a whole has been sadly misproven.

My views on cheating are rather the opposite of what many people seem to be saying. To me, cheating is not just some level of "bad," it is always, unequivocally, morally wrong. It is wrong because, when you cheat at quiz bowl, you are saying that you give zero shits about the experience of the other people playing, you give zero shits about the integrity of the game, and that you give zero shits about the time put in by the question writers and editors. Most importantly, though, at the time you cheat, you are saying that you give zero shits about the competitive spirit of the game and zero shits about the appreciation of knowledge- the two concepts that for me form the core of what quiz bowl is all about. This is true whether you are Andy Watkins at past ICTs, Eric at TO, or some random person who cheats on a discord packet and powers a tossup that they would have powered one clue later anyways. I get that there are practical differences between these cheats (they have been brought up so I don't feel the need to go into them), but to me they are fairly immaterial. Cheating is always, equally wrong- period. Think about it sort of like plagiarism.

I strongly disagree with the notion that cheating is more understandable if it is easier or for lower stakes. I'll explain. Consider Andy Watkins. In order to give the middle finger to his fellow quiz bowlers and to the spirit of the game by cheating, the figurative "Mephistopholes of Cheating" had to offer him three ICT titles. Three national titles is a lot! This cheating is not at all right, but it is at least slightly understandable. However, when someone cheats on an online set, what the Mephistopholes of Cheating has offered to get them to give the middle finger are inflated stats somewhere on an internet archive and the fleeting satisfaction of getting an unearned tossup- i.e., pretty damn little. The cheating is still there, but instead of finding it slightly understandable, I just find it petty and baffling.

In my experiences across several competitive games, most cheaters are habitual offenders. People who actually cheat one time are the exception, not the rule. I have no idea whether this applies to Eric- or to the myriad other people who apparently are cheating at online quiz bowl- nor do I care. That being said, I also do not think that people who cheat are somehow "bad actors" or "bad people" or something. Cheating to me is a mistake. The vast majority of us (myself certainly included) have made many mistakes in our lives, and that certainly doesn't make us all bad people. What we should be focusing on is how we can stop making this mistake and allowing others to make this mistake.

I simply do not understand the rationale about being lax on cheaters so that people who have cheated in the past feel more comfortable about confessing. I mean, should we as a community be lax towards people who have engaged in sexually inappropriate conduct or racially-based harassment so that they're more likely to confess to past misdeeds? In my view, it's exactly the opposite- we should provide a unified front that these sorts of behaviors are simply not OK, ever, with the goal of creating an environment that can minimize them or hopefully even prevent them altogether in the future.

Contra to what some people have suggested, I think that harsh punishments towards people who cheat at online events moving forwards are absolutely necessary. Cheating is a crime of greed, not a crime of passion, perversion, desperation, or necessity, leading me to think that they may be more effective than towards other types of crimes. Besides, even if harsh measures towards cheaters dissuade only one single person from cheating in the foreseeable future, than they have done their job. Most importantly, I think that harsh consequences act as a signal from the community that we take this issue seriously. I'm not sure exactly what harsh measures would entail- certainly, a 12-month ban from all quiz bowl activities, a publicly-accessable post to a person google searching their name (to be taken down after 3 years) detailing the cheating, and a formal letter to whoever is in charge of academic integrity at their school relating what has happened would be a good place to start. Note that I am explicitly trying to include measures that could be relevant even to people who do not care about the "quiz bowl ban" part of the punishment.

Given these opinions, it may seem surprising that I actually do not advocate imposing stringent penalties on Eric, or on other recent cheaters; applying penalties retroactively would be very unfair. The goal here is not to randomly make an example of someone. I do think that in the case of the TO cheating some sort of very temporary ban from online quiz bowl events- say a month or two- would not be unwarranted.
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