A Focus On Prevention

Elaborate on the merits of specific tournaments or have general theoretical discussion here.
Post Reply
esotericReference
Kimahri
Posts: 2
Joined: Fri Apr 17, 2020 12:28 pm

A Focus On Prevention

Post by esotericReference »

I made an account specifically to write this post, so I sincerely apologize in advance if there are protocols or etiquettes that I violate in my ignorance.

While I'm far from an active member from the community writ large, quiz bowl has had a serious impact on my life — many of my closest friendships and fondest college memories came from the game. Consequently, the seriousness of these recent cheating allegations and admissions have caused me to circle the forums more closely than I typically do.

I understand why, up until this point, much of the focus has been on how best to punish those who cheat. Cheating ruins the game of quiz bowl for everyone, and it undermines our trust in online quiz bowl at a time when the medium has never been more important to this community. That being said, I do hope that a focus on prevention can begin to overtake the current focus on punishment. In a moment when many are hoping to get a greater understanding of how widespread cheating currently is, I worry that the nature of the current discourse will prevent or hinder the reckoning that needs to take place. The prospect of dean's office-bound letters or attempts at public shaming beyond our circle will, I think, discourage truth-telling as much as it discourages the actual act of cheating, if not significantly more so.

This is not to say that we should not put an immense amount of effort towards deciding the appropriate punishments for the cases that do arise — clearly this is a crucial part of the overall amelioration process. My point is that many have accurately stated that, in the current state of online quizbowl, proving the act of cheating beyond reasonable doubt is extremely difficult without a confession. It makes sense to me, then, that we place great emphasis on implementing as many anti-cheating measures as possible as opposed to trying to ferret out every last person who's taken advantage of the online format thus far. What I don't want is for all of quiz bowl to suffer more than it already has due to the improprieties of the few, meaning that I don't want every single online tournament to be followed by weeks of statistical analysis and kangaroo courts. That's why I want to open up a thread in which people can share their ideas for how to prevent cheating at online tournaments going forward. Actual, functional online quiz bowl has very quickly become a need for many, so I want to begin some productive discourse as soon as possible as to how the medium can be optimized.

There will, of course, always be ways to cheat in online quiz bowl — just as there are in real life. That doesn't mean that measures such as face cams or screencapping won't make the act more difficult in a really consequential way. I also want to entertain the possibility of writing short questions — NAQT length, or perhaps even something even closer to ScotBowl — specifically for online tournaments that make it much more difficult to Google the answer to an early clue before a much more accessible clue arrives. Perhaps the questions of existing tournaments could be edited down to a length such as this; I don't know. People much more involved in quiz bowl and well-versed in the format than I are regular posters on these forms, and I make this thread so that they may showcase their ideas, not that I might promote my own.
Harrison Whitaker
NYU '19 | Columbia '20
ArnavS
Lulu
Posts: 51
Joined: Fri Feb 19, 2016 12:57 pm

Re: A Focus On Prevention

Post by ArnavS »

A few initial thoughts:

1. Cheating prevention necessarily demands a loss of privacy. But I don't think that's bad, in itself. We already sacrifice some autonomy to go to quiz bowl tournaments (we have to show up, not smell, refrain from being flagrantly disruptive, give up the ability to multitask, etc.) If we have to sacrifice as much or more to make online quizbowl work, so be it. It feels worse to give privacy in our own homes, but to the extent that we're playing a public tournament, we are "in public."

2. The same demands might be differently onerous to different groups. I remember a comment from Joelle about what it would feel like to have a camera trained on her chest (if we were monitoring people's hands.)

3. For 100% deterrence, can't only look at people's computers; in the main thread, Eric said he used his phone to look up the questions. That's not something we could detect with screencap or even a microphone. (Although the goal of this is to just make cheating harder, not to make it impossible.)

4. Preventive measures don't need to transform the way we do quizbowl. They could potentially be opt-in, or vary across tournaments (i.e., with how "serious" they are.) I can imagine a world where some players choose to forgo the more rigorous surveillance, but accept that it would be harder to defend themselves afterwards if they do end up on the wrong side of an accusation.

With that said, I haven't the faintest idea about what tech would actually work.

Maybe an online anti-cheating web browser, where someone logs into Discord through the web portal and is then not allowed to navigate out while the tournament is played? People could perhaps bring up other browsers on the side, but presumably they have some way of stopping that.
"We're not going to pay you to come to our tournaments" --- Paul Kasiński
NYU, 2014-2018
University of British Columbia, 2018-Present
User avatar
Captain Sinico
Auron
Posts: 2867
Joined: Sun Sep 21, 2003 1:46 pm
Location: Champaign, Illinois

Re: A Focus On Prevention

Post by Captain Sinico »

It is reasonable and necessary to think about prevention, certainly -- we definitely ought to. In that regard, I would caution us once again against fixating on technical fixes. I say this no because there's anything wrong with them per se, but because they have a bad tendency to suck in all discussion, needlessly. I would also say that they seem to offer a bad tradeoff between practicality and effectiveness. (For instance, even major universities with many more resources than we can ever hope to muster currently have responses to test integrity that I would call a punt, given the online tools at their disposal.)

I would also say: in online and offline quizbowl, dissuading cheating is a matter of degree and extent. It's clear that some cheating will occur regardless of what we might do to prevent it. We are ill advised if we throw away any tool we have there without very careful consideration.

In that regard, to oppose prevention to punishment for those caught cheating, as you consistently do in your post, is to pose a false dichotomy, or worse. Surely, the possibility of serious consequences must go some way toward dissuading cheaters on its own; surely, serious sanctions for cheating provide a higher degree of prevention than less serious ones. Relatedly, serious consequences are necessary to send the message that cheating is intolerable and taken seriously. This message is an (or perhaps even the) essential element in the creation and maintenance of an environment where cheating is minimized.

In summary, then, there is every reason to both vigorously pursue further preventative measures and also levy serious consequences on those caught cheating. It is chimerical to consider these as other than interlocking supports both essential to the integrity in our game.
Mike Sorice
Coach, Centennial High School of Champaign, IL (2014-2020) & Team Illinois (2016-2018)
Alumnus, Illinois ABT (2000-2002; 2003-2009) & Fenwick Scholastic Bowl (1999-2000)
Member, ACF (Emeritus), IHSSBCA, & PACE
User avatar
Captain Sinico
Auron
Posts: 2867
Joined: Sun Sep 21, 2003 1:46 pm
Location: Champaign, Illinois

Re: A Focus On Prevention

Post by Captain Sinico »

One thing I forgot to add that I wanted to: most accusations of cheating in in-person quizbowl are equally unprovable (to the extent that they satisfy most people) without a confession. We tend to focus on the very few substantiated accusations of the most serious cheating -- playing questions the player had prior access to -- that left smoking guns -- a confederate ratting out the cheater or an electronic trail. However, these are a small fraction of instances of cheating, much less accusations. They are also quite unlike the online cheating that's currently causing our ructions, in both degree (much more serious) and frequency (much, much rarer).

In this one regard, then, the online and in-person games are not all that dissimilar. Most accusations and even instances of cheating are never proved to anything like beyond a reasonable doubt. I don't think they will be, and therefore it's a bit of the wrong end of the telescope to worry about those too much -- which is part, I think, of the spirit of the original post. On the other hand, for the few times that cheating is beyond a reasonable doubt, we're clearly justified in acting -- I could say compelled to act -- with serious consequences.
Mike Sorice
Coach, Centennial High School of Champaign, IL (2014-2020) & Team Illinois (2016-2018)
Alumnus, Illinois ABT (2000-2002; 2003-2009) & Fenwick Scholastic Bowl (1999-2000)
Member, ACF (Emeritus), IHSSBCA, & PACE
Post Reply