ACF Fall 2020 - Thanks and General Discussion

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ACF Fall 2020 - Thanks and General Discussion

Post by benmillerbenmiller »

Thank you to everyone who played and staffed ACF Fall 2020 today! This was the quizbowl community’s biggest production in the pandemic era so far, and I am very happy with how smoothly it ran. I want to use this post to thank everyone who had a hand in putting Fall together, and to invite general thoughts and discussion on how the set played. Specific questions and errata can be discussed here.

First of all, I want to thank our fantastic editing team. They had to deal with some unique challenges this year, from breaking in Fall’s new submission-optional model to transitioning to an all-online event, but each responded with diligent, creative, and thoughtful work. A breakdown of who edited which categories is listed below.

Drew Benner: Physics, Other Science, Popular Culture
Justin Duffy: Biology, Chemistry, Mythology
Halle Friedman: Visual Art
Alex Hardwick: Literature
Matthew Lehmann: Philosophy and Social Science
Arjun Nageswaran: History
Karthik Prasad: Audio Art, Religion
(Ben Miller: Geography and Current Events)

Besides handling Philosophy and Social Science, Matthew offered indispensable oversight across all categories and was crucial in organizing the final steps of our set production process.

Over 10% of Fall questions came from freelancing volunteers. Thank you to each of them: Matt Bollinger, Jordan Brownstein, Billy Busse, Ganon Evans, JinAh Kim, Will Nediger, Caroline Mao, Ryan Rosenberg, Catherine Qian, Adam Silverman, and Kai Smith.

All questions in Fall were read ahead of time to a dedicated group of playtesters. They spent over 10 hours listening to the entire set and offering detailed feedback. Thank you to that team: Anthony DiCarlo, Zachary Hertz, Andy Huff, Grant Li, Tim Morrison, Teddy Knox, and Elliot Williams.

Ophir Lifshitz offered essential contributions to our packetization process, including creating templates for ordering questions and checking for serious errors. He also stayed up through all the mirrors to give tech support, responding to almost every scoresheet related issue within minutes!

In addition to Ophir, 17 other people proofread parts of Fall this past week and fixed hundreds of typos and other assorted issues. Thank you to each of them: Ian Baram, Matt Bollinger, Alex Damisch, Anthony DiCarlo, Ganon Evans, JinAh Kim, Olivia Kiser, Grant Li, Jonathan Magin, Caroline Mao, Tim Morrison, Lauren Onel, Teddy Knox, Ryan Rosenberg, Kai Smith, Vivek Sasse, and Daniel Yang.

The British mirror of Fall would not have been possible without a team working to make the set more accessible for players on the other side of the Atlantic. Thank you to everyone who aided in that process: James Carrigy, George Charlson, Oli Clarke, Alex Hardwick, Theo Howe, Joseph Krol, Evan Lynch, and Ben Russell Jones.

Lastly I want to thank the leadership of ACF for doing all of the legwork to make Fall happen. Specifically, Margaret Tebbe worked through the limitations of our online-only world to set up 13 tournament sites in three countries. ACF Editor-in-Chief Matt Bollinger also provided meaningful guidance across the last four months and helped immeasurably to refine the set’s mission and questions. Thank you so much to both of them.

This year’s iteration of Fall was intended to be mildly easier than those of the past few years. Our overarching goal was to introduce newer players to college quizbowl in the most accessible way possible. I welcome feedback on how effectively that mission was accomplished, and any other big picture thoughts you might have about the set. Discuss away!
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Re: ACF Fall 2020 - Thanks and General Discussion

Post by Aaron's Rod »

benmillerbenmiller wrote: Sat Oct 17, 2020 8:32 pm Lastly I want to thank the leadership of ACF for doing all of the legwork to make Fall happen. Specifically, Margaret Tebbe worked through the limitations of our online-only world to set up 13 tournament sites in three countries. ACF Editor-in-Chief Matt Bollinger also provided meaningful guidance across the last four months and helped immeasurably to refine the set’s mission and questions. Thank you so much to both of them.
Cosign ACF's enormous debt to both of these people (and, of course, to Ben!).

I also want to mention the people in both ACF and PACE who worked on the online moderator training resources. As a moderator, I found it useful and easy to use, and I hope others did, too. Jonathan Magin really spearheaded the effort, Ophir Lifshitz created the interactive version, and Mike Bentley, Matt Bollinger, JinAh Kim, Katherine Lei, Caroline Mao, Olivia Murton, Victor Prieto, and Ryan Rosenberg also contributed substantially. I hope that other online tournament moderators find our resources helpful!
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Re: ACF Fall 2020 - Thanks and General Discussion

Post by t-bar »

Like many recent iterations of ACF Fall, this set had lots of questions, both creative and down-the-middle, that were well executed and hewed to an appropriate difficulty level. The editors should be proud of this achievement. Unfortunately, also like many recent iterations of ACF Fall, this set had noticeable issues with the physical presentation of its well-executed question content. In particular, I felt that answerline underlining was consistently quite aggressive. There's rarely a need to fully underline the names of ideologies or ideas (libertarianism, bonus C.19.b), scientific laws (Gauss's law, bonus I.13.b), wars (First English Civil War, tossup K.14), or political parties (Socialist Party of France, bonus K.16.a). In the same vein, editors should be able to anticipate and handle alternate answers like "MOs" for molecular orbitals (bonus C.14.b), "Mayor Pete" (or hey, even "Peter Buttigieg") for Pete Buttigieg (bonus F.16.a), "Pompidou Centre" for Centre Pompidou (bonus H.11.c), or "Bangla" for Bengali (bonus K.4.a), all of which were conspicuously missing from answerlines.

Careful answerline construction is easy to overlook but absolutely vital to producing a good question, since unlike individual clues the answerline has to be processed and acted upon correctly every single time the question is read. I suspect this problem crops up with Fall every year because workers at all steps of the pipeline—submitters, subject editors, and head editors—are less experienced than usual, and so don't have a trained eye for common but easily-fixed problems. Perhaps a useful tip for future first-time editors is to look through previous answerlines from old tossups on your topic to see if they include also-accepts, prompts, or underlining quirks that your question should copy.

To reiterate, though, the above is not to detract from the question content. I saw many great buzzes today, consistently enjoyed question topics and conceits, and heard few complaints about content from the players. Thanks to the editors for their hard work on a flagship set of the competition year!
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Re: ACF Fall 2020 - Thanks and General Discussion

Post by Cheynem »

NAQT has a standard answerline database--could ACF consider compiling one, especially for answerlines likely to come up in Fall?
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Re: ACF Fall 2020 - Thanks and General Discussion

Post by Apocolocyntora »

Thanks to ACF for writing a very strong set that seemed to hit the difficulty target very well. This was my first time staffing Fall, and I liked and appreciated the care with which ACF planned the set. I would especially like to second Alex's comments on the online training guide, as it was thorough but concise, and it emphasized the most relevant guidelines well--remembering one of the quiz questions came in really handy at one point when I misread a bonus :)

I don't remember if this was explored in previous ACF sets, but I liked how many of the questions on specific individuals opted for gender neutrality in pronoun usage. It was generally still very clear what type of answerline the question was looking for, and I think it made a difference for categories that have a very uneven gender distribution. I noticed a couple inconsistencies as to when this policy was and wasn't used, but I'm guessing that if this is something that is continued in future sets, it will become more and more standardized.

My only criticism of the set is that the questions, combined with the very generous timing rules, seemed much too long for this tournament. Online tournaments will inherently be longer than their in-person counterparts, and I think shaving off a line or two of all the tossups would have really helped move things along, especially because this tournament is now being marketed more specifically for newer teams now that Winter exists, and new teams are much more likely to buzz in toward the end of tossups. This is exacerbated when a team buzzes in after a tossup has been fully read, gets the question wrong, and the second team takes the full allotment of time to buzz in. I know there was extensive commentary about the timing decision in a different thread and I haven't read through that, so I'm willing to be convinced otherwise, but I just think the question length and timing combined mean that rounds will run quite long for weaker matchups. Cheating is probably also easier for longer questions, as players who decide to cheat will have more time to look up earlier clues in tossups.

I really, really hope that we can return to in-person tournaments next academic year and that all of this stuff becomes irrelevant, but I just really think the built-in length of the tournament could be re-evaluated for any future virtual iterations. These concerns are probably less important for Winter, since fields will be stronger overall, but I think they deserve consideration for novice tournaments.
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Re: ACF Fall 2020 - Thanks and General Discussion

Post by Gene Harrogate »

I think this set was good and seemed to do its job well, besides the answerline wonkiness that Stephen pointed out.

I'll also note that not all the easy parts seemed to be on the same page with what they were trying to accomplish. Were they trying to be trivial box-checks for 10, as in the parts that asked what body parts people see with or what you call those tall plants make up forests? Or were they trying to be something teams had a legitimate shot at missing, like the Platinga/problem of evil bonus part that I think didn't play as obvious as the editors intended (and which was a pretty funny contrast with the trees bonus right before). I don't have particularly strong feelings on what the role of an easy part is at this level, but the occasional inconsistency did jump out.
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Re: ACF Fall 2020 - Thanks and General Discussion

Post by 1992 in spaceflight »

This set was exactly what I want to see ACF Fall be, so I just wanted to say thank you to Ben and all of the other editors for making this set happen. I staffed Fall for the first time in....6 years, I think, today, and I was very happy I did so.

I also want to second what Stephen is saying about the answerlines. Having answerline consistency is very important for me as a mod, since it takes a fair bit to override the packet if I'm not really familiar with the topic.
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Re: ACF Fall 2020 - Thanks and General Discussion

Post by Carlos Be »

benmillerbenmiller wrote: Sat Oct 17, 2020 8:32 pm Over 10% of Fall questions came from freelancing volunteers. Thank you to each of them: Matt Bollinger, Jordan Brownstein, Billy Busse, Ganon Evans, JinAh Kim, Will Nediger, Caroline Mao, Ryan Rosenberg, Catherine Qian, Adam Silverman, and Kai Smith.
Seeing as so much of the set was written by non-editor writers, would ACF consider having an open application to write for future Falls? Designated writers would also take some of the burden off of editors, which could give the editors more time for technical things like pronunciation guides and answerlines.
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Re: ACF Fall 2020 - Thanks and General Discussion

Post by benmillerbenmiller »

Carlos Be wrote: Sun Oct 18, 2020 3:42 am Seeing as so much of the set was written by non-editor writers, would ACF consider having an open application to write for future Falls? Designated writers would also take some of the burden off of editors, which could give the editors more time for technical things like pronunciation guides and answerlines.
I explored doing that this year, but with the pandemic and the pre-existing uncertainty created by going packet-optional, I decided to hold off. I would certainly suggest that the next ACF Fall head editor consider it. Recruiting new writers in addition to new editors would significantly increase the logistical challenge of producing the set, but that might be a justifiable cost.
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Re: ACF Fall 2020 - Thanks and General Discussion

Post by tiwonge »

I noticed that several questions used "them" as a gender-neutral pronoun instead of "he" or "she," but this was not consistent. Was this the result of specific writers, or some specific packet submission? Is this something writers might consider for the future? (Was there a discussion somewhere about this idea that I didn't see?)
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Re: ACF Fall 2020 - Thanks and General Discussion

Post by It's Drew »

tiwonge wrote: Tue Oct 20, 2020 5:27 pm I noticed that several questions used "them" as a gender-neutral pronoun instead of "he" or "she," but this was not consistent. Was this the result of specific writers, or some specific packet submission? Is this something writers might consider for the future? (Was there a discussion somewhere about this idea that I didn't see?)
I made no effort to do so in my own categories, so this was probably a choice by specific editors. There's been some discussion about this in the past, and I've seen it used in other sets (especially ones from Canada). I personally prefer to avoid using personal pronouns at all when possible, unless I need to push the gender of the person for some reason. (I chose to do this on the tossup about Pierre Curie, to avoid players buzzing in late with "Marie Curie.")
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Re: ACF Fall 2020 - Thanks and General Discussion

Post by justinduffy »

tiwonge wrote: Tue Oct 20, 2020 5:27 pm I noticed that several questions used "them" as a gender-neutral pronoun instead of "he" or "she," but this was not consistent. Was this the result of specific writers, or some specific packet submission? Is this something writers might consider for the future? (Was there a discussion somewhere about this idea that I didn't see?)
I made an effort to make my mythology questions primarily gender-neutral by using "this figure" until at least halfway through the question. I didn't communicate this with any of the other editors; I'm glad that many writers and editors are independently starting to use gender-neutral identifiers, whether this is by using "this figure," the singular "they," or something else to the same effect.
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Re: ACF Fall 2020 - Thanks and General Discussion

Post by jinah »

justinduffy wrote: Tue Oct 20, 2020 7:43 pm
tiwonge wrote: Tue Oct 20, 2020 5:27 pm I noticed that several questions used "them" as a gender-neutral pronoun instead of "he" or "she," but this was not consistent. Was this the result of specific writers, or some specific packet submission? Is this something writers might consider for the future? (Was there a discussion somewhere about this idea that I didn't see?)
I made an effort to make my mythology questions primarily gender-neutral by using "this figure" until at least halfway through the question. I didn't communicate this with any of the other editors; I'm glad that many writers and editors are independently starting to use gender-neutral identifiers, whether this is by using "this figure," the singular "they," or something else to the same effect.
I am very glad that gender-neutral language in tossups is becoming more prevalent, and that multiple Fall editors independently tried to use it in their tossups this year! I do want to add a slight/caveat concern though — too much use of terms like “this figure” can make the tossup more confusing or less informative than otherwise, what I think of as the “this work” problem. In general, I might opt for “deity” or a similarly more specific term in most myth tossups, because “figure” can get kind of generic — similarly, quizbowl writers often have a tendency to write “this/one work” when “this/one novel,” “this/one poem,” “this/one sonata,” etc. would be better, because they provide better contextual information with which to interpret other clues. I think the avoidance of such specific terms might be because people think being specific narrows down the question too much, which is rarely the case. Precise/informative pronouns aren’t by any means incompatible with gender neutral language, but I did feel in a few places at Fall that efforts to do the latter were resulting in overly vague or generic pronouns.
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