ACF distribution

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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) »

I think throwing everything in with the 1/1 trash is, like Chris said, a death knell for that subject, because far more people will use it to write trash questions they get a big kick out of than consciously decide which other part of the distribution they want to use there (plus, if more than 2 categories take up the 1/1, as they currently do, that further marginalizes the chances that someone who be might so otherwise inclined to write one actually will.)
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by setht »

Jeremy Gibbs Free Energy wrote:I think throwing everything in with the 1/1 trash is, like Chris said, a death knell for that subject, because far more people will use it to write trash questions they get a big kick out of than consciously decide which other part of the distribution they want to use there (plus, if more than 2 categories take up the 1/1, as they currently do, that further marginalizes the chances that someone who be might so otherwise inclined to write one actually will.)
Would your feelings on this change if, say, trash were booted from Nationals next year? That is, what do you think of a (Nationals) distribution like the following:
5/5 history
5/5 literature
5/5 science
3/3 RMP
3/3 fine arts
2/2 social science
1/1 your choice academic (geography or whatever)


Some teams will undoubtedly take a distribution like this and skip writing any geography, but I think teams with people interested in geography will not feel such a strong pull away from writing geography in favor of another 1/1 RMP or science or whatever. If the geography proponents still feel that that sort of distribution is still too low in geography content, perhaps the last 1/1 could be specified as 1/1 academic interdisciplinary/other topics that don't fit in the previous categories--so people can't just write 6/6 literature or 4/4 fine arts and call it a day.

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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Cheynem »

I agree that it should be specified that you CANNOT write another tossup on something that falls wholly within the other distribution. That 1/1 should be reserved, in my opinion, for Geography, Current Events, or because they cover a wide variety of potential topics, another Fine Arts or Social Science genre that has NOT been covered in the other questions (i.e., if you have a classical music, painting, and architecture tossup, it would be okay to have an art film, or if you have psychology and sociology tossups, it would be fine to have a law one).
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by naturalistic phallacy »

Cheynem wrote:I agree that it should be specified that you CANNOT write another tossup on something that falls wholly within the other distribution. That 1/1 should be reserved, in my opinion, for Geography, Current Events, or because they cover a wide variety of potential topics, another Fine Arts or Social Science genre that has NOT been covered in the other questions (i.e., if you have a classical music, painting, and architecture tossup, it would be okay to have an art film, or if you have psychology and sociology tossups, it would be fine to have a law one).
This coupled with Seth's idea is pretty damn great.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by at your pleasure »

Yeah, I'm firmly in the "boot trash first" camp. I do like the idea of making the extra question "academic interdisciplinary"; to my mind that seems to be one of the strengths of geography. This also allows the prevalence of geography to shift as needed. If people are still concerned about geography being shut out, we could make this category 1/0 or 0/1 interdisciplinary geography and 1/0 or 0/1 something else.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by cvdwightw »

setht wrote:That is, what do you think of a (Nationals) distribution like the following:
5/5 history
5/5 literature
5/5 science
3/3 RMP
3/3 fine arts
2/2 social science
1/1 your choice academic (geography or whatever)
I don't think teams need to put an extra history, literature, or science question in the "your choice." Similarly, I think that 2/2 social science, with an extra social science question in your choice, is probably pushing limits of what the typical nationals team can competently write - plus I don't think there's any way that SS should be that close to weighted with arts and/or RMP, especially since we're already expanding it from its traditional role of 1/1 to 1/2 per packet. I'd like to see the "your choice academic" to be 1 question from Geography/CE/interdisciplinary and 1 question from a second of those categories or additional arts/RMP.

The other issue is what makes up the first 20/20. I think everyone is fine with 4/4 history, 4/4 literature, 4/4 science, 3/2 or 2/3 arts, 3/2 or 2/3 RMP, 1/2 or 2/1 social science. The question then becomes: what are the other three questions? Do we mandate that one Geo/CE/interdisciplinary question make it into the first 20/20? Bump arts and/or RMP up to a full 3/3? Mandate the use of all four social science questions? Leave it up to the editors to decide which of the extra arts/RMP/SS/"your choice" questions get sent to tiebreakers/extras?
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Cheynem »

I guess I would leave it up to the editors to decide which is the "strongest." This seems the safest route.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by recfreq »

As Dwight Wynne and Charles Meigs will attest, I'm probably the worst geography player on this thread, but it seems to me that geography is a lot closer to social science than we presume. A legitmate geography question would include things like descriptions of ancient sites and the indigenous people who built it (and why they built it the way they did, etc), cultural landmarks that tell us about the way people in the region or city work or experience life, socioeconomic conditions of cities or regions along its shore and its effect on life there, etc; all these types of clues would be interesting to listen to (for me at least). But looking at the topics above, it seems very much like a social science. If we define geography as "the way people interact with their environments," and we can incorporate clues like this (much like language group or physical anthropology questions, really), then I'm in favor of geography having its own distribution. (The Wyoming question seemed to me to have some interesting stuff too; I'd definitely be more informed after hearing that question on a subsequent visit to it, for example, so it's useful as well for knowing where to go to look further.)

As it stands, I propose the following: 2/2 social science, with at least one question on a topic dealing primarily with geography and people's interactions within it, but no more than 1/1.

(In a tourney I edited a while back, I just did 3/3 social studies with one question each in psychology, linguistics or econ, anthro or socio, geography, current events, and one more geography or current events. In that tourney I just rounded the numbers to get [for a 21/21 packet] 4 lit, 4 hist, 4 sci, 3 "religious studies"[RMP], 3 "social studies", 3 "cultural studies[arts+pop culture]." Not saying this is ideal, but I throw it out for discussion since it seemed to have represented the knowledge base well.)

EDIT: I also liked that it had a nice 4-4-4; 3-3-3 structure, ya know.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

setht wrote:Would your feelings on this change if, say, trash were booted from Nationals next year?
This is something I've talked to (at least) Trygve and Jerry about. I would love it if our one-tossup margin games at ACF Nationals were decided by a question on an academic subject. Love it, love it, love it. (I think that trash meets more criteria for philosophically justifying distributional change: for example, it's not academic quizbowl and arguably shouldn't be in an academic quizbowl tournament unless there's some overriding reason (and I think that reasons of convertibility and introducing new teams or whatever that apply at ACF Fall do not apply here, obviously).)
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by grapesmoker »

Well, I'll make no secret of the fact that I'm pushing quite hard to remove trash from the Nationals distribution. I can't see that it adds anything substantive and I think the premiere academic tournament of the year shouldn't have any games decided by trash questions.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Strongside »

Yeah, I agree with Jerry and Watkins about eliminating Trash from ACF Nationals, or at least next year.

I know quiz bowl has had subject tournaments (literature, history, science, arts, RMP, trash, as well as a social science/philosophy tournament, and a geography tournament later this year). There hasn't to my knowledge been a tournament that was exclusively academic.

I think ACF Nats would be a good place to do it, because the percentage of people who could be considered serious quiz bowl players is higher than most tournaments, and I am guessing most of them wouldn't mind.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Auroni »

I'd be pretty happy with removing trash as well.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Cheynem »

As someone whose dissertation likely will involve sitcoms, who is writing a paper this very second on movies such as "Beetlejuice," and last year, wrote papers on Television Without PIty, Law and Order: SVU, and the movie True Lies, it seems like this removal of trash is a blow to my own research interests within academia. :grin:
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask »

DumbJaques wrote:
5/5 big three
3/3 fine arts
3/3 RMP
2/2 Social Science
2/2 Geography, Trash, or Your Choice (no more than 1/1 on any of those things)
I think Ryan is on the right track with striking some compromise between absolute 1/1 requirement for geography and effective elimination from the canon (which, let's face it, making geography part of the 1/1 choice amounts to). However, unless I'm even worse at math than I thought, these numbers add up to 25/25 to me, and I'm utterly against increasing the total packet distribution.
25/25 used to be standard back in the day, and Minnesota is using it for MO. The extra 1/1 is annoying, I guess, but I wouldn't consider it a huge deal. For the record, I really like Ryan's proposed distribution here.

...

I don't have time for the long post this subject deserves at the moment, but yeah, I think that this proposed complete elimination of trash is a horrible, horrible idea that will unjustly eliminate even the possibility of many topics which merit inclusion in the canon by any reasonable and self-consistent standard.

My primary interest, as you all can probably guess, is in preserving, at a judicious rate of a couple questions per tournament on par with stuff like film and architecture, questions on artistically-and-culturally influential popular music. As long as we accept as academic things like art film and jazz, as long as we accept 19th century examples of crappy pulp fiction like Horatio Alger- which even Weiner admits is only in the canon for historical/cultural interest-, as long as we ask about notable pop-inspired things like certified history thing The Weathermen, certified social science thing "Notes On Camp", certified artist thing Andy Warhol, certified literature thing The Crying Of Lot 49, and goddammit the list goes on and on and on, then as far as I'm concerned there is no consistent and fair reason for eliminating folks like Bob Dylan or the Beatles or the Clash from consideration aside from a misguided Adorno-esque genre essentialism, which I absolutely reject. (Coming from someone who cares about classical music more than anything else in the current canon, and actually listens to the stuff on a regular basis, and has read plenty of criticism by real classical music scholars who are less willing to discard consideration of "pop" stuff than many folks here, I would hope my opinion as someone with actual knowledge in the subject carries at least a *little* weight.)

ETA: I should clarify that I wouldn't necessarily have a problem reducing trash to 1/0 or 0/1 per round, or removing trash but using the extra 1/1 to largely beef up the size and scope of the arts distro, so that it would have 3/3 or 3/4 with one of the six or seven questions allowed to be on "popular" genres. That second option might also steer people towards writing on "important" instead of "niche" material, which would also be good.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Cheynem »

I would assume that if trash were eliminated, a little more leeway for critically important musicians (Bob Dylan) and films (Network) would be allowed in the Other Arts distribution. You could probably also fight for, especially in a bonus part, some cross-distributional thing that let in some television or comic or something.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by setht »

Theory Of The Leisure Flask wrote:
DumbJaques wrote:
5/5 big three
3/3 fine arts
3/3 RMP
2/2 Social Science
2/2 Geography, Trash, or Your Choice (no more than 1/1 on any of those things)
I think Ryan is on the right track with striking some compromise between absolute 1/1 requirement for geography and effective elimination from the canon (which, let's face it, making geography part of the 1/1 choice amounts to). However, unless I'm even worse at math than I thought, these numbers add up to 25/25 to me, and I'm utterly against increasing the total packet distribution.
25/25 used to be standard back in the day, and Minnesota is using it for MO. The extra 1/1 is annoying, I guess, but I wouldn't consider it a huge deal.

...

I don't have time for the long post this subject deserves at the moment, but yeah, I think that this proposed complete elimination of trash is a horrible, horrible idea that will unjustly eliminate even the possibility of many topics which merit inclusion in the canon by any reasonable and self-consistent standard.
I am not proposing a complete elimination of trash from ACF, let alone everywhere else--I am proposing eliminating it at Nationals only. My impression is that if trash continues to be an option for writers at Fall/Winter/Regionals (which it will, under my proposal), then people will continue writing plenty of it and it won't evaporate from the canon. If anything, I would think that Nationals has the least impact on what things stay in the canon once they get in. I suppose cutting trash from Nationals may mean that we won't be seeing those canon-expanding, only-at-Nationals trash questions that could then trickle their way down into the sub-Nationals trash canon, but I have even more qualms about seeing that sort of trash question at ACF Nationals than I do about seeing regular, canonical trash at ACF Nationals--and I already have qualms about the regular stuff (see below).
Theory Of The Leisure Flask wrote:My primary interest, as you all can probably guess, is in preserving, at a judicious rate of a couple questions per tournament on par with stuff like film and architecture, questions on artistically-and-culturally influential popular music. As long as we accept as academic things like art film and jazz, as long as we accept 19th century examples of crappy pulp fiction like Horatio Alger- which even Weiner admits is only in the canon for historical/cultural interest-, as long as we ask about notable pop-inspired things like certified history thing The Weathermen, certified social science thing "Notes On Camp", certified artist thing Andy Warhol, certified literature thing The Crying Of Lot 49, and goddammit the list goes on and on and on, then as far as I'm concerned there is no consistent and fair reason for eliminating folks like Bob Dylan or the Beatles or the Clash from consideration aside from a misguided Adorno-esque genre essentialism, which I absolutely reject. (Coming from someone who cares about classical music more than anything else in the current canon, and actually listens to the stuff on a regular basis, and has read plenty of criticism by real classical music scholars who are less willing to discard consideration of "pop" stuff than many folks here, I would hope my opinion as someone with actual knowledge in the subject carries at least a *little* weight.)
If there's stuff that currently gets classified as popular music in trash and is truly artistically-and-culturally influential and gets two thumbs up from real classical music scholars across the land, perhaps it could make it into an "all academic" distribution through "other fine arts."

I'll move on to why I have qualms at the prospect of keeping trash at Nationals: simply put, matches are frequently so close that a single question can decide the outcome. If there's any type of question that people feel uncomfortable with as a potential decider of a match, I think it has to go. If all trash questions were based on the academic study of popular culture I'd probably feel more comfortable saying, "sure, I don't mind if a team wins an ACF Nationals championship by answering a trash question," but that's not how trash questions have been written up to now and I doubt it's going to change (and if it did change I suspect much of the enjoyment people derive from writing and playing trash questions would be lost).

Does the thought of "no trash at Nationals, but trash is still allowed below Nationals" seem okay, Chris?

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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask »

Cheynem wrote:I would assume that if trash were eliminated, a little more leeway for critically important musicians (Bob Dylan) and films (Network) would be allowed in the Other Arts distribution. You could probably also fight for, especially in a bonus part, some cross-distributional thing that let in some television or comic or something.
Yeah, I wouldn't have any issues if arts were expanded like that. We'd also need to expand the per-packet space given to arts if we're expanding the definition, but those are both measures I'd wholeheartedly support. Something like:

4/4 science
4/4 lit
4/4 history (allow geography clues here)
3/4 or 4/3 arts (keeping the 1/1 each painting and classical music, or course)
3/3 RPM
2/2 social science (geography is a social science)
1/0 or 0/1 interdisciplinary, CE, miscellaneous

within the first 21/21 questions would be pretty much perfect as far as I'm concerned.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask »

setht wrote:If there's stuff that currently gets classified as popular music in trash and is truly artistically-and-culturally influential and gets two thumbs up from real classical music scholars across the land, perhaps it could make it into an "all academic" distribution through "other fine arts."
Well, what I'm basically proposing is that we apply the same test that allows for things like Alger to things that aren't just pre-20th century literature, so at least some of what I'd want to keep probably isn't studied all that much by musicologists, but is definitely studied by historians and sociologists and the like. (c.f. Mike Cheyne, apparently!)
setht wrote:I'll move on to why I have qualms at the prospect of keeping trash at Nationals: simply put, matches are frequently so close that a single question can decide the outcome. If there's any type of question that people feel uncomfortable with as a potential decider of a match, I think it has to go. If all trash questions were based on the academic study of popular culture I'd probably feel more comfortable saying, "sure, I don't mind if a team wins an ACF Nationals championship by answering a trash question," but that's not how trash questions have been written up to now and I doubt it's going to change (and if it did change I suspect much of the enjoyment people derive from writing and playing trash questions would be lost).

Does the thought of "no trash at Nationals, but trash is still allowed below Nationals" seem okay, Chris?

-Seth
I need to ask Mehdi whether the Penn Bowl Trash questions are ever going to be released, but among my meager contributions to that tournament were multiple questions on pop music that treated the material in a serious, academic manner. As for the Nationals-not Nationals split, I'm generally fine with different distributions for different levels, so I'm okay with the general reasoning behind the change- it's just that I don't think a bright-line test is appropriate when such academic study of popular culture indubitably exists, and has been written about even if such questions are only a small minority. If the editors were to say that "we will only accept popular culture questions if in our best judgement the question draws on the genuine academic and cultural signficance of the material, and isn't on trivial niche crap" then I'd be totally down with that. (Though given Matt Weiner's comments way upthread, I'm not entirely sure I'd trust his judgement...)
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by grapesmoker »

The problem with trash tossups that feature academic content is that no one will know those clues and you'll still be reduced to answering tossups on the Beatles from music clues.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Cheynem »

Yeah, as much as I love popular culture, Jerry is right. I study film, but there's no way I'll get a film tossup based on so and so's critical theory regarding it.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Ike »

I find that Chris's argument only applicable to such a minority that of all trash, that it really doesn't fit the sliver that Jerry and Seth are pushing for: ACF Nats. Unless Chris is arguing for some type of slippery slope thing here, then I fail to see what exactly is all the ruckus about.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask »

grapesmoker wrote:The problem with trash tossups that feature academic content is that no one will know those clues and you'll still be reduced to answering tossups on the Beatles from music clues.
I don't see how that's any less legitimate than answering questions on folks such as Weather Report or Glenn Miller from music clues. Also, there are some trash subjects that could be written well with basically nothing but conventional academic clues. Not many, but more than zero.
Ike wrote:I find that Chris's argument only applicable to such a minority that of all trash, that it really doesn't fit the sliver that Jerry and Seth are pushing for: ACF Nats. Unless Chris is arguing for some type of slippery slope thing here, then I fail to see what exactly is all the ruckus about.
I find this statement somewhat confusing, since the sliver I'm talking about (high-quality, culturally impactful works of popular-genre art that are currently excluded from the arts distro) is a totally different kind of sliver than what Jerry and Seth are talking about (ACF Nats). Anyway, I'd like to see two things that are being short-circuited by this proposed change:

1) An honest discussion of what exactly are the standards of "academically legitimate", and are they being applied in a logically consistent and reasonably inclusive manner.
2) A shift in questions on popular genres towards those works which have the requisite impact, and capacity for textual/theoretical interpretation and/or analysis, such that they can plausibly be called both "canonical" and "art". This shift would, if there was ever support for it happening, come at the expense of the non-serious pop culture stuff we call "trash", and hopefully eliminate the idea that "trash" is an anything-goes category without regard to canon or quality or actual influence, but it would obviously be a lot harder to do if the material in question is dismissed out-of-hand as "not academic".

I didn't say anything about there being a slippery slope (the danger of this change trickling down is non-zero, but probably not very large). That being said, I do think it would set a bad example, and I'm trying to point out how a few simple relaxations/caveats to the proposed changes could instead make it an excellent example.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

Removing trash from ACF Nats only is a proposal I support. In that case, I might reduce my "2/2 geography/trash/your choice" to 1/1 "your choice" (I'd say "geography or your choice", but geography is obviously included in your choice).
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by vcuEvan »

I support removing trash but nats but would like to see it kept in the other three tournaments.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Birdofredum Sawin »

So this thread has now looped from (a) "let's dump geography from ACF" to (b) "maybe we should think harder about what is involved in dumping anything from ACF" to (c) "let's dump trash from ACF (nationals)." I continue to be in favor of spending more time thinking about (b) before we do anything along the lines of either (a) or (c).

In particular, I'm against cutting trash from ACF: I think its current presence in the game is just right. (And I speak as someone who got burned by a particularly ill-conceived trash bonus -- the previously discussed "name these VH1 shows which you only know about if you are a serious fan of VH1" question -- at this year's nats.) Also, I don't think this discussion can be "won" by an appeal to somewhat hazy notions of whether trash is sufficiently "academic" in comparison to other categories, as I don't think anything is to be gained by comparisons of (e.g.) "the number of people who study pop culture in the academy, and the kinds of pop culture they study" and "the number of people who study mythology in the academy, and the kinds of mythology they study."
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Matt Weiner »

Birdofredum Sawin wrote: "maybe we should think harder about what is involved in dumping anything from ACF"
Can you share your interpretation of how, eg, spelling questions were jettisoned in the mid-90s, or some other obviously beneficial change took place? It's empirically not the case that either nothing has ever changed, nor that nothing should ever change, so surely there must be some agreeable procedure to follow here.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Birdofredum Sawin »

setht wrote:
If there's stuff that currently gets classified as popular music in trash and is truly artistically-and-culturally influential and gets two thumbs up from real classical music scholars across the land, perhaps it could make it into an "all academic" distribution through "other fine arts."

I'll move on to why I have qualms at the prospect of keeping trash at Nationals: simply put, matches are frequently so close that a single question can decide the outcome. If there's any type of question that people feel uncomfortable with as a potential decider of a match, I think it has to go. If all trash questions were based on the academic study of popular culture I'd probably feel more comfortable saying, "sure, I don't mind if a team wins an ACF Nationals championship by answering a trash question," but that's not how trash questions have been written up to now and I doubt it's going to change (and if it did change I suspect much of the enjoyment people derive from writing and playing trash questions would be lost).
To expand on my previous post: I think Seth is holding popular culture to a higher standard than we hold other categories. That is, there's a difference between the way we justify the legitimacy of a category as such and the way we justify the quality of any particular question within a category which has been deemed acceptable. For instance, there are science questions which, as far as I can tell, boil down to "Do you know about this minor modification of a minor reaction, which almost nobody studies but which appears as a named thing in some book somewhere?" That, I take it, is a bad question, but because the legitimacy of chemistry as a category in quizbowl is unassailable, we don't feel "uncomfortable" with it as a "potential decider of a match."

Also, I think saying that "if all trash questions were based on the academic study of popular culture, then it's OK if a team wins an ACF Nationals championship by answering a trash question" is akin to saying "if all mythology questions were based on the academic study of mythology (rather than on 'zany anecdotes which seem memorable, but which perhaps are not at all the kind of thing people who do academic work on mythology care about'), then it's OK if a team wins an ACF nationals championship by answering a myth question." I think that's just wrong. We all accept myth as part of the distribution, so people feel free to range widely in it (from canonical Greco-Roman stuff which probably gets covered in a classics curriculum, to all sorts of weird things which strike people as cool, but which aren't obviously pertinent to much academic study). Likewise, if popular culture is an acceptable part of the distribution -- as I think it is -- then people should also feel free to range widely from stuff which is definitely "academic" (e.g. film and certain kinds of music) to "weird things which strike people as cool."
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:For instance, there are science questions which, as far as I can tell, boil down to "Do you know about this minor modification of a minor reaction, which almost nobody studies but which appears as a named thing in some book somewhere?" That, I take it, is a bad question, but because the legitimacy of chemistry as a category in quizbowl is unassailable, we don't feel "uncomfortable" with it as a "potential decider of a match."
Well, I think that's chemistry being poorly executed, and I would have a problem with a poor chemistry question deciding a match (this has surely never happened to me!). But I'm not reasoning in the line "there have been poor pop culture questions that have decided matches; therefore, excise pop culture." Rather, I'm saying that it is uncomfortable to me for pop culture questions, however well-executed (analogously, whether it's a great tossup on ROMP or a spin-the-equation-of-state-roulette-wheel groaner) to decide a match. If we're asking about myths that aren't important and don't merit our attention, that's a separate issue; I'm saying that the category of pop culture questions (rather than any poorly executed examples) don't fit in.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by theMoMA »

I think that the trash at ACF Nationals argument is moving along without much resistance because when members of the competitive teams ask themselves: Am I comfortable with questions on Bea Arthur deciding games between the top teams? The overwhelming answer is no.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Birdofredum Sawin »

Matt Weiner wrote:
Can you share your interpretation of how, eg, spelling questions were jettisoned in the mid-90s, or some other obviously beneficial change took place? It's empirically not the case that either nothing has ever changed, nor that nothing should ever change, so surely there must be some agreeable procedure to follow here.
I'm not saying that "the game must be frozen in place as it is right now." What I am saying is "it would be nice if we thought more collectively about the optimal procedures for making significant changes in ACF." In particular, I'm dubious of the notion that the opinions put forth by 15-20 people in one post-tournament thread constitute a sufficient basis for such changes.

Also, the history of how ACF has changed in the last 15 years is somewhat instructive. Obviously the ACF of today is dramatically different, in many ways, from the ACF of 1994, as even a glance at packets from each area will attest. Tossups have become much longer and denser; the plethora of bonus formats has been eliminated in lieu of the 10-10-10 bonus. (However, to the best of my knowledge spelling was never a part of ACF, or if it was it predated my involvement -- "absence of ridiculous spelling questions" was one of the things which differentiated ACF from CBI, way back when.)

Despite all these changes, though, the distribution of the mid-'90s is basically the same as the distribution of 2009. We use the same categories today (from the "big three" of lit, history, and science, to the "second tier" of RMP and FA, to the somewhat more peripheral SS, geography, and pop culture) as were used in 1995. Not only that, but the proportions are basically the same: we still have a baseline of 4/4 from each of the "big three," we still have 2/2 or 3/3 of RMP and FA, etc. The fact that so much else has changed while the distribution has remained basically constant might be taken as an argument for radical revision of the distribution ("it's an atavism which we've unaccountably failed to update as we were making all sorts of other valuable alterations to the game"). Or it might be taken as an argument for being extremely conservative about possible revisions to the distribution ("we've been willing to change basically everything else, but we've left the distribution more or less untouched -- there must be a reason for our reluctance to alter it"). Personally, I lean toward the latter position, for reasons I think I've stated elsewhere.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by setht »

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:So this thread has now looped from (a) "let's dump geography from ACF" to (b) "maybe we should think harder about what is involved in dumping anything from ACF" to (c) "let's dump trash from ACF (nationals)." I continue to be in favor of spending more time thinking about (b) before we do anything along the lines of either (a) or (c).

In particular, I'm against cutting trash from ACF: I think its current presence in the game is just right. (And I speak as someone who got burned by a particularly ill-conceived trash bonus -- the previously discussed "name these VH1 shows which you only know about if you are a serious fan of VH1" question
-- at this year's nats.) Also, I don't think this discussion can be "won" by an appeal to somewhat hazy notions of whether trash is sufficiently "academic" in comparison to other categories, as I don't think anything is to be gained bycomparisons of (e.g.) "the number of people who study pop culture in the academy, and the kinds of pop culture they study" and "the number of people who study mythology in the academy, and the kinds of mythology they study."
Again, I'm also against cutting trash from ACF in general, but I've started wondering whether it should be cut from ACF Nationals. I currently lean towards cutting trash from Nationals, but I also see no reason to make a decision on this (or anything else having to do with the ACF distribution) in the very near future. I think it's very reasonable to hold off on deciding anything about geography until some time after the first-ever geography subject tournament next month, and I think it makes sense to finalize all decisions and announce things for next year at one time--so even if we all decide to scrap trash I don't think we should announce a distribution that reflects that for at least a month, which means we might as well take some time with the discussion. If we wind up deciding we need more than a month to sort things out, I would imagine that's also fine.

I agree that the way we all write mythology questions doesn't correspond much with how mythology is studied (and I think the same is true for a number of academic categories), but I think it's in a stronger position than trash (and I feel similarly about the other academic categories). My impression is that myth is in a somewhat similar position as literature: people write very few questions that deal with critical analysis. I think almost all myth questions are at the level of plot summary literature questions, which seems to be most of them. If we're fine with that for literature I would imagine we're also fine with that for myth; if people are actually getting fed up with this in one or both categories and want to see things change, let's talk about that. In the meantime, if we decide that "academically-important trash" is worth having at Nationals that's fine with me, but at that point I would argue that it doesn't deserve a full 1/1 to itself--I would say it should be folded into the your choice area.

I'm currently leaning towards cutting trash from Nationals (or moving it to "academic trash only" within the your choice category) in large part because of how ridiculously close Chicago A's games against other top teams have been the last couple years at Nationals and I'm not as comfortable with saying "we beat Illinois by 5 in part because we answered a tossup on Bea Arthur" as I am with saying "we beat Illinois by 5 in part by answering a tossup on Colly Cibber" (or Enki, or Honegger, or whatever). If we had lost that match, we would have finished at 3rd place or lower, and Stanford or Brown would have won the title.

I don't feel Chicago A's title this year is an empty accomplishment, and I don't feel the accomplishments of all the past champions are meaningless or even suspect. However, going forward, if people are uncomfortable with allowing trash questions to decide which team wins the title at ACF Nationals, then I think they need to go--given how close the games are between top teams, every question has to be seen as potentially deciding the match.

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Re: ACF distribution

Post by at your pleasure »

One reason I think people have problems with trash is that people tend to treat it as a "free-for-all" category. In myth, for instance, it is assumed that people will write questions on reasonably noteworthy things(which is why there's a canon, after all). In trash, on the other hand, it seems to me that people write on things that run twards their personal taste without thinking about how important it is. Moreover, since pop culture is so fluid, most things will move in and out of prominence faster than they can be assimilated into any sort of canon.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

Actually, converse to what Douglas is saying, I think the unfairness of trash in Nats is sometimes magnified by the fact that trash tossups tend to be way more accessible than a lot of other tus. I mean, in Nats - you tend to have a handful of tossups on academic things which are fairly difficult - and then, in the middle of that, you have a question on Bea Arthur or Tommy Lee Jones or whatever. The points that you get from buzzing on Bea Arthur seem to come cheap - at least a lot cheaper than a buzz on Julia olefination. Even when trash answers are fairly difficult, they're often accessible for someone in the room, because it's trash - it's not like a hardcore academic thing, it's much more random. Now, trash bonuses - those can end up netting you a windfall 30 (if you like the subject) or an unfrotunate zero (if you don't, e.g. Yaphe and VH1 tv apparently). Those kinds of rollercoasters, on trash, add to the impression that it's unfair - such that I'm persuaded that trash is an unwise idea at nationals. But only at nationals, cause otherwise I think a 1/1 trash in mACF does a lot of good things.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Sir Thopas »

No Rules Westbrook wrote:Actually, converse to what Douglas is saying, I think the unfairness of trash in Nats is sometimes magnified by the fact that trash tossups tend to be way more accessible than a lot of other tus. I mean, in Nats - you tend to have a handful of tossups on academic things which are fairly difficult - and then, in the middle of that, you have a question on Bea Arthur or Tommy Lee Jones or whatever. The points that you get from buzzing on Bea Arthur seem to come cheap - at least a lot cheaper than a buzz on Julia olefination.
I see your point, but at the same time, how is this different from a common link tossup on "columns" that will invariably get answered at the end?
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by setht »

I think there was some interest in revisiting the question of geography's place in the ACF distribution following the geography subject tournament. I don't know if there's also some interest in revisiting the questions of how we should approach changes in the ACF distribution in general, or of trash's place in the ACF distribution in particular, or any other distribution-related issues, but I thought it would be good to revive this thread and get some more discussion in before things have to be set for next year's tournaments.

My impression is that the geography subject tournament did a good job of satisfying self-identified geography players that decent-to-good geography questions can be written. I think the main issue remaining for me is that I don't believe geography deserves to have a reserved 1/1 in the distribution (whether it's specifically 1/1 in the first 20/20 or 1/1 in a submitted packet of 24/24). I'm not sure it even deserves to have a reserved 1/0 or 0/1. I'm fine with saying that some questions in history, social science and current events can/should make use of geography clues. I'm also fine with saying that teams with good geography writers can write up to 1/1 geography through your choice, but requiring all teams to write 1/1 geography seems like overkill to me: why are we giving geography as big a slice of the distribution as we do biology, or philosophy, or all (other) social sciences?

Moving from geography to trash for a moment: I've thought some more about this and I've mellowed a bit on the idea that trash should be booted from ACF Nationals. I'm not sure I buy the "trash variability" arguments--every packet has some variability of distribution; I think that's a good thing (within reason), and my impression is that trash actually isn't much worse than any academic category in terms of having the most-knowledgeable players getting most of the questions. Another argument people have advanced against trash is that it's not academic, but I'm not sure there's really much separating at least some areas of trash (e.g. stuff that a film major might see in class) from stuff that shows up all the time in (say) mythology questions that almost certainly doesn't show up in classes.

Moving on to "how should we go about making changes to the ACF distribution," my impression is that all changes will ultimately be decided by a vote of the ACF members, but that most or all of us will pay attention to any discussion here or opinions communicated to us elsewhere (by which I mean if someone emails me and says "I really think geography deserves 1/1 reserved" I'll take that into consideration when I'm trying to figure out if the community seems to disagree strongly with my personal feelings on the matter). I'll also say that I personally feel more strongly about geography's current place in the distribution than trash's place; in both cases, if there's enough community support or some convincing arguments one way or the other I'll probably vote that way.

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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Cheynem »

I would still support geography to some extent be included in the distribution. I'm okay with having it be 1/0 or 0/1, while I also would be okay with requiring that one question in the history distribution use a majority of geography clues (or in the social science or whatever).

I think the trash distribution is fine, provided the questions are written well. Its small distribution, in my opinion, reflects its academic importance as "popular culture." I'm not sure if you want to go down the slippery slope of allowing only "important" trash topics to be asked about or not or if that would be too difficult to construct or result in too constrained a canon. While I guess it sucks if a match is decided on Bea Arthur, for example, there was a tossup at Nats on John Carpenter which I assume was classified as trash. There are plenty of Film Studies courses that would examine John Carpenter's work, and it seems, as Seth alluded to, at least as academically viable as some of the crazy myth stuff that also comes up.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by suds1000 »

I think everyone can agree that games at ACF Nationals are too close to be settled on poorly-written questions. That said, during the process of editing, I think it's the editor's responsibility to determine the following about any question when attempting to decide whether or not to include it:

1. Whether the difficulty of the answer(s) is relatively commensurate with the rest of the packet
2. Whether the actual quality of the question text is relatively commensurate with or better than the rest of the packet
3. Whether the actual difficulty of the question (not the answer) is relatively commensurate with the rest of the packet

For the vast majority of tournaments, as long as the above three criteria are met, the question is usually included in the set. As far as packet-submission goes, I've always been of the opinion that an editor should pick the best questions in the packet and use them (as long as subject areas aren't super-overrepresented). I don't think there's anything wrong with having five lit questions in one packet and four in the next -- as long as there aren't seven, that's fine.

For the record, I'm probably one of the worst trash players to ever play quizbowl. But a well-written question is a well-written question, and I'd rather hear a well-written question on something in popular culture than a hose-ridden, buzzer-race-inducing catastrophe on some academic topic.

If someone writes a ridiculous question on some niche topic that no one gives a shit about, well, then it's the editor's job to get rid of it, just like he/she would for some crazy academic question that seemed silly or random. But to argue that popular culture isn't important enough to be asked at ACF Nationals undermines the fact that most if not all things had to become "popular" enough or "interesting" enough in their own time to become part of the (non-quizbowl) canon in the first place.

Of course, there are the issues with whether or not popular culture is considered academic, and I agree with Chris' post above that desires to more accurately articulate what we define as legitimate academia. As far as the distribution goes, I think ACF should take a firm stand one way or another and either have pop culture in all of their tournaments or none of them. My personal opinion is that as long as the question is "good" according to the three criteria above (and there aren't a million other academic questions in the packet that are way better), there's no problem. As far as replacing questions as an editor goes or writing an editor packet, do what you want. If you can write better science questions or literature questions than trash, do it. Just keep quality high and overrepresentation low.

Oh, and as far as close games go, losing on a trash question can be frustrating, but that's only if you define trash as not being an inherent part of the academic distribution or its not being an inherent part of "real" quizbowl at all. But that's a super-long topic, and I have to go do more practice questions.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

I'll let it be known that I've already somewhat-unilaterally fashioned a plan for how to handle distro at ACF Nats. The 1/1 in each packet which would have been occupied by geography is now going to be a roughly equal combination of geography, trash, and more social science (that is, in addition to the alotted 1/1 SS). I have no problem with some variance between ACF tournaments - in fact, I'm all for more trash than that at places like ACF Winter and Regionals. But, I think the above represents the most reasonable balance at Nats.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

So some packets at ACF Nationals could have 2/1 or 1/2 trash? (If the 1/1 trash/yc is both trash, and the 1/1 geography/moreSS/trash has a trash question.)
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

No, Andy, there is no separate 1/1 for trash, unlike social science. So trash and geography are getting condensed.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by grapesmoker »

suds1000 wrote:But a well-written question is a well-written question, and I'd rather hear a well-written question on something in popular culture than a hose-ridden, buzzer-race-inducing catastrophe on some academic topic.
It should go without saying that ACF Nationals (or any other tournament, but especially ACF Nationals) ought not to have any questions that are hose-ridden or induce buzzer races. This is a false dichotomy that never happens anyway.
If someone writes a ridiculous question on some niche topic that no one gives a shit about, well, then it's the editor's job to get rid of it, just like he/she would for some crazy academic question that seemed silly or random. But to argue that popular culture isn't important enough to be asked at ACF Nationals undermines the fact that most if not all things had to become "popular" enough or "interesting" enough in their own time to become part of the (non-quizbowl) canon in the first place.
I argue that popular culture topics are not important enough to be included in the premiere academic tournament of the year. In my view, anything that takes space away from legitimately academic topics is a bad thing; tossups on Bea Arthur or Whitesnake (from two memorable matches that I was part of, in various years) should be relegated to other tournaments of lesser stature.
As far as the distribution goes, I think ACF should take a firm stand one way or another and either have pop culture in all of their tournaments or none of them.
What an absurd idea.
Oh, and as far as close games go, losing on a trash question can be frustrating, but that's only if you define trash as not being an inherent part of the academic distribution or its not being an inherent part of "real" quizbowl at all. But that's a super-long topic, and I have to go do more practice questions.
Yes, trash is not academic. That's why there are things like separate trash tournaments and a special trash distribution at academic tournaments.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Mechanical Beasts »

No Rules Westbrook wrote:No, Andy, there is no separate 1/1 for trash, unlike social science. So trash and geography are getting condensed.
So previously there had been 1/1 trash and 1/1 geography, in the final 20/20 and now it's turned into 1/1 trash/geo/more SS. What's the new 1/1? More big three? Are we doing 3/3 RMP and FA both?
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by naturalistic phallacy »

everyday847 wrote:
No Rules Westbrook wrote:No, Andy, there is no separate 1/1 for trash, unlike social science. So trash and geography are getting condensed.
So previously there had been 1/1 trash and 1/1 geography, in the final 20/20 and now it's turned into 1/1 trash/geo/more SS. What's the new 1/1? More big three? Are we doing 3/3 RMP and FA both?
I'd say it's about time to move it 3/3 RMP and 3/3 FA.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Cheynem »

Can someone explain to me what the rationale is behind having a trash distribution in academic tournaments period is? I'm not trying to be disagreeable, I'm just genuinely curious what the reasoning is, and what are the perceived positive effects of its placement in lower level tournaments.
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Mike Bentley »

tetragrammatology wrote:
everyday847 wrote:
No Rules Westbrook wrote:No, Andy, there is no separate 1/1 for trash, unlike social science. So trash and geography are getting condensed.
So previously there had been 1/1 trash and 1/1 geography, in the final 20/20 and now it's turned into 1/1 trash/geo/more SS. What's the new 1/1? More big three? Are we doing 3/3 RMP and FA both?
I'd say it's about time to move it 3/3 RMP and 3/3 FA.
I'm curious to see what the plan is to fill the 1/1 Misc. Art with. This category is almost exclusively dominated by opera and architecture, with sculpture I guess sometimes being counted in there. Are people really ready for tournaments where there will be almost 1 opera and 1 architecture question per round? Personally I don't find either of these categories important enough to warrant such a high distribution.

Or is the plan to sometimes include additional painting and music in this sub-distribution?
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by The Atom Strikes! »

Bentley Like Beckham wrote:
tetragrammatology wrote:
everyday847 wrote:
No Rules Westbrook wrote:No, Andy, there is no separate 1/1 for trash, unlike social science. So trash and geography are getting condensed.
So previously there had been 1/1 trash and 1/1 geography, in the final 20/20 and now it's turned into 1/1 trash/geo/more SS. What's the new 1/1? More big three? Are we doing 3/3 RMP and FA both?
I'd say it's about time to move it 3/3 RMP and 3/3 FA.
I'm curious to see what the plan is to fill the 1/1 Misc. Art with. This category is almost exclusively dominated by opera and architecture, with sculpture I guess sometimes being counted in there. Are people really ready for tournaments where there will be almost 1 opera and 1 architecture question per round? Personally I don't find either of these categories important enough to warrant such a high distribution.

Or is the plan to sometimes include additional painting and music in this sub-distribution?
Perhaps artistically meritorious film (ie: Kurosawa, the 7th Seal) and jazz would also fall under this subdistro?
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Mike Bentley »

A.B.C.D E.F. Godthaab wrote:
Bentley Like Beckham wrote:
tetragrammatology wrote:
everyday847 wrote:
No Rules Westbrook wrote:No, Andy, there is no separate 1/1 for trash, unlike social science. So trash and geography are getting condensed.
So previously there had been 1/1 trash and 1/1 geography, in the final 20/20 and now it's turned into 1/1 trash/geo/more SS. What's the new 1/1? More big three? Are we doing 3/3 RMP and FA both?
I'd say it's about time to move it 3/3 RMP and 3/3 FA.
I'm curious to see what the plan is to fill the 1/1 Misc. Art with. This category is almost exclusively dominated by opera and architecture, with sculpture I guess sometimes being counted in there. Are people really ready for tournaments where there will be almost 1 opera and 1 architecture question per round? Personally I don't find either of these categories important enough to warrant such a high distribution.

Or is the plan to sometimes include additional painting and music in this sub-distribution?
Perhaps artistically meritorious film (ie: Kurosawa, the 7th Seal) and jazz would also fall under this subdistro?
Well, yeah, but they typically make up a very small portion of the distribution. I'd put the Misc. Arts distribution somewhere around 40% Architecture/Scullpture, 40% Opera, 10% Jazz, 10% Film/Etc.
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Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN)
Chairman of Anti-Music Mafia Committee
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) »

You're forgetting photography.
Charlie Dees, North Kansas City HS '08
"I won't say more because I know some of you parse everything I say." - Jeremy Gibbs

"At one TJ tournament the neg prize was the Hampshire College ultimate frisbee team (nude) calender featuring one Evan Silberman. In retrospect that could have been a disaster." - Harry White

Susan
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Susan »

Jeremy Gibbs Free Energy wrote:You're forgetting photography.
And dance.
Susan
UChicago alum (AB 2003, PhD 2009)
Member emerita, ACF

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Mike Bentley
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Re: ACF distribution

Post by Mike Bentley »

That's what the "etc." meant.
Mike Bentley
VP of Editing, Partnership for Academic Competition Excellence
Adviser, Quizbowl Team at University of Washington
University of Maryland, Class of 2008

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