New York Times article

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Pistachio
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New York Times article

Post by Pistachio »

School Quiz Bowl: It's Not the Brains, It's the Buzzer

So what do you all think of this article?

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Howard
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Post by Howard »

I think it's a nice article giving quiz bowl some of the press it deserves. I do think the student in question missed an important point-- that it's all about the buzzer, but only when you know most of the answers at the same point as the rest of the students-- for a couple reasons.

If the article is correct, they're playing on QU questions, which, if what's posted in other areas here is correct, are anything but pyramidal. I don't think there's any question that buzzer skill advantages are significantly reduced by pyramidal questions.

And second, based on the article, it seems that his reading has given him quite a wealth of knowledge. I had a student like this a couple years ago. He had a cracker-jack memory, too. Exactly like the student in the article said, It's Academic to him was all about the buzzer. He remembered the questions, their style, and the clues they used often. But take the average student from any regular school, tell them it's all about the buzzer, and see how well they do. In formats like QU and It's Academic, it'll give them a significant leg up on more intelligent students who don't focus on the buzzer, but he won't necessarily win, either.

I think TJ actually provides some lessons in this, too. (And Pistachio or other TJ players can tell me or blast me if I'm wrong about this). It has been my impression that about 4 or 5 years ago, TJ's team was nearly entirely student run at the request of the students. This wasn't necessarily a horrible thing, but I think some experienced adult guidance at that time would have helped the team become better, especially in tournaments where questions weren't pyramidal. I saw TJ at any number of tournaments and they always were a strong team. But there was a string of a few years where TJ didn't win a game on It's Academic. It was my impression that this was mostly due to focusing too much on knowledge and not enough on strategy. In more recent years, I think the faculty sponsor has been more involved, and I believe the team has had a more balanced approach to strategy as well as knowledge, and is the primary reason TJ has seen more success on It's Academic as well as being recognized as probably the best team in the nation.
John Gilbert
Coach, Howard High School Academic Team
Ellicott City, MD

"John Gilbert is a quiz bowl god" -- leftsaidfred

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Post by jewtemplar »

Howard wrote:But there was a string of a few years where TJ didn't win a game on It's Academic. It was my impression that this was mostly due to focusing too much on knowledge and not enough on strategy. In more recent years, I think the faculty sponsor has been more involved, and I believe the team has had a more balanced approach to strategy as well as knowledge, and is the primary reason TJ has seen more success on It's Academic as well as being recognized as probably the best team in the nation.
Not exactly. While Ms. Kreloff (the sponsor who signed on with zero experience during the 02-03 year, replacing veteran sponsor Ms. Maturo) has helped our club in innumerable ways, the team's focus hasn't so much shifted, but intensified. I attribute most of our success the past few years to a simple increase in practice time and efficiency. Our predecessors may have taken the game a little less seriously, but that included knowledge as well as strategy. Then as now, essentially none of the players on our competitive teams study for the purpose of quiz bowl. So we never have focused on knowledge over strategy. We just didn't focus before.

And the streak of 1st round TV losses was about 2 years long, and included the 02-03 season, during which we had unprecedented success for our team.

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Howard
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Post by Howard »

jewtemplar wrote:Our predecessors may have taken the game a little less seriously, but that included knowledge as well as strategy.
Wow. I perceived TJ as one of the most knowledgeable teams around at that time. The fact that you see a significant difference speaks volumes about TJ's abilities. If nothing else, this leaves me even more impressed with your current team.
John Gilbert
Coach, Howard High School Academic Team
Ellicott City, MD

"John Gilbert is a quiz bowl god" -- leftsaidfred

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Post by Larry Horse »

TJ may be the shit, but if TI played quizbowl, I think he could transform his Urban Legend / King of the South status into at least 34 ppg.
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Matt Weiner
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Post by Matt Weiner »

Howard wrote:I saw TJ at any number of tournaments and they always were a strong team. But there was a string of a few years where TJ didn't win a game on It's Academic. It was my impression that this was mostly due to focusing too much on knowledge and not enough on strategy.
The fact that TJ didn't win It's Academic in years when they were the consensus #1 in the country, and the fact that it is possible to "focus too much on knowledge", say all that needs to be said about It's Academic.
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Captain Sinico
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Post by Captain Sinico »

You... have to be kidding, right? Your statement is, on its face, even, ridiculous. Laying aside the fact that any good analysis concludes that the acquisition of knowledge must be the primary end of playing quizbowl (winning at quizbowl in itself being a very tenuous and dubiously valuable end,) level of knowledge is and should be the primary determinant of skill at quizbowl. Moreover, no good team I've ever seen at any level has devoted more than 1% of its time to "strategy," the role of which in quizbowl is necessarily very limited anyway; rather, they focus on knowledge. In the mean, any good format game is won almost entirely by knowing more, faster, and this is as it should be.
Also, it is my experience that few, if any, people nationally care about It's Academic results. This is exactly because they're not valid predictors of success in other formats (or even rigorously valid measurements of goodness at quizbowl, or even It's Academic; the most cursory glance at the format and questions makes the randomness inherent in the results obvious.) While I certainly understand that it is your local competition and you take it seriously, it would be unwise to assume that others therefore do, and unreasonable to expect them to.

MaS
Howard wrote:...It was my impression that this was mostly due to focusing too much on knowledge and not enough on strategy. In more recent years, I think the faculty sponsor has been more involved, and I believe the team has had a more balanced approach to strategy as well as knowledge, and is the primary reason TJ has seen more success on It's Academic as well as being recognized as probably the best team in the nation.

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Post by dtaylor4 »

I agree. My middle school AND high school coaches said that the winner of a game/tournament is not decided at the table, it's decided weeks/months in advance by studying and knowing more than the other team. The only way that a team should develop some sort of "strategy" is to PLAY MORE GAMES AGAINST TOUGH OPPONENTS.

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Post by Howard »

ImmaculateDeception wrote:You... have to be kidding, right? Your statement is, on its face, even, ridiculous. Laying aside the fact that any good analysis concludes that the acquisition of knowledge must be the primary end of playing quizbowl (winning at quizbowl in itself being a very tenuous and dubiously valuable end,) level of knowledge is and should be the primary determinant of skill at quizbowl.
No, I'm not kidding. And you can't be seriously defining "good" analysis by its conclusion. Scientifically speaking, good analysis is based on actual analysis procedures, not preformed conclusions. That wouldn't be analysis, that would be statement.

Perhaps part of the difficulty is part of how quiz bowl is perceived differently by different people/teasms. While I agree knowledge should be the primary determinant of quiz bowl success, we both know that's not necessarily the case. Furthermore, however dubious the value of winning, people play quiz bowl for different reasons. I agree many do play for the main purpose of acquiring knowledge, but there are also many who play just for the sake of competetition, which even without the added purpose of acquiring knowledge, is a character builder.
ImmaculateDeception wrote:Moreover, no good team I've ever seen at any level has devoted more than 1% of its time to "strategy," the role of which in quizbowl is necessarily very limited anyway; rather, they focus on knowledge. In the mean, any good format game is won almost entirely by knowing more, faster, and this is as it should be.
Just because you haven't seen it doesn't mean it's not important or teams that focus more than 1% on strategy are not good teams. The importance of strategy does vary widely with format, and I agree that it is indeed of minimal importance on pyramidal questions. I further agree that it is desireable for games to be decided primarily on knowledge, but there are often circumstances which make it desireable to compete when that's not the case.
ImmaculateDeception wrote:Also, it is my experience that few, if any, people nationally care about It's Academic results. This is exactly because they're not valid predictors of success in other formats (or even rigorously valid measurements of goodness at quizbowl, or even It's Academic; the most cursory glance at the format and questions makes the randomness inherent in the results obvious.)
And why should people nationally care about It's Academic? It's an odd format and I don't dispute for a moment that it correlates poorly to abilities in other formats or quiz bowl in general. While I agree there is some randomness, a significant noncursory study of format and questions can lead to a strategic approach giving a team significant advantage over others. It's been my experience that It's Academic is indeed a valid predictor of success on It's Academic.
ImmaculateDeception wrote:While I certainly understand that it is your local competition and you take it seriously, it would be unwise to assume that others therefore do, and unreasonable to expect them to.
A partially valid point. There was indeed some assumption that TJ did take It's Academic seriously in the time period I mentioned, but this was based more on how seriously most other local schools took the competition than on my own personal opinions of its importance. The fact is that once you leave the top quiz bowl teams in the area (probably about the best 20% or so), nearly all teams see It's Academic as the most important academic competition. I agree this isn't in keeping with most of the nation, but it remains a fact that those teams in this are must weigh when assigning their own goals. Furthermore, I don't mean to imply that others should change their opinions to match mine nor am I attempting to cause such change. To some degree, however, I think it's unwise to bite the hand that feeds you. There is little question that It's Academic is the single largest factor in helping quiz bowl reach its level of popularity in the DC Metro area.
John Gilbert
Coach, Howard High School Academic Team
Ellicott City, MD

"John Gilbert is a quiz bowl god" -- leftsaidfred

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Post by Captain Sinico »

Howard wrote:...you can't be seriously defining "good" analysis by its conclusion. Scientifically speaking, good analysis is based on actual analysis procedures, not preformed conclusions.
No. Not at all. If the conclusion is true, than any good analysis must produce it. The quality of the conclusions an analysis produces is the exact and only determinant of its goodness, and that's what science is (theory is valid if and only if it reproduces experiment, you see.)
Howard wrote: While I agree knowledge should be the primary determinant of quiz bowl success, we both know that's not necessarily the case.
That's fine; as a normative statement, everyone knows it's true. However, what I a am positing is the positive statement that any format that systematically does not reward the more knowledgeable team (It's Academic, CBI, etc.) is a bad format for exactly that reason.
Howard wrote:Just because you haven't seen it doesn't mean it's not important or teams that focus more than 1% on strategy are not good teams.
Take THAT, straw man! Anyway, that does not address what I said about this, nor is what I said any less true.
Howard wrote:...There was indeed some assumption that TJ did take It's Academic seriously in the time period I mentioned, but this was based more on how seriously most other local schools took the competition than on my own personal opinions of its importance...
My point actually was toward your implicit contention that TJ's inability to win at It's Academic prevented their being recognized as the best tem in the nation. As I'd already said, It's Academic results aren't heavily considered nationally. The fact that TJ themselves may not have cared is another interesting point, but is barely tangent (besides being something I have no knowledge of whatsoever.)

MaS

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Post by iamsam »

Doesn't this contradict your argument?
Howard wrote:The fact is that once you leave the top quiz bowl teams in the area (probably about the best 20% or so), nearly all teams see It's Academic as the most important academic competition.
Carpe Cerevisi

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Post by Howard »

ImmaculateDeception wrote:No. Not at all. If the conclusion is true, than any good analysis must produce it. The quality of the conclusions an analysis produces is the exact and only determinant of its goodness, and that's what science is (theory is valid if and only if it reproduces experiment, you see.)
Exactly. The problem is that there's insufficient evidence that your conclusion is true. I assert there are many reasons to play quiz bowl, only one of which is to obtain knowledge, and that other reasons are for competition and enjoyment. It's the individual quiz bowl player who determines the primary reason he/she plays. I further assert that your conclusion is NOT true, therefore a good analysis does not necessarily produce it.
I.D. wrote:...what I a am positing is the positive statement that any format that systematically does not reward the more knowledgeable team (It's Academic, CBI, etc.) is a bad format for exactly that reason.
I agree with you on this point, as far as rewarding knowledge goes. In the case of It's Academic, however, it is also important to recognize that without it, quiz bowl would likely be worse in the DC Metro area than it is now, and that It's Academic would likely never survive on television with pyramidal questions.
I.D. wrote:
Howard wrote:Just because you haven't seen it doesn't mean it's not important or teams that focus more than 1% on strategy are not good teams.
Take THAT, straw man! Anyway, that does not address what I said about this, nor is what I said any less true.
I thought your point was that teams who focused more than 1% on strategy were placing too much emphasis on strategy. I know teams (including some of my own previous teams) which were very competitive and were recognized regionally and nationally as good teams, which spend at least 10% of their efforts on strategy. Does this address your argument better? If not, I think I'm missing your point.
I.D. wrote:My point actually was toward your implicit contention that TJ's inability to win at It's Academic prevented their being recognized as the best tem in the nation. As I'd already said, It's Academic results aren't heavily considered nationally. The fact that TJ themselves may not have cared is another interesting point, but is barely tangent (besides being something I have no knowledge of whatsoever.)
I recall no such contention. And I apologize directly to TJ if it seemed that I was making such a contention. It is my opinion that the rest of the country couldn't care less about how frequently TJ wins/loses on It's Academic. My point was that failing to focus more on strategy helped prevent them from winning. Jewtemplar, however, has pointed out that their increased success in It's Academic (and other tournaments) is more related to taking all facets of the competition more seriously.

iamsam wrote:Doesn't this contradict your argument?
Howard wrote:The fact is that once you leave the top quiz bowl teams in the area (probably about the best 20% or so), nearly all teams see It's Academic as the most important academic competition.
I don't think it contradicts my arguments. I don't think the opinions of the top fifth of the teams in the area should outweigh the other 80%. And I don't think the opinions of those teams should determine my opinions. My point is that in our region, teams are often judged by their performance on the aforementioned television show. As a coach, that's something I must consider. And it's also the reason I erroneously failed to consider that TJ may not have felt It's Academic was important. While my statement supports the idea that the majority of teams view It's Academic as the single most important academic tournament, it doesn't support my initial erroneous logic. I was attempting to illustrate that.

I suppose if this isn't along the lines of what you meant, one of us hasn't made the premise of our argument clearly enough, or I'm being too dense to see the obvious.
John Gilbert
Coach, Howard High School Academic Team
Ellicott City, MD

"John Gilbert is a quiz bowl god" -- leftsaidfred

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Post by iamsam »

I was describing how you had earlier said that:
Howard wrote:Just because you haven't seen it doesn't mean it's not important or teams that focus more than 1% on strategy are not good teams.
Moreover, because you conceded that the
Howard wrote:top quiz bowl teams in the area (probably about the best 20% or so)
do not consider It's Academic to be that important, and the fact that you said that success in It's Academic was based much more on strategy--which is true considering the speed that is required in all television shows--it shows that the teams that focus more on strategy are not regionally "good" teams; you assert that some "nationally" acclaimed teams spend as much as 10% of their time on strategy, which teams are you talking about? With the immense amount of diversity in national question styles, I don't see how spending a lot of time on predicting when to buzz in on, let's say, NAQT questions would be a productive use of a team's time. It may be the case that the two variables are not related (skill vs. focus on strategy), but either way, it seems to be the case that they follow the pattern of the teams that do not tailor their playing style to work on strategies instead of actual knowledge are, in fact, better teams.

Now, the problem with this is how does one measure the "good"[ness] of a team. Sorice (As much as I can see) is describing It's Academic in terms of its national recognition and merit, whereas Howard is describing it in terms of its regional value. This essentially boils the conflict down into a matter of how hegemonic the opinions of teams of variable skills are. One may consider the "best 20%" to be more credible because they are the teams that (most likely) have the most tournament and quiz bowl experience. On the other hand, as Howard said, the other 80% could be more plausible out of shear number.
In my opinion, if teams want to just be locally recognized and just plain old have fun winning, then be my guest, focus more on the strategies that will help you win your type of matches, but if you ever want to compete in a broader scope, then a vast memory bank of knowledge is quintessentially more valuable.
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Post by Howard »

Howard wrote:The fact is that once you leave the top quiz bowl teams in the area (probably about the best 20% or so), nearly all teams see It's Academic as the most important academic competition.
Actually this says little about the top fifth of the teams by definition. It has some implication due to excluding the top fifth that not "nearly all" of them consider It's Academic the most important competition, but makes no implication that any of them don't consider it important. While I'm sure there are several schools who don't consider It's Academic important, I think even within the top fifth, most consider the television show an important competition, even if it isn't the most important.

Being a team that focuses primarily on It's Academic, I'm in little position to speak as to good methods for preparing strategically for NAQT. Such and undertaking would require significant research and would need to address items such as popular clues, likely answers for certain clues, time management, and question style, etc. Even in NAQT, where I agree strategy plays a much smaller role than It's Academic, I still think it's important to significantly address ways to get the maximum strategic advantage.

Other than the above items, I pretty much agree with iamsam.

edited for punctuation.
John Gilbert
Coach, Howard High School Academic Team
Ellicott City, MD

"John Gilbert is a quiz bowl god" -- leftsaidfred

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