ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

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ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by Auks Ran Ova »

Welcome to the ACF Regionals 2013 discussion forum. This thread is for general discussion of the set.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by 1992 in spaceflight »

I felt like this set overestimated the knowledge that the field had. History in particular seemed to go into "Are you an expert in this time period/field of history? No? Too bad." way too often in the bonuses.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by naan/steak-holding toll »

The Two Hearts of Kwasi Boachi wrote:I felt like this set overestimated the knowledge that the field had. History in particular seemed to go into "Are you an expert in this time period/field of history? No? Too bad." way too often in the bonuses.
I disagree, and think that this tournament accomplished its difficulty-related objectives quite well. At least in my case, this is my first year playing college quizbowl (I didn't play all that much in HS, though I did play some) and I felt that basically every history tossup answerline was gettable for me. The bonus parts got challenging, but that's what the hard part of a bonus is supposed to be - challenging. There was some variation within this (for example, the rather easy bonuses on medieval taxes and the Safavid Empire, as compared to the harder bonuses you're talking about) but that's to be expected.

To my understanding, based on Andrew Hart's excellent "regular difficulty" primer, the "median" team in a field should be converting "middle" parts a little over half the time (though perhaps 50% of the time, since Hart's guide was written for ACF Winter). This is roughly what the stats from the Northeast site showed: the teams in the top bracket all had over 17.50 points per bonus, averaging 20.33 ppb; the teams in the middle bracket averaged 14.96 ppb, and the teams at the bottom averaged 12.77 ppb.

In addition, the ppb stats also produced a nice "cleavage" of teams that, in my opinion, fairly accurately represented the strength of the teams in the field. Penn and Yale A, for example, could be clearly demarcated as the best teams in the field by looking at their ppb alone and the (roughly) comparable PPBs of NYU, Dartmouth A, MIT A, and Columbia A bore themselves out in (generally) close (and highly enjoyable) games. Among the second-bracket teams, Yale B had comparable PPB stats to us (Dartmouth A) and we had a good, reasonably close match when we played them as well.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by Auroni »

I was a bit disappointed with the construction of many bonuses in this set. In some cases, the barrier to getting 10 points on a bonus was needlessly high when a better easy part could have been used instead. You and I might easily be able to get bonus parts on the Henderson-Hasselbalch equation, Nestorianism, Tristram Shandy, or Fra Angelico (?!), but these are not meant for us; these are meant for the teams that put up around 10 ppb or less. I was also a bit more personally disappointed that a few of my questions were converted to answers that were less accessible (such as female genital mutilation to Facing Mount Kenya).

A bigger issue with the set, however, was its abysmal copy-editing. I frequently had to add and change words on the fly. I also had to prompt lots of partial answers that there were no indications to prompt on (such as John for John of Gaunt), and to accept answers that were correct but shorter than a particularly overzealous answerline (gel electrophoresis for DNA gel electrophoresis). A less experienced moderator than me might not have done those things.

I will also note that there's nothing easy about a bonus going corvee/gabelle/tithe; if you can 30 that, then you are good at history.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by Rococo A Go Go »

gamegeek2 wrote:
The Two Hearts of Kwasi Boachi wrote:I felt like this set overestimated the knowledge that the field had. History in particular seemed to go into "Are you an expert in this time period/field of history? No? Too bad." way too often in the bonuses.
To my understanding, based on Andrew Hart's excellent "regular difficulty" primer, the "median" team in a field should be converting "middle" parts a little over half the time (though perhaps 50% of the time, since Hart's guide was written for ACF Winter). This is roughly what the stats from the Northeast site showed: the teams in the top bracket all had over 17.50 points per bonus, averaging 20.33 ppb; the teams in the middle bracket averaged 14.96 ppb, and the teams at the bottom averaged 12.77 ppb.
This has way more to do with the strength of the field than the questions themselves. The average team in the Northeast is much better than the average team nationwide.

This was a tournament that was harder than regular difficulty, regardless of what the editors or people who submitted questions intended. While our poor performance on Saturday was mostly due to playing really bad, it's worth mentioning that statistically we did worse on this set than QUARK, which was meant to be slightly harder than regular difficulty. I normally chastise teams who skip events like Regionals because they worry that the questions will be too hard, because usually ACF is not impossible and Regionals has recently been of an appropriate difficulty. This year's set will only further misconceptions that ACF Regionals is only meant for good teams, which seriously harms the college circuit.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by Whiter Hydra »

Tokyo Sex Whale wrote:I was a bit disappointed with the construction of many bonuses in this set. In some cases, the barrier to getting 10 points on a bonus was needlessly high when a better easy part could have been used instead. You and I might easily be able to get bonus parts on the Henderson-Hasselbalch equation, Nestorianism, Tristram Shandy, or Fra Angelico (?!), but these are not meant for us; these are meant for the teams that put up around 10 ppb or less. I was also a bit more personally disappointed that a few of my questions were converted to answers that were less accessible (such as female genital mutilation to Facing Mount Kenya).
As someone on a team that ended up with single-digit bonus conversion, I would have to agree. There were many bonus parts that seemed to lack an easy part that 85% of the field (Is that still the target difficulty?) could get.
This is roughly what the stats from the Northeast site showed: the teams in the top bracket all had over 17.50 points per bonus, averaging 20.33 ppb; the teams in the middle bracket averaged 14.96 ppb, and the teams at the bottom averaged 12.77 ppb.
Meanwhile, at the WUSTL mirror, only one team had more than 9 PPB, 6/8 teams had PPB less than 12 at the South Carolina mirror, and no one out west had over 15 PPB.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by ThisIsMyUsername »

Tokyo Sex Whale wrote:I was a bit disappointed with the construction of many bonuses in this set. In some cases, the barrier to getting 10 points on a bonus was needlessly high when a better easy part could have been used instead. You and I might easily be able to get bonus parts on the Henderson-Hasselbalch equation, Nestorianism, Tristram Shandy, or Fra Angelico (?!), but these are not meant for us; these are meant for the teams that put up around 10 ppb or less. I was also a bit more personally disappointed that a few of my questions were converted to answers that were less accessible (such as female genital mutilation to Facing Mount Kenya).

A bigger issue with the set, however, was its abysmal copy-editing. I frequently had to add and change words on the fly. I also had to prompt lots of partial answers that there were no indications to prompt on (such as John for John of Gaunt), and to accept answers that were correct but shorter than a particularly overzealous answerline (gel electrophoresis for DNA gel electrophoresis). A less experienced moderator than me might not have done those things.

I will also note that there's nothing easy about a bonus going corvee/gabelle/tithe; if you can 30 that, then you are good at history.
I haven't seen the final set, so I can't comment on the degree to which I might agree with the general critiques you are making, but regarding two specific points:

1. Tristram Shandy is not some quizbowlese niche topic that we have inflated in importance; It is one of the most widely cited and influential works of English literature, period. Its influence on concepts of narrative, chronology, and postmodernism stretch across disciplines and I have encountered references to it year-after-year across my entire education going all the way back to high school. I do not know on what grounds you believe it is an inappropriate easy part when Laurence Sterne's name is given. I think it would be an entirely inappropriate middle part, unless I omitted most of the famous clues.
2. Without commenting on the appropriateness of the other answers in that history bonus you cite, you really think normal people do not know what tithing is and it is not an appropriate easy part?
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by 1992 in spaceflight »

I'm not saying that a vast majority of the tossups in history were not well-written and convertable (like an idiot, I negged Wives of Mao with Gang of Four, but that's definitely a knowledge gap on my part). But there were some bonuses that are way too hard (where is the easy part in that European royal houses bonus that includes Vasa?), and that quite frankly can ruin the impression teams have of ACF.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by Auroni »

ThisIsMyUsername wrote: I haven't seen the final set, so I can't comment on the degree to which I might agree with the general critiques you are making, but regarding two specific points:

1. Tristram Shandy is not some quizbowlese niche topic that we have inflated in importance; It is one of the most widely cited and influential works of English literature, period. Its influence on concepts of narrative, chronology, and postmodernism stretch across disciplines and I have encountered references to it year-after-year across my entire education going all the way back to high school. I do not know on what grounds you believe it is an inappropriate easy part when Laurence Sterne's name is given. I think it would be an entirely inappropriate middle part, unless I omitted most of the famous clues.
I don't disagree at all with your assessment of the importance of Tristram Shandy, but I still think it's an inappropriate easy part because I wouldn't expect most quizbowl teams to know what it is.
2. Without commenting on the appropriateness of the other answers in that history bonus you cite, you really think normal people do not know what tithing is and it is not an appropriate easy part?
I was making a different point about the history bonus; tithing is indeed an appropriate easy part. I was merely responding to the common fallacy that just because you know enough of something to 30 a bonus, that doesn't mean the bonus was easy.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by Rufous-capped Thornbill »

Tokyo Sex Whale wrote: I will also note that there's nothing easy about a bonus going corvee/gabelle/tithe; if you can 30 that, then you are good at history.
This is true.

I don't have much to add aside from what has already been said. This set seemed kind of hastily edited, resulting in a lot of missing words (and questions!), packets with varying fonts and formats, and the aforementioned unevenness of the bonuses. I enjoyed many questions in this set, but, for example, when Ike asked me what my favorite tossup of the day was, I really couldn't point to one. It was just that kind of tournament -- solid if unspectacular. If I was Ted I would give it a B-.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by Tees-Exe Line »

Inkana7 wrote:I don't have much to add aside from what has already been said. This set seemed kind of hastily edited, resulting in a lot of missing words (and questions!), packets with varying fonts and formats, and the aforementioned unevenness of the bonuses. I enjoyed many questions in this set, but, for example, when Ike asked me what my favorite tossup of the day was, I really couldn't point to one. It was just that kind of tournament -- solid if unspectacular. If I was Ted I would give it a B-.
I'd be nicer than this, notwithstanding my critique in the other thread. I came away pleased with a number of my buzzes and satisfied that where I was beaten on my subjects, it was due to superior knowledge. Whereas at Penn-ance and VCU Closed, both of which I enjoyed playing, I didn't feel as intellectually satisfied. I would say that a regular difficulty event ought to feel satisfying to experienced players while retaining accessibility for inexperienced ones--if this tournament didn't achieve that, I'd be skeptical that model for regular difficulty could ever work any better.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by Rufous-capped Thornbill »

Tees-Exe Line wrote:
Inkana7 wrote:I don't have much to add aside from what has already been said. This set seemed kind of hastily edited, resulting in a lot of missing words (and questions!), packets with varying fonts and formats, and the aforementioned unevenness of the bonuses. I enjoyed many questions in this set, but, for example, when Ike asked me what my favorite tossup of the day was, I really couldn't point to one. It was just that kind of tournament -- solid if unspectacular. If I was Ted I would give it a B-.
I'd be nicer than this, notwithstanding my critique in the other thread. I came away pleased with a number of my buzzes and satisfied that where I was beaten on my subjects, it was due to superior knowledge. Whereas at Penn-ance and VCU Closed, both of which I enjoyed playing, I didn't feel as intellectually satisfied. I would say that a regular difficulty event ought to feel satisfying to experienced players while retaining accessibility for inexperienced ones--if this tournament didn't achieve that, I'd be skeptical that model for regular difficulty could ever work any better.
I hope I didn't sound too critical of the set, because I did enjoy playing it and I was more satisfied with my buzzes this past weekend than I was when I played either Penn-ance or VCU Closed. The question content itself was very good (but perhaps lacking in the "creative" tossups that are all the rage these days?), it was just the little things I mentioned above that seemed to detract from what was otherwise an enjoyable tournament.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by DumbJaques »

I'd like to thank everyone who came out and joined us for ACF Regionals. I'll respond to some of the posts in a moment, but first will give a tournament wrap-up/share my impressions.

Thanks:

First off, thanks to John Lawrence, Rob Carson, and Cody Voight, who all worked very hard on this project. I hadn't had the opportunity to work with John before, but I'd recommend him to absolutely anyone; he was diligent, timely, wrote great stuff, and helped me keep some things in the air organization-wise. Rob, who it seems like I've worked with on innumerable projects at this point, was every bit the exemplary editor I have always known him to be. I also know that Cody was dealing with a pretty significant illness in the run-up to this tournament, so I'm particularly appreciated of how hard he worked to power through that.

For reference, the editing breakdown:
Chris Ray: History, Visual Art, some Other Arts, Philosophy, Social Science, Geo/trash/CE/tossups on Taylor Swift romances).
John Lawrence: Literature, Music, most Other Arts
Cody Voight: Science
Rob Carson: R/M*

*This is a discussion for another time, but I will reiterate my support for a new way of writing the distribution that groups things as R/M and SS/P, rather than RMP and SS. I've never understood why people think philosophy is closer to religion and myth than it is to social science. Or for that matter, why religion and myth seem such rigidly-defined categories in quizbowl when in fact they're not at all like that in academia. . . eh, I'll cut this off now, but look for a much more invigorating rambling coming soon to a new thread near you!

Thanks also to Auroni Gupta, who for the second consecutive tournament I edited submitted a freelance packet that was dismembered to fill a few holes in the set - it was an unbelievable help and seriously appreciated. On a similar note, thanks to Mike Bentley and Kirun Sankaran, who helped out in the craziness of the final set organization and saved me valuable time.

Lastly, thanks x1000 to Susan Ferrari and Jerry Vinokurov, who handled the logistical side of registration/communications/etc. Words are inadequate to express how helpful both of you were to making this a successful event.

If I have forgotten to mention you, it is because I am an idiot and not because your help was not deeply appreciated - PLEASE email me to let me know and I will add the appropriate gratitudes.


Vague Philosophical Ramblings:

I did in fact think this set was a little harder than it should have been, though in my opinion the difficulty distribution for Regionals should skew a little harder than your average regular season tournament. I don't think there was any sort of extreme misfiring in difficulty, though from the sound of things some easy parts were a little too rough. I'd like to reiterate that under the philosophy I use (and I'm pleased to see has found some more traction lately in quizbowl), tournament "difficulty" is not a rigid cage that sets absolute upper and lower bounds, but rather is defined by where the bell curve falls on the difficulty spectrum for your particular event. So, when you encounter tossups on things like "the Flagellation of Christ" (which I probably wouldn't have chosen even for this set's hardest tossup, in an ideal world), it's not because I've got some insane notion that it's regular difficulty - it's because you've hit the higher extremum of the curve.

I also like to keep answer lines/general subject ideas I receive, even if I edit them a great deal. While that can lead a set to take on a slightly different form than you might ideally want, I also think it creates a drastically more diverse experience and in fact helps you achieve a broader coverage of things that the field as a whole actually knows. As an editor, you sort of first learn that you can't trust any of those devious submissions - and certainly that's a necessary thing to learn in the process. But once you've edited for a little while, you start to unlearn certain exclusionary ideas of what is "acceptable" or whatever.

To phrase that another way, when you start writing, you're in this pre-Original Sin state of perfect knowledge/perfect ignorance, and it seems to you that you know everything about how easy or hard things are (because the only way to make those definitions is by what you know/don't know). Then you learn that you're so, so wrong, and you work to adopt a set of quizbowl norms. Do that, start editing, look at submissions and you see how all over the place people seem; it's only natural to dismiss them as occupying the pre-enlightenment space of quizbowl norms. Then, I think, if you stick with it long enough, you start to figure out that you still don't know very much at all; that's actually rather liberating, because it's what allows you to finally break out (in a controlled way) of the box of "quizbowl norms" and start reflecting real-life knowledge that makes the truly great editors so great. Of course, this has to be done in a way that is still *very* much within the matrix of quizbowl reason, because this is and should be a competition. Your first duty as an editor is to produce something that properly sorts teams depending on knowledge. Life is full of other places to run experiments or prove ideological points or lecture people (LOOK I HAVE FOUND ONE); when you're editing, you've got a job to do. I really can't overemphasize how much I believe in that.

So in this sense, it sounds like we hit a bit of bump on the easiest ends of the spectrum; I deeply regret that, because it's normally something I pride myself in as an editor. And perhaps it's for that reason that I was less concerned about that particular issue, because it's never been a problem before. I'll consider it a quite useful reminder that in editing, you must always be attentive, to everything, forever.

Some Hard Observations


-Sorry the copy-editing was kind of eh. We all know that's something I'm always going to be mediocre at, which is why I normally try to correct the problem by having people look over sets in advance. This year I had an unexpected uptick in non-quizbowl responsibilities during the winter break that really threw a monkey wrench in my Regionals plans, so the copy-editing plans pretty much didn't happen due to time constraints. This was also responsible for the tardiness of the finals being sent out, though I was relieved to here nowhere was negatively impacted by it. Sincere apologies.

-Since this was ACF Regionals, I took a different approach with my beloved/maligned authorial flavor (note to the media: I prefer the Eric Mukherjee-coined "ChrisRaysmaili" as my adjective of choice to describe this). Specifically, I think this set had basically no of my cherished profanations, etc. Granted, I strayed a bit and got a little jokey with some of the bonuses, but I really thought it was pretty unintrusive. But I've really come around that it's more important to make the set flow well than to make people laugh (or roll their eyes in contempt, depending on how successful you are!). I hope this came through to people who were playing, particularly people who've been playing my stuff for a while.

-Based on talking to people and looking at the stats for various sites, it looks like this set was pretty excellent at doing it's job for the at the very least the top 50% of the field. That's not, to me at least, something that mitigates a failure for the lower 1/3, etc., which as I've noted we should all take notice of in the name of making the game more accessible. But I'm pretty happy to stand by the set in this and many other senses.

I look forward to responding to various people and hearing vigorous discussion of the set, which I will engage in presently below.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by DumbJaques »

Oh, and last but definitely not least: I am so, so happy to give you feedback on your stuff for this set. Seriously, I really like doing this and believe in it as a quizbowl practice. So email me, tell me what you wrote (preferably include the questions in line, for ease of response), and I will tell you what I thought. While I technically can no longer compel my subject editors to do the same, I know they're the kind of people who feel much the same way, so feel free to contact them as well.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by Adventure Temple Trail »

I liked playing this year's Regionals - it was a solid tournament full of solid questions on a range of asked and not-so-asked things - and the people who note that it's the hardest Regionals since 2007 are obviously correct. It seems like the regular difficulty "umbrella" or "bell curve" or what-have-you is centered at an ideal point from which this year's DI SCT is one standard deviation away on one side and this year's Regionals is .5 to 1 standard deviations away on the other. In terms of the "bell curve" of difficulty within packets, though, I wonder if it's just a selection bias on my part, but I've rarely seen anyone explicitly use that idea to defend the inclusion of particularly easy answerlines in their packets - only to defend particularly hard outliers. Is that idea still useful or should we see it as an excuse that leads people to write too many hard questions?

In particular, I think the painting and history got away with more excesses than some other categories - the other category I care most about, RMP, was largely spot-on and the philosophy in particular felt like it was very clearly on real, knowable, basic stuff.

Chris, regular and all-access tournaments really do not benefit from ten-line tossups or 2.5-3 line bonus parts (that Philo part verged on 3.5), even if there's only a few of them per packet. I made this same comment after BARGE, and it seems to be a common trend in tournaments you edit - many of your questions are quite long, and this really doesn't help endear a wide audience to the idea that regular-difficulty quizbowl is well-controlled. Many of these questions were also the more difficult questions in the set, which only compounds the mistaken assumption that regular quizbowl is all about ungettable 10-line monster questions. I think it'd be an interesting experiment if you tried a hard length cap at the next tournament you edit, such as 2 lines tops for bonus parts and 8 lines tops for tossups (I feel like Regionals works best if it's as low as 7, but the community seems to tolerate 8 fairly well these days across the board).

I definitely laughed at a lot of the Chris/Rob humor that made it into the set - I usually like it when sets have a light touch of humor and the writer can pull it off, especially when it doesn't add to length problems.

It's probably an unavoidable feature of packet-submission tournaments that categories will often be badly subdistributed. In particular, I felt like the Euro history dwelt on too many dynastic clues and too many wars/battles from the 15th-18th centuries and I heard some complaints about the poor subdistribution of the biology, but I think last year's Regionals thread (i.e. Auroni's comments on receiving many usable Bible questions) settled it well that this is something we can live with. I'd be interested to hear disagreement, though - do people expect editors to write more replacement questions solely to better subdistribute the tournament if there's a bulge of one subcategory or another?
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by evilmonkey »

Points per Bonus descriptive stats:
Minimum: 3.46
1st Q: 10.45
Mean: 13.51
Median: 14.06
3rd Q: 17.1
Maximum: 23.53

This indicates to me that in general, bonuses were just a bit too difficult for the field. The left-skewness of the distribution is a result of the presence of a few teams that probably are too weak to be playing regular difficulty questions.

I do have some impressions from live-blogging/moderating this tournament, but I'm not exactly qualified to comment on questions, so I will let other people give interpretation to numbers.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by DumbJaques »

The Two Hearts of Kwasi Boachi wrote:I felt like this set overestimated the knowledge that the field had. History in particular seemed to go into "Are you an expert in this time period/field of history? No? Too bad." way too often in the bonuses.
I agree with the first sentence to a slight degree, though I don't think in the way you meant it. I vigorously disagree with your assessment of the history; in particular, I am not an expert in 99% of historical periods/fields, and don't write my questions to reflect that.

I do understand how people could respond to certain things with a "what the shit is that's insane" kind of reaction, but I'd suggest this is more about a sense of "stuff that quizbowl asks about" vs "stuff you actually see a lot when reading about history." For example, I used "Beeldenstorm" as a hard part to one bonus - it's certainly very hard, but it's also totally a thing! More importantly, you can come across it a number of different ways (studying European history, studying religion in Europe or Protestantism in particular, studying the Low Countries, studying social science things like crowd dynamics and mass violence, and even studying art, since it had a major role in dictating both the course and historical preservation of Dutch art). So like, yeah, it's hard. But it's hard with a very clear purpose that I spent a whole ton of time thinking about. If I missed the mark with that hard part, that's a bummer - I surely did (as editors do) a number of times with this set. But this whole line about "No? Too bad" strikes me as perhaps a bit ignorant of how the set was actually constructed (and perhaps not coincidentally, unsupported by specific examples).
Tokyo Sex whale wrote:. You and I might easily be able to get bonus parts on the Henderson-Hasselbalch equation, Nestorianism, Tristram Shandy, or Fra Angelico (?!), but these are not meant for us; these are meant for the teams that put up around 10 ppb or less.
This is a point I absolutely endorse; when questions didn't reflect that stance, it was a matter of oversight rather than philosophical disagreement with Auroni. However, I will note that one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-other, and Tristram Shandy is intensely famous in the real world but also famous in quizbowl (I've been hearing tossups on Tristram Shandy since my earliest days in high school). It's a bad example to use; the point is good.
Tokyo Sex whale wrote:I was also a bit more personally disappointed that a few of my questions were converted to answers that were less accessible (such as female genital mutilation to Facing Mount Kenya).
I don't think this actually happened with any of your questions (not by hand, anyway; any stuff I used by you was mostly preserved at least in terms of answer line). In this specific case, somebody else wrote that Facing Mount Kenya question that I only slightly edited. It was used because it was better than the FGM question, which basically gave you as semi-early buzz if you've read about the practice and was ungettable except via fraud most of the rest of the way. I don't mean to be critical for free questions that were a huge help (THANK YOU), but this simply wasn't what was going on here.
Tokyo Sex whale wrote:A bigger issue with the set, however, was its abysmal copy-editing. I frequently had to add and change words on the fly. I also had to prompt lots of partial answers that there were no indications to prompt on (such as John for John of Gaunt),
As I noted above, this was definitely a problem with the set and I apologize for it. But again, I think you've chosen a bad example to make a good point; I don't think I'd ever put "prompt on John" in an answerline on "John of Gaunt," just like I'd never put "prompt on Edward" for a question on Edward II or Edward the Black Prince, etc. I see these things are just part of the rules, which is perhaps a way of looking at things that fails to account for new moderators - but, then, we'll always draw the line somewhere on this point, because we can't note every rule in every answerline.
Sulawesi Myzomela wrote:This year's set will only further misconceptions that ACF Regionals is only meant for good teams, which seriously harms the college circuit.
Yeah, I think you're just wrong about that, but I'll plan on talking to some lower-scoring teams and gauging reaction; it's possible some of this was going on, and in that case, I'm deeply regretful. I do think it's kinda melodramatic to say this set somehow "seriously harms" the college circuit.

I'd also like to distinguish between the easy part problem (which I think it's clear this tournament had, though I don't know if it was nearly as ubiquitous as some people seem to be suggesting) vs. a set being holistically "too hard." I'd dispute the former for sure, because I made damned sure every packet had a bunch of answerlines that would could show up at ACF Fall.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by DumbJaques »

Inkana7 wrote:This set seemed kind of hastily edited, resulting in a lot of missing words (and questions!), packets with varying fonts and formats, and the aforementioned unevenness of the bonuses. I enjoyed many questions in this set, but, for example, when Ike asked me what my favorite tossup of the day was, I really couldn't point to one. It was just that kind of tournament -- solid if unspectacular. If I was Ted I would give it a B-.
This set certainly wasn't hastily-edited, but there absolutely a less-than-acceptable mad rush at the end. But a lot of thought went into the vast majority of questions in this set, so I'd hope that a few slips and some poor copy-editing wouldn't change perception of that. To be clear, I don't want to adopt that somewhat-familiar stance that copy-editing isn't important, because I actually think it really is.

Also, come now, this set did not have "a lot of missing questions." There were two bonuses that I randomly lost while mixing packets, which was a huge fuck up but was quickly corrected. I'm sorry you didn't deeply enjoy any tossups - I don't really have any idea what it is you know, but I certainly deeply enjoyed writing many questions in my categories, and it seemed like people enjoyed a few of them. For what it's worth, I think I'd also give this tournament somewhere in the B range, but that's mostly for the copy-editing and difficulty issues rather than not having some exciting material, which I definitely thought it had.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots »

On the players' side I thought this set was a lot of fun and had a lot of exciting questions that usually weren't painfully difficult. I'll have more to say later, but overall I'd like to give it the thumbs up.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by Rufous-capped Thornbill »

DumbJaques wrote:
Inkana7 wrote:This set seemed kind of hastily edited, resulting in a lot of missing words (and questions!), packets with varying fonts and formats, and the aforementioned unevenness of the bonuses. I enjoyed many questions in this set, but, for example, when Ike asked me what my favorite tossup of the day was, I really couldn't point to one. It was just that kind of tournament -- solid if unspectacular. If I was Ted I would give it a B-.
This set certainly wasn't hastily-edited, but there absolutely a less-than-acceptable mad rush at the end. But a lot of thought went into the vast majority of questions in this set, so I'd hope that a few slips and some poor copy-editing wouldn't change perception of that. To be clear, I don't want to adopt that somewhat-familiar stance that copy-editing isn't important, because I actually think it really is.

Also, come now, this set did not have "a lot of missing questions." There were two bonuses that I randomly lost while mixing packets, which was a huge fuck up but was quickly corrected. I'm sorry you didn't deeply enjoy any tossups - I don't really have any idea what it is you know, but I certainly deeply enjoyed writing many questions in my categories, and it seemed like people enjoyed a few of them. For what it's worth, I think I'd also give this tournament somewhere in the B range, but that's mostly for the copy-editing and difficulty issues rather than not having some exciting material, which I definitely thought it had.
Perhaps I concentrated too much on what I didn't like about the tournament, and I'd like to apologize for that. I really did enjoy playing this a lot, and like I said earlier, I felt really satisfied with most of my buzzes, which is what you want from a set. You and the other editors did a good job, and I only give it a B for the same reasons you lay out. I did enjoy many tossups, there just weren't any that struck me as "hey that was a really cool idea!" But that's just a result of my taste; I really loved VCU Closed 2011, after all.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by DumbJaques »

RyuAqua wrote:I liked playing this year's Regionals - it was a solid tournament full of solid questions on a range of asked and not-so-asked things - and the people who note that it's the hardest Regionals since 2007 are obviously correct. It seems like the regular difficulty "umbrella" or "bell curve" or what-have-you is centered at an ideal point from which this year's DI SCT is one standard deviation away on one side and this year's Regionals is .5 to 1 standard deviations away on the other.
I think this is pretty accurate.
In terms of the "bell curve" of difficulty within packets, though, I wonder if it's just a selection bias on my part, but I've rarely seen anyone explicitly use that idea to defend the inclusion of particularly easy answerlines in their packets - only to defend particularly hard outliers. Is that idea still useful or should we see it as an excuse that leads people to write too many hard questions?
What a deeply satisfying thought to consider! Yes, that's something worth thinking about - I certainly visualize the spectrum idea as equally advocating easy answer inclusion, but it's undoubtedly true that the issues of debate often happen re: harder stuff. But I think there are a couple things at play here:
1) There's really not a huge portion of quizbowl taking the "stop having easy answerlines" hardline, so it's going to be used less often to defend against people who don't exist.
2) It's important to remember that the whole point of Bell Curve Difficulty (as I began to think about it, at any rate) was to combat the saturation of harder answers at regular+ events, and to dispel this bizarre idea quizbowl had wound itself around that at certain events there just weren't going to be answerlines on a certain class of famous things. I still think back to the first Harvard International, which in addition to famously face-scalding science difficulty featured a Sekigahara tossup that was actually pretty rote and crappy. Distressingly, something like 1/3 to 1/2 of rooms at the Harvard site had people buzz in early one (after the question established it was a battle somewhere in Japan) and just guessed "Dan-no-ura." This was striking in a sense because Dan-no-ura was, you know, in the water. But it was even more striking ot me because it almost identically mirrored the behavior that has driven Sekighara tossups out of good high school tournaments (since a semi-experience team will just buzz in and say "Sekigahara.")

It seems to me that the origin of Bell Curve Difficulty is somewhat pertinent to how it continues to function, though Matt raises a pretty interesting point on whether that's actually true (or how long it might continue to be true). It's also entirely possible that BCD is inherently something that will matter much more for harder sets than regular difficulty sets, which already (in theory, if they were good) had a spectrum of easy-to-normal answerlines.

In a sense, yeah, I guess BCD might add a few harder questions to to those sets. But I also think this idea of the perfect, Platonic Form Regular Season Tournament is somewhat erroneous - people always took liberties or miscalculated, and we ended up with sets that were just way harder than anyone expected. Regionals may have been that, bonus-wise; I don't think it was in terms of tossups, which in my opinion hit the spectrum pretty well.
I'd be interested to hear disagreement, though - do people expect editors to write more replacement questions solely to better subdistribute the tournament if there's a bulge of one subcategory or another?
I hope they don't, because it's just never going to happen. You do have to draw the line somewhere, though - I felt like a lot of my categories started to veer in this direction (in art for instance, felt like we had a ton of renaissance, some modern, not a lot in between). That's not good, but in the real world it's also hard to augment. I think the best philosophy is to slightly modify Auroni's take: That variation (based on what quality submissions you get) is ok, but you cannot allow yourself to be predominately governed by it. If you do, then you're not hitting that original editor duty of sorting by knowledge, you're sorting by a narrow subsection of knowledge that's going to selectively reward teams.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by Cody »

I don't have much to state in response to Matt Jackson's post, but I do want to note that a strict two line cap on bonus parts is a bad idea and simply unworkable, in my experience--sometimes you really do need that third line (especially in the sciences). A sensible limit is no more than one 3 line bonus part per bonus, and it should be balanced out by a one line bonus part. (on the flip side, a bonus with an average of two full lines for every single part, including the lead-in, is far too long)
RyuAqua wrote:I'd be interested to hear disagreement, though - do people expect editors to write more replacement questions solely to better subdistribute the tournament if there's a bulge of one subcategory or another?
Although I obviously did not adhere to this philosophy, much to my chagrin [excepting the other science], I do expect something like this. I wouldn't expect an editor to write a replacement question outright, but I would expect them to improve a bad question over using a good one to help even out the subdistribution.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by Muriel Axon »

RyuAqua wrote:It's probably an unavoidable feature of packet-submission tournaments that categories will often be badly subdistributed. In particular, I felt like the Euro history dwelt on too many dynastic clues and too many wars/battles from the 15th-18th centuries and I heard some complaints about the poor subdistribution of the biology, but I think last year's Regionals thread (i.e. Auroni's comments on receiving many usable Bible questions) settled it well that this is something we can live with. I'd be interested to hear disagreement, though - do people expect editors to write more replacement questions solely to better subdistribute the tournament if there's a bulge of one subcategory or another?
As someone who has never edited a packet-sub tournament (or a college tournament of any kind), I don't know if what I'm saying here is at all reasonable giving the stress and the time constraints that subject editors face. I am inclined to think that editors ought to write replacement questions in the extreme case that they can't work within the existing variation in submitted questions to create a balanced subdistribution. This is obviously less important than making sure that all the questions that do make it in the set are well-constructed and playable.

I was one of the people who voiced some mild disappointment in the biology subdistribution. I haven't actually gone back to check, but I do recall many questions on molecules, hormones, neurotransmitters, a few on organelles, cell types, organs, diseases, etc., but I don't remember any ecology or evolution questions in the packets read at the Chicago site (which could just be an unfortunate byproduct of packet selection). I can't hold this against Cody, although I recall that he also said he wasn't happy with the biology subdistribution.

EDIT: I agree with Cody's statement in the post above me.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by The Ununtiable Twine »

The Eighth Viscount of Waaaah wrote:I haven't actually gone back to check, but I do recall many questions on molecules, hormones, neurotransmitters, a few on organelles, cell types, organs, diseases, etc.
At our site, there was a tossup on acetylcholine in one packet and then a tossup on GABA in the very next packet. I knew the answer to the GABA tossup was probably GABA by the end of the first line, not because I know of more than a few middle clues about GABA, but because acetylcholine had been tossed up like 20-30 minutes before and I often mix those two up when playing (as I'm sure many non-biologists do). The chances of answering a question correctly should increase considerably due to real knowledge and not from analyzing which answerlines have already come up at the event. The tossups themselves seemed to be fine from a person with fake biology knowledge's point of view, though.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by Cody »

That was also the case at the Maryland site, but it was just a freak accident (they were the only two neurotransmitter tossups). I don't think it's that fraudable, though, there's a lot of neurotransmitter that come up at regular difficulty. (also, that's an odd pair to confuse, I would expect you to confuse, like, GABA and glutamate, maybe)
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by Fond du lac operon »

Tokyo Sex Whale wrote:I was a bit disappointed with the construction of many bonuses in this set. In some cases, the barrier to getting 10 points on a bonus was needlessly high when a better easy part could have been used instead. You and I might easily be able to get bonus parts on the Henderson-Hasselbalch equation, Nestorianism, Tristram Shandy, or Fra Angelico (?!), but these are not meant for us; these are meant for the teams that put up around 10 ppb or less.
I will, smart-assedly, note that a team getting less than 10 ppb will, by definition, miss some easy parts. Whether or not there were an unusual number of bonuses that it was hard to get 10 points on, in actuality, seems difficult to tell without considerably finer-grained data than we have. (Unless someone wants to send me a bunch of scoresheets from their site, and a bunch of scoresheets from the site last year.)

Also, I've combed through a lot of packets for biology questions to gain fake bio knowledge, and I'm fairly sure that serotonin, acetylcholine, dopamine, and GABA are easily the four most common quizbowl neurotransmitters-qua-neurotransmitters. (Glutamate's pretty common, but there are lots of clues about non-neurological functions there.) Fluke or not, I'm not really sure that a tournament should have three of those four be answerlines.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by Cody »

Fond du lac operon wrote:Also, I've combed through a lot of packets for biology questions to gain fake bio knowledge, and I'm fairly sure that serotonin, acetylcholine, dopamine, and GABA are easily the four most common quizbowl neurotransmitters-qua-neurotransmitters. (Glutamate's pretty common, but there are lots of clues about non-neurological functions there.) Fluke or not, I'm not really sure that a tournament should have three of those four be answerlines.
1)only 2/4 were answers 2) I assume you are talking about the melatonin bonus part and including bonus parts in which case you're just wrong, even if all 4 showed up.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by Chimango Caracara »

The Eighth Viscount of Waaaah wrote:I was one of the people who voiced some mild disappointment in the biology subdistribution. I haven't actually gone back to check, but I do recall many questions on molecules, hormones, neurotransmitters, a few on organelles, cell types, organs, diseases, etc., but I don't remember any ecology or evolution questions in the packets read at the Chicago site (which could just be an unfortunate byproduct of packet selection). I can't hold this against Cody, although I recall that he also said he wasn't happy with the biology subdistribution.
Well, I have similar feelings about most tournaments, so of course I agree on the lack of ecology/evolution. I also thought the philosophy tossup on evolution was terribly confusing (though in principle I really like the idea); on the clues from the spandrels paper I kept thinking stuff like "anti-adaptationism" and "constraints" and wondering what the "real" philosophy analogue of the stuff that Gould and Lewontin were discussing would be (it didn't even occur to me that the answerline could be evolution until Dobzhansky was mentioned).

Returning to biology, I didn't really have a problem with the tossups, but I thought the bonuses seemed systematically harder than most other categories. At most tournaments I can at least recognize the hard part of most biology bonuses even if I miss it, which was often not true at this tournament. Looking back at the questions, it seems like most of the hard parts were actually pretty important and just happened to not have been covered in classes I've taken, so I'm not really going to complain. I do appreciate the relative paucity of disease-based questions in favor of more physiological/cell bio stuff.

I really liked the chemistry at this tournament (well, I didn't like the tossup on the Wittig reaction, but I liked most other stuff). I thought the questions generally did a good job of rewarding real chemistry knowledge over name-based fraud.

In general I thought this was a great tournament. I thought it was more more successful at encompassing a bell curve of difficulty than VCU Closed (although I was pretty happy with that tournament too). I disagree with people who thought it was too difficult; while there was certainly some bonus variability I didn't think it was too egregious, and I don't think there were any absurdly hard answerlines (although I was surprised by The Flagellation of Christ and whoever the hell Herman Wouk is). Some packets seemed systematically easier than others but this wasn't too bad and there were a lot of cool answerlines.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by theMoMA »

I thought this tournament was rougher than most of the good events of late, and much more inconsistent in difficulty. Let me illustrate some problems with the set.

For a tournament whose subtitle called out the rest of the circuit for its poor use of language, this tournament sure had a lot of titulars, sentences without pronouns (or worse, with pronouns referring to things that are not the answer), unrelated clues needlessly strung together with "and," and just about every other linguistic feature of Old Church Quizbowlese. Looking through the packets, the formatting and fonts are all over the place. This tournament had very little polish.

More problematically, I thought that there were lots of misplaced and misleading clues in the set. It's one thing when you say "magic angle" in the first line of an NMR tossup; at least I can feel confident buzzing on that clue, even if the question probably shouldn't be letting me do it. It's another thing when the clues are things like "this is a work about morality that talks about predators and prey" or "this is a playwright who wrote about ballroom dancing." These vague, misplaced clues are hard for me to buzz on, because I sit there wondering "why would someone vaguely describe the major illustration of On the Genealogy of Morals in the second line of the question?" or "would you really describe perhaps the major plot point of Master Harold and the Boys so glibly in the second line of this tossup, or is there some non-Fugard dude who wrote plays in which ballroom dancing is a major plot point?" There were a lot of these vague misplaced clues, and that was frustrating.

There were also ton of answer lines that I thought were extremely inappropriate for this difficulty level. Many of them have been mentioned already, so perhaps it doesn't need to be said again, but who's really benefiting from tossups on The Flagellation of Christ or Mackinder?

In terms of bonus variability, there was a packet in which "name Hamlet's mother" and "name Leo Strauss" were both middle parts. Needless to say, I thought the middle parts were wildly inconsistent. While I don't think we zeroed any bonuses, I found myself wincing at the thought of newer circuit teams facing some of the inconsistent easy parts. And lots of the hard parts seemed ungettable. The bonuses at this tournament were too hard, and I think the numbers bear that out.

In short, I thought this tournament lacked polish, consistency, and more generally, an animating philosophy. Say what you want about bell curves; you still need to have a consistent idea underlying the tournament. I didn't see that going on here. I saw broad, loose, random variation that affected matches and made this tournament frustrating to play, especially when coupled with the general lack of polish in the set.

Let me conclude by saying that this was by no means a horrible event. The editor packets seemed good (though we didn't get to play them at our site for some reason), and most of the other questions were well within acceptable modern standards. I just expect a lot more out of an event like Regionals, and I came away mostly disappointed this year.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by Cody »

I don't know about a lot of inappropriate answerlines--it seems there were certainly less 0.5 really out of place tossups per packet (even by a generous count), and I'm not exactly sure that's newsworthy. I'm not really sure why people keep commenting on these as it was mostly fine. (Now, bonuses on the other hand.)
Last edited by Cody on Tue Feb 26, 2013 8:11 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by Frater Taciturnus »

Thanks to all the editors that made this year's Regionals, as I really enjoyed playing this tournament (especially the tossup on "Mao's wives"). But I have to disagree with you Chris on what you said about how Regionals should be harder than other supposed "regular difficulty" tournaments. I think as hard as ACF Regionals is (and should) be pushed as THE Regular Season tournament to play, ACF Regionals should be a question set that dictates what actually is to be considered "regular difficulty" (as much as I loathe to use that term, as it has seemed to have been so horribly abused and misapplied over the years as to become almost meaningless).

Still, I thought the "Critique of the Gotha Program" and "Cajal" tossups were interesting difficulty curveballs that did a good job of keeping players honest instead of cheating on a steady diet of fastballs all day.

I am also a staunch advocate of the proposed severing of Philosophy from RMP, and applaud the expansion of said concept.

Overall, I was reasonably pleased with this tournament, with the caveat that I thought it leaned a bit too hard because of my aforementioned ideal of ACF Regionals difficulty.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by ThisIsMyUsername »

theMoMA wrote: These vague, misplaced clues are hard for me to buzz on, because I sit there wondering "why would someone vaguely describe the major illustration of On the Genealogy of Morals in the second line of the question?" or "would you really describe perhaps the major plot point of Master Harold and the Boys so glibly in the second line of this tossup, or is there some non-Fugard dude who wrote plays in which ballroom dancing is a major plot point?" There were a lot of these vague misplaced clues, and that was frustrating.
I'm willing to buy that the Fugard clue was misplaced (since someone else has mentioned it too; but it is most certainly not "perhaps the major plot point" of the play), in which case I apologize. But I have no idea why you would call it "vague" or my means of cluing it "glib", as I think it was neither of these things:
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by ThisIsMyUsername »

RyuAqua wrote: I'd be interested to hear disagreement, though - do people expect editors to write more replacement questions solely to better subdistribute the tournament if there's a bulge of one subcategory or another?
I tend to expect this and this is exactly what I did both years that I have edited for Regionals.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots »

theMoMA wrote:I thought this tournament was rougher than most of the good events of late, and much more inconsistent in difficulty. Let me illustrate some problems with the set.

For a tournament whose subtitle called out the rest of the circuit for its poor use of language, this tournament sure had a lot of titulars, sentences without pronouns (or worse, with pronouns referring to things that are not the answer), unrelated clues needlessly strung together with "and," and just about every other linguistic feature of Old Church Quizbowlese. Looking through the packets, the formatting and fonts are all over the place. This tournament had very little polish.

More problematically, I thought that there were lots of misplaced and misleading clues in the set. It's one thing when you say "magic angle" in the first line of an NMR tossup; at least I can feel confident buzzing on that clue, even if the question probably shouldn't be letting me do it. It's another thing when the clues are things like "this is a work about morality that talks about predators and prey" or "this is a playwright who wrote about ballroom dancing." These vague, misplaced clues are hard for me to buzz on, because I sit there wondering "why would someone vaguely describe the major illustration of On the Genealogy of Morals in the second line of the question?" or "would you really describe perhaps the major plot point of Master Harold and the Boys so glibly in the second line of this tossup, or is there some non-Fugard dude who wrote plays in which ballroom dancing is a major plot point?" There were a lot of these vague misplaced clues, and that was frustrating.

There were also ton of answer lines that I thought were extremely inappropriate for this difficulty level. Many of them have been mentioned already, so perhaps it doesn't need to be said again, but who's really benefiting from tossups on The Flagellation of Christ or Mackinder?

In terms of bonus variability, there was a packet in which "name Hamlet's mother" and "name Leo Strauss" were both middle parts. Needless to say, I thought the middle parts were wildly inconsistent. While I don't think we zeroed any bonuses, I found myself wincing at the thought of newer circuit teams facing some of the inconsistent easy parts. And lots of the hard parts seemed ungettable. The bonuses at this tournament were too hard, and I think the numbers bear that out.

In short, I thought this tournament lacked polish, consistency, and more generally, an animating philosophy. Say what you want about bell curves; you still need to have a consistent idea underlying the tournament. I didn't see that going on here. I saw broad, loose, random variation that affected matches and made this tournament frustrating to play, especially when coupled with the general lack of polish in the set.

Let me conclude by saying that this was by no means a horrible event. The editor packets seemed good (though we didn't get to play them at our site for some reason), and most of the other questions were well within acceptable modern standards. I just expect a lot more out of an event like Regionals, and I came away mostly disappointed this year.
The examples you name were problematic, but I suppose I don't think they were really as prevalent as you suggest. Certainly bonuses were variable, although that's a problem almost no tournament has solved in my time; certainly, every single tournament has inspired a post that said "This tournament had a bonus that went [hard] and also a bonus that went [easy] and therefore the bonuses were bad." Admittedly, this one could have eased down its easy parts. Still: What are the criteria for a tournament to have an "animating philosophy," and how do you generalize your subjective experience of "broad, loose, random variation"?

EDIT: Broad, not boar! Jesus.
Last edited by The King's Flight to the Scots on Tue Feb 26, 2013 3:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by theMoMA »

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:I'm willing to buy that the Fugard clue was misplaced (since someone else has mentioned it too; but it is most certainly not "perhaps the major plot point" of the play), in which case I apologize. But I have no idea why you would call it "vague" or my means of cluing it "glib", as I think it was neither of these things:
In one of his plays, a description of a ballroom dancing competition leads to the image of "A World Without Collisions".
It is vague and glib in the sense that "a description of a ballroom dancing competition" points to Fugard much more readily than the unique, specific content of the clue ("A World Without Collisions"), despite the fact that the former isn't necessarily specific enough to make a player comfortable buzzing on it. In other words, I think there are a lot of players (like me) who know that ballroom dancing is a major plot point in Master Harold and the Boys, but not as many who know about this "World Without Collisions," which makes for a problematic game of chicken when playing the game (with the player asking, "Would they really think it's okay to drop this clue here?").

I would also dispute that ballroom dancing is not "perhaps the major plot point" of Master Harold and the Boys, considering it is what the characters are doing at the beginning, the climax, and the end of the play. Maybe "plot point" was the wrong term, but it's certainly one of the most notable things about the play, and I think it's glib to drop it in the second line of a tossup tethered to a much less notable quote.

The thing is, I'm not really interested in arguing specifics of this one particular tossup. If it was fine, it was fine. If it wasn't, it wasn't. I'm more interested in the tossup as an illustration of what I thought was a major problem with Regionals, which was a high number of questions whose early clues pointed very readily, but not very clearly, to a specific answer, almost as if daring the player to pull the trigger. These questions really affected the close, competitive games that our team played at the Chicago site, and it was very frustrating.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by theMoMA »

Vernon Lee Bad Marriage, Jr. wrote:The examples you name were problematic, but I suppose I don't think they were really as prevalent as you suggest. Certainly bonuses were variable, although that's a problem almost no tournament has solved in my time; certainly, every single tournament has inspired a post that said "This tournament had a bonus that went [hard] and also a bonus that went [easy] and therefore the bonuses were bad." Admittedly, this one could have eased down its easy parts. Still: What are the criteria for a tournament to have an "animating philosophy," and how do you generalize your subjective experience of "broad, loose, random variation"?
I'd say that an animating philosophy is just a consistent idea about what the tournament should be, both within and across categories and packets. It's basically a jig you can hold up against each bonus or tossup answer to say whether it fits within some pre-conceived parameters of the tournament.

I thought that this tournament had difficulty outliers; obviously the most notable ones have already been stated, but I think the fact that there were a half-dozen tossup answers that are out of place anywhere but a Nationals/open tournament has slanted discussion away from the fact that the median answer line, even removing those answers, was tougher than at most recent regular-difficulty answers. I also thought it had bonus variation that went beyond just the normal variance within some conception of regular difficulty. Summing that all up, I'd say that the difficulty of tossup answer selection and the bonus variation indicated that there was no real conception of what regular difficulty meant at this tournament, because it seemed to mean different things between categories, within categories, between packets, and within packets. In other words, I'd say this tournament had no animating philosophy because you couldn't play it and come away with a coherent idea about what "regular difficulty" means.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by grapesmoker »

Chimango Caracara wrote:Well, I have similar feelings about most tournaments, so of course I agree on the lack of ecology/evolution. I also thought the philosophy tossup on evolution was terribly confusing (though in principle I really like the idea); on the clues from the spandrels paper I kept thinking stuff like "anti-adaptationism" and "constraints" and wondering what the "real" philosophy analogue of the stuff that Gould and Lewontin were discussing would be (it didn't even occur to me that the answerline could be evolution until Dobzhansky was mentioned).
Not that I had anything to do with this question, but I actually thought it hit on a lot of major philosophical issues surrounding the evolution debate. But I'm going to post it because I think it leads to a larger problem I had with some of these questions (I read at the Brown site):
This philosophical position is explained in one work using a cylindrical toy filled with balls of various sizes and colors. This theory can be modeled by Newtonian forces operating as a sieve according to Elliot Sober, who critiqued a “would-be vampire [killer]” who likened it to Skinner's behavorism in a text co-written with Piatelli-Palmarini. An architectural term from renaissance archways was borrowed to describe a consequence of this theory by Richard Lewontin, whose “spandrels” were attacked in the aforementioned work by Jerry Fodor. A dubious argument found in Warrant and Proper Function uses some dude named Paul's encounter with a tiger to claim that this theory implies humans cannot evaluate truth; Alvin Plantinga thus declared it an argument against Naturalism. Pierre Teilhard inspired a Theodosius Dobzhansky work extolling “the light of” this theory. For 10 points, identify this theory philosophically treated in works like The Nature of Selection and What Darwin Got Wrong.
ANSWER: Theory of Evolution [or Natural Selection; accept any variant types of evolution; ]
The most difficult part of this tournament, not just for the players but for the readers as well, was the difficulty of parsing sentences and following up on early clues. I don't know what the first clue refers to, and I'm not sure any part of it is explained later on. I have read Sober's various critiques of both Fodor-PP and Nagel, so I'd have felt pretty good buzzing there, but the construction of the sentence is just weird. First of all, the Newtonian sieve is surely not a "model" in any real sense, but actually a metaphor; regardless, I'm having trouble placing it because a Google search for "sober newtonian sieve evolution" doesn't bring up anything. The indirection in the second sentence is also not a good style; I understand that it's the "vampire killer" who is the subject of that second clause, but that's something that's not going to parse well when being read aloud. Furthermore, while I think Plantinga sucks, the wording of the clue about his argument is also confusing: Plantinga argues on (specious) Bayesian grounds that the probability of the conjunction "Evolution and Naturalism" (as hypotheses) being true is low, given the evidence of sense-reliability. The wording here is not entirely inaccurate, but saying that Plantinga holds evolution to be evidence against naturalism is misleading at best.

This is an ok question, but it could be made a lot better through some judicious rewording and a more careful rendering of the clues. I found that to be true for a fair number of questions in this tournament, and I often had to stop myself because clauses that were doing things I did not expect were appearing midway through a clue, so I'd do that thing where you figure out what's actually going on before you read to your teams. That's something that really kills the flow of reading and confuses teams, who have to keep multiple complicated indirections in their heads.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by ThisIsMyUsername »

theMoMA wrote:
ThisIsMyUsername wrote:I'm willing to buy that the Fugard clue was misplaced (since someone else has mentioned it too; but it is most certainly not "perhaps the major plot point" of the play), in which case I apologize. But I have no idea why you would call it "vague" or my means of cluing it "glib", as I think it was neither of these things:
In one of his plays, a description of a ballroom dancing competition leads to the image of "A World Without Collisions".
It is vague and glib in the sense that "a description of a ballroom dancing competition" points to Fugard much more readily than the unique, specific content of the clue ("A World Without Collisions"), despite the fact that the former isn't necessarily specific enough to make a player comfortable buzzing on it. In other words, I think there are a lot of players (like me) who know that ballroom dancing is a major plot point in Master Harold and the Boys, but not as many who know about this "World Without Collisions," which makes for a problematic game of chicken when playing the game (with the player asking, "Would they really think it's okay to drop this clue here?").

I would also dispute that ballroom dancing is not "perhaps the major plot point" of Master Harold and the Boys, considering it is what the characters are doing at the beginning, the climax, and the end of the play. Maybe "plot point" was the wrong term, but it's certainly one of the most notable things about the play, and I think it's glib to drop it in the second line of a tossup tethered to a much less notable quote.

The thing is, I'm not really interested in arguing specifics of this one particular tossup. If it was fine, it was fine. If it wasn't, it wasn't. I'm more interested in the tossup as an illustration of what I thought was a major problem with Regionals, which was a high number of questions whose early clues pointed very readily, but not very clearly, to a specific answer, almost as if daring the player to pull the trigger. These questions really affected the close, competitive games that our team played at the Chicago site, and it was very frustrating.
I freely acknowledge two things about this tossup:

1. Ballroom dancing is mentioned too early
2. It would be better to reword the sentence as "In one of his plays, the image of "A World Without Collisions" arises from a discussion of a ballroom dancing competition", because that is more internally pyramidal.

You said that you are not interested in arguing specifics of one particular tossup. However, I'm would like to focus on your use of the word "vague" to describe this clue, because I think it is characteristic of the problematic way question criticism is sometimes done on these forums.

"A World Without Collisions" is not a quote pulled at random from this play. That image is the point of a long speech in the play during the long central discussion. It is repeated in the play by more than one character. This metaphor, contrasting the way people never collide on the ballroom floor with the way they collide in social interaction, is the central metaphor for a world free from apartheid in the entire play. If you do not believe me, please google this phrase in connection with this play and see some of the articles you get.

A "vague" clue to me means: "a clue that contains information that would be useful, except for the fact that it is not couched in specific enough or helpful enough language to point directly to the answer". It does not mean: "a clue that presented unique, important information in a different way than the way I'm used to hearing it in quizbowl, which therefore hampered my ability to buzz", which is how some people seem to use it in discussion, and how you seem to be using it right now.

I cannot tell from your post whether you have read this play or not, but if this quotation did not provide you enough clue context to grant you the security to realize that this was ballroom dancing from "Master Harold" and not from some other play, then you did not understand a very important and not very subtle part of this play, and you don't get to buzz there yet. If you didn't want to buzz because the clue is misplaced, that's understandable and that's definitely my fault as editor. However, if this clue had appeared at the appropriate point in the tossup (where the "could it be this so early?" hesitation is not an issue) and you still refused to buzz, this would not be the fault of any purported "vagueness"; you just have shallow knowledge/memory of the important parts of this play.

I thought the way Jerry discussed the vagueness of the Bork lead-in in the QUARK thread was an example of a constructive and cogent approach to criticizing this problem. I say this sincerely and without snark: if you want to take apart a particular example of a clue you thought was vague, and explain how you think it could be improved, I'd be interested, but as it stands, I find your criticism unhelpful and problematic (actually, basically, because your criticism itself is too imprecise and vague).
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by theMoMA »

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:"A World Without Collisions" is not a quote pulled at random from this play. That image is the point of a long speech in the play during the long central discussion. It is repeated in the play by more than one character. This metaphor, contrasting the way people never collide on the ballroom floor with the way they collide in social interaction, is the central metaphor for a world free from apartheid in the entire play. If you do not believe me, please google this phrase in connection with this play and see some of the articles you get.
Having read the play, I understand this. It's something that, if you and I were having a conversation about Athol Fugard, I would be able to talk about and comment on. In a game situation, I heard "ballroom dancing," some quote I didn't really attribute any meaning to, and the noise of buzzing while I was wondering "would they really do this that early in a Fugard tossup?"

Maybe vague is the wrong word for what I'm describing, but I think that in this context, it's the best one I can come up with. You define "vague" as "a clue that contains information that would be useful, except for the fact that it is not couched in specific enough or helpful enough language to point directly to the answer." In a game situation, a clue that maps so readily to one answer, like "ballroom dancing," coupled with something that's specific but much less notable, is not usually (in my experience) specific enough to feel confident buzzing on. For a much more egregious example, consider a tossup on Shakespeare whose second line is something like "This author created doomed Italian lovers, one of whom calls himself a 'candle-holder.'" The player is probably too confused about why you'd be saying something so vague yet obvious in the first part to consider whether the second clause was talking about Romeo. I found my experience playing some questions in this set to mirror this experience. Again, I don't know if "vague" is the right term for what I'm talking about, but there's a very specific and very frustrating playing experience that comes with these oblique descriptions of very notable things coming up early in tossups.

I'll reiterate that I don't think it's too productive to linger on one particular tossup, and obviously the example above is much more egregious than anything that came up in the tournament. I hope this is specific enough to be helpful.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by gaurav.kandlikar »

I enjoyed this set. I have no specific points to raise, but I wonder if others were as thrown off by the use of "this reaction" in a tossup on "hydrogenation" and a bonus part on "SN2" as I was? It looks like wikipedia describes both in passing as singular, codified reactions, but I am unconvinced that anyone actually thinks of them as such. If others were indeed as confused as I was, I think this illustrates the importance of using appropriate pronouns that don't confuse players -- all of the clues made sense to me, but the pronouns kept making me second guess.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by Cody »

Eric mentioned being confused by the hydrogenation pronoun as well. FWIW, I've seen SN2 referred to as variously a reaction or a mechanism in many orgo textbooks, so I didn't think it would be confusing.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by Chimango Caracara »

gaurav.kandlikar wrote:I enjoyed this set. I have no specific points to raise, but I wonder if others were as thrown off by the use of "this reaction" in a tossup on "hydrogenation" and a bonus part on "SN2" as I was? It looks like wikipedia describes both in passing as singular, codified reactions, but I am unconvinced that anyone actually thinks of them as such. If others were indeed as confused as I was, I think this illustrates the importance of using appropriate pronouns that don't confuse players -- all of the clues made sense to me, but the pronouns kept making me second guess.
I think both of those were pretty clear from the context. I definitely think the hydrogenation one was fine- I mean it's really just a form of reduction that could be conceived as a specific reaction. Perhaps the SN2 one should have said "this mechanism" but I think that if you know what you're talking about, you're going to get the right answer. Also, it's amusing to imagine people who do not know chemistry throwing out some unimportant quizbowl-famous reaction like Cannizzaro because they think it must be named.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by Victor Prieto »

Chimango Caracara wrote:
gaurav.kandlikar wrote:I enjoyed this set. I have no specific points to raise, but I wonder if others were as thrown off by the use of "this reaction" in a tossup on "hydrogenation" and a bonus part on "SN2" as I was? It looks like wikipedia describes both in passing as singular, codified reactions, but I am unconvinced that anyone actually thinks of them as such. If others were indeed as confused as I was, I think this illustrates the importance of using appropriate pronouns that don't confuse players -- all of the clues made sense to me, but the pronouns kept making me second guess.
I think both of those were pretty clear from the context. I definitely think the hydrogenation one was fine- I mean it's really just a form of reduction that could be conceived as a specific reaction. Perhaps the SN2 one should have said "this mechanism" but I think that if you know what you're talking about, you're going to get the right answer.
ACF Regionals 2013 wrote:The chiral ligand DIPAMP was used with this reaction by William S. Knowles to create an industrial process for the production of L-DOPA. Under conditions that would normally produce this reaction, benzyl ethers are cleaved to produce toluene and an alcohol. The enthalpy change of benzene undergoing this reaction can be used to estimate its resonance energy. The first efficient homogeneous catalyst used for this reaction was Wilkinson's. Another catalyst used for this reaction allows the production of cis-alkenes from alkynes and is Lindlar's catalyst. This reaction that can be catalyzed by Raney nickel when used to increase the amount of saturated fats in vegetable oil. For 10 points, name this reaction that involves adding the lightest element to a bond.
ANSWER: hydrogenation [or hydrogen addition before it is read; prompt on reduction or saturation]

This reaction involves one step, and therefore has no intermediates, and its rate depends on two species. For 10 points each:
[10] Name this reaction by which methyl, primary and many secondary alkyl halides react with nucleophiles.
ANSWER: SN2 reaction [or bimolecular nucleophilic substitution; prompt on partial answer, concerted reaction, associative substitution or interchange mechanism]
[10] This chemist was the first to observe that the SN2 mechanism inverts the stereochemistry of a chiral substrate; as such, the phenomenon is now named for him.
ANSWER: Paul Walden
[10] An SN2 reaction can compete with an E2 reaction, which predominantly takes places when a molecule has this conformation. It is more stable than a related syn- type because it is staggered, rather than eclipsed.
ANSWER: anit-periplanar
I agree with Nick that hydrogenation is definitely clear from the context.

However, I feel that the SN2 question is a bit misleading in its introduction. I agree, chemistry specialists that definitely know what SN2 is will recognize what is going on, but the introduction makes it seem like a specific reaction which involves an SN2 mechanism is going to be described in the following clue. However, simply inserting "this mechanism" or "this reaction mechanism" would narrow it down considerably. Perhaps "this kind of reaction" might eliminate (no pun intended) some confusion as to what the question is asking for, while still reasonably testing chemistry knowledge.

On the whole, I was relatively pleased with the chemistry in this set. I think the chemistry bonuses occasionally had middle or harder parts that were easier than they should've been, but I think I might be biased. I'll point to linear/see-saw/Jahn-Teller effect and vapor pressure/Raoult's law/Margules as examples.

Also, more than one room in Texas buzzed in on the crab pulsar negbait, which was sad :sad: but has already been brought up.
Chimango Caracara wrote:Also, it's amusing to imagine people who do not know chemistry throwing out some unimportant quizbowl-famous reaction like Cannizzaro because they think it must be named.
Yes, yes it is :lol:
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by touchpack »

Wasabi wrote: I agree with Nick that hydrogenation is definitely clear from the context.

However, I feel that the SN2 question is a bit misleading in its introduction. I agree, chemistry specialists that definitely know what SN2 is will recognize what is going on, but the introduction makes it seem like a specific reaction which involves an SN2 mechanism is going to be described in the following clue. However, simply inserting "this mechanism" or "this reaction mechanism" would narrow it down considerably. Perhaps "this kind of reaction" might eliminate (no pun intended) some confusion as to what the question is asking for, while still reasonably testing chemistry knowledge.

On the whole, I was relatively pleased with the chemistry in this set. I think the chemistry bonuses occasionally had middle or harder parts that were easier than they should've been, but I think I might be biased. I'll point to linear/see-saw/Jahn-Teller effect and vapor pressure/Raoult's law/Margules as examples.

Also, more than one room in Texas buzzed in on the crab pulsar negbait, which was sad :sad: but has already been brought up.
Chimango Caracara wrote:Also, it's amusing to imagine people who do not know chemistry throwing out some unimportant quizbowl-famous reaction like Cannizzaro because they think it must be named.
Yes, yes it is :lol:
The combination of "this reaction" and "alkyl halide" (since SN2 reactions can use any leaving group, not just a halide) threw me off for a bit, but I ended up giving the right answer.

Also, I don't think Margules is easy at all--in fact I'd argue it was one of the harder hard parts of the tournament (not that that's a bad thing, since it isn't!): It's not mentioned at all in the Atkins Physical Chemistry textbook, and while it is technically in McQuarrie, it's only mentioned in passing in one of the problems with no explanation given. It is, however, mentioned in McGraw Hill Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics. (I don't have any other relevant textbooks, but 1/3 is pretty rough) I agree that Jahn-Teller is not a very hard hard part, although I don't really have that much of a problem with that either, since most of the chemistry bonuses had a substantially more difficult hard part.

Oh, and since I've made a few somewhat critical posts on the chemistry so far, I feel obligated to say that I greatly enjoyed the chemistry in this tournament.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by Victor Prieto »

touchpack wrote:
Wasabi wrote:On the whole, I was relatively pleased with the chemistry in this set. I think the chemistry bonuses occasionally had middle or harder parts that were easier than they should've been, but I think I might be biased. I'll point to linear/see-saw/Jahn-Teller effect and vapor pressure/Raoult's law/Margules as examples.
The combination of "this reaction" and "alkyl halide" (since SN2 reactions can use any leaving group, not just a halide) threw me off for a bit, but I ended up giving the right answer.

Also, I don't think Margules is easy at all--in fact I'd argue it was one of the harder hard parts of the tournament (not that that's a bad thing, since it isn't!): It's not mentioned at all in the Atkins Physical Chemistry textbook, and while it is technically in McQuarrie, it's only mentioned in passing in one of the problems with no explanation given. It is, however, mentioned in McGraw Hill Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics. (I don't have any other relevant textbooks, but 1/3 is pretty rough) I agree that Jahn-Teller is not a very hard hard part, although I don't really have that much of a problem with that either, since most of the chemistry bonuses had a substantially more difficult hard part.
I should have been clearer, sorry. I was giving the Jahn-Teller effect as an example of an easy hard part, and Raoult's law as an example of a really, really easy medium part. On the other hand, I would be surprised if more than a handful of teams in the entire country would be able to answer Margules correctly. I don't think the first bonus did a very good job of differentiating intermediate chemistry specialists from expert chemistry specialists. Likewise, the second bonus would have been easy for people with a basic understanding of chemistry to convert twenty points, but far too difficult to get the thirty except for some super deep chemistry knowledge. I might be wrong though.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by Cody »

It seems like every time I see a bonus part on Henry's or Raoult's law read, half the time the other law is said. I thought it might work better as a middle part for that reason. (though I agree it is much easier than most other middle parts and I can't say I'd be surprised to see it as an easy part). Likewise with Jahn-Teller, which I thought would be too hard for a middle part [despite its quizbowl saturation]. In general, I tried to give more of a spectrum of easy/middle/hard parts throughout a category rather than attempting to adhere to closely to the same difficulty everywhere (at which I'm not so great). [though there were certainly some failures here, like Johnson noise as a middle part]
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by DumbJaques »

theMoMA wrote: For a tournament whose subtitle called out the rest of the circuit for its poor use of language, this tournament sure had a lot of titulars, sentences without pronouns (or worse, with pronouns referring to things that are not the answer), unrelated clues needlessly strung together with "and," and just about every other linguistic feature of Old Church Quizbowlese. Looking through the packets, the formatting and fonts are all over the place. This tournament had very little polish.
I really don't think it was quite this bad, was it? First of all, I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "a lot of 'titulars.'" The only time I find quizbowl to be stupid with this term is when you use it in a way that points people away from the answer, eg a tossup on The Man Who Was Thursday including a line saying "the titular day of this work. . .," and even then there are confusing and non-confusing ways to use the term. I generally try to avoid quizbowlese of this type and don't at all consider it something I have an issue with, but perhaps you could point to some specific questions?

The "and" thing is a stylistic thing where I disagree with some other people; I know some editors try to make every clue a discrete sentence; I think that sounds choppy and bothers the ear, but there are certainly editors who pull it off with a tremendous amount of success (I'd say Matt Weiner is the best example). There are probably some cases where my style would flow clearer if I edged more toward that end of the spectrum; it's something I'll be trying to keep in mind in the future. But I don't agree that it's necessarily a bad thing.

A few sentences in the set were missing a pronoun in the sense of missing a word due to typographic error. I don't think any sentences were constructed with misleading pronouns. It's not a particularly consequential difference, except that it's not really "Quizbowlese" (which I and the other editors on this set all feel strongly about opposing) as much as my personal failure to proofread properly. It's also obviously excessive to say the set featured "just about every other feature of Old Church Quizbowlese." At the very least, I have a borderline-genocidal intolerance for grammatically incorrect constructions using "in addition to," and I'm pretty sure you aren't going to find a ton of those in the set.
Looking through the packets, the formatting and fonts are all over the place.
I. . . don't think they are? Seriously, it mostly looks fine to me, I'm not sure what you mean - but I suck at technology, so it's entirely possible I did something in the packet construction that caused other computers to render 2013 ACF Regionals in wingdings.

Well, rather, it looks fine to me aside from the demonically-possessed Rice-Columbia packet, which you're free to examine at your own peril. Seriously, while a lot of the problems were the result of not having enough time to proofread, this was the result of not having enough time to contact my Parish priest and secure Vatican approval for an exorcism. But all this particular demon did was capitalize and slightly change the font of random lines in bonuses; I put in a note at the top explaining the situation and telling moderators to ignore it (and specifically, not to scream things for no reason), so teams playing wouldn't even have noticed. Unless, say, a certain member of a narrowly-defined set of Virginians chose to shout those lines at the top of his lungs anyway.*

*For the record I approve this, though.
Chris Ray
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Cheynem
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by Cheynem »

I've looked through a few packets and a lot of them feature questions in different fonts. I bet this is a result of copy and pasting.
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Cody
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by Cody »

There were also at least two packets that oddly had 0.79" margins, while the rest had 1".* Wrt formatting, some bonus sets lacked numbering (but no tossup sets, which is the actual important thing). That said, the actual 'formatting'/fonts of questions is really not a huge deal and the font thing is actually very easily fixed (with a ctrl-a > change font). Having read the set, I don't feel there was a lot of quizbowlese, nor was there any instance where I felt I needed to correct for an ambiguous or incorrect pronoun. Certainly, I used constructions like "a transformation described by this non-person adjective ... that transformation described by this adjective ... That transformation ... this type of random variable ... this type of distribution ... For 10 points, give this term," which technically lacks a pronoun in every sentence, but I don't feel that affects the ability of people to remember what the question is looking for, and it is properly self-referential.

That's not to say there weren't problems--I felt I had to pause every other game or so to figure out missing or extraneous words, which could obviously be improved.

*I can just barely view packets with 1" margins side-by-side on my laptop.
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Re: ACF Regionals 2013 General Discussion

Post by kayli »

Minor quibbles: I just want to say that I think ACF should have had better control over the packet situation for this tournament. In the future, I think it would be best if the packets were sent out a day before instead of 30 minutes before the start. Also, the tournament looked like it probably should be edited better. Some moderators were complaining about having to correct wording on the fly, and some questions clearly just showed no regards for cohesion or style (most notable example is the tossup on "ocean acidification" where the phrase "this process" was repeated so much that it took up 20/138 of the words in the tossup). Additionally, there is no real excuse for there not being enough bonuses in a packet if you just number the bonuses in each packet. Half were not (including the 2 packets that started with 19 bonuses). I think this is just common practice, and this affected 3/8 rooms in one round at the Chicago site. My advice to future tournaments is to number your bonuses and make sure you get things done on time so you aren't touching up on packets which may have been needed.
Kay, Chicago.

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