THE thread for NAQT SCT discussion

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Post by Matt Weiner » Tue Feb 14, 2006 2:22 am

DanTheClam wrote: NAQT seems to be doing a booming high school business, and they honestly do a decent job with it. But their product for college teams has clearly taken a huge step down, and it might be time for them to hang up the hat. Their writers are out of touch with reasonable college distributions, question lengths, question difficulties, and simple guidelines like how to write a bonus. They don't want to be the next CBI.
Oh yes they do.
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Post by suds1000 » Tue Feb 14, 2006 2:44 am

I apologize for sort-of hijacking this thread, but Jon Pinyan has made several points about our SCT to which I am compelled to reply:
jonpin wrote:The packet also didn't run out on either of our D2 teams. Examining the stats, they frequently heard 18-21 tossups, though they did have some incidents of 13 or 15 (and I see another game in D2 which only got to 12).
While on the subject of other things I noted about the UIUC sectionals, there was a D2 house team despite the fact that this left them asking people to staff on byes, and from what I can tell there was not a tiebreaker to determine whether Truman B or Wash U B, both 3-4, advanced to the upper bracket.
As far as that tiebreaker goes, I apologize, as that oversight was my fault. I completely forgot about the all-ties-being-broken-by-tiebreaker-match rules (we instead used points per game). However, I wish you or a member of your team had brought this to my attention at that point, when I could have actually done something about it, instead of choosing to complain about it now when all I can do is apologize.

We stated explicitly in our tournament announcement that, to be a "competent" moderator, one must be able to get through at least 20 tossups in any given round. We asked each team who was bringing a moderator if he/she would be able to do so, and each one assured me that he/she would. All of the moderators who were either members of the UIUC team or Stan Jastrzebski did manage this, while a couple of the guest moderators did not. When we discovered that one of the Division II moderators had only been getting through 13-15 tossups per round, we removed him from his moderating position and instead rotated all of the Division I moderators through that room on each of their byes. We apologize for any inconvenience or strange/low game scores in which this may have resulted, although frankly we're not sure what else we could have done.

As for asking bye round teams to scorekeep, a number of teams e-mailed me after registration had closed, basically begging to play in our SCT. We may have made a mistake by letting them register after the field and schedule had been determined, but our intention was to encourage greater participation on the circuit. While I didn't mention these factors at the team meeting in the morning, I assumed that teams would help keep score out of the goodness of their own hearts, and that they would understand that staffing can be a problem sometimes, and that they wouldn't call us out on it. I guess I was wrong.

Incidentally, Jon, I didn't appreciate your busting into the room in the middle of the finals match that was being played between Michigan and Chicago...I felt this was inappropriate behavior, especially given that it was in order to collect an individual scoring prize that wasn't even yours. I'm not trying to be a jerk, but please refrain from doing this in the future.

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Post by Chris Frankel » Tue Feb 14, 2006 3:03 am

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:As an NAQT editor myself, I come neither to defend nor attack last weekend's tournament, but to point out that criticizing the NAQT distribution and the SCT set simultaneously may tend to confuse matters. Love it or hate it, the NAQT question distribution -- which happens to devote less space to such categories as philosophy and mythology than does ACF -- has been fixed for some years now. Last year's SCT was, I believe, better received than this year's, but it featured exactly the same distribution. My point, I guess, is that inasmuch as this discussion is meant to be constructive criticism rather than post-tournament spleen venting, saying "I dislike the distribution" is unlikely to have any effect. (Again, I'm not defending the NAQT distribution, but trying to steer the discussion in useful directions.) On the other hand, saying things like "question X was poor, for the following reasons" might actually be helpful, since NAQT writers and editors who read this forum might be led, through a reasoned and non-inflammatory analysis of questions which are widely perceived as flawed, to reconsider certain question-writing habits which they might not have thought were objectionable.

Working as always to bring sweetness and light to the forum,

Andrew
I think the complicating factor is the always elusive question of what exactly comprises the NAQT distribution, which we laymen do not know and can only guess in the dark beyond something like "there's a lot more geography and trash and a lot less RMP, social science, and fine arts." I don't see it as productive to dredge up that debate again, though it might not unreasonable to ask if the distribution is done by a per packet breakdown or by having a quota for the set and semi-randomly sprinkling it out across the individual packets. I also think it would be helpful to, if willing, offer any transparency as far as what the criteria for classifying questions inside the distribution are, should any exist.

That said, my very simplified breakdown of what needs to be done within that framework (at least for tossups) is to focus on densely inserting academic clues relevant to the subject/category at hand in a pyramidal form. A good tossup on an author or artist should name a number of famous works, discuss specific influences, or list stylistic movements and affiliations associated with him. A good tossup on a literary work should offer specific characters, settings, and events from the plot and discuss the significance of the work in subsequent criticisms or inspired literary works. A tossup on a philosophical concept should specifically describe how significant philosophers have introduced or interpreted it. A tossup on a musical composition should specifically talk about individual movements, unique or unusual musical traits and settings, and texts or other compositions that offered a verifiable inspiration for its creation. Basically, I'm saying that the standard for quality questions seems to center on the ability to make them dense with uniquely identifying, concrete clues on information that one would be expected to encounter doing academic research on the subjects. One of my big complaints with NAQT tossups is that the above has been the exception rather than the rule, which seems to consist of vague, meandering clues on biographical information, famous quotations, trash references, or "did you know?" trivia.

To randomly pull out two examples from both ends from my weekend persual of what questions I did get to see:

I'll cite as well-written the tossups on Igor Stravinsky and Richard Sheridan; both of which were filled with specific, uniquely identifying clues that provided insight into their influences, creative colaborations, and works; and did so in a pyramidal manner from more obscure clues (that I felt I learned something interesting from) to more recognizable ones that would allow the recall aspect of the game to begin taking place. Would it be problematic to emulate these tossups as the norm?

I'll cite as poorly written and needing to be stricken the stylistic content of tossups on Mark Twain and the aforementioned Dream of Gerontius. The tossup on Mark Twain went on and on for several lines about the same tidbits of trivia about his non-academically significant family members and only in the giveaway began to mention the author's creative output, jumping right into his most famous works to create a buzzer race. The Dream of Gerontius rambled on for several lines with vague quotes, and even after the giveaway contained no information about the musical aspects, or even a summary of the defining text set to the music, which is baffling for such a long and complicated work that offers a lot of potential clues to choose from.

At this point it bodes asking whether the academic circuit standards I've mentioned or the more trivia-centric ones seen in the complaint-inspiring tossups are also considered immoveable fixtures of the NAQT question-writing process (at least regarding the academically-oriented material), and if not, to what degree efforts are being taken to solve the problem.
"They sometimes get fooled by the direction a question is going to take, and that's intentional," said Reid. "The players on these teams are so good that 90 percent of the time they could interrupt the question and give the correct answer if the questions didn't take those kinds of turns. That wouldn't be fun to watch, so every now and then as I design these suckers, I say to myself, 'Watch this!' and wait 'til we're on camera. I got a lot of dirty looks this last tournament."

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Post by cvdwightw » Tue Feb 14, 2006 3:10 am

Rothlover wrote:examples, Jerry? I mean, thusfar, I personally count 10 D1 individuals with more powers than any TEAM in the south sct (just based on whats in or known), but I don't know if that is par or above or below par.
I too second the call for examples. There are obviously players who upped their power numbers quite a bit (I count myself as one, going from 1 in 12 rounds to 16 in 15 rounds), but I don't know of any teams with the exact team composition from last year. Maybe I'm looking at the wrong sectionals results.

Some powers stats are probably compromised by the number of games played and tossups heard. However, the top team in the south power-wise had 17 powers in 248 tossups, meaning a power every 15 or so questions. By contrast, the stats show Matt Weiner with 41 powers in 283 tossups for one power every 7 or so questions. Several other players beat the one power every 15 tossup mark.

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Post by alkrav112 » Tue Feb 14, 2006 3:43 am

The packet also didn't run out on either of our D2 teams. Examining the stats, they frequently heard 18-21 tossups, though they did have some incidents of 13 or 15 (and I see another game in D2 which only got to 12).
Yeah, that was us (Div II, Michigan A), first round... we buzzed on all twelve of those tossups, hit nine, negged three, and gave up two to the opposing team. We were really hitting our stride late in that match, and it was quite upsetting to realize that we were only getting 6 tossups per half. I would be more upset if it had seriously altered our stats on the day - so much so, for example, that we were to be discounted from Nationals. Thankfully, that's a non-issue, and the tournament director(s) were very quick to fix the moderating problem, for which I am very grateful.

Overall, I had a beef with a couple of music questions (which I'm pretty sure I'm not allowed to discuss), and one science question in particular where I gave the commonly accepted English name for a certain thing, and while the NAQT set wanted the Latin, I was not prompted even though the clue had not yet mentioned the English name (again, not sure I can mention this, but those of you who played will probably pick up on which tossup this was).

I personally enjoyed the easy trash, but I don't know how much different it was for Div. I.

That is all... for now.
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Post by DanTheClam » Tue Feb 14, 2006 8:47 am

Actually, our team is a perfect example of Jerry's claim about the doubling of powers. We had 3 of the same people as last year, and the fourth from both years contributed about the same PPG. I think everybody on it had approximately twice as many powers as last year. Powers did seem to be noticeably easier to come by.

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Post by grapesmoker » Tue Feb 14, 2006 8:57 am

cvdwightw wrote:
Rothlover wrote:examples, Jerry? I mean, thusfar, I personally count 10 D1 individuals with more powers than any TEAM in the south sct (just based on whats in or known), but I don't know if that is par or above or below par.
I too second the call for examples. There are obviously players who upped their power numbers quite a bit (I count myself as one, going from 1 in 12 rounds to 16 in 15 rounds), but I don't know of any teams with the exact team composition from last year. Maybe I'm looking at the wrong sectionals results.
No problem. Check out the stats for the East SCT from last year; almost every team that played this year had something like 20 powers more. Look at the Northeast stats from last year and notice how many more powers were scored this year. I think it's pretty much the same across the board. The questions were easier and the power marks more extended this year.
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Post by yoda4554 » Tue Feb 14, 2006 11:20 am

There seems to be some disagreement over whether the trash was too hard or too easy. I'm not sure what definitions of difficulty are being used. Certainly trash questions will have to be more obscure in relation to the field of popular culture to maintain the same average point conversion across the field; it's not called "popular" culture for nothing. I would understand why the (relative minority, I would assume) of teams that know little pop culture would find it more difficult to work up a decent conversion of pop culture. To look at ACF, for example, I personally thought the trash questions (at least the tossups) were markedly easier than the rest of the set, but the topics of those questions probably have a similar relevance to their particular subfields. That said, the Sayles question was certainly too hard, and a couple others were in that same boat.

Also, I'd like to nominate the Circle of Fifths question as the worst of the tournament. No reference to what the question wanted until the end-- yet at the same time, anyone who knew any music theory at all was thinking that that's what they were generally talking about from the very beginning.

A couple good questions that I wanted to cite. I liked the Huxley bonus, since with most PLEASE MAKE FUN OF ME BECAUSE I SPEAK NEITHER LATIN NOR ENGLISH of the form "Name these three works by this guy, one of which is really famous and two of which are not" all of the well-known buzz-word clues for that famous work are trotted out, probably to limit the number of people who get 0 on the bonus. That style of writing, though, gets rid of what I feel is the most important distinction to be made on this kind of question-- separating the people who have read the famous work from those who haven't. The Brave New World part of that bonus didn't just give away those 10 points; actually reading the book would have legitimately helped.

I also thought the "Mahna Mahna" question was very well-written, as was what I heard of the Chekhov and Lolita questions. [/i]

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Post by Rothlover » Tue Feb 14, 2006 1:28 pm

grapesmoker wrote:
cvdwightw wrote:
Rothlover wrote:examples, Jerry? I mean, thusfar, I personally count 10 D1 individuals with more powers than any TEAM in the south sct (just based on whats in or known), but I don't know if that is par or above or below par.
I too second the call for examples. There are obviously players who upped their power numbers quite a bit (I count myself as one, going from 1 in 12 rounds to 16 in 15 rounds), but I don't know of any teams with the exact team composition from last year. Maybe I'm looking at the wrong sectionals results.
No problem. Check out the stats for the East SCT from last year; almost every team that played this year had something like 20 powers more. Look at the Northeast stats from last year and notice how many more powers were scored this year. I think it's pretty much the same across the board. The questions were easier and the power marks more extended this year.
Is there a place where these NE stats are available online? I thought only the preliminary post was made.
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Post by NatusRoma » Tue Feb 14, 2006 1:45 pm

Rothlover wrote: Is there a place where these NE stats are available online? I thought only the preliminary post was made.
The team statistics have been sent to the attending schools, and will be available online within a day or so. Due to a few serious scorekeeper errors, the individual statistics need to be revised, but will be released in a couple of days. Sorry for the delay.

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Post by vandyhawk » Tue Feb 14, 2006 2:33 pm

A couple factual notes - I agree with that earlier post about Purkinje cells being in the cerebellum. Also, was Odoacer really an Ostrogoth? I answered "none" for that part since I thought he was just kind of an amalgam of Germanic tribes, and was overthrown by an Ostrogoth.

After looking back through the questions, I actaully thought the trash tossups were fine. Plenty of modern stuff for people like me, who follow recent sports, tv, and music, rather than mostly old stuff like at a typical trash tournament, to answer. Some of the bonuses were out there, but I'm sure they were answerable by some teams. I actually think that the Full House question had the worst lead in of the set - "Jodie Sweetin and Candace Cameron," at which point at least six of the seven people playing that round (I was scorekeeping during a bye) tried to buzz in.

In response to Andrew's post about the distribution, even if the overall distribution isn't going to change, is there any reason we can't push for changes within a category? Getting back to mythology, I remember there being much more Norse, Egyptian, etc. in previous years, but having a total of zero tossups and 3 bonuses (two after #20) be non-Greco-Roman this year just doesn't seem right. Also, can we request more philosophy like the pretty good Kierkegaard bonus rather than a lot of ancient stuff? Really, just the whole RMP category needed more diversity, which didn't seem like as much of an issue in the past couple years.

To throw out some more good examples, I thought the Eakins tossup was nice and full of solid clues in a pyramidal fashion, though The Swimming Hole was maybe a bit easy to still get power. Mussorgsky and Oscar Wilde are a couple others that struck me as well-written and containing a lot of academic clues.

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Post by AndySaunders » Tue Feb 14, 2006 3:14 pm

cvdwightw wrote: I too second the call for examples. There are obviously players who upped their power numbers quite a bit (I count myself as one, going from 1 in 12 rounds to 16 in 15 rounds), but I don't know of any teams with the exact team composition from last year. Maybe I'm looking at the wrong sectionals results.
While the 2006 Canada stats aren't up yet, I offer the following Division 2 examples, from my own stats:

In 2005, 4 powers in 252 tossups heard.
In 2006, 22 powers in 315 tossups heard.

My team had exactly the same composition both years (that being myself and only myself)

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Post by cvdwightw » Tue Feb 14, 2006 3:18 pm

yoda4554 wrote:Also, I'd like to nominate the Circle of Fifths question as the worst of the tournament. No reference to what the question wanted until the end-- yet at the same time, anyone who knew any music theory at all was thinking that that's what they were generally talking about from the very beginning.
I agree. It took quite a bit of self-restraint not to neg with "B" after "F, C, G, D, A, E" and anticipating a clue of "and this." Luckily for me, I waited until they said "and B" to become completely confused.

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Post by Important Bird Area » Tue Feb 14, 2006 3:42 pm

was Odoacer really an Ostrogoth?
I haven't seen this question, since I was moderating in D2 all day, but the short answer is "no."

"...Odovacer and his brother Onulph. Their father, Edeco, is thought to have been a Hun, and their mother was a member of the probably Germanic people called the Sciri... In the 460s Edeco and Onulph were in the Balkans, leading the Sciri in a war with the Ostrogoths, both independently and in alliance with the Sueves. In the very same decade Odovacer is first recorded, leading an army of Saxons in Gaul." -Roger Collins, Early Medieval Europe 300-1000, p. 103.

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Post by AndySaunders » Tue Feb 14, 2006 4:22 pm

vandyhawk wrote:I actually think that the Full House question had the worst lead in of the set - "Jodie Sweetin and Candace Cameron," at which point at least six of the seven people playing that round (I was scorekeeping during a bye) tried to buzz in.
I also agree on this one. After getting the tossup at that point on my room, I mentioned that I figured that the tossup was going to fall at that point in 90% of game rooms across North America, and a good 50% of those on a buzzer race.

I also found that a couple of tossups had their opening clues gleaned from important facts that have come up during Final Jeopardy! over the past 12 months (i.e. Lucretia Garfield)

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Post by MikeWormdog » Tue Feb 14, 2006 6:48 pm

Glad someone mentioned the incorrect Odoacer bonus part--for those who missed it, it said something like "given the barbarian, name his tribe" with choices Ostrogoth, Visigoth, Vandal, Hun, or none of the above. the Three others were right (I think they were Theoderic, Geiseric, someone else--a none of the above). Could have been an interesting bonus had the answers been correct.

As for the questions, I don't know if they were really any worse/better than previous years or easier/harder. I think they were roughly the same...which might explain why some of the scores were higher--hopefully people are getting better. I think the power marks may have been a little later...perhaps NAQT's just putting more clues in the questions (my hope).

One thing better about this year I thought was that there were more lit questions--I recall thinking that there weren't very many of them last year. Though maybe that led to fewer academic questions in other disciplines...

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Post by jonpin » Tue Feb 14, 2006 6:58 pm

suds1000 wrote:As far as that tiebreaker goes, I apologize, as that oversight was my fault. I completely forgot about the all-ties-being-broken-by-tiebreaker-match rules (we instead used points per game). However, I wish you or a member of your team had brought this to my attention at that point, when I could have actually done something about it, instead of choosing to complain about it now when all I can do is apologize.

As for asking bye round teams to scorekeep, a number of teams e-mailed me after registration had closed, basically begging to play in our SCT. We may have made a mistake by letting them register after the field and schedule had been determined, but our intention was to encourage greater participation on the circuit. While I didn't mention these factors at the team meeting in the morning, I assumed that teams would help keep score out of the goodness of their own hearts, and that they would understand that staffing can be a problem sometimes, and that they wouldn't call us out on it. I guess I was wrong.

Incidentally, Jon, I didn't appreciate your busting into the room in the middle of the finals match that was being played between Michigan and Chicago...I felt this was inappropriate behavior, especially given that it was in order to collect an individual scoring prize that wasn't even yours. I'm not trying to be a jerk, but please refrain from doing this in the future.
It's not a hijacking at all. The opening post states that TDs and the running of the events is fair game in this thread.

First the tiebreaker. I realize that bringing it up now does not accomplish anything. However, between a TD (who has promised as part of the bid to host that he understands and will follow NAQT rules, including those regarding tiebreakers) with years of experience and a team of three freshman whose combined tournament experience can be counted on one hand, I think the responsibility should lay with the former. I am not even sure that they were aware a tie existed, as I have not had a chance to ask them that specifically; if they did not know of a tie, asking them to fix your mistake is ludicrous. If I had known about the situation, I would've said something, however I did not find out about it until returning home, partially because stats were only posted once over the course of the tournament, and then far removed from where D1 teams were ever playing, and D2 weren't even split by division.

Next, you entirely dodged my point. It wasn't that you were asking teams to staff on byes. I gladly scorekept both rounds that I was on bye, though other members of my team decided simply to watch our D2 teams or otherwise take a break. What I noted was that there was a house team, and that left you short on staff. Again, this ties in with the rules you promised to follow when submitting a bid to host. Once you realized that you would be short on staff, it was your obligation to withdraw the house team so as to keep the event staffed.

On your last point, I plead no contest. My team was tired, as the tourney had gone longer than we thought it would, it being 7pm or so already, we had lost six in a row, and wanted to go home. As my teammates were starting to put away our buzzer systems, I stood outside the room, waiting for a pause in the action. After several minutes, I slipped in in between questions, quietly sitting down. I note that you had advertised the "exciting game" that would be taking place, so you can't take exception to me walking into the room. When there was a break in the action, I asked if we could get our things and go home. I figured there would be specific awards for each position, and it would take 30 seconds. If I seemed a little edgy or impatient, my apologies, but we'd been there for almost 11 hours, and did not want to sit around in the hallway for half an hour waiting for you to finish the final.
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Post by matt979 » Tue Feb 14, 2006 7:14 pm

I don't speak for NAQT (a world in which I spoke for NAQT on question content would be just bizarre) but I do have this year's SCT D1 set handy. Neither of the lists below is exhaustive, nor should the relative size suggest anything. Rather, I glanced through until I'd found some reasonable amount of what I was looking for.

Since someone suggested a dearth of philosophy questions, here's a partial list of philosophical content included in this weekend's set (note that each item below comes from a distinct question, so no triple-counting of bonuses; while not every item below is necessarily on the answer line, each is pretty central to the question it came from):
Epicurus
existentialism
Kierkegaard
Mill
Peripatetic School
Popper
Schopenauer
Wittgenstein
(and some others)

Since someone suggested a dearth of military history questions, here's another partial list (same disclaimer as above):
Chaerone
Chancellorsville
Doolittle
Gates
Janissaries
Lafayette
Omaha Beach (D-Day)
Maginot
Manzikert
Ridgway
San Juan Hill
Tannenberg
Trafalgar
Zama
Zapata
(and some others)

Obviously the lists above are only that, lists. The question to which a given item corresonds may have been a fantastic question about that thing, or an unbelievably facile question that failed to reward people with expertiseon the matter. As a semi-frequent writer of NAQT questions, I'll echo Andrew Yaphe's urging that the feedback focus on what was wrong (or right) with any particular question.

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Post by Susan » Tue Feb 14, 2006 7:16 pm

He probably can take exception to your walking in during the middle of the game, and the "break in the action" was in the middle of our bonus. I'm just saying.

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Post by Rothlover » Tue Feb 14, 2006 7:20 pm

jonpin wrote:
suds1000 wrote:As far as that tiebreaker goes, I apologize, as that oversight was my fault. I completely forgot about the all-ties-being-broken-by-tiebreaker-match rules (we instead used points per game). However, I wish you or a member of your team had brought this to my attention at that point, when I could have actually done something about it, instead of choosing to complain about it now when all I can do is apologize.

As for asking bye round teams to scorekeep, a number of teams e-mailed me after registration had closed, basically begging to play in our SCT. We may have made a mistake by letting them register after the field and schedule had been determined, but our intention was to encourage greater participation on the circuit. While I didn't mention these factors at the team meeting in the morning, I assumed that teams would help keep score out of the goodness of their own hearts, and that they would understand that staffing can be a problem sometimes, and that they wouldn't call us out on it. I guess I was wrong.

Incidentally, Jon, I didn't appreciate your busting into the room in the middle of the finals match that was being played between Michigan and Chicago...I felt this was inappropriate behavior, especially given that it was in order to collect an individual scoring prize that wasn't even yours. I'm not trying to be a jerk, but please refrain from doing this in the future.
It's not a hijacking at all. The opening post states that TDs and the running of the events is fair game in this thread.


On your last point, I plead no contest. My team was tired, as the tourney had gone longer than we thought it would, it being 7pm or so already, we had lost six in a row, and wanted to go home. As my teammates were starting to put away our buzzer systems, I stood outside the room, waiting for a pause in the action. After several minutes, I slipped in in between questions, quietly sitting down. I note that you had advertised the "exciting game" that would be taking place, so you can't take exception to me walking into the room. When there was a break in the action, I asked if we could get our things and go home. I figured there would be specific awards for each position, and it would take 30 seconds. If I seemed a little edgy or impatient, my apologies, but we'd been there for almost 11 hours, and did not want to sit around in the hallway for half an hour waiting for you to finish the final.
I heard this rumor that occasionally tournaments run until 7, can you confirm or deny this?
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Post by dtaylor4 » Tue Feb 14, 2006 7:29 pm

jonpin wrote:Next, you entirely dodged my point. It wasn't that you were asking teams to staff on byes. I gladly scorekept both rounds that I was on bye, though other members of my team decided simply to watch our D2 teams or otherwise take a break. What I noted was that there was a house team, and that left you short on staff. Again, this ties in with the rules you promised to follow when submitting a bid to host. Once you realized that you would be short on staff, it was your obligation to withdraw the house team so as to keep the event staffed.
Since this deals with the team I was on, I feel the need to respond. Dude, please note that the team was Div 2, where we did NOT have an automatic bid to ICT. All of the other freshmen that were available that day were working the tournament, so just shut up about it. Plus, it's not as if anyone can predict the number of teams that will want to come to a tournament. If you have found a method of doing this, then please inform me of such a method.

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Post by jagluski » Tue Feb 14, 2006 7:45 pm

DaGeneral wrote:
jonpin wrote:Next, you entirely dodged my point. It wasn't that you were asking teams to staff on byes. I gladly scorekept both rounds that I was on bye, though other members of my team decided simply to watch our D2 teams or otherwise take a break. What I noted was that there was a house team, and that left you short on staff. Again, this ties in with the rules you promised to follow when submitting a bid to host. Once you realized that you would be short on staff, it was your obligation to withdraw the house team so as to keep the event staffed.
Since this deals with the team I was on, I feel the need to respond. Dude, please note that the team was Div 2, where we did NOT have an automatic bid to ICT. All of the other freshmen that were available that day were working the tournament, so just shut up about it. Plus, it's not as if anyone can predict the number of teams that will want to come to a tournament. If you have found a method of doing this, then please inform me of such a method.
Let's do some fact-checking before we get so upset(and please note, I'm not trying to get involved in this...all this post is intended to do is make sure the facts are straight because you've done a nice job of distorting them to fit your purposes)


1) Direct quote from the NAQT bid form(which was clearly not followed at this sectional, right or wrong, good or bad)

"Hosts may not enter house teams if doing so would leave insufficient staff for each room to have two game officials."

2) Also, your statement "no one can predict the number of teams that will want to come" is a blatant lie and if not that, it's irrelevant. Sudheer earlier said on this board "As for asking bye round teams to scorekeep, a number of teams e-mailed me after registration had closed, basically begging to play in our SCT. We may have made a mistake by letting them register after the field and schedule had been determined, but our intention was to encourage greater participation on the circuit. "

Here is a post from Sudheer on the Yahoo board 1/31:

"Due to staff number issues, registration for the 2006 Midwest SCT at
the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is now closed. Here
are the tentative numbers that I have:

D1: 9 D2: 13"

It sounds like 22 would have been a pretty good prediction to me. If you had staff issues with 22 teams, that's one thing. However, he already proclaimed staff issues with 22 teams and the sectional ended with with 25 teams. Again, I'm not disagreeing with you neccessarily that your D2 team shouldn't have played...but the staff issues with more teams could definitely have been predicted.

3) Your D2 team not having an auto-bid is your(and by your, I mean UIUC ABT) choice.

4) And you can predict the number of teams that will come to a tournament...that's why teams register for them and don't just show up.

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Post by Captain Sinico » Tue Feb 14, 2006 7:58 pm

jonpin wrote:On your last point, I plead no contest. My team was tired, as the tourney had gone longer than we thought it would, it being 7pm or so already, we had lost six in a row, and wanted to go home. As my teammates were starting to put away our buzzer systems, I stood outside the room, waiting for a pause in the action. After several minutes, I slipped in in between questions, quietly sitting down. I note that you had advertised the "exciting game" that would be taking place, so you can't take exception to me walking into the room. When there was a break in the action, I asked if we could get our things and go home. I figured there would be specific awards for each position, and it would take 30 seconds. If I seemed a little edgy or impatient, my apologies, but we'd been there for almost 11 hours, and did not want to sit around in the hallway for half an hour waiting for you to finish the final.
You know what? This is absolute crap. What you did was to willfully interrupt the finals of the tournament in the middle of a question so you could collect a third-place scoring award on someone else's behalf about fifteen minutes before you otherwise would have. You weren't waiting in the hallway, unless you chose not to wait where you were supposed to (which has nothing to do with me) nor were you waiting for half an hour, nor was it 7 PM. There are exactly no circumstances in which you should be even opening the door of a room while a match is going on, and you know that, and knew that at the time. You further knew exactly how long you had to wait, because I personally told you that not five minutes before you decided to do what you did. Your stunt had the secondary effect of completely nullifying the awards ceremony; thanks for that.
What you did is positively inexcusable and you should be ashamed of yourself. While the other issues you've raised are valid and constituted (minor) failings on our part as host, to my mind the worst decision anyone made that day was to let you do what you did there. Had this been my tournament to direct, there's no way you get that award.

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Post by grapesmoker » Tue Feb 14, 2006 8:01 pm

If NAQT wants to retain its respectability as a serious academic format, I think it needs to do a couple of things to improve its questions.
  • The three-line tossup needs to be excised from all sets. It's lazy and totally unacceptable, since it eliminates almost any hope of pyramidality from the question. It is no longer acceptable to put these questions in the back of the packet, since good teams being read to by good moderators will routinely finish the packet with time left to spare.
  • Useless information, including stupid anecdotes, irrelevant quotes, and vague clues need to go. There were way too many of these in the last set.
  • Far too many questions had what amounted to the giveaway in the first clue. Most extended the power mark way, way too far. Power should be given for superlative knowledge; it is simply comical to give power for a tossup on Iran-Contra after "Boland Amendment" or on Masaccio after "Holy Trinity."
  • Excess verbiage needs to be trimmed in favor of actual clues. NAQT has what I consider an unfortunate penchant for enfolding linguistic puzzles into its questions; witness the tossup on the Long Telegram (which is terrible for reasons outlined above) with its "brevity" clue. These verbal games serve no useful purpose that I can see.
  • Tossups absolutely must have pronouns and those pronouns need to refer to the answer. I don't want to spend the whole question trying to solve the stupid riddle. There isn't enough time for that.
This isn't meant to be an exhaustive list or a critique of specific questions, although I can offer examples of what I mean if need be. These are suggestions that I think NAQT would do well to take on board. I don't believe that any of the things I mentioned above are outside the norm of today's invitationals and ACF tournaments or that they are particularly controversial.

Lastly, I want to belabor a point I've already made, which is that NAQT is not very good, whether by design or otherwise, at communicating to the playing public. If the writers do in fact read these forums, I think it's only fair to ask them to respond publicly to the concerns expressed herein. At the very least, it would be nice of them to say whether they are going to adopt these suggestions or not instead of keeping everyone guessing until the next SCT.
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Post by Rothlover » Tue Feb 14, 2006 8:26 pm

Jerry, your points are all right-on in my opinion, but instead of having lots of individual people state their problems with the status quo of the format, or singly pushing an ultimatum on said format, wouldn't it be better to gather together a group of current players whose opinions are respected and have them come up with a consensus list of problems, so that it is something that can't be written off? It could be a Declaration of Sentiments of sorts, I can even check if Frederick Douglass is available.
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Post by grapesmoker » Tue Feb 14, 2006 8:33 pm

Rothlover wrote:Jerry, your points are all right-on in my opinion, but instead of having lots of individual people state their problems with the status quo of the format, or singly pushing an ultimatum on said format, wouldn't it be better to gather together a group of current players whose opinions are respected and have them come up with a consensus list of problems, so that it is something that can't be written off? It could be a Declaration of Sentiments of sorts, I can even check if Frederick Douglass is available.
I support that in principle and I'd be happy to sign my name to such a thing. But it's silly to pretend that this consesus doesn't already exist; I and many other players have repeatedly pointed out these issues, not just in reference to NAQT but in general. I suspect that whether or not we all put our names on a single sheet of paper will not determine in and of itself whether we can be written off.

One more suggestion: I think NAQT should consider lengthening the halves from 9 minutes to 10 or even 11. Four more minutes of playing time per round translates into a mere extra hour for a 15-round tournament, but could easily accomodate 26 5-line tossups, which I think would lead to better questions.
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Post by matt979 » Tue Feb 14, 2006 8:57 pm

Jerry's last paragraph specifically inspired me to respond partly from the vantage point of an individual semi-frequent NAQT writer, but mostly from someone who's just enough aware of what NAQT "is" (and how heterogeneous it is) to believe strongly that some criticisms of the organization are inapt.

This post contains my own thoughts, without benefit of conferring with other NAQT members. The standard "I do not speak for NAQT" disclaimer is easy to fall back on and perhaps deceptive, since rightly or wrongly I realize many people will take parts of this post to be an NAQT stance. I'll keep in mind the problems of the disclaimer as best I can; it should be obvious from context where other NAQT members might be expected to share my sentiment and where there's no reason in particular to expect them also to think what I think.
grapesmoker wrote:If NAQT wants to retain its respectability as a serious academic format, I think it needs to do a couple of things to improve its questions.
  • The three-line tossup needs to be excised from all sets. It's lazy and totally unacceptable, since it eliminates almost any hope of pyramidality from the question. It is no longer acceptable to put these questions in the back of the packet, since good teams being read to by good moderators will routinely finish the packet with time left to spare.
As far as I know, placement of questions within a given NAQT set is essentially (pseudo)random; at least, the process is automatic. A person editing a packet or set could not dictate "this should be tossup (N)." Call it a bug or a feature but it moots everything after the second sentence of that line item.

Different NAQT writers have vastly different opinions of what one can('t) accomplish with a three-line tossup (or a seven-line tossup). I think it's surprisingly easy to (inadvertently) write a bad seven-line tossup, but the point is that all such styles are capable of producing great questions yet also require an amount of diligence, such that blanket statements don't seem useful.
grapesmoker wrote:
  • Useless information, including stupid anecdotes, irrelevant quotes, and vague clues need to go. There were way too many of these in the last set.
  • Far too many questions had what amounted to the giveaway in the first clue. Most extended the power mark way, way too far. Power should be given for superlative knowledge; it is simply comical to give power for a tossup on Iran-Contra after "Boland Amendment" or on Masaccio after "Holy Trinity."
There seems to be a school of thought that every quote is irrelevant and every anecdote stupid. Since I suspect that questions with quotes and anecdotes will be submitted to NAQT for the foreseeable future, let's set that argument aside (analogous to what Yaphe mentioned about topic distribution). It would be good for quiz-bowl, I think, to see more thorough discussion of the difference between good and bad questions that happen to contain quotes and anecdotes.

As for the Boland Amendment, I'd certainly power that as a player, though I was 12 when Iran-Contra broke. There are college freshmen who weren't born yet. I imagine there are Watergate questions with early clues that a 40-something would find laughable.
grapesmoker wrote:
  • Excess verbiage needs to be trimmed in favor of actual clues. NAQT has what I consider an unfortunate penchant for enfolding linguistic puzzles into its questions; witness the tossup on the Long Telegram (which is terrible for reasons outlined above) with its "brevity" clue. These verbal games serve no useful purpose that I can see.
The first sentence of that line item probably applies to every quiz tournament ever run. You and I personally will have to agree to disagree about the appropriateness of linguistic puzzles. I rather liked the "brevity" clue in Long Telegram (didn't write it, not especially inclined to look up who did).
grapesmoker wrote: This isn't meant to be an exhaustive list or a critique of specific questions, although I can offer examples of what I mean if need be. These are suggestions that I think NAQT would do well to take on board. I don't believe that any of the things I mentioned above are outside the norm of today's invitationals and ACF tournaments or that they are particularly controversial.

Lastly, I want to belabor a point I've already made, which is that NAQT is not very good, whether by design or otherwise, at communicating to the playing public. If the writers do in fact read these forums, I think it's only fair to ask them to respond publicly to the concerns expressed herein. At the very least, it would be nice of them to say whether they are going to adopt these suggestions or not instead of keeping everyone guessing until the next SCT.
By consensus, NAQT membership tends to default to one person speaking on NAQT's behalf. That reduces confusion, and certainly saves everyone time, though potential downsides to this model are that communication is infrequent and that it masks the extent to which NAQT's questions result from the combined work of many writers and multiple levels of editing, where different editors can and will have very different opinions on the quality of a given question.

(Even aside from question production, we do have quite spirited internal discussions on sundry qb issues, though however spirited the discussion becomes it does stay internal.)

More than one of NAQT's most prolific writers this academic year are people who prior to their NAQT contributions had been known as strong players, good writers, and at times vehement critics of NAQT (maybe even of me personally, though anything critical of me was probably accurate enough and this is water under the bridge anyway). Every good question they write (assume for the sake of argument that they continue to write good questions) is one more question that won't have to be somehow filled by (at best) mediocrity.

From posts here, one would think NAQT as a monothic entity does a whole lot of things in either by some particular design, or with some ulterior motive, when in fact I don't think NAQT members, editors, and writers combined have the spare time to be so devious. I presume that by default NAQT will "keep everyone guessing." As for myself and the content of questions I might upload in the future, I do take the question discussions here seriously, as have past, present, and future college-level NAQT set editors. (N.B. I don't do subject or set editing. I'm impressed by everyone who has the ability to edit well.) Other writers do the same (and have posted to this thread to that effect), though not everyone will.

Obligatory pitch: Still others of you might be avidly following this thread and either strongly agree with Jerry or strongly disagree with him but in any case have some strong sense of what NAQT questions should be like -- there's a well-worn path into NAQT writing and editing that I'd encourage you to follow.

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Post by Matt Weiner » Tue Feb 14, 2006 8:58 pm

I don't think there's any reason to get caught up in the power mark issue. Ultimately, they don't matter much, and if someone has decided that liberally distributed powers make things more fun for certain teams, then fine. The points about question content are much more important, and I'll gladly let the writers place power marks with a dartboard in exchange for tighter information in the tossups.
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Post by samer » Tue Feb 14, 2006 9:53 pm

myamphigory wrote:Since Dan brought up CBI, I thought I'd go off on a tangent:

When did NAQT packets get so short? This was the first SCT I have played since 2001 (and here I date myself), when I recall packets having 28 tossups. If my notes and memory are to be trusted, the D1 packets I played this weekend had 26 tossups each, while the D2 packets I read had only 24 each. In nearly every round read by a decent moderator, we finished the packet before time was up. I think that this is really dumb, and it's a situation CBI addresses better than NAQT does (!), since at CBI, the moderators continue to read questions until time runs out. I don't especially care for timed rounds, but I really do not see the point of having a clock if it's only relevant for the first half of the game.
I don't remember the exact date the switch was made, but it's been 26/26 in DivI and 24/24 in DivII since at least the 2004 ICT.
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Post by grapesmoker » Tue Feb 14, 2006 11:09 pm

matt979 wrote: Different NAQT writers have vastly different opinions of what one can('t) accomplish with a three-line tossup (or a seven-line tossup). I think it's surprisingly easy to (inadvertently) write a bad seven-line tossup, but the point is that all such styles are capable of producing great questions yet also require an amount of diligence, such that blanket statements don't seem useful.
I understand their opinions, whatever those are, differ. What I'm saying is that whatever their opinion, a three-line tossup, especially in the enlarged font used by NAQT, limits you to one clue and the giveaway. This has been the case for almost all the three-liners I've seen in this set, and when it hasn't been the case, the "additional" clues have come from a simple listing of works (like with the Rolvaag question).

Obviously, one can botch a tossup of any length; I remember a spectacular example that came to me for ACF Fall that broke almost every good rule of question writing and was 12 lines long. But that does nothing to counter the fact that tossups with 7 lines, when written properly, invariably contain more information than those with 3. There's just not enough space for anything beyond one non-trivial clue and then a speed-check. I'm going to go ahead and generalize and say that the style itself is flawed.
There seems to be a school of thought that every quote is irrelevant and every anecdote stupid. Since I suspect that questions with quotes and anecdotes will be submitted to NAQT for the foreseeable future, let's set that argument aside (analogous to what Yaphe mentioned about topic distribution). It would be good for quiz-bowl, I think, to see more thorough discussion of the difference between good and bad questions that happen to contain quotes and anecdotes.
No, let's not set it aside, since it's one of my biggest problems with the set. As Andrew said, NAQT's distribution is fixed, but the quality of the questions is not, and suggested we focus on that. So I'm focusing.

I am emphatically not of the "every anecdote or quote is stupid" school. But the quote or the anecdote needs to be appropriate in the sense that (a) it shouldn't be an obvious giveaway, and (b) someone with a good knowledge of the subject should be reasonably able to figure out where this question is going.

It's hard to put this into an iron rule, but I'll give you some examples of what I mean. First, consider the negative example: the "Coming of Age in Samoa" tossup. Who cares what the Intercollegiate Studies Institute thinks about it? In what context could I, or anyone else, have encountered the opinions of an obscure conservative think tank on this work? Another is the Schumpeter question which consisted mostly of his rankings of other economists and then of how high he was ranked by Time. Really, who cares? The first clue is vague (it essentially boils down to "this economist") and the second has almost no chance of being useful, since I can't imagine that anyone has committed the list of Time's choices for top economist to memory.

A good example that comes to mind would be a tossup I remember hearing at our practice recently on James Agee, which I believe mentioned his relationship with Dwight Macdonald. Macdonald was a well-known literary critic and a friend of Agee's, and what he had to say about Agee was surely pertinent (he wrote a wonderful elegiac piece about him). Similarly, if one wanted to quote, say, Harold Bloom on Falstaff (just thinking of an example off the top of my head), that would surely be appropriate (assuming it was done without giving away the answer).

One requirement for quotes is that they be specific. For example, if Composer A really hated Composer B's First Symphony, he probably hated specific parts of it for a specific reason. A good tossup might start with something like, "Composer A derided this work's first movement, an allegro in C minor played by violin, for its mawkishness." I have no idea what I just wrote there (I know doodley squat about music, I just pulled some terms out of my ass) but you could replace the fakery I've just generated off the top of my head with actual clues and get a serviceable leadin. You could do it with literature, art, whatever. You could even do it with science; I believe I once wrote a tossup on the Miller-Urey experiment that began with critics' reactions to it. Anyway, you get the point.
As for the Boland Amendment, I'd certainly power that as a player, though I was 12 when Iran-Contra broke. There are college freshmen who weren't born yet. I imagine there are Watergate questions with early clues that a 40-something would find laughable.
I did power it, and I was 6 and living in a different country then, so I didn't even have the benefit of memory.
grapesmoker wrote:
  • Excess verbiage needs to be trimmed in favor of actual clues. NAQT has what I consider an unfortunate penchant for enfolding linguistic puzzles into its questions; witness the tossup on the Long Telegram (which is terrible for reasons outlined above) with its "brevity" clue. These verbal games serve no useful purpose that I can see.
The first sentence of that line item probably applies to every quiz tournament ever run. You and I personally will have to agree to disagree about the appropriateness of linguistic puzzles. I rather liked the "brevity" clue in Long Telegram (didn't write it, not especially inclined to look up who did).
When you have 6 or 7 lines with which to work, you have a little more leeway on phrasing than when you have four. Anyway, by all means look at the ACF Regionals set and consider how much information every question packets into it.

Also, I find it hard that you don't understand what was wrong with the Long Telegram question. Look, it gave you a year and then it told you about its lack of brevity and method of transmission. It was a question that required you to know almost nothing about the Long Telegram to power it other than that it was long. It's just dumb.
By consensus, NAQT membership tends to default to one person speaking on NAQT's behalf. That reduces confusion, and certainly saves everyone time, though potential downsides to this model are that communication is infrequent and that it masks the extent to which NAQT's questions result from the combined work of many writers and multiple levels of editing, where different editors can and will have very different opinions on the quality of a given question.
That sounds like a poor policy. When it came time to talk about the ACF sets, all the editors that participated in the creation of the questions made themselves available to the public. I don't understand why NAQT can't do the same thing. Even if the public relations responsibilities have been delegated to a single person, I don't see them in here (I assume you're not that person).
(Even aside from question production, we do have quite spirited internal discussions on sundry qb issues, though however spirited the discussion becomes it does stay internal.)
But you don't have this discussion with us. We aren't just some people who pay you money once in a while, we're players just like you were at some point. Not engaging with us makes NAQT look quite cold.
More than one of NAQT's most prolific writers this academic year are people who prior to their NAQT contributions had been known as strong players, good writers, and at times vehement critics of NAQT (maybe even of me personally, though anything critical of me was probably accurate enough and this is water under the bridge anyway). Every good question they write (assume for the sake of argument that they continue to write good questions) is one more question that won't have to be somehow filled by (at best) mediocrity.
I'm not sure what this has to do with the topic at hand. I'm for good questions and against bad questions, and I certainly support former players' (and current players', if they're so inclined) becoming involved in NAQT as writers. So?
From posts here, one would think NAQT as a monothic entity does a whole lot of things in either by some particular design, or with some ulterior motive, when in fact I don't think NAQT members, editors, and writers combined have the spare time to be so devious. I presume that by default NAQT will "keep everyone guessing." As for myself and the content of questions I might upload in the future, I do take the question discussions here seriously, as have past, present, and future college-level NAQT set editors. (N.B. I don't do subject or set editing. I'm impressed by everyone who has the ability to edit well.) Other writers do the same (and have posted to this thread to that effect), though not everyone will.
I don't think anyone thinks that NAQT is really monolithic, but the absence of direct engagement with the audience on the part of NAQT's writers surely contributes to this feeling. It would be foolish of me to think, since I've repeatedly pointed out that ACF is not some monolithic cabal, that NAQT is one. I know better. But the difference is that ACF editors have involved themselves in these discussions, and if you go back and look at them you can see real divergences of opinion on some topics between the various editors. I fail to see why NAQT can't do this too, or why it should keep everyone guessing. What's the point of that? You either agree with my suggestions (in which case say so and move to implement them) or you disagree with them, in which case please just come out and state that and save me the trouble of guessing whether you're going to change your mind next year. If I know ahead of time that a question set won't meet my expectations, I won't go.
Obligatory pitch: Still others of you might be avidly following this thread and either strongly agree with Jerry or strongly disagree with him but in any case have some strong sense of what NAQT questions should be like -- there's a well-worn path into NAQT writing and editing that I'd encourage you to follow.
And I would encourage you, especially if you disagree with me, to please come out and lay those disagreements on the table.
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Post by El Caballo Lorenzo » Wed Feb 15, 2006 12:09 am

One man's NAQT BS questions is another's meal ticket. Namely mine.

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Post by El Caballo Lorenzo » Wed Feb 15, 2006 1:59 am

El Caballo Lorenzo wrote:One man's NAQT BS questions is another's meal ticket. Namely mine.

IP address for this post: pc-lab01.rh.uchicago.edu --the management
IP address? Just to make clear, El Caballo Lorenzo = Lawrence the Horse, just so there's no doubt who I be.

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Post by miamiqb » Wed Feb 15, 2006 11:36 am

I think we can all agree (Div1 and Div2) that the tournament in general was on the easy side. That does not bother me that much because NAQT seems to incorporate more of a speed element than ACF.

To make an analogy to basketball, NAQT is like basketball in the 1980s. Fun to watch, high-scoring, but there is no defense (i.e. the questions are not hard). It becomes a game of speed(i.e. 3 line tossups) more than a game of individual skill. Thus you get team stats that are blown out of proportion.

ACF is like basketball in the post-Jordan era. Defenders were harder and longer (i.e. more difficult questions). Scoring was down and fans were actually leaving the game until the rule changes designed to increase scoring came into place. Scoring depended on individual greatness in a slower more deliberate offensive scheme (i.e. 8 line tossups).


After that terrible analogy, I guess my point is that NAQT vs. ACF is a subjective debate. Both have their positives and negatives. NAQT turns off many people because of the relative lack of pyramidal questions and the supposed "stupid" puzzles they include. ACF drives some people (especiallly newcomers)
I agree that no one likes bad questions in general (like a tossup which I negged with "Peter and the Wolf", beating 4 members of the other team who would have answered the same) but to argue the styles is a matter of taste. If one wants a deliberate game which really truely reflects the absolute knowledge of both teams then play ACF. If one wants to play a game of speed and puzzles which requires fast-thinking and good instincts more than absolute knowledge play NAQT.

Personally I usually like the puzzles (in tossups) because they add a bit of variety to the game and I enjoy figuring stuff out more than I enjoy buzzing on a work by an author that is list-fodder.

In regards to powers I am disappointed that the power has become so easy. Back in high school a few years ago I remember when powers were a big deal that could completely shift the momentum of the game. Because they were so easy to come by I think that was not true at SCT. To make another basketball analogy, one would not try to increase 3-pointers in NBA games by moving the line in by 5 feet; that would ruin the point of a 3-pointer. As the guy who led his sectional in powers I call for much tougher power marks and clues next time which would expose my pseudo-knowledge.

(Not wanting to make accusations, but some of the questions seemed lifted directly from Stanford Archive packets. I read a painting tossup which began with the exact same clue the day before the tournament and powered it immediately. Perhaps the clues have become too mainstream?)

EDIT: forgive me Will Sullivan, it appears you outdueled me in the powers department and scoring (44 to 38)
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Post by recfreq » Wed Feb 15, 2006 4:16 pm

miamiqb wrote:To make an analogy to basketball, NAQT is like basketball in the 1980s. Fun to watch, high-scoring, but there is no defense (i.e. the questions are not hard). It becomes a game of speed(i.e. 3 line tossups) more than a game of individual skill. Thus you get team stats that are blown out of proportion.

ACF is like basketball in the post-Jordan era. Defenders were harder and longer (i.e. more difficult questions). Scoring was down and fans were actually leaving the game until the rule changes designed to increase scoring came into place. Scoring depended on individual greatness in a slower more deliberate offensive scheme (i.e. 8 line tossups).
Actually, who wants to see a sloppy game where defense is bad and players trip over themselves on stupid clues that has nothing to do with the actual answer (i.e. has nothing to do with actually putting the ball in the basket, like comitting silly fouls, a la this particular NAQT)? ACF would be analogous to rewarding good players (scorers) with knowledge (great offensive skills) proportionally to the difficulty of the question (defense, if you will). The point is that we want to see good buzzes on good questions, not good buzzes on bad questions; I fail to see where style makes a difference.
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Post by matt979 » Wed Feb 15, 2006 4:20 pm

Jerry,

Your distinction between good and bad quotes/anecdotes is very well put, and I especially appreciate the citations to examples of what's good.

For what it's worth, ISI has a higher profile on campus with a righty alternapaper (at least this was true in the early 1990s) especially if the same campus also has a lefty alternapaper that will mock their counterparts at length about taking the equivalent of welfare. I still wouldn't have gotten Coming of Age on that clue, though like many players I'd have been frantically buzzing on Derek Freeman.
grapesmoker wrote: That sounds like a poor policy. When it came time to talk about the ACF sets, all the editors that participated in the creation of the questions made themselves available to the public. I don't understand why NAQT can't do the same thing.
Out of curiosity, was this something you asked everyone to do beforehand or did it just work out that way? If the latter, I'm impressed that everyone contributed.

No, I'm certainly not here on NAQT's behalf (in general that'd be R.; for particular tournaments or endeavors, whoever is most involved in organizing it). I've enjoyed posting over the past 24 hours, though I'll apologize in advance if I can't keep up with the thread (my real-world employer doesn't pay me to read bulletin boards). A fair number of NAQT people lurk here of course, and also a fair number of people just have too many things going on in their lives to do so.

Many of you will remember that Eric Hillemann contributed actively to the Yahoo! message board a few years ago, before becoming just swamped in real life. Among NAQT membership, nobody else became that prolific a poster. Perhaps that's made discussions suboptimal, though I suspect we all make better listeners than talkers.

And of course there are many media to get a hold of us, individually or collectively. If you have AIM or Y! Messenger then you know which NAQT members are among the most active chatters (I've never been a fan of IMs, again just personal taste), and I'd like to think we're warm and approachable at tournaments in person.

Cutting to the chase: You have high standards for NAQT questions, as well you should. I appreciate that. I have high standards for NAQT questions, and have yet to be truly satifisfied by an NAQT packet set (or any other packet set). When our sets don't meet particular players' standards, obviously we're going to take the ensuing feedback to heart, though there are practical reasons why certain public pronouncements just won't happen. For example, I don't think anybody wants to read a thread that boils down to "That question sucked!" "No it didn't!" "Did too!" -- the threads here have been on a higher level than that, of course, but avoiding that pitfall can be tricky. As for announcements about future sets, it's hard to think of a time and place for those that wouldn't introduce some gratuitous unfairness.

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Post by Steve Watchorn » Wed Feb 15, 2006 4:30 pm

As someone who has submitted to NAQT, I just wanted to make a brief comment about the process for submitting questions. I don't think any of the things I say will constitute state secrets of NAQT; however, if I accidentllay give away anything proprietary, feel free to lock or delete the post.

The writer is, of course, responsible for the genesis and basic information in the questions that are submitted to NAQT. However, it is common for a questions, once it shows up in a set, to be substantially different from the question submitted by the writer. For example, I have had questions where entire clues have been removed, and some cases where clues have been reworded. I am not saying this is bad in all cases, or that I disagree with their right to do it in any case. It's their show, and once the question is uploaded, their property (unless they return it to me for significant reworking). However, I would not agree with all the final forms my questions have taken in various NAQT sets.

A couple items the writers have no control over, in final, is the difficulty level assigned to the question, and, even moreso, the power marks. The writers can suggest a difficulty level, but the ultimate call for that is made by the subject editors. As a result, sometimes questions I write thinking they are invitational level end up in the SCT. The questions should still be pyramidal, but I tend to lead invitational-level questions with easier first clues. Again, a lot of times, bumping up the difficulty makes little difference to me (especially on bonuses), but I have not always agreed with having some questions I thought were too easy end up in a more difficult set.

Power marks appear to be placed by the set editors, as they tend not to show up until a question has been placed in a set. I do not know the ins and outs of this, but that appears to be the case.

I want to emphasize, I am NOT complaining about this procedure, or trying to shield myself from any negative criticism of my questions that may come up (in fact, the bonus question of mine mentioned on the other thread appeared pretty much as I intended it). It is perfectly fair for NAQT to do whatever they want with uploaded questions (and many of their changes have, I thought, made my questions better). I just wanted to give a notion of how far NAQT writers are responsible for in the final set questions, as I have not seen a lot of recent posts about that.

Cheers,
Steve
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Post by Steve Watchorn » Wed Feb 15, 2006 4:40 pm

re: Jerry:
One more suggestion: I think NAQT should consider lengthening the halves from 9 minutes to 10 or even 11. Four more minutes of playing time per round translates into a mere extra hour for a 15-round tournament, but could easily accomodate 26 5-line tossups, which I think would lead to better questions.
Yes! The biggest problem I have with writing NAQT questions is the length limit, which relates to the issue of having timed rounds. Typically, I cannot submit a tossup of more than 4-1/2 lines of 12-point type. I figure that, if I could have 6-8 lines of such type, or even 5-7, I could improve the pyramidality and clue density of my tossups significantly.

I think the NAQT length limit has really helped me learn to (as Strunk and White say) eliminate needless words, and unnecessary clues (or add-ons to clues). I thought it was akin to William Faulkner's comment about screenwriting (I believe), where he said that sometimes you had to "kill your little babies." I have learned that, sometimes, a question's organizing conceit, or a really neat turn of phrase, and sometimes even complete, essay-like thoughts, have to be eliminated to get the question lean. I think that efficiency in dispensing clues (which pretty much has to come from the writers; it would take way too long for editors to insert in more than a handful of questions) is sometimes missing in untimed sets like ACF, as good as those sets are.

However, I also think the length restriction, as it is, is too short. I know a lot of high-school-level tournaments run timed, but I am hoping NAQT can develop either a longer-timed (as Jerry suggested) or untimed branch, which would allow an increased length for tossups. I'm not sure if they can make enough money that way to justify having a different internal branch or sorting structure for longer questions, but it would be nice to see them try.
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Post by Steve Watchorn » Wed Feb 15, 2006 4:55 pm

One more note, and I hope I'm not giving away too much about NAQT's internal mechanisms:

NAQT keeps a large repository of questions, and draws from them as needed. In cases where a lot of questions have been written, for a given subject, that store can be quite large. It is not uncommon, when looking over a set, to see a significant fraction (probably well under a third; I haven't counted) be from at least three or four years ago, or more (based on their question ID number, which is sequential for all submitted questions; we are well into the six digits now, but can still see some five-digit ones pop up in sets).

Hence, some questions which may have gone out of style (such as 30-20-10, or questions about years based on clues) may still show up in current NAQT sets for years afterward, unless they are specifically purged. I'm not defending or attacking their policy, but just noting it.
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Post by Steve Watchorn » Wed Feb 15, 2006 5:07 pm

OK, I lied. This is my last note for now... though it's more of an opinion:

NAQT clearly needs to write a lot of questions to satisfy their various obligations. I have been one of the more active writers during the last few years (though I have had to take long breaks), and I have written under a thousand in that time. That, of course, would not even fill a single SCT set, even if the distribution were correct (which it most certainly is not). I am a fairly slow question writer; I just cannot churn out decent questions in bulk, or fast. And having a few guys like me is not enough for NAQT. It always turns out that, when it comes to crunch time, a relatively small number of writers have to churn out a lot of questions (I see this when I look at set distributions). This inevitably leads, I think, to lesser quality, because you have to get something out there and get it fast.

This is NOT a slam against those writers in general, as I know many of them, and know that they know their way around good questions.

I think what NAQT needs is *more* writers like me, writing fewer questions, and taking more care with each. Oddly enough, this may work at cross-purposes with the NAQT effect some have noted towards degrading question-writing skill. Still, I think that what I am heading towards in this post is a call for all those who are so inclined to consider writing for NAQT if you can. It may not be the preferred or best format for a lot of writers, but it *can* be worked with, and the participation of people who care about writing good questions is essential to raising and maintaining the quality level of packets. Even tens of questions a year, from enough people in different subjects, could make a huge difference overall.

So, not on behalf of NAQT, of course, I would say, give it a try, if you are inclined. If NAQT cannot produce acceptable SCT and intercollegiate sets for enough people, then it will go the way it goes. But I think, if you like it at all, you can certainly help out, and would be most welcome.

In any case, of course, continue to provide feedback. That helps a lot, too.

Steve
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Post by Birdofredum Sawin » Wed Feb 15, 2006 5:49 pm

Steve Watchorn wrote:re: Jerry:
One more suggestion: I think NAQT should consider lengthening the halves from 9 minutes to 10 or even 11. Four more minutes of playing time per round translates into a mere extra hour for a 15-round tournament, but could easily accomodate 26 5-line tossups, which I think would lead to better questions.
Yes! The biggest problem I have with writing NAQT questions is the length limit, which relates to the issue of having timed rounds. Typically, I cannot submit a tossup of more than 4-1/2 lines of 12-point type. I figure that, if I could have 6-8 lines of such type, or even 5-7, I could improve the pyramidality and clue density of my tossups significantly.
One point to make is that NAQT does have a hard cap on the number of characters per tossup. (I don't know whether this limit is proprietary information; anyway, if you have the packets you can probably get a rough sense of it just by looking over the questions.) This constraint has a number of consequences. For one thing, it means that certain clues -- ones that take a lot of space, like maybe some aria titles -- are going to be scanted. If you want to write a tossup on Hemingway, just mentioning the title of (say) "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" is going to absorb a significant fraction of the characters available to you as a writer. Also, if you want to make sure you have the "easy" end of the pyramid -- say, a substantial giveaway like "For 10 points--name this American author of 'The Sun Also Rises'" plus a previous sentence that eases into the giveaway -- you're not going to have a lot of characters left for obscure lead-ins and lengthy descriptions in the early portion of the tossup. In particular, you're often going to have to make a choice between a question with lots of good early stuff but no development (i.e., one which abruptly dives into an easy clue) or one in which easier clues come earlier than good players might like.

This isn't necessarily meant as a defense of any of the questions from last weekend's SCT. Rather, I wanted to point out that the constraints on length have an effect on the tossups. You might, as Jerry does, suggest that those constraints be altered (along, perhaps, with the time of the game). But it's worth keeping the constraints in mind when you criticize questions which were written to conform with them.

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Post by Matt Weiner » Wed Feb 15, 2006 6:14 pm

matt979 wrote:For example, I don't think anybody wants to read a thread that boils down to "That question sucked!" "No it didn't!" "Did too!" -- the threads here have been on a higher level than that, of course, but avoiding that pitfall can be tricky.
One tactic that does little to avoid that "pitfall" is for you to respond to Jerry's specific and rather calm examples of which questions sucked and why by unilaterally declaring his reasoning an "opinion," then proclaiming that you disagree with that "opinion" or that it's "not going to change" so there's no point in discussing it.

Of course, I can't call NAQT to task for you doing that, or for Eric posting a fictitious distribution on Yahoo, or anyone for anything, because apparently no one speaks for NAQT at any time.
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Post by grapesmoker » Wed Feb 15, 2006 7:34 pm

matt979 wrote: For what it's worth, ISI has a higher profile on campus with a righty alternapaper (at least this was true in the early 1990s) especially if the same campus also has a lefty alternapaper that will mock their counterparts at length about taking the equivalent of welfare.
I consider myself relatively well-informed on the existence of various right-wing think tanks and I've never heard of them. Just saying.
Out of curiosity, was this something you asked everyone to do beforehand or did it just work out that way? If the latter, I'm impressed that everyone contributed.
We agreed beforehand that we would field questions after the fact.
Many of you will remember that Eric Hillemann contributed actively to the Yahoo! message board a few years ago, before becoming just swamped in real life. Among NAQT membership, nobody else became that prolific a poster. Perhaps that's made discussions suboptimal, though I suspect we all make better listeners than talkers.
I'm not demanding prolific posting, but one or two posts explaining NAQT's position on the various issues that have been raised would be appreciated.
And of course there are many media to get a hold of us, individually or collectively. If you have AIM or Y! Messenger then you know which NAQT members are among the most active chatters (I've never been a fan of IMs, again just personal taste), and I'd like to think we're warm and approachable at tournaments in person.
Having met many NAQT members in person, I'll be the first to laud them on being nice, approachable people. Unfortunately, that's beside the point. The invitation to contact you privately is certainly welcome, but private correspondence is not a substitute for public discussion. Suppose I email someone and then I get a response. Should I then quote them in the public forum so everyone can know what they said? I feel uncomfortable doing that if they're not going to be in that forum and involved in the discussion; I'd feel like I was erecting a strawman. I think a public dialogue regarding NAQT's positions on these issues is a necessary and healthy component of the circuit.
Cutting to the chase: You have high standards for NAQT questions, as well you should. I appreciate that. I have high standards for NAQT questions, and have yet to be truly satifisfied by an NAQT packet set (or any other packet set). When our sets don't meet particular players' standards, obviously we're going to take the ensuing feedback to heart, though there are practical reasons why certain public pronouncements just won't happen.
But what are these reasons? What prevents NAQT from making some public pronouncements? I can't see any reason why NAQT can't participate in even limited public discussion.

Look at it this way: there's been a lot of discussion of question quality this year. If NAQT members read these boards, they know that. For every point made in this thread (and other threads), there are two possibilities: either agreement or disagreement. If NAQT (by and large) agrees with these points, then I would expect a pronouncement to the effect of "These are good suggestions and we will implement them." If NAQT disagrees, something on the order of "We disagree and here's why" is appropriate. The ambiguity of NAQT's stances on these topics is frustrating because it costs us (the players) time and money to go to NAQT events. If we knew that the philosophy behind said events did or did not match up with ours, we would or wouldn't go. But as we lack this knowledge, an information asymmetry exists in favor of NAQT that keeps us wondering year after year whether we're going to be taken seriously.
For example, I don't think anybody wants to read a thread that boils down to "That question sucked!" "No it didn't!" "Did too!" -- the threads here have been on a higher level than that, of course, but avoiding that pitfall can be tricky.
We've done a good job so far, I think. No assertions of suckage have been proferred without support.
As for announcements about future sets, it's hard to think of a time and place for those that wouldn't introduce some gratuitous unfairness.
I disagree. Or, rather, I agree that specific details regarding future sets are inappropriate but that pronouncements regarding future editing philosophy is not.
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Post by El Caballo Lorenzo » Wed Feb 15, 2006 11:34 pm

Let the record show that Pericles has heard of and recognized the ISI and knows them as the organization that funds right-wing college newspapers.

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Post by solonqb » Thu Feb 16, 2006 12:06 am

Let the record show that if Pericles' next post is not something constructive to the discussion at hand, El Caballo Lorenzo is going the way of the 3-line ACF tossup.
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Post by El Caballo Lorenzo » Thu Feb 16, 2006 12:17 am

I think this is constructive, Noah:

Who are you and how are you connected to Quiz Bowl? I honestly don't know, and am curious (i.e. I'm not asking to be snarky). I've never met you on the circuit.

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Post by solonqb » Thu Feb 16, 2006 12:36 am

I'm a freshman at Caltech who played quizbowl all four years of high school and now plays for Caltech's team (D2 this year). I wanted to go to CO last year (and maybe I would have seen you there) but my graduation party got in the way.

Now back to your regularly scheduled SCT discussion.
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Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Thu Feb 16, 2006 12:42 am

solonqb wrote: I wanted to go to CO last year (and maybe I would have seen you there) but my graduation party got in the way.
So people do in fact venture to see Pericles from near and far. Hot damn.

EDIT: To justify this post's existance I'll briefly mention that there were some recycled lead-ins, like James Bond being an orinthologist. But also some new anecdotes, like the connection between the Rings of Saturn and the Holy Prepuce, which I haven't seen come up before, though I've put it into question after question that got rejected.
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Post by Jeremy Gibbs Paradox » Thu Feb 16, 2006 5:40 pm

samer wrote:
myamphigory wrote:Since Dan brought up CBI, I thought I'd go off on a tangent:

When did NAQT packets get so short? This was the first SCT I have played since 2001 (and here I date myself), when I recall packets having 28 tossups. If my notes and memory are to be trusted, the D1 packets I played this weekend had 26 tossups each, while the D2 packets I read had only 24 each. In nearly every round read by a decent moderator, we finished the packet before time was up. I think that this is really dumb, and it's a situation CBI addresses better than NAQT does (!), since at CBI, the moderators continue to read questions until time runs out. I don't especially care for timed rounds, but I really do not see the point of having a clock if it's only relevant for the first half of the game.
I don't remember the exact date the switch was made, but it's been 26/26 in DivI and 24/24 in DivII since at least the 2004 ICT.
2004 sounds about right to me. The still existing data from the 03 sct's show 26+ and I remember being struck by the shortening of rounds the next year.

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Post by Susan » Fri Feb 17, 2006 4:07 pm

So, D1 and D2 bids are up.

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Post by AndySaunders » Fri Mar 03, 2006 4:45 pm

Okay, it's been 3 weeks now since the SCT, are we ever going to see individual stats from the Northeast SCT?

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