Sword Bowl Discussion

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Mr. Kwalter
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Sword Bowl Discussion

Post by Mr. Kwalter »

Well, I'd like to preface this with two comments: 1) I thought this year's questions were a VAST improvement over the much-pilloried-by-Jerry sword bowl of last year. 2) The following statement comes with no preconceived notion of what may have happened and thus does not immediately assume the guilt of any involved party. There were SSI questions in the tournament. They were marked as "Travis Vitello." Having obtained the set and used it in practice, the UT teams were ineligible to play on the multiple SSI repeats in the set, which caused problems. However this happened, it is unacceptable. The four possible scenarios that immediately come to mind are, and I reiterate that I really don't assume any one of these is correct, as follows:

1) Charlie knew that the tournament would contain questions from SSI and announced it as such, but neither OU nor I saw it.

2) Charlie knew the questions were from SSI and failed to announce that the tournament contained questions from that event.

3) Travis Vitello mistakenly used questions he had already used for SSI in the set he provided to Charlie as filler.

3) Travis simply thought he could get away with such malfeasance and tried to pass off the questions.

If anyone has any insight into this matter, please let us know. Whatever caused this should be brought to light so the guilty parties, if any exist, can be admonished accordingly.

Also, Texas "Dismal's Paradox" defeated Texas "Two-Handed Engine" in the finals coming in with an advantage to win OU's Sword Bowl Mirror. Hope to see the promised stats up soon, thanks to OU for running an efficient and enjoyable event.

Eric Kwartler

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Post by Deckard Cain »

I stumbled onto the stats from the OU mirror on their Web site; they can be found here.

This was the first non-NAQT tournament I had ever attended, and I enjoyed it greatly. I don't have a copy of the questions on me, but I can only remember one question off the top of my head that struck me as poor. I won't post the details here since I'm not positive the questions are cleared for discussion, but there was an obvious clue far too early. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the OU people for a great tournament and the question authors/editors for what was, at least for us, a very enjoyable set to play on.

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Post by Strongside »

Overall I felt the questions were good.
Last edited by Strongside on Mon Feb 05, 2007 9:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by chune72 »

Eric's observations are particulalry astute in this case---that is, looking back, it appears that a few of the filler bonuses I sent to Charlie came from a mis-labeled file on my hard drive, so what I thought were unused questions had actually made an appearance at SSI 2006, which is unfortunate for any teams that may have had experience with the SSI 2006 set (both for the repeats themselves and the set in general).

Without seeing the final product, there also looks like there may have been two TUs from this year's SSI TB set that could have appeared at Sword---this one was a bigger slip-up on my end, since I never deleted those two from my SSI 2007 TU surplus file. The TUs from that file were what ended up being sent to Charlie, so my apologies for any problems this may have caused at the tournament.

From this, I'll definitely make sure to double check questions against previous sets before submitting them for use in any future tournaments. I understand the headache this can cause (see Sword Bowl 2005), so I completely agree with wanting to address the issue formally.

With that---since Eric appears to already have SSI 2007, I would really appreciate any feedback on the set. I'll send the set to the Stanford Archive right away, so once it gets posted, if anyone else can offer feedback, that'd be great. Please send those comments, or any others, to me at tvitello [at] gmail [dot] com.

-Travis

------

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Post by theMoMA »

I was at the Drake mirror where we snuck into the playoffs before losing to eventual runner-up Gabriel Lyon of Wisconsin.

After hearing the first four rounds, I thought the questions were going to be horrible, but every match I played after that was of significantly better quality. Maybe it was just me, but the first four packets had weird answer selection. They probably weren't read in the same order at each mirror and I don't remember the particular packet authors of each, so this isn't a very useful discussion point I'm afraid.

There were also several instances of poor pronoun usage that I felt marred the question set and led to points lost when the answer was clearly known.

Also, what's with all the "Ghost Riding" TUs lately?

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Post by Mettius Fufetius »

Hey, are these questions cleared yet? Anyone? All the mirrors are over, aren't they?

I thought the tossups were pretty acceptable: pyramidal and pretty canonical; the few answer choices with which I wasn't familiar on some level struck me as worth knowing about. I did encounter some buzzer races (which I usually lost) but not an excessive number of them.

The bonuses, on the other hand, seemed odd to me. There were two lit bonuses about the same author in the same format, for example. Many bonuses seemed to be three questions of approximately equal difficulty which one would 30 with any decent knowledge of a highly specific subject and 0 without it. Furman B did have, I think, an appropriately average 14.5 conversion rate, but with higher proportions of both 30s and 0s than seemed entirely appropriate or normal. But maybe that's just my inexperience talking?

Compared to COTKU, which was my first collegiate tournament, Sword Bowl seemed smoother and (even though I was in Main this time and Senior last) better read. We still got out rather late, but only because the DII bracket had to be lengthened at the last minute through no fault of UTC. There was one moment when a reader failed to accept one of our opponents' roughly correct pronunciation of a rather common foreign name (was it accented in the packet? Furman never bought it) but we happily conceded their protest, and the guy was one of the best readers anyway, so I don't mind.

Essentially, although the tournament was not flawless, it was still really fun, and there was scarcely a grumble throughout the ride home. Kudos to Mr. Steinhice, the readers, all the question-writers much better than us, &c. I'm sure we'll be coming back.



-Nathan James

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Post by Matt Weiner »

theMoMA wrote:Also, what's with all the "Ghost Riding" TUs lately?
A better question might be "why isn't 'ghost riding' the answer to every tossup?"

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Post by theMoMA »

Matt Weiner wrote:
theMoMA wrote:Also, what's with all the "Ghost Riding" TUs lately?
A better question might be "why isn't 'ghost riding' the answer to every tossup?"
The reason I got every ghost riding TU

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Post by bornonatrain »

clarified now.
Last edited by bornonatrain on Thu Feb 01, 2007 7:14 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by wd4gdz »

Oh, did Travis not receive the entire Penn Bowl set and MATTE in exchange for SSI?

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Post by Matt Weiner »

bornonatrain wrote:but that you also had the audacity to try to smear his name because you came across a pair of misplaced tossup 21/22s that slipped through the cracks -- a mistake indeed, but a minute one that wouldn't have effected the answerability of some of the questionsl if you had not pilfered our questions.
You know, this was a pretty stupid attempt at avoision when it came up about Deep Bench and it's no less dumb now. I have no idea how Eric got your questions but you likewise have no idea who might have legitimately seen them. Consider this: When you distribute your questions to anybody at all (whoever did buy them, your other team members, people who attended the tournament, etc) that person may read them in practice or online to just about anybody, without necessarily trading the actual packet documents or otherwise horning in on your profits from selling the set. Furthermore, as there was no warning to avoid discussing the SSI questions once that tournament had taken place, questions and answers could simply be mentioned by one person who played to anybody else in any context.

This is the point: You can't presume that people will not have heard your questions just because they did not acquire the actual set. "This wouldn't have been a problem had you not done X" is simply false in and of itself, even aside from the issue of whether X actually took place.

(Also, the concept of a "smear" is generally reserved for accusations which are not, in fact, true. Also, that's a pretty ironic use of "audacity.")
Last edited by Matt Weiner on Thu Feb 01, 2007 6:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by bornonatrain »

below.
Last edited by bornonatrain on Thu Feb 01, 2007 6:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by wd4gdz »

The email with the questions probably says something like this:

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Eric Kwartler

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Post by bornonatrain »

This is the point: You can't presume that people will not have heard your questions just because they did not acquire the actual set. "This wouldn't have been a problem had you not done X" is simply false in and of itself, even aside from the issue of whether X actually took place.
I step down. My post was more of a reaction to the fact that someone had acquired our questions when I really had no idea that they had travelled beyond the two teams that had purchased them, neither of which has an established program or is represented here. The questions wouldn't have been discussed because no one but the two teams that I thought were the sole owners of the questions had even seen them prior.

I apologize for my idealism, I didn't know that underground packet trading was so extensive. (I have no access to Travis's inbox, Billy, but if you're admitting to passing the questions along, then I'll assume that Travis gave them to you? and take your word).
Last edited by bornonatrain on Thu Feb 01, 2007 6:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Mr. Kwalter »

So, I won't tell you where I got them, because I don't want your misguided adherence to packet propriety to lead you to punish the source. But I will tell you that I then proceeded to send them to literally everyone who frequents the quizbowl chatroom. Here's the thing. You know what improves the circuit? Having teams get new packets to read and use in practice. I firmly believe that all packets should be readily available to all people, and (not to malign Matt, we just disagree) if I had been head editor of Penn Bowl I would not have made the decision to sell the packets, but I respect Matt's authority on the matter. If you're creating tournaments to make money you're really in the wrong business. One of the reasons it's hard to get a new and/or young team off the ground is lack of unheard packets, and anyone with the motivation to study packets should not be limited to tournaments he's attended plus the ACF and Stanford archives. This may surprise you, but even UT, like most clubs, has young, inexperienced members who benefit from low-level (as in easy) tournaments like SSI.

Also, I explicitly made no attempt to "smear" Travis' name on the board. I was serious when I said I hadn't made a judgment and just wanted to know what happened. I have nothing against Travis; he writes well and consistently gets his packets in punctually (damn is that unusual...). It was a mistake and I know that in the future he'll triplecheck his submissions, which we all should do. I also never posted anything maligning the SSI set. It seems that you (I assume you're a member of the UF club, since your location is listed as Gainesville) are the only one around here who has declared the set "terrible." As for Travis and co.'s hard work, few have more respect for such endeavors than I. As I have repeatedly said on this board, I wish more people took it upon themselves to write/edit tournaments. So don't go mouthing off like some baby who had his candy stolen. From what I can tell Travis didn't seem to have a problem with the way I presented the incident, so who are you to try to start shit with me?

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Post by wd4gdz »

Kit Cloudkicker wrote:so who are you to try to start shit with me?
His girlfriend

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Post by bornonatrain »

Kit Cloudkicker wrote:So, I won't tell you where I got them, because I don't want your misguided adherence to packet propriety to lead you to punish the source. But I will tell you that I then proceeded to send them to literally everyone who frequents the quizbowl chatroom. Here's the thing. You know what improves the circuit? Having teams get new packets to read and use in practice. I firmly believe that all packets should be readily available to all people, and (not to malign Matt, we just disagree) if I had been head editor of Penn Bowl I would not have made the decision to sell the packets, but I respect Matt's authority on the matter. If you're creating tournaments to make money you're really in the wrong business.
So, Matt's allowed to sell packets but no one else can make the decision to do so? And anyone who happens to obtain packets is allowed to share someone else's work without their permission? We're not in the business of selling packets to make money --- we were trying to be in it because we're going to be sending two, if not three teams to Minneapolis pretty soon, and I'm sure that you know it's not a cheap flight.
One of the reasons it's hard to get a new and/or young team off the ground is lack of unheard packets, and anyone with the motivation to study packets should not be limited to tournaments he's attended plus the ACF and Stanford archives. This may surprise you, but even UT, like most clubs, has young, inexperienced members who benefit from low-level (as in easy) tournaments like SSI.
And you don't think that a Southeastern team, of all groups of people, knows this?

We completely understand that having a decent practice requires new question sets. Last summer, we offered our SSI set from the previous year in exchange for other sets, so that at least we benefitted from our own work. We acquired our questions legitimately. Now, as Billy has pointed out, he has inadvertantly/unbeknownst to me traded our packet sets, and I'm glad that we have new material. In this, I was lacking information that would have prevented conflict. Mea culpa.

Also, I explicitly made no attempt to "smear" Travis' name on the board. I was serious when I said I hadn't made a judgment and just wanted to know what happened. I have nothing against Travis; he writes well and consistently gets his packets in punctually (damn is that unusual...). It was a mistake and I know that in the future he'll triplecheck his submissions, which we all should do.
Fair enough. I jumped the gun when you referred to what could potentially be a mistake as 'malfeasence', as if you had already pre-judged the results of your inquiry in your scenarios.
I also never posted anything maligning the SSI set. It seems that you (I assume you're a member of the UF club, since your location is listed as Gainesville) are the only one around here who has declared the set "terrible."
I am referring to SSI 2006 (as in, not the past set, but the one before it). I was told that the repeat bonuses were found in that set, which I also did not know how you acquired.
Last edited by bornonatrain on Thu Feb 01, 2007 6:59 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Post by No Rules Westbrook »

While the subject is presented, for what it's worth, I've recently also become a proponent of the free distribution of tournament sets. That's right, me: the free market anarcho-capitalist who would defend the property rights of an amoeba.

I just think the only way newer people are going to figure out how to tell their ass from a hole in the ground in this game is if they start reading the packets that have been written through the years, both the good and bad ones. They should also drop by the chat room and play them.

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Post by chune72 »

wd4gdz wrote:The email with the questions probably says something like this:

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Eric Kwartler
Actually, the e-mail with the questions looks something like:

Sender: Eric Kwartler <[email protected]> Add to address book
To: Billy Beyer <[email protected]>
CC:
Date: Sun Jan 21 13:04:24 EST 2007
Subject: Fwd: Entire tournament


As far as I can tell, "Eric Kwartler" never sent me any questions as compensation for SSI directly...which in itself isn't a huge deal given the number of underground packet swaps that surely happen on a regular basis (or at least whenever new tournament sets are available).

I think the bigger issue was the "according admonishment" that "Eric Kwartler" seems to have dropped as soon as an adequate defense was provided. Given that "Eric Kwartler" is an almighty quiz bowl god, afterall, so his public accusation that my actions were "unacceptable" is quite predictable---but it seems that if he really cared (which his seeming avoidance of the topic once my response was given would suggest otherwise), a simple e-mail would have sufficed.

And as a thought experiment of sorts: in the event that I had said, "Why yes, I did deliberately send used questions to Sword Bowl with the specific intent of ruining Eric Kwartler's day," who is "Eric Kwartler" to admonish me? If I had been found to be at fault of a deliberately malicious act, what could "Eric Kwartler" possibly do? Somehow try to keep me from playing at ACF Fall 2007? Not that I mean to be disrespectful, but I'm not sure if there's any substance to "Eric Kwarlter's" threats of admonishment.

Please explain yourself, or why you think you're the high-and-mighty sheriff of quiz bowl town.

(Note that I'm not condoning using previously used questions in new tournaments---I understand entirely why this is a concern...I'm just not a fan of being "called out" before any facts could be adequately provided---something that could have been achieved with a simple e-mail. "Eric Kwartler's" a smart guy, I'm sure he could have found my address if he tried---afterall, we are Facebook friends :wink: )

-Travis

------

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Post by Rothlover »

While I will jump on board the "all packets should basically be free" train, which is something I've been saying for about 2 years, it does seem like everyone needs to calm down, especially the Florida people who seem to be in knee-jerk mode. Lets all just relax. Again, this is ME saying this, so shit must be crazee.

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Post by Matt Weiner »

Rothlover wrote:While I will jump on board the "all packets should basically be free" train, which is something I've been saying for about 2 years, it does seem like everyone needs to calm down, especially the Florida people who seem to be in knee-jerk mode. Lets all just relax. Again, this is ME saying this, so shit must be crazee.
But without launching crusades against people for irrelevant character issues in order to distract attention from your own stupidity, we'd have hardly anything to talk about at all.

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Post by Mr. Kwalter »

Stupid shit
Actually, it's Mr. Kwalter.

Well, Travis, I wanted to get Charlie and you in on the discussion. Besides, I was following plagiarism guidelines discussed in the recent plagiarism thread. I dropped the admonishment because you explained yourself and I considered the matter resolved. Would you like me to admonish you? Okay. DON'T REUSE QUESTIONS. Your irresponsible ass has no leg to stand on. Your actions were, in fact, unacceptable. It was an honest mistake, sure. Whatever that means. You should have checked. It was rampantly irresponsible. Whatever my faults (ECSO), that's something I would absolutely never do. So since you felt it was ultimately no big deal to give me a few SSI questions in a different tournament for free, why shouldn't I just get the whole set? Hell, I find it funny that you're all pissy now after saying you were just gonna post the tournament to the Stanford archive. Also, why'd you have your girlfriend come out with this absurd shit instead of emailing me yourself if you're so high and mighty? Shit man, get your act together, this is ridiculous. If you were that whiny you could have asked me for compensation privately and I clearly would have sent you Penn Bowl or whatever. Instead, you threw a hissy fit on the boards. Nice job, "Travis Vitello."

Oh, and I'm pretty sure the questions were from 2007. One of them was a pretty memorable stupid tossup on noted protagonist from Flatland "Square."

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Post by chune72 »

OK---so had I seen Eric's most recent post where he offered some compliments, I would have turned the volume down a bit with the last post. Even still, I'm not a fan of being called out publically without having a chance to explain myself beforehand---though it's somewhat understandable given the "severity" of the situation.

As far as distributing tournaments en masse---the original distribution of SSI was in exchange for feedback from a small handful of folks who had previous experience with the set. I really didn't intend for that set to be sent out (especially since there were a few typographical mistakes I wanted to clean up), but that sort of thing is essentially out of my hands once the questions end up in someone else's inbox.

Being compensated for the set, especially through packet exchange with other programs, is one of the keys to helping our own program improve. Making money on it was a bit of exaggeration, but getting new questions or, at the very least, a critique of the set so I'll know what I can do to improve SSI 2008, would be fantastic.

But like I've said before, the set will be put on the Stanford Archive eventually (it's been sent)---so if the Westbrooks, Weiners, et al can take a look and offer some comments, I'd really appreciate it.

And no hard feelings with Kwartler, who I've heard is actually a pretty nice guy.

-Travis

-----

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Post by chune72 »

By "most recent post" I definitely was referring to the one before Eric's opinion of me changed, again.

Going from "It was a mistake and I know that in the future he'll triplecheck his submissions, which we all should do" to "Your irresponsible ass has no leg to stand on. Your actions were, in fact, unacceptable" is pretty wild, but these things happen. Or something.

Anyway, if you had problems or questions concerning Sword, contacting me in private probably should have been the way to go---trying to get Charlie or me involved on here would seem to me to be the worst-case scenario, as if every other communication route had failed.

So that's all, dude. Obviously you're entitled to continue to bash me for an innocent slip-up or for questioning why you consider yourself to be the be-all end-all of the quiz bowl world---I'm sure in doing so, you'll be putting a smile on Doug Robeson's face.

But know that I really don't have a problem with you, or any one else on these boards for that matter---so if there's any way to start from "square" one, that'd be cool.

-Travis

-----

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Post by Captain Sinico »

In exactly what way were you ever called out. Travis? Eric simply noted that questions were re-used and that he wanted to find out why. Most importantly, he made no accusations at all regarding whose fault this was or why it happened. In response to this, you traced the source of the problem (an honest mistake on your part,) took responsibility, and noted that that you'd revise your writing practices to prevent it from happening again. That looks suspiciously like the system working to me.
Given that, I just don't see where you, your teammates, or your girlfriend can possibly have any issue here. The crux of your point seems to be that any time anyone has any issue that may involve you in any way, well, they'd better contact you and only you by your preferred means of communication, or they're "calling you out in public" which is unacceptable because you'd prefer that they not do that. I think you'd have to agree that that's more than a little unreasonable.

MaS

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Post by chune72 »

I agree if only because the problems that Eric cited do not apply solely to Eric, and instead need to be addressed publically (which, in the case of question re-use, is understandable).

Looking back, I suppose the issue can be taken as a lesson in double (or triple) checking questions for use in other tournaments (or simply writing new ones....). Plus, the issue has prompted a thread concerning packet submission to the Stanford Archive, which is a pretty good idea. So I'm glad some good can be taken from all of this, and my apologies for coming across a bit reactionary. Again, no hard feelings.

-Travis

------

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Post by AKKOLADE »

bornonatrain wrote:clarified now.
bornonatrain wrote:below.
I'm not getting into the rest of this thread since I have no dog in this race. I'm just saying this:

Dude, don't edit out your posts.

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Sword Bowl comments

Post by Your Genial Quizmaster »

First of all, thanks to Travis for (a) stepping up to admit his error rather than hanging me out to dry -- certainly an improvement over the aftermath of last year's Penn Bowl, (b) offering to send questions in the first place, and (c) saving me the effort of going back through to try to figure out if I'd been the one who screwed up. I made a similar mistake with a mislabeled file a couple of years back and still cringe when I remember it.

Second, I'll emphasize here something I said in the Sword Bowl results announcement: Jeremy Hixson et al. at Oklahoma went above and beyond in writing questions and helping with the editing. They caught errors, ambiguities, and duplications/overlaps that I didn't on first pass.

That being said, even as the editor-in-chief, I wasn't satisfied with this year's Sword Bowl set. Not that it was bad, but it wasn't what it should have been and it wasn't what I had in mind. Given the amount of time and effort that went into it, the finished product should have been better. There were three obstacles* that kept me from achieving my goals:

1) QUESTION VOLUME

Whatever happened to packet submission? Even with generous discounts and lenient deadlines, we got a whopping 3 1/2 packets for Sword Bowl from the actual teams. More teams than that -- five, I believe -- promised packets and then reneged. If they had delivered, I wouldn't have needed Travis' freelance submission in the first place. (Thanks also to Carol Guthrie and Scotti Whitmire at Tennessee and Jeremy Rasmussen et al. from South Florida for eleventh-hour freelance submissions, and to Jonathan Magin at Maryland for swapping three rounds with us.)

2) QUESTION TIMELINESS

General rule of thumb: Questions received less than 48 hours in advance will not be well edited. At that point all we can do is hastily edit for obvious duplications and errors in content, and there's no way to playtest or edit for readability. Some of the late arrivals were freelance submissions, and when someone does you a favor it's hard to complain that they should have done it sooner. Still, about 1/4 of the questions arrived in the last 2-3 days before the tournament, and it showed.

3) QUESTION QUALITY AND LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY

You may wonder why I'm combining those two different characteristics into one point, but bear with me here. Sword Bowl was intended to be written at the junior bird level, easier than the usual collegiate tournament. Unfortunately, the best written, best structured questions tended to be harder than the target level, while many of those with answers at the appropriate level weren't as well executed. Given the short supply and tight timeframe, I spent most of my time rewriting easier questions to make them more pyramidal, less ambiguous, etc., and had to let many structurally sound but still tougher questions stand as written.

In the quizbowl world in the last few years, many tournaments have gravitated to either of two poles. ACF and like-minded independent tournaments have emphasized packet submission and the quality of question construction; they've also pushed for more challenging subject matter and lengthier questions. Teams drawn to those harder tournaments have heard more well-written questions and learned more about the craft, but they've also gotten farther away from the subject matter most suitable for high school, juco, and newer undergrad teams. Meanwhile, teams with less experience may lack confidence in their ability to write a decent packet, and/or they just prefer easier (and shorter) questions. They may be more likely to go to tournaments using NAQT sets or house questions. So they don't write many packets, and the ones they do reflect their inexperience.

I know that's an overgeneralization, that there are tournaments like ACF Fall with well-structured but less difficult questions. (For that matter, there are also tournaments where the questions are both too hard and badly written.) But I think a good parallel is the world of serious music (what we called "classical" when I was a kid, before I found out what that really meant) in the 20th century. Composers who had grown weary of the traditional forms and styles turned to more challenging forms and techniques -- serialism, atonality, aleatory or indeterminate music, etc. In so doing, they stretched the envelope and wowed their peers -- but lost most of their audience, who found their music inaccessible. Thus today's symphonies rely on timeworn classics and even movie music (less original, less challenging, more listenable) to keep an audience.

I still cling to the notion that you can fill a tournament with well-structured, pyramidal questions that reward more knowledge, but with answers you'd be likely to find in the World Book and not just the Britannica. To get more submissions like that, we need to do either or both of:

a) Coax lighter questions out of the best question writers when the tournament calls for it. Note that I am not saying that every tournament needs to be lighter; there's plenty of room for tougher tournaments, as long as those aren't the only kind.

b) Seriously push packet submission from even the newest schools, knowing that their initial efforts won't be good enough to use without serious editing. This means getting everyone to write questions, having enough time and personnel to edit them thoroughly, and provide constructive feedback so each successive submission will improve.

Very soon I'll be posting the official announcement for the Moon Pie Classic in late April. I'm restructuring tournament requirements and fees with the above points in mind. I'll be interested in the feedback I get, both in this forum and in the actual material as it comes in.


* OK, four obstacles, if (as rumored) there has been some scientific progress made since Reagan was President and I was an undergrad.

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Re: Sword Bowl comments

Post by grapesmoker »

Your Genial Quizmaster wrote:In the quizbowl world in the last few years, many tournaments have gravitated to either of two poles. ACF and like-minded independent tournaments have emphasized packet submission and the quality of question construction; they've also pushed for more challenging subject matter and lengthier questions. Teams drawn to those harder tournaments have heard more well-written questions and learned more about the craft, but they've also gotten farther away from the subject matter most suitable for high school, juco, and newer undergrad teams. Meanwhile, teams with less experience may lack confidence in their ability to write a decent packet, and/or they just prefer easier (and shorter) questions. They may be more likely to go to tournaments using NAQT sets or house questions. So they don't write many packets, and the ones they do reflect their inexperience.
ACF IS IMPOSSIBLE! There really needs to be some sort of emoticon for this.

Stop propagating this fallacy. Penn Bowl was one of the best tournaments I've played in recent memory and I dare anyone to look at the answer selection and tell me with a straight face that the subject matter is somehow more challenging than any other tournament geared towards novices. Yes, ACF emphasizes packet submission tournaments and there are certain events (such as Nationals, Regionals to some extent, and MLK [which, tangentially, is not an ACF-affiliated event]) that emphasize a wider spectrum of answers. But it's a far cry from that to say that good writers have somehow been ratcheting up the difficulty without regard at every single tournament; on the contrary, many of the same people who like to play in hard tournaments have also made a huge effort to write and edit tournaments accessible to novices.

I've made this point once before, but I'll make it again: I consider playing on NAQT IS questions in college to be a futile exercise. If you're going to play on IS sets, never write, and go only to tournaments that are advertised as being for novices, you will suck at quizbowl and get pummeled by anyone who actually plays on real questions. It should also not be surprising that teams that habitually avoid exposure to real questions on the farcical grounds that questions which require actual knowledge are too hard are also terrible at writing questions, not to mention submitting them on time. Hey, let me check my inbox to see how many packets ACF Regionals has gotten from teams in the Southeast this year... oh, that's right, that number is zero.

Over the years, every effort has been made to attract new players by running tournaments geared to introducing them to quizbowl. However, for some people, it will apparently never be enough; they'll just continue conflating concepts like "having question writing standards" with difficulty, without regard for the accuracy of such arguments.

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Post by magin »

I don't think that he was saying that ACF was impossible; I think that he was pointing out that most well-written college tournaments have more lengthy questions and a larger answer space, and thus aren't very accessible to novices (ACF Fall and this year's Penn Bowl being exceptions). And I think that although people have laudably tried (and sometimes succeeded) to produce tournaments that are both well-written and accessible, there haven't been many which actually fit both criteria (although I could be mistaken). One of the problems, to me, is the relative dearth of juniorbirds; I wouldn't have become interested in college quizbowl if I hadn't attended a well-written juniorbird, and I think it might be a good idea for established players to attempt to create a few such packet-submission juniorbirds (to augment current tournaments, of course, not replace them). Although there are a subjectively large number of people interested in playing quizbowl in college, one reason that a comparatively small number stick around could be the mindset that new players should show up and get their ass kicked until they get better; while there certainly are people who admirably disregard getting beaten or feeling ignorant in order to improve, most new players can't be expected to have that attitude (which doesn't mean that new players should never be beaten or feel ignorant; instead, it means that new players with the desire to improve should be put in positions to encourage their progress rather than discouraging it (and I believe that it is discouraging for new players to play regionals-level questions against established teams (which doesn't mean that they shouldn't, just that it's currently a little discouraging for them))).

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Post by DumbJaques »

TRIPLE PARENTHESIS YOUR STATEMENT CANNOT BE REFUTED

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Post by grapesmoker »

magin wrote:I don't think that he was saying that ACF was impossible; I think that he was pointing out that most well-written college tournaments have more lengthy questions and a larger answer space, and thus aren't very accessible to novices (ACF Fall and this year's Penn Bowl being exceptions).
Tournaments run the gamut; I haven't played a single tournament this year whose answer space could be considered in the upper half of the difficulty scale. Yes, EFT, which I helped write, was harder than originally intended, but it wasn' that hard.

Of course, writing "ACF IS IMPOSSIBLE" was obviously a joke; I realize that that's not quite what's being said, but the gist of it is that experienced players (who are tacitly and frequently incorrectly assumed to be associated with ACF) are raising the difficulty bar for younger players and that there aren't enough tournaments geared towards newcomers. All of these statements are empirically false and have been rebutted numerous times, but they just keep coming back in some other form.
And I think that although people have laudably tried (and sometimes succeeded) to produce tournaments that are both well-written and accessible, there haven't been many which actually fit both criteria (although I could be mistaken). One of the problems, to me, is the relative dearth of juniorbirds; I wouldn't have become interested in college quizbowl if I hadn't attended a well-written juniorbird, and I think it might be a good idea for established players to attempt to create a few such packet-submission juniorbirds (to augment current tournaments, of course, not replace them).
There have already been several such tournaments. In addition, tournaments not explicitly sold as junior birds, such as Yale's BoB and Berkeley's WIT, have been not far above that level. Then there was ACF Fall (long questions, yes, but very accessible) and then Penn Bowl (shorter questions, equally accessible), and now Illinois is doing another one. Seriously, take a look at the tournament schedule; despite perpetual laments for the circuit, the tournament schedule is already near-impacted, and many of those tournaments are novice-oriented.
Although there are a subjectively large number of people interested in playing quizbowl in college, one reason that a comparatively small number stick around could be the mindset that new players should show up and get their ass kicked until they get better;
You are mistaking the reality of the situation for a "mindset." I don't think that they should get their asses kicked, I know for a fact that they will. It is simply the road traveled by every player ever, you get beaten by those better than you. The correct question to ask is why those players are better than you. Almost always, the answer is that they've a) been around for a couple years, and b) write questions and play on lots of packets.
while there certainly are people who admirably disregard getting beaten or feeling ignorant in order to improve, most new players can't be expected to have that attitude (which doesn't mean that new players should never be beaten or feel ignorant; instead, it means that new players with the desire to improve should be put in positions to encourage their progress rather than discouraging it (and I believe that it is discouraging for new players to play regionals-level questions against established teams (which doesn't mean that they shouldn't, just that it's currently a little discouraging for them))).
I find all this hard to believe. If someone is discouraged by playing regionals-level questions against a good team (which presumably everyone who reads this board will do two weeks from now) then I don't know what to say to them except "don't be." They will also face some bad teams, and some mediocre teams. Work your way up the ladder, and then beat the teams that used to wipe the floor with you.

I'm committed to providing opportunities for introducing new players to the game. But I don't believe in coddling them or treating them like children; at some point, if you want to be good, you'll have to demonstrate your skill at the appropriate levels on solid questions against quality opposition. If you don't want that, that's ok too, people have different priorities. But then recognize that the difference in outcomes reflects the difference in priorities and make your peace with that (I'm addressing the plural "you" here, not you personally, Jonathan).

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Post by Captain Sinico »

magin wrote:...I think it might be a good idea for established players to attempt to create a few such packet-submission juniorbirds...
Yes, if only someone would run such a tournament.

MaS

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Post by magin »

Point taken about the tournaments, and about my mischaracterization about mindsets. What I was trying to get at, albeit in a roundabout way, was that there seems to be a problem with teams not submitting packets to things (only two teams who attended TIT submitted anything, it looks like not many teams submitted anything to Sword Bowl, etc.) and I don't really think that laziness is the reason why. Perhaps my reasoning is poor, but it seems like there's some external factor causing this, although not being a social scientist I'm not sure what it is.
at some point, if you want to be good, you'll have to demonstrate your skill at the appropriate levels on solid questions against quality opposition. If you don't want that, that's ok too, people have different priorities. But then recognize that the difference in outcomes reflects the difference in priorities and make your peace with that
And this makes perfect sense. However, (and this might be material for a separate thread), I was in part reacting to the various "laments for the circuit" which seemed to intimate that new players are either not interested or unable to evolve into high-level players; most of the jeremiads struck me the wrong way. And I agree that things are better for new players than I made them out to be; I apologize (and I forgot about the Illinois tournament, which nicely undermines my argument). But I'm still not exactly satisfied that any real or illusory decline is simply caused by individuals deciding not to put effort into quizbowl, and I wanted to try and puzzle out some structural cause (which might have led me into faulty assertions, and I apologize for them as well).

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Post by Matt Weiner »

I propose that junior birds are healthy when they serve to ease new players into quizbowl by eliminating some of the more intimidating factors while holding others constant. These factors are:
-open competition
-packet submission
-question difficulty

Tournaments like SNEWT or Illinois Novice which eliminate open competition but still require packet submission and don't go too insultingly easy on difficulty are really good ideas. Tournaments like, oh I don't know, college events held on NAQT high school questions are just completely alien to what people can reasonably expect in normal quizbowl, and serve only to put forth a false image of what the game is like.

I'd like to see more of the traditional juniorbird as described above; the problem is that financial viability requires opening up most events in most regions. That's why I am making the VCU mirror of Illinois Novice an open event. However, I am not averse to awarding a title to the top-finishing underclassman or undergraduate team, or even playing off a final among such teams, if that will encourage people to show up or make them enjoy the tournament more.

We talk a lot about awarding subsidary titles within overall fields, but it rarely happens. Can we try doing that for a while and see if it helps?

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Post by magin »

Tournaments like SNEWT or Illinois Novice which eliminate open competition but still require packet submission and don't go too insultingly easy on difficulty
Just to eliminate any confusion, these are the kinds of juniorbirds I would like to see as well. Matt's post expressed it a lot better than mine did.

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Re: Sword Bowl comments

Post by Your Genial Quizmaster »

My comments interlined below...
grapesmoker wrote:
Your Genial Quizmaster wrote:In the quizbowl world in the last few years, many tournaments have gravitated to either of two poles. ACF and like-minded independent tournaments have emphasized packet submission and the quality of question construction; they've also pushed for more challenging subject matter and lengthier questions. Teams drawn to those harder tournaments have heard more well-written questions and learned more about the craft, but they've also gotten farther away from the subject matter most suitable for high school, juco, and newer undergrad teams. Meanwhile, teams with less experience may lack confidence in their ability to write a decent packet, and/or they just prefer easier (and shorter) questions. They may be more likely to go to tournaments using NAQT sets or house questions. So they don't write many packets, and the ones they do reflect their inexperience.
ACF IS IMPOSSIBLE! There really needs to be some sort of emoticon for this.

Stop propagating this fallacy. Penn Bowl was one of the best tournaments I've played in recent memory and I dare anyone to look at the answer selection and tell me with a straight face that the subject matter is somehow more challenging than any other tournament geared towards novices. Yes, ACF emphasizes packet submission tournaments and there are certain events (such as Nationals, Regionals to some extent, and MLK [which, tangentially, is not an ACF-affiliated event]) that emphasize a wider spectrum of answers. But it's a far cry from that to say that good writers have somehow been ratcheting up the difficulty without regard at every single tournament; on the contrary, many of the same people who like to play in hard tournaments have also made a huge effort to write and edit tournaments accessible to novices..
I've re-re-read my comments above, and I don't believe there's anything I said that propagates that fallacy. No one seems to believe me, but I like ACF. I've been a supporter from its inception -- hey, the first two intercollegiate tournaments where my team actually won were the first ACF Regionals and ACF Nationals. UTC hosted ACF Regionals for what, seven straight years? And while we needed to cut back on our QB schedule, we'd have hosted again this year if needed. UTC will play at ACF Regionals later this month, and I'm going to Knoxville to help out.

About six years ago, the last time I took a team to ACF Nationals, I'd have characterized ACF questions as a little too long and a lot too hard for my taste. Based on the last couple of Regionals sets, I'd say they're a little too hard and a lot too long. But I give credit where credit is due -- the questions are well-structured, well-researched, and suitably challenging for good teams.

That being said, ACF Regionals and many ACF-style independent tournaments aren't exactly entry level quiz bowl, any more than a 300 level or 400 level collegiate class is what most freshmen should start with. Luckily ACF Fall is, which I think has done wonders for the format's image and drawn in new blood. I'm also glad to see more ACF-style, novice-friendly tournaments.

None of this changes the fact that most of the best question writers cut their teeth at a time when question difficulty tended to be on the high side. They may also have fallen victim to the "I've-heard-this-before-so-it's-too-easy" fallacy. Believe it or not, I did too; when I look back at questions I wrote or edited about ten years ago, they tended to be too obscure. It took a few years of reacquainting myself with the skill level of the novice to get back to a level I think better suited for a junior bird. I will restate the point I was making in the first place: For Sword Bowl this year, the best-written questions were generally too hard for a junior bird, while the ones with JV-friendly answers were not as well written.
I've made this point once before, but I'll make it again: I consider playing on NAQT IS questions in college to be a futile exercise. If you're going to play on IS sets, never write, and go only to tournaments that are advertised as being for novices, you will suck at quizbowl and get pummeled by anyone who actually plays on real questions. It should also not be surprising that teams that habitually avoid exposure to real questions on the farcical grounds that questions which require actual knowledge are too hard are also terrible at writing questions, not to mention submitting them on time. Hey, let me check my inbox to see how many packets ACF Regionals has gotten from teams in the Southeast this year... oh, that's right, that number is zero.
I would agree with your premise if you changed it to read "playing on only NAQT IS questions." I enjoy NAQT as a change of pace and hope to see it continue, but I don't want to see it completely replace the untimed format and/or packet submission.

An aside: The only reason UTC didn't submit a packet for ACF-R is that we needed every question we could muster for Sword Bowl. Otherwise, we'd still submit a round, even though our questions seldom get used. Ditto for ACF Fall if it weren't for COTKU and outr fall high school tournament.
Over the years, every effort has been made to attract new players by running tournaments geared to introducing them to quizbowl. However, for some people, it will apparently never be enough; they'll just continue conflating concepts like "having question writing standards" with difficulty, without regard for the accuracy of such arguments.
I hope you aren't counting me among "some people", because if you are I have no idea where you're getting that.

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