NAQT vs PACE

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NAQT vs PACE

Postby tksaleija » Thu Jul 06, 2017 10:19 pm

So stylistically, I've noticed that PACE and NAQT are the most prominent questions providers mentioned here and seen in most competitions. I was interested in knowing what the fundamental differences between the two are. Just going through some of the packets, I've noticed that PACE seems to be more obscure with their information at times but I haven't noticed any radical differences stylistically or in formatting. Thoughts?
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Re: NAQT vs PACE

Postby Big Y » Fri Jul 07, 2017 7:57 am

If you are talking about regular season competitions, then PACE does not provide questions, so the main question comes down to NAQT vs. a group that produces one set per year. Some of those independent sets are produced by question-writing organizations such as HSAPQ or SCOP, and most of them are produced by high school or college teams, sometimes with the help of somebody with editing experience.

If you are talking about nationals, then it largely does come down to NAQT vs. PACE. There is also the HSAPQ NASAT, which is for state all-star teams and of high quality, and QU NAC, which is low quality.

Keep in mind as you read this that I am PACE President, an NAQT Writer, and the Head Writer/Editor for some of the independent sets in the database. I'll let you decide how biased this post is.

Here are some general differences you get with NAQT vs. something else. PACE is hoping to put out a more formal and simple statement in the next few months pointing out some of the differences between HSNCT and NSC, and what I am saying here should not be considered an official statement by PACE. Also, I am here describing question differences only as opposed to structural differences between HSNCT and NSC.

1. NAQT has an established record and is trusted. If we are talking about nationals, then the same is true for PACE. If we are talking about regular season tournaments, then other providers should be considered on a case-by-case basis. Some are known to be good, some have had issues, and some are doing this for the first time. If you are considering a question source for a tournament, it is a good idea to look at old discussion threads from past years if they are available or to ask the editors what quality assurances they can provide. If you are considering a question source for practice, then you can probably just read one packet on your own to see if you like it, and keep reading if you do.

2. NAQT tossups are shorter. For IS and HSNCT, there is a strict character limit of 425 (including spaces, not including power marks and pronunciation guides). For NSC, the character limit is 775, and there are some questions that go slightly over it. Most other sets are somewhere in between. When used well, longer tossups allow more clues to better differentiate between teams and allow more space to clearly state those clues. Often but far from always, there are more difficult clues at the beginning of longer tossups. When used well, shorter tossups make writers focus and be more efficient so that the questions stick to the point and cram lots of important clues into a small space.

3. The distribution is different. An average NAQT packet has 1.7/1.6 pop culture, 1.9/1.8 geography, and 1.8/1.7 current events, whereas other sets tend to have less of those things. NSC has no pop culture, .5/.5 geography, and .5/.5 current events. On the other hand, an average NAQT packet has 1.6/1.5 fine arts, and other tournaments tend to have more. NSC has 3/3 fine arts. (Just to be clear, the notation is # of tossups/# of bonuses. Also, keep in mind that most NAQT rounds are 24/24 as opposed to the 20/20 that is common elsewhere including NSC. I am using IS numbers, which are very close to but not exactly equal to HSNCT numbers.) Also, as you can see from some of these decimals, there is a little more variation in NAQT packets than in others.
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Re: NAQT vs PACE

Postby Magritte's Pipe » Thu Jul 13, 2017 6:04 pm

Big Y wrote:3. The distribution is different. An average NAQT packet has 1.7/1.6 pop culture, 1.9/1.8 geography, and 1.8/1.7 current events, whereas other sets tend to have less of those things. NSC has no pop culture, .5/.5 geography, and .5/.5 current events. On the other hand, an average NAQT packet has 1.6/1.5 fine arts, and other tournaments tend to have more. NSC has 3/3 fine arts. (Just to be clear, the notation is # of tossups/# of bonuses. Also, keep in mind that most NAQT rounds are 24/24 as opposed to the 20/20 that is common elsewhere including NSC. I am using IS numbers, which are very close to but not exactly equal to HSNCT numbers.) Also, as you can see from some of these decimals, there is a little more variation in NAQT packets than in others.


I wonder if anyone from NAQT can comment on why they have considerably more pop culture and current events than NSC, because this has been something that has increasingly been gnawing at me recently. I am entering my 12th year as a coach, so I've got a fairly large stash of practice questions from the last decade plus. Pop culture and current events questions are useless in practice within a year or two of them being written. Geography questions depend on how much they rely on current events clues like the current leader of a country. This makes it very hard to help guide players who want to get better in these areas, since there is no agreed upon canon in pop culture and current events as there is for other categories. Worse, I've begun to notice that a good many current events questions betray the news source the writer exclusively used ("this writer watches Jon Oliver", "this writer based their question off a Vox article, etc.), which seems sub-optimal.

If it is desirable to have pop culture in NAQT questions, couldn't an agreed upon canon of figures players should know be drawn up if the pop culture questions focus on older figures whose status is pretty set (Miles Davis, Tupac Shakur, Alfred Hitchcock, The Rolling Stones, Muhammad Ali, Joe Montana, Billie Jean King, etc.)? It does seem odd to encourage teenagers to watch and listen to stuff that most of us agree is at best forgettable and at worst absolute garbage when there's lots of great stuff out there that the average teenager knows nothing about (I find many Stanley Kubrick movies emotionally cold, as I do Citizen Kane, but I certainly agree that any aspiring cinephile should be aware of both, and any person who wants to be well-rounded should know something about both - I can't say the same about DJ Khaled or The Boss Baby).
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Re: NAQT vs PACE

Postby Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov » Thu Jul 13, 2017 10:31 pm

I think the problem with incorporating older pop culture into a pop culture "canon" is that it becomes hard to distinguish it from fine arts. I, as well as virtually all writers, consider Miles Davis, or any jazz musician for that matter, to be within the fine arts canon. Most people would place Alfred Hitchcock or Stanley Kubrick in fine arts as well. In my opinion, the problem with this is that quizbowl writers are basically determining what art is, and many quizbowlers take the canon's definition of art as reality. I think that the fine arts canon should be expanded to include work by, for example, Tupac - I don't see what about Tupac's music is less artful than Mozart's or Davis' music, both of which was extremely popular in its time. This is getting off topic, but I think the fine arts canon should be expanded into a lot more film and music, obviously barring topics like DJ Khaled or Marvel movies. If this is done, I'd want NAQT to make their trash distribution smaller, as tossups like the HSNCT one on George Clooney would, in my opinion, belong in the fine arts section (Oh Brother Where Art Thou is not less "art"ful than any Hitchcock film).
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Re: NAQT vs PACE

Postby Marble-faced Bristle Tyrant » Thu Jul 13, 2017 11:32 pm

I don't know about the overall conversion data nor am I involved with the editing for HSNCT PC, but I have definitely seen multiple questions on "important" popular topics go dead/get zeroed, which is incredibly painful to watch. With pop culture it can be really difficult to gauge what counts as easy for the intended audience.
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Re: NAQT vs PACE

Postby UlyssesInvictus » Fri Jul 14, 2017 12:23 am

This is further diverging the topic of the thread toward the purpose of trash and away from a conversation about NAQT vs. PACE, but I've been pushing my conception of trash at HFT for the past few years now, which goes something like this:'

Don'ts:
- Don't write trash on pet subjects (with rare exceptions). This means things that the writer really "likes," since it often becomes impossible to write a good question that isn't entirely skewed by the writer's own knowledge, or is otherwise written incomprehensible to someone only casually familiar with the subject.
- Similarly, (usually) avoid niche subjects, since this often turns questions into either "familiar with the subject" vs. "not familiar with it"--there is no middle, and players will either power insanely early or the question will barely scrape by at the giveaway. This includes memes, games, other internet phenomena--an example like to use is Rick and Morty, which--while not really niche--tends to expose either rabid fanhood or total cluelessness.

Dos:
- Write about cultural history, meaning things with a prominent role in the public consciousness, especially if American. For example, I really liked an I Love Lucy tossup I wrote last year, since I Love Lucy is usually used as the metonymic television show of the 50s. Similarly, a tossup on Pacman would be very relevant to the video game boom of the 80s.
- Write about cultural accomplishments, even if not necessarily culturally valuable. For example, Titanic was a behemoth of the box office and worth asking about in that context, even though it wasn't a particularly masterful movie in its own right.
- Write about things that have entered cultural consciousness. This is actually kind of a postmodern [NB: not actually postmodern; I am not a theorist; I just read DFW once] take on trash--the idea that people are as likely to "communicate" with references to certain things, such as how some movies are commonly quoted despite people never having actually seen that movie. Citing Titanic again, the drawing and bridge scenes are some endlessly parodied moments, and prove people still pay attention to the Titanic. (As anecdotal proof, I've never actually seen Titanic either, but I sure know what those scenes are about.)

I mainly talked about visual media in the above, but I think you can take the analogous ideas for music / sports / whatever.

Also, I like to especially stress these points for recent pop culture. It's a personal thing, but I especially hate trash on "X movie that came out in the last Y weeks," just because it came out in the last Y weeks. People should be talking about it for a reason other than it exists! I guess there's some merit in using trash to demonstrate you're the kind of person who's watching ESPN and has a subscription to EW. I just think it's much more valuable to ask about trash for its inherent value rather than some kind of recency bias.

As a final example, I put tossups on Taylor Swift and Breaking Bad in trash from previous HFTs. Even though both are very much notably recent phenomena, Taylor Swift dominates the pop genre (in sales at least, if you don't want to cop to quality of music) and as a gut-check, you'd be hard-pressed to find an American household that doesn't have at least one person who's heard at least one of her songs; and Breaking Bad has a sort of highly interested fan base that'd normally mean low-quality questions, except most television writers have already regarded Breaking Bad as potentially the high watermark of the most recent Golden Age of Television, so IMO it's worth asking on that merit alone.

Obviously, I don't get it right all the time either, and I remember plenty of pet subjects I threw out questions for. I just think trash can be a whole lot more interesting than "things people like."

NB: I'd consider a sort of perpendicular discussion to the one that keeps popping up of when something stops being trash and starts being fine arts. I don't think that's an unimportant conversation--my Do's all sort of touch on the qualities that help delineate--it's just that these are the ideas I think make that conversation redundant, or separate.
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