NAC going pyramidal?

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NAC going pyramidal?

Postby Magritte's Pipe » Fri Dec 16, 2016 3:06 pm

I just got a letter inviting my team to the 2017 NAC. That is not abnormal. I think I get one of those letters every year. However, one sentence in the letter caught my eye:

"Please note that our tossup questions are now pyramidal, and are of the same high quality that you are accustomed to." This is followed by offer to send me a sample game to demonstrate what the new questions look like.

I don't have any comment about this other than the obvious thought that pyramidal is always better than non-pyramidal. I just thought I should share what I know on here and see if others know more and want to comment.
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Re: NAC going pyramidal?

Postby Megachile ambigua » Fri Dec 16, 2016 3:20 pm

Haven't they been claiming that for years now?
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Re: NAC going pyramidal?

Postby cchiego » Fri Dec 16, 2016 3:24 pm

They have been claiming in those letters for several years now that they're now pyramidal. I saw a copy of that "sample" last year and based on some comments from others I think that same "sample" has been going around since 2013.

Here, by the way, are some actual Questions Unlimited questions that were used by actual teams last year (knowing Chip he'll probably re-use them verbatim at nationals like he did a few years ago, but hey that's his own problem) that were freely posted online. This seems to be Beall's idea of "pyramidal":

(10) Daniel Boone could imitate the call of 50 birds, but there was one bird that interested him more than all the others, particularly when he heard it outside the stockade at night in the Kentucky wilderness. The bird was the owl. Why was Daniel always suspicious of the call of the owl?
Ans. Because it was the favorite signal between the Indians lurking in the darkness.

(10) It is a term often used to refer to a play, when the work serves some particular purpose beyond pure entertainment. It might be a showcase for the star or for the author's views. Give the theatrical term that is also a unit of transportation.
Ans. Vehicle

(20) The most common Greek ones were the kithera, which was associated with Apollo, and the aulos, associated with Dionysus. What were they?
Ans. Musical instruments

(15) Which emperor learned a terrible lesson that was ignored by a dictator 129 years later?
Ans. Napoleon

(10) A monument is planned for the top of Georgia’s Stone Mountain Park. It will feature a replica of the Liberty Bell with the inscription "Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia," a quotation from what speech?
Ans. “I Have a Dream”


EDIT: It has been pointed out to me that Jason Russell no longer apparently works for Chip (his picture is not on the NAC site anymore) and, in fact, is now with NHBB.
Last edited by cchiego on Fri Dec 16, 2016 8:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: NAC going pyramidal?

Postby Irreligion in Bangladesh » Fri Dec 16, 2016 3:41 pm

(As far as you'll believe me, I'm speaking for myself as a former coach and not as an NHBB employee in this post. If you have any questions or concerns, please PM me.)

I'll also confirm that, in my four years as coach at Keith, I got the "we're pyramidal now, come play us" mailing from Chip every year. I've also seen some samples that aren't nearly as "wow, that's....NOT what pyramidal means" as the above samples are, but they looked very much in need of editing by someone with experience writing good quizbowl questions, and they were dwarfed in number by more examples in the above bad quizbowl form. So long as Chip's in charge, "pyramidal" doesn't mean the same thing; you can safely ignore them and not worry about missing anything.
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Re: NAC going pyramidal?

Postby Magritte's Pipe » Fri Dec 16, 2016 3:43 pm

HAHA. Your answers are sad but not surprising. I'm glad I made this thread, for simple purpose of exposing this for what it is.

By the way, having just seen these sample questions, they are pretty bad - certainly not anywhere close to the quality of NAQT or PACE tournaments. It reminds me of the awful Patrick's Press questions I had to deal with at the beginning of my coaching career - and this is the official sample packet!!

So basically, nothing has changed over in :chip: land, it would seem.

I should add that I had no intention of going to NAC even if they were in fact going pyramidal (that tournament has too many other institutional issues), but I was interested to learn more about this question claim, which appears to be totally bogus.
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Re: NAC going pyramidal?

Postby tktennis » Mon Jun 12, 2017 2:01 am

For what it's worth, he did use that Daniel Boone question this year. Word for word. My team wouldn't stop joking about it, and it makes it all the better that he lifted the clue from his own writings. (There was also another clue, one I won a game on for us, that was clearly word for word lifted from another set, a problem I've encountered every year at the NAC.)

My team's insistence on playing the NAC and nothing else, its incessant addiction to Chip-Bowl, not only destroyed what could have been a promising team by dis-incentivizing any packet study, but also almost singlehandedly destroyed a lot of the joy Quizbowl gave me. The more I got into writing questions and improving on my own, the more I garnered from the incredible people here, the more infuriating the NAC and the institutions which prop him up (including all the teams like my own which would rather boast big scores at a "national" than get better) became. Go to HSNCT. Please.
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Re: NAC going pyramidal?

Postby Father Comstock » Mon Jun 12, 2017 1:03 pm

After going to PACE and getting thwomped, I can confirm that losing at PACE is more fun than winning at NAC. Any coach that subjects their student to :chip: is not teaching their students anything about actual learning and is rather giving their team a false sense of security in their abilities. Especially since QU will likely die in a couple years when :chip: retires, I think it's better if the conversion begins now. How can we (as a group of nice intellectuals) be including of teams who have no idea what good quiz bowl is without destroying them at the same time? Every time a chip team comes to a pyramidal tournament in IN, they get obliterated, and go back to bad quiz bowl.
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Re: NAC going pyramidal?

Postby etchdulac » Mon Jun 12, 2017 1:39 pm

Father Comstock wrote:How can we (as a group of nice intellectuals) be including of teams who have no idea what good quiz bowl is without destroying them at the same time? Every time a chip team comes to a pyramidal tournament in IN, they get obliterated, and go back to bad quiz bowl.


Try to funnel any interested conversion candidates to a single event at which you can run a separate "format-novice" division. Even if that's only 6 teams, you can get them 5 prelims and a double-elim playoffs pretty easy.
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Re: NAC going pyramidal?

Postby cchiego » Mon Jun 12, 2017 1:44 pm

Father Comstock wrote:After going to PACE and getting thwomped, I can confirm that losing at PACE is more fun than winning at NAC. Any coach that subjects their student to :chip: is not teaching their students anything about actual learning and is rather giving their team a false sense of security in their abilities. Especially since QU will likely die in a couple years when :chip: retires, I think it's better if the conversion begins now. How can we (as a group of nice intellectuals) be including of teams who have no idea what good quiz bowl is without destroying them at the same time? Every time a chip team comes to a pyramidal tournament in IN, they get obliterated, and go back to bad quiz bowl.


At this point, the number of Chip teams who don't know about pyramidal quizbowl is likely very, very small. Instead, I think we need to look at the different types of teams still going to Chip:

Those who know very well what they're doing. Some teams--usually the more decent ones left at NAC-- know exactly what they're doing by going to NAC. They hide from good quizbowl by going to NAC every year and put up banners of their "national championships" while bleating away on Twitter about how well they're doing. They want to claim they won a NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP or made the NATIONAL PLAYOFFS and don't care about anything else. Even if NAC ended, I bet they'd start something similar so that they can continue to have 8 teams a year claim to be "national champions." You would hope at some point that a sense of moral responsibility kicks in with these teams (at least with the players, if not the coaches).

Vacation teams. These are teams who simply prefer the locations and/or times of NAC and its widely spread-out match schedule as their vacation time. Many of these teams probably wouldn't be able to qualify for HSNCT or the NSC normally. Encouraging such teams to simply attend regular quiz bowl tournaments in New Orleans, Chicago, or DC towards the end of the season would be ideal along with promoting the tourism potential at the HSNCT/NSC locations a bit more.

Jr. High Schools. One of the biggest unique draws for Chip is Jr. High schools that go from 7-9th grade. They thus aren't really allowed to compete at the normal MS level and wouldn't do well at the normal HS level. It might be interesting to try to have a 9th grade category for such teams, but the logistics of that are unlikely. [Note that Elementary schools were added this year as well at some sites too]

Chip Leagues. A decent number of schools still come from leagues in NY, Indiana, Arkansas, etc. where Chip questions (the same verbatim questions in many cases, as a post above reveals!) are still used. For these schools, this is the natural culmination of their season and likely a tradition. Why change? These might be some of the best hopes for convincing if you can get them to change their local league. But do they have an incentive to change? This is where talking about pyramidality and repeats and the other substantive arguments might have a real impact.

And yes, there are probably some schools still out there who don't know enough about the rest of quizbowl to really know the difference. But that number is likely fairly small at this point.

I do fully agree though with the issue that a lot of non-pyramidal teams show up at pyramidal tournaments and get stomped, then decide never to play again. The best solutions here would be to:
1. Ensure that tournament hosts make clear to these newer schools the degree of difficulty of the field and questions
2. Add more JV/novice level divisions at tournaments
3. Encourage more smaller, local tournaments on pyramidal questions that the top teams sit out or help run
4. Focus on bursts of outreach to help ensure that there are many new schools playing at once rather than one or two in a field of veteran teams
5. Make a concerted effort to talk to the coaches and players on these teams as much as possible while at the tournament
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Re: NAC going pyramidal?

Postby nsb2 » Mon Jun 12, 2017 2:42 pm

cchiego wrote:The best solutions here would be to:
1. Ensure that tournament hosts make clear to these newer schools the degree of difficulty of the field and questions
2. Add more JV/novice level divisions at tournaments
3. Encourage more smaller, local tournaments on pyramidal questions that the top teams sit out or help run
4. Focus on bursts of outreach to help ensure that there are many new schools playing at once rather than one or two in a field of veteran teams
5. Make a concerted effort to talk to the coaches and players on these teams as much as possible while at the tournament


Points 1, 2, and 3 are important, both for middle school and new high school players.

When I began playing quizbowl in sixth grade, we practiced on good questions (NAQT, if I remember correctly) and my first tournament was a good quizbowl tournament. I was hooked right away and have been playing and studying for the past seven years.

While I was fortunate to have a middle school coach who encouraged good quizbowl, I'm sure many schools are not so fortunate. MSNCT has done a good job of exposing middle school teams to good quizbowl, but more regional events are needed to attract middle school teams to high-quality questions.

Finally, for players starting in high school, it would help to introduce some sort of gradation between novice questions and even A-sets, and to play these events sequentially (in difficulty order for the first few months). Several IMSA quizbowl players either stopped playing because they didn't do well at tournaments they considered "difficult" or because they were too lazy to play beyond novice level. Several tournaments of slightly increasing difficulty would help such players get better acclimatized to quizbowl and keep teams interested.
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Re: NAC going pyramidal?

Postby Atlashill » Mon Jun 12, 2017 2:58 pm

Father Comstock wrote:How can we (as a group of nice intellectuals) be including of teams who have no idea what good quiz bowl is without destroying them at the same time? Every time a chip team comes to a pyramidal tournament in IN, they get obliterated, and go back to bad quiz bowl.
We've dealt with this issue quite a bit in Missouri, though with our own drawn-out, math-heavy format instead of all-out :chip:. Last year I introduced a two-division setup at our tournament in Moberly, with positive success. The teams with less experience in the format got a taste for it, hearing from experienced moderators who didn't trip over every other word and took forever to jump between tossup and bonus, while the more-experienced programs had a final tune-up before districts and nationals. We are starting to experiment with this setup in other parts of the state where exposure to 20/20 is still marginal.

Another project that event organizers have undertaken are after-school invitationals exclusive to teams with little to any experience. These aren't announced but arranged through constant networking with coaches. This has also shown positive results, and several of these teams who have the means to do so are starting to make their way to Saturday tournaments.
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Re: NAC going pyramidal?

Postby Rococo A Go Go » Mon Jun 12, 2017 8:54 pm

Some pretty good teams played HSNCT and NAC, or couldn't play HSNCT for scheduling reasons and played NAC as a substitute. This may be because NSC is lesser known, but also because the field is quite small for a national tournament. I would say PACE could reach out to those teams, but if there aren't slots for them, I'm not sure how much help it would be. To these teams, they look at their options as "two nationals or one national" or even "one national or zero nationals." And again, some of these teams are actually plenty good enough to qualify for the other events.

How might we as a community attract those teams? I'm just gonna be honest, I want to see the top teams in Kentucky (teams like Henderson, Daviess, Campbell, etc) stack up with the best teams from around the country at HSNCT and NSC. Sometimes teams like that go to NAC for reasons like tradition or whatever, but I have specifically heard of basically just scheduling difficulties to cause them to go to NAC some years.
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Re: NAC going pyramidal?

Postby Father Comstock » Mon Jun 12, 2017 10:17 pm

I can't speak for Daviess nor Henderson, but Campbell's team prefers NAC. From what I can tell, it's because they win on it a lot, as they did against us.
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Re: NAC going pyramidal?

Postby AKKOLADE » Mon Jun 12, 2017 10:27 pm

There's also coaches that go to NAC solely because they think they're more likely to ge ta trophy.
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Re: NAC going pyramidal?

Postby Ben Dillon » Mon Jun 12, 2017 11:00 pm

Reportedly, Zionsville (Indiana) won NAC. This of course makes our job of converting Indiana again harder, because the more success our state has with QU, they more schools want to play it.
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Re: NAC going pyramidal?

Postby AKKOLADE » Mon Jun 12, 2017 11:04 pm

Zionsville's best and only regular season aPPB was 19.64, so they're probably in the top 400 teams.
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Re: NAC going pyramidal?

Postby Father Comstock » Mon Jun 12, 2017 11:12 pm

AKKOLADE wrote:Zionsville's best and only regular season aPPB was 19.64, so they're probably in the top 400 teams.


Their team preferred Pyramids but Indiana is relatively a desert in regards to good Quiz Bowl. No house writes and only 1 regular difficulty tournament this year (state). Harrison played IS-160,164, Prison Bowl, BASQT, GSAC, SSNCT, HFT, and ICT all out of state while in state just 157-A, 161-A, and 166. We drove and paid for ourselves for most of these but I can see a lot of teams not wanting to do that. I am very excited that there seems to be some Illinois interest in helping staff tourneys at Purdue and elsewhere.
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Re: NAC going pyramidal?

Postby dhumphreys17 » Wed Jun 14, 2017 11:10 pm

Digression: did anyone else notice that Wayzata, Washington Phase champion of the nAC, may or may not have just trolled Chip by having Joe Kammann wear an HSNCT T-shirt to the event?
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Re: NAC going pyramidal?

Postby kammajos000 » Wed Jun 14, 2017 11:27 pm

dhumphreys17 wrote:Digression: did anyone else notice that Wayzata, Washington Phase champion of the nAC, may or may not have just trolled Chip by having Joe Kammann wear an HSNCT T-shirt to the event?

Thanks for noticing!
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Re: NAC going pyramidal?

Postby Big Y » Wed Jun 14, 2017 11:30 pm

Is there any truth to the rumor that there was a visual question featuring the First Lady in a bikini?
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Re: NAC going pyramidal?

Postby Father Comstock » Wed Jun 14, 2017 11:57 pm

Big Y wrote:Is there any truth to the rumor that there was a visual question featuring the First Lady in a bikini?


I swear it happened. Hopefully my teammates read this and can back me up. Not many people were in the room, and it seems as if it was only used at the NOLA site.
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Re: NAC going pyramidal?

Postby mlaird » Fri Jun 23, 2017 11:19 pm

I interviewed Zionsville at HSNCT, for what it's worth. They had some things to say.

https://twitter.com/NAQTLive_ML/status/ ... 0162429954
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Re: NAC going pyramidal?

Postby the return of AHAN » Sun Jun 25, 2017 1:34 am

nsb2 wrote:
cchiego wrote:The best solutions here would be to:
1. Ensure that tournament hosts make clear to these newer schools the degree of difficulty of the field and questions
2. Add more JV/novice level divisions at tournaments
3. Encourage more smaller, local tournaments on pyramidal questions that the top teams sit out or help run
4. Focus on bursts of outreach to help ensure that there are many new schools playing at once rather than one or two in a field of veteran teams
5. Make a concerted effort to talk to the coaches and players on these teams as much as possible while at the tournament


Points 1, 2, and 3 are important, both for middle school and new high school players.

When I began playing quizbowl in sixth grade, we practiced on good questions (NAQT, if I remember correctly) and my first tournament was a good quizbowl tournament. I was hooked right away and have been playing and studying for the past seven years.

While I was fortunate to have a middle school coach who encouraged good quizbowl, I'm sure many schools are not so fortunate. MSNCT has done a good job of exposing middle school teams to good quizbowl, but more regional events are needed to attract middle school teams to high-quality questions.

:grin: :cool:
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Re: NAC going pyramidal?

Postby CaseyB » Wed Jul 05, 2017 1:51 pm

With regards to trying to get teams who only compete at NAC tournaments into good quizbowl, I'd like to share something we tried at VCU when I was there in 2015-16. Knowing that there were teams in Central and Southern Virginia that competed on Battle of the Brains each year, but who did not regularly compete in mainstream quizbowl, if at all, Matt Weiner organized an event which used the same four-quarter format as the Battle of the Brains TV show, but with questions in the style of an IS-A set which had the quality in terms of content and pyramidality of a normal quizbowl set. Billing the tournament as a "Battle of the Brains-style" event brought in new teams and separating the tournament into 3 divisions based on skill contributed to the success of the event, with some teams who had never attended a VCU tournament in the past saying they would return for future tournaments. Admittedly, I was only at VCU for that one year, so I don't know how well this translated into new teams staying in mainstream quizbowl, but it seems to me that this idea of keeping the format of a round the same, but using good, introductory questions, can work towards bringing NAC-only teams into mainstream quizbowl, especially if multiple divisions are used to help alleviate any discouragement that may come from these newer teams having to go up against regular powerhouses.
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Re: NAC going pyramidal?

Postby tksaleija » Mon Jul 10, 2017 10:37 pm

It's kind of funny and sad how many stories of QU's poor quiz bowl quality are out there. I myself competed in the 2017 NAC and I know for a fact that they recycled two questions from their "3-2-1!" online competition, which my school also participated in. As someone who has (unfortunately) a decent amount of experience with QU questions, their "pyramidal" is sporadic and sketchy more often than not, with some questions being one sentence long and some questions being literal riddles. An example of this is the following question, which I answered at their Great Lakes Academic Challenge: What is the only place where the American flag flies 24/7 and is never lowered or raised? (Ans. the moon). Mind you this was also 20 points, the most possible in their format. I thought at the time that their questions were more obscure and trivial than good quiz bowl should be, but now I realize that their questions are pretty clearly low-quality. I'm pretty disappointed that it took me so long to learn the difference between and good and bad quiz bowl, but this post should serve as a warning and lesson to anyone else who isn't sure what's good vs bad qb.
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Re: NAC going pyramidal?

Postby tksaleija » Tue Jul 11, 2017 6:35 pm

To further illustrate the point made in the above post, I was looking through the qbwiki and came across an article by Tom Egan from 2006 that served as a "rating" of the NAC (https://www.qbwiki.com/wiki/Tom_Egan%27 ... e_2005_NAC). He brought up a question that asked for the name of a bird referenced in a Keats poem followed by an audio clip of said bird (Ans. Nightingale). What's funny about this is I myself answered the same exact question at the 2017 NAC (buzzed in just before the audio, though Ernie continued to play it for about a second). They recycled at least one question from 12 years ago word for word.I'm not sure how taboo question recycling is, but that really calls into question the integrity of their "prime" questions.
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Re: NAC going pyramidal?

Postby AKKOLADE » Tue Jul 11, 2017 6:49 pm

Question recycling is extremely taboo. It is inherently unfair to teams and is really just lazy by the writers/editors.
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Re: NAC going pyramidal?

Postby tksaleija » Tue Jul 11, 2017 9:06 pm

Tl;dr for this whole topic: Questions Unlimited is lazy and their questions and attitude are more often than not lame (for more evidence check out the 2009 interview with Chip Beall on qbwiki). They treat qb like a game show and not like an actual academic competition geared towards students. Anything else anyone has to add?
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