ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

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ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Apr 14, 2014 12:56 am

First off, I would like to congratulate the University of Virginia on their victory at the 2014 ACF Nationals. Over the course of two days, Virginia played nearly flawless quizbowl against a very tough slate of opponents and emerged undefeated, clearing the field by two games. This hasn't happened at Nationals for since Chicago did so in 2007. Their victory is a truly impressive achievement. And of course, congratulations is also due to Evan Adams, who, with UVA's victory, achieved the Grand Slam of quizbowl in winning HSNCT, PACE, ICT, and ACF Nationals.

I would also like to congratulate Chicago A, Penn, and Yale, who delivered what might have been the most intense and entertaining fight for second place that I have ever witnessed. A hair's breadth separated these teams, with both the Chicago-Yale and the Penn-Yale games going down to the final tossup. Additional congratulations are due to Yale for taking home, along with the overall second place trophy, the undergraduate title. Congratulations as well to UNC, who took the DII title.

As always with such a massive undertaking, a lot of people worked very hard to make this tournament happen, and I will try and recognize and thank as many of them as I can. First on that list are my co-editors, Auroni Gupta, Ted Gioia, and Ryan Westbrook. They did an incredible job, putting in a great amount of time and effort to make this tournament what it was. I want to recognize Ted in particular, who was instrumental in coordinating much of the writing logistics of the tournament and in keeping us on track, as well as in providing a more unified vision of the set. Although the announcement lists me as head editor, Ted was at least as much a head editor as I was.

In addition to the core editing group, a number of people helped out along the way. I want to personally thank Andrew Yaphe, Gautam Kandlikar, and Jonathan Magin for sending us a number of questions, and Seth Teitler and Matt Reece, who were kind enough to look at a few of mine and offer suggestions. Jonathan, Andrew Hart, and Susan Ferrari also helped out a great deal by reading the completed set and providing detailed feedback and suggestions; not only did they catch various grammatical errors (of which, I regret, we still had a few), but they also improved a large number of questions content-wise. Without all these contributions, the set would not have been as good.

Finally, I want to thank Matt Weiner for his tireless efforts in running the tournament, and Jon PInyan, whose stats wizardry made life a lot easier for us. And of course, thanks to all of the staff who helped us to run ACF Nationals, and the Columbia crew for making all the reservation magic happen. It was a pleasure to be back in NYC again this year.

Transitioning to the substance of the tournament, I would like to give you first a brief overview of our editing philosophy. One of the things we really tried to do this year was hit a large part of the "core canon," as it were, scaled in difficulty, of course, for the ACF Nationals audience. Naturally there were some questions on more exotic topics, but we tried hard to balance that with questions on more familiar answers as well.

With regard to editing decisions, each of us operated in a slightly different manner; speaking for myself, I tend to try and fix a question if I think it can be fixed. If I think it can't be fixed in current form, but the answer line is usable, then I try and rewrite the question with that answer line from the ground up. And finally, if that doesn't work, I write a brand new question. Other editors made different decisions, and I will let them speak to that, but in general, we did make an effort to use as much of the submitted material as we thought was possible. One thing I would like to use this thread for is to discuss the various edits that were made to the questions, so if you are curious as to why your question took some other form than the one in which it was submitted, this thread is a good place to ask about that, and we'll try to explain our rationale.

As you might suspect, I edited physics, "other" science, philosophy, social science, and about half of the misc academic. Auroni edited music, some art, some literature, biology, and chemistry. Ryan edited mostly history, geography, and a few misc academic questions. Ted covered mostly literature and also most of the art. The writing distribution of the editor packets was about the same, although there Ryan wrote more of the social science and the misc academic.

Feel free to discuss this set below. I imagine Matt will post the set as soon as he can, but until then, feel free to ask for any specific question you'd like to see posted in this thread. We'd love to hear your feedback, and would like to thank all the teams for coming out and playing.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Frauny Von Smiley » Mon Apr 14, 2014 10:04 am

I want to preface everything by saying that I thought that the vast majority of the set was excellent. The questions were interesting and challenging, while still being accessible and fun to teams outside of the top bracket.

However, I am extremely unhappy about the noise of the concert. I do not know if others had the same issue as William & Mary and Rutgers had, but we ended up playing a tiebreaker during the loudest part of the concert, right next to amplifiers blasting music.

While I cannot be certain, of course, that this ended up changing the outcome of the game, I think it is reasonable to expect playing in an environment where such externalities are at a minimum. A lot of time, effort, and money was put into reviving the W&M team, and we cannot overstate our disappoint that a game which determined our placement at the one national tournament which we could afford to go to was played under those circumstances.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by 1992 in spaceflight » Mon Apr 14, 2014 10:43 am

If future ACF Nationals are like this set, I will definitely want to play this again (if I end up going to graduate school). Even though I played solo, I still had a fun time playing the set. Thanks a bunch to Jerry, Auroni, Ted, Ryan and anyone else involved in making the set happen for one of my best experiences playing quizbowl.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Mike Bentley » Mon Apr 14, 2014 11:33 am

I thought this was a great tournament. I especially liked the literature. It did a good job rewarding core canon knowledge while still being challenging for the field.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Mon Apr 14, 2014 12:10 pm

First off, congratulations to Virginia and especially Matt Bollinger for exhibiting some of the highest level of skill that we've ever seen in this game.

I was personally quite happy with how this set turned out. It was a lot of fun watching people play this weekend; the primary reward of writing these questions is getting to witness the teams and players who have put in the time to develop the skills necessary to make quality buzzes on this kind of set. I saw plenty of that this weekend, and as long as there are those teams and players around, I'll be happy to continue writing questions for this game.

In this thread, I'm happy to discuss the reasons why I edited or wrote any particular question the way I did - just let me know which question, and I'll give you my thought process. When I'm writing for ACF Nationals, I try to stay pretty disciplined about making sure that I adequately cover all areas of the canon. For instance, when it comes to American history, I try hard to make sure I'm giving a carefully-considered distribution of pre-colonial, 18th, 19th, and 20th century material and a fair mix of subject material (military stuff, political stuff, cultural stuff, etc.). I don't do that as much for some other tournaments like Chicago Open - but I feel that I have a responsibility to fairly cover all corners of the canon when it comes to the national tournament.

Like Jerry, I try about as much as any editor to use the questions that are provided. I did not write very many questions from scratch in the team packets. I may have modified the answer line, or changed the order or content of a lot of the submitted clues - but very few questions are just outright replacements. Unfortunately, there were a few times where I just did not know that something had obtained the status of "chestnut clue" - such as, for example, that Battle of the Golden Spurs question where the "shield and sword" anecdote is apparently a totally well-known clue these days.

Regarding the editing team, I want to say that this is my favorite editing team that I've ever worked with (no offense to the many other teams I've worked with). I think all four editors were involved, hard-working, focused, and responsive to problems as they came up. We all have different styles, but I think we meshed those styles well to create a cohesive tournament. It does not work when you just have four people doing their own thing, even if all four of them are very good writers in their own right - the tournament needs to have a consistent vision, and I think it did. This tournament felt like a lot less work to me than other tournaments I've done, because all four editors were on the ball (and also because I wrote around 25-30 percent of this tournament, as opposed to my usual practice of writing about 70 percent of a tournament).



The following is what I wrote for this tournament (I'm going to conceal the Finals Two packet material - because a bunch of people should totally pick a time to play that in IRC - cause it's pretty awesome):

1. All of the history

2. All of the religion (we can have a discussion about religion in tourneys if you guys would like - as you may have seen from what I wrote, at higher levels, I am a huge fan of reducing the amount of "pure religion" questions that are just about tenets or practices of religion, and doing a lot more crossover stuff - "Religious history", "Religious philosophical thought/theology", "Religion in art and architecture", "Religion/mythology overlaps", etc. - I think you see a lot of that in questions that I wrote, such as Union Theological Seminary, James Ussher, Jacobus Arminius, etc.)

3. The following Misc. Academic (and I tried hard to make "Misc. Academic" a real thing where some off-the-beaten-path stuff would come up): Prison reform, Periplus, Walter Lippmann, Phuket, the Coral Castle, Hot Springs National Park, Ur, Ecuador, Ebro River, Jury Nullification, Clean Hands scandal, Richard Burton, Shiraz...and the bonuses on Peten, Clovis theories, pirates, defensible space theory, the Haight-Asbury, Mauritius, the Axial Age, Lake Balaton, Adirondack Mountains, Paul Morphy/chess bonus, and Swedenborg

4. The following Social Science: Attitudes, Victor Turner, Robert Lucas, Hawaiian peoples, Wilhelm Reich, power...and the bonuses on Louis Hjelmslev, Harold Innis, Patrick Geddes, and estoppel

And, I also wrote that Okuni-nushi tossup, because Okuni-nushi is awesome.
Last edited by No Rules Westbrook on Mon Apr 14, 2014 7:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Apr 14, 2014 12:16 pm

Frauny Von Smiley wrote:However, I am extremely unhappy about the noise of the concert. I do not know if others had the same issue as William & Mary and Rutgers had, but we ended up playing a tiebreaker during the loudest part of the concert, right next to amplifiers blasting music.
Obviously, we are very sorry this happened. By the time we got wind of the spring concert, we'd already had people make travel plans, which made it prohibitive to change dates, and we could not get rooms in any other building on campus, which we also tried to do. Unfortunately, we just had to press on and try and play through it; I nearly shouted myself hoarse reading over the music. I'm sorry it negatively affected people's enjoyment of the tournament, but I don't know that we had any better options given the circumstances.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Excelsior (smack) » Mon Apr 14, 2014 2:01 pm

This set was lots of fun. I particularly enjoyed the other science and the parts of the social science I was familiar with. Commendations are due to the editors for producing a darned good set.

I am pleased that this year's incarnation of ACF Nationals did not feature Bruce or a Bruce-like-entity literally writing a question on a piece of paper during a match as a replacement question. ACF Nationals should continue to not feature that thing in the future. I also only was aware of a single question-repeat throughout the entire tournament. While this is still one more repeat than should be present, this is a significant improvement over last year, so that was good, too.

It would be nice if people involved in the running of the tournament could isolate the factors that lead to Saturday running rather late - it is something less than pleasant to have a tournament end at 9:30p only to resume at 8:00a (allegedly, anyway) the next morning.

P.S. Jerry, it is just plain wrong to claim that you can take a contour integral over any domain. A contour integral is, by definition, a closed line integral in the complex plane (modulo a few conditions on the contour). See, for example, Wolfram MathWorld, Wikipedia (the first sentence cites three sources that all claim the same thing), or M. Vaughn "Introduction to Mathematical Physics" (2007), p. 176, or any other source on complex analysis.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Apr 14, 2014 2:07 pm

Excelsior (smack) wrote:P.S. Jerry, it is just plain wrong to claim that you can take a contour integral over any domain. A contour integral is, by definition, a closed line integral in the complex plane (modulo a few conditions on the contour). See, for example, Wolfram MathWorld, Wikipedia (the first sentence cites three sources that all claim the same thing), or M. Vaughn "Introduction to Mathematical Physics" (2007), p. 176, or any other source on complex analysis.
Fair enough. I for some reason had always thought that "contour" just meant "closed line integral" without a domain being specified. If it had mattered, we would have researched it and certainly given you the points.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by vinteuil » Mon Apr 14, 2014 2:26 pm

Could the editors explain in a bit more detail what their conception of the difficulty of this tournament was? As a relatively inexperienced player (i.e. I'm sure other people liked this), the number of "very hard" tossups per round sometimes felt excessive.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Mon Apr 14, 2014 2:50 pm

No Rules Westbrook wrote: In this thread, I'm happy to discuss the reasons why I edited or wrote any particular question the way I did - just let me know which question, and I'll happily give you my thought process. When I'm writing for ACF Nationals, I try to stay pretty disciplined about making sure that I adequately cover all areas of the canon. For instance, when it comes to American history, I try hard to make sure I'm giving a carefully-considered distribution of pre-colonial, 18th, 19th, and 20th century material and a fair mix of subject material (military stuff, political stuff, cultural stuff, etc.). I don't do that as much for some other tournaments like Chicago Open - but I feel that I have a responsibility to fairly cover all corners of the canon when it comes to the national tournament.
I think you did a very, very good job, and this set's history was some of the best I have played in terms of distribution and matching target difficulty. The religion was also awesome, and did a great job of staying away from a "typical" litany of questions on Jewish holidays, the Five Pillars of Islam, 4th-century councils, and pervasive minor religion bowl. The miscellaneous academic was also excellent, and did a great job of bringing up a bunch of cool topics that rarely see the light in regular-difficulty quizbowl tournaments.

The only question I really recall thinking "that was a bad idea" on was the question on the House of Liechtenstein.

Just to get an idea of your thought process on history and other-academic questions, I'd like to see your thought process with regards to the history question on the Hungarian Soviet Republic that Kirk wrote for our submitted packet (one that I thought was too difficult, but that the editors would probably deal with appropriately). If I recall correctly, that question ended up being on Matyas Rakosi instead - what exactly was the reasoning behind making this change? I'd like to hear similar things about the question on Jordanes that I submitted, which is also a difficult answerline but which also got included with little or no editing, and our question on Ur, which had fairly difficult subject matter but wasn't quite as hard of an answerline.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Geriatric trauma » Mon Apr 14, 2014 2:59 pm

Thanks to all the editors for a fantastic set! Along with 2012 NASAT, this was my favorite tournament I've played; both sets did a great job of using their increased difficulty mandate relative to regular season sets to explore new and interesting topics, along with also testing core knowledge in fresh ways.

I particularly enjoyed the misc. academic and political-leaning SS/P at this tournament. This tournament did a better job of drawing on material that one would learn while studying political science than any other I've seen. I've felt for a while that poli sci has been underrepresented in the distribution relative to its prominence in universities and academic relevance, but I think this set had about where I think the ideal amount of questions should be (for a hard tournament).
Will Alston wrote:Just to get an idea of your thought process on history and other-academic questions, I'd like to see your thought process with regards to the history question on the Hungarian Soviet Republic that Kirk wrote for our submitted packet (one that I thought was too difficult, but that the editors would probably deal with appropriately). If I recall correctly, that question ended up being on Matyas Rakosi instead - what exactly was the reasoning behind making this change?
I'd also be interested in hearing this. I knew what the question was talking about fairly early on, but couldn't remember Rakosi's name--he's not someone who's studied a lot, even in classes on Communist Eastern Europe.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by jonah » Mon Apr 14, 2014 3:19 pm

Excelsior (smack) wrote:P.S. Jerry, it is just plain wrong to claim that you can take a contour integral over any domain. A contour integral is, by definition, a closed line integral in the complex plane (modulo a few conditions on the contour). See, for example, Wolfram MathWorld, Wikipedia (the first sentence cites three sources that all claim the same thing), or M. Vaughn "Introduction to Mathematical Physics" (2007), p. 176, or any other source on complex analysis.
I don't know the context of this discussion, but several sources don't require that the path be closed to be called a contour; see, e.g., Brown and Churchill. A bunch of other texts (Ahlfors, Gamelin, Lang) don't actually define the term "contour" but keep using it in ways that make it clear they're not requiring it to be closed.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Apr 14, 2014 3:25 pm

jonah wrote:
Excelsior (smack) wrote:P.S. Jerry, it is just plain wrong to claim that you can take a contour integral over any domain. A contour integral is, by definition, a closed line integral in the complex plane (modulo a few conditions on the contour). See, for example, Wolfram MathWorld, Wikipedia (the first sentence cites three sources that all claim the same thing), or M. Vaughn "Introduction to Mathematical Physics" (2007), p. 176, or any other source on complex analysis.
I don't know the context of this discussion, but several sources don't require that the path be closed to be called a contour; see, e.g., Brown and Churchill. A bunch of other texts (Ahlfors, Gamelin, Lang) don't actually define the term "contour" but keep using it in ways that make it clear they're not requiring it to be closed.
There was a bonus part which asked for "complex integration," from clues about Cauchy's theorem. Ashvin gave "contour integral" as an answer, I prompted him, and he did not say "complex integration" so I didn't give him points. My thinking was that "contour integral" was not necessarily identical with "integral in the complex plane," but it looks like it's definitely used that way in some contexts.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Windows ME » Mon Apr 14, 2014 6:59 pm

This tournament had a disturbing number of buzzer races in pretty much all of our games. It would have benefited from more middle clues.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Mon Apr 14, 2014 7:21 pm

The Hungarian Soviet Republic seems to me doomed from the start as a poor answer choice. First of all, it doesn't have a very defined answer line - it is sometimes called the "Hungarian Soviet" or the "Hungarian Council" or a bunch of other things - and it's begging for people to buzz in and say "Hungary" and then be prompted, and then not know what to say, and stutter out something like "uh, the Hungarian state under Bela Kun" - and then they're still not right. I greatly prefer unambiguous and direct answer lines (for the same sort of reasons, I don't think questions like Continental Navy or National Party of South Africa played all that well in many rooms, but they were pretty well-written submissions so I opted to keep them). On top of that, it gets very intertwined with the "Hungarian Democratic Republic" that preceded it (and which the question obliquely refers to, and makes you distinguish it from) - I just think the whole thing is gonna lead to a lot of negs, and a lot of confusion, and a lot of that quizbowl phenomenon where people gesticulate wildly throughout the whole question when they realize exactly what time period and thing you're describing, but have no idea what the question wants them to answer.

Secondly, the Hungarian Soviet was an extremely short-lived entity, and if you're going to write on it, I'm not sure why you don't just write on Bela Kun or Rakosi. I opted for Rakosi because I felt like he was less explored as an answer in quizbowl than Kun - and he has a cool policy called "salami tactics," which may have sealed the deal.

I fully understand how hard Jordanes is, but he's an important dude and I'm fine with a tossup on him. I had to make a decision between keeping that or having a tossup on the Polish Sejm, and I think the Sejm is way over-asked lately, so I opted against it. Plus, I was very confident in my ability to evaluate a Jordanes question, because I have pretty strong knowledge of that time period. If I accomplished nothing else, I'm sure I made Libo Zeng's heart flutter by including Jordanes.


I can try to give my theory of difficulty for ACF Nats, though as always, it's difficult to precisely define in words - I think just reading through my history and religion questions probably gives a better feel for my policy than anything I can say. But, if I had to describe my difficulty policy for this tournament, I'd probably call it "responsibly pushing the envelope." I try to introduce as many new clues and new concepts as I can into the set, while still being responsible and still giving coverage to all of the major time periods and subjects.

If I imagine two average teams at ACF Nats, I'm fine with 3-4 questions per packet going dead because they're on difficult subjects - in fact, I think 3 is about the right range. I carefully look at the overall difficulty of packets (both my areas and other editor's areas) to make sure that we're not obviously exceeding that range on any given packet (except the finals packet, which has different rules in my mind).

I know the other editors have far different thoughts on Nats difficulty; these are just mine.
Last edited by No Rules Westbrook on Mon Apr 14, 2014 7:32 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Mon Apr 14, 2014 7:25 pm

This tournament had a disturbing number of buzzer races in pretty much all of our games. It would have benefited from more middle clues.
I wasn't really seeing this in most of the games that I moderated. I thought there was a fairly high percentage of "clean buzzes" as opposed to "buzzer races" compared to most any tournament I've been to. But, that's just what I was seeing...if others disagree, so be it.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Gonzagapuma1 » Mon Apr 14, 2014 7:37 pm

I thought this tournament was really fantastic. Although Saturday ran really late, it was awesome to get home at a reasonable time on Sunday. The questions on the whole were terrific; they did a great job of sticking to important things while also discerning who knew more about the topic. I'll comment on the film questions that I heard: I thought they were fine overall, with a few weird quirks. The tossup on Rules of the Game was good and that's one of the most important films ever. The neorealism bonus was fine, as was the tossup on Hawkes. However, I really didn't enjoy the post-Eisenstein bonus and the tossup on Hannah Arendt. The post-Eisenstein bonus seemed to focus on really unimportant stuff and, frankly, the Hannah Arendt tossup was just a terrible idea. Overall, though, this was one of my most enjoyable quizbowl experiences, so thanks to the editors and the great competition.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Ringil » Mon Apr 14, 2014 9:55 pm

jonah wrote:
Excelsior (smack) wrote:P.S. Jerry, it is just plain wrong to claim that you can take a contour integral over any domain. A contour integral is, by definition, a closed line integral in the complex plane (modulo a few conditions on the contour). See, for example, Wolfram MathWorld, Wikipedia (the first sentence cites three sources that all claim the same thing), or M. Vaughn "Introduction to Mathematical Physics" (2007), p. 176, or any other source on complex analysis.
I don't know the context of this discussion, but several sources don't require that the path be closed to be called a contour; see, e.g., Brown and Churchill. A bunch of other texts (Ahlfors, Gamelin, Lang) don't actually define the term "contour" but keep using it in ways that make it clear they're not requiring it to be closed.
I've always heard them used interchangeably. I've also rarely heard the term complex integral used. The Maryland person (Brian?) who answered that against us wasn't even prompted for giving contour integration.
No Rules Westbrook wrote:T
I fully understand how hard Jordanes is, but he's an important dude and I'm fine with a tossup on him. I had to make a decision between keeping that or having a tossup on the Polish Sejm, and I think the Sejm is way over-asked lately, so I opted against it. Plus, I was very confident in my ability to evaluate a Jordanes question, because I have pretty strong knowledge of that time period. If I accomplished nothing else, I'm sure I made Libo Zeng's heart flutter by including Jordanes.
I was pretty shocked when I realized that this was indeed what was happening!

My comments about the set: I felt this set was the ACF Nats that I've enjoyed playing the most and felt nearly all the questions were refreshingly new. Thanks for the hard work.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Apr 14, 2014 10:34 pm

Gonzagapuma1 wrote:I thought this tournament was really fantastic. Although Saturday ran really late, it was awesome to get home at a reasonable time on Sunday. The questions on the whole were terrific; they did a great job of sticking to important things while also discerning who knew more about the topic. I'll comment on the film questions that I heard: I thought they were fine overall, with a few weird quirks. The tossup on Rules of the Game was good and that's one of the most important films ever. The neorealism bonus was fine, as was the tossup on Hawkes. However, I really didn't enjoy the post-Eisenstein bonus and the tossup on Hannah Arendt. The post-Eisenstein bonus seemed to focus on really unimportant stuff and, frankly, the Hannah Arendt tossup was just a terrible idea. Overall, though, this was one of my most enjoyable quizbowl experiences, so thanks to the editors and the great competition.
You can blame that Arendt tossup on me; it was submitted as misc. academic, and I thought it would be a nice change-up to include a modern film in that category. Sorry if it didn't play out well. The post-Eisenstein stuff wasn't me, but it's definitely A Thing if you're interested in mid-70s Soviet culture.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Apr 14, 2014 10:35 pm

Partido Galeguista wrote:This tournament had a disturbing number of buzzer races in pretty much all of our games. It would have benefited from more middle clues.
This tournament had lots of middle clues...
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Muriel Axon » Tue Apr 15, 2014 12:27 am

I thought this was a very good tournament, the best ACF Nationals I've ever played (though n=2, so take that as you will) and probably the best "hard" tournament I've played. Since there's been a lot of discussion lately about the answer space for religion, I think Ryan ought to be recognized for his work editing that category. I found the religion questions to be fun, convertible, and with a good distribution of questions about major religions vs. minor religions/sects and new religious movements. I wonder if an editing philosophy similar to the one he describes in his post could be adapted to easier tournaments.

I enjoyed the philosophy questions quite a bit, too. Like I've come to expect from Jerry, there was quite a bit of philosophy of mind, but that's just an observation, not a complaint.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Adventure Temple Trail » Tue Apr 15, 2014 12:38 am

I wrote that tossup on the film Hannah Arendt, the Your Choice tossup from our packet, which from what I've heard played way worse than I had expected/hoped. I wrote on it largely because it seemed to be something of a "current event" within academia, in that poli sci and philosophy folks have been chatting up the film, screening it, and debating whether it's accurate or not pretty intensely on the internet/on their campuses, and because it's recent enough that it might be way less gettable a year or two out (a tossup on it could only work, as Rob Carson put it, "while the iron is hot"). I also thought it'd be a cool way to get at the growing renaissance in scholarship on Arendt's thought, which is a cool thing happening right now. That said, it was just really hard and not as big a deal as I thought. Sorry guys. If I could go back and do it again, I would have written the tossup with the pronoun "This character..." throughout (so people could just say "Arendt" and get the points) and could have afforded to make it just plain easier, with more clues about her biography.

I have more thoughts, which I will share later once I compose them. They're largely laudatory, with a few scruples here or there.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by i never see pigeons in wheeling » Tue Apr 15, 2014 2:03 am

For the first time I can remember in a tournament, there were multiple economics questions with substantive clues from financial economics (volatility and exchange rates), so thanks, economics editor!

I just had a couple quibbles with alternate answer lines, as the tossup on Discourse on Inequality did not include the numerous alternate answer lines you could use for the work, as I was negged for answering Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, which is the title of the translation I used.

EDIT: I withdraw my objection to Sardanapalus being an alternate answer line for Ashurbanipal, as it seems that though it's a Hellenization of Ashurbanipal's name, the accounts of Sardanapalus seem to describe an entirely different king.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Auroni » Tue Apr 15, 2014 2:37 am

I edited the music, the myth (sans a couple of Westbrook guest edits), the bio, and the chem in their entirety, and about 45% of the literature (most of the Brit and around half of the ancient/world), and about two-fifths of the other arts (mainly auditory and 2/2 film). My overall philosophy for these topics was to explore basic things in them to a great deal of depth, and to ensure freshness by seeking untrodden answerlines over well-worn ones. That's why, for instance, you got no tossups on little-known eponymous diseases, or on named reactions (except for one), but you did get several questions on widely-studied, widely-known disorders (scoliosis, prostate cancer, lactose intolerance) and on reaction patterns (redox, migratory insertion, sigmatropic rearrangements). In music this manifested itself as tossups on Beethoven's piano sonatas and questions on Schumann and Bruckner from their symphonies. On the other hand, this being an ACF Nationals, I wasn't reluctant to toss you the occasional question on molecular dynamics, Michael Drayton, sidhe, or Sibelius's second symphony. In music in particular, I tried to write on some things that are widely played and listened to, but not well represented in quizbowl (the aforementioned Sibelius symphony, the Bach double, Chopin's piano sonata #2.) I have money against Jonathan Magin riding on the early-to-middle-clue answerability of the latter, so I hope it was decent.

On the bonus side of things, I gave you 20s and 30s for knowing about basic concepts, like what regioselectivity or chemotaxis or absolute music or tritones or autochthonous beings are, rather than make you name some insanely hard thing. I'm curious in particular to see how well that worked with mythology, where I zealously avoided asking for vanishingly obscure people from non-Greek mythology (possibly falling on my own sword with that Jarilo bonus part).

While we're on the subject of mythology, by the way, it occurs to me that I took a radical approach to editing that category. 95% of what was submitted to me was boring, played out, poorly written questions on world myth. I cut a bunch of that and ensured that 40% of what you heard was Greco-Roman. My rationale for doing so (which might be laid out in a forthcoming thread about writing better myth questions) is that there's a lot of classical myth that's interesting, cluable in the form of reasonable answerlines, and known by people, and that there isn't a corresponding wealth of untapped knowledge in myth from other parts of the world. I'll be blunt; there's really few clues for Norse gods. That tossup on Idunn used every single clue for Idunn that's out there. I'd be interested to know how the mythology in this set was liked, with this obvious departure from the norm. I know that the question on the five _sun_s from Aztec myth confused people, but that was my attempt at writing on a pattern of myths from the same tradition that have a bunch of clues between them, rather than a 1.5 line tossup on Tonatiuh or Tecciztecatl.

EDIT: Thanks very much to Bernadette Spencer for sending me an excellent ballet/dance tossup to replace something really hard.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Apr 15, 2014 10:17 am

List of Fighting Spirit characters wrote:For the first time I can remember in a tournament, there were multiple economics questions with substantive clues from financial economics (volatility and exchange rates), so thanks, economics editor!
You are welcome!
I just had a couple quibbles with alternate answer lines, as the tossup on Discourse on Inequality did not include the numerous alternate answer lines you could use for the work, as I was negged for answering Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, which is the title of the translation I used.
Hey, that should not have happened! I just looked at the packet, and here's the answer line I have:
ANSWER: Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality Among Men [or Discours sir l'origine et les fundaments d'linegalite parmi les hommes; accept Rousseau's Second Discourse


I chalk that up to moderator error, although I guess I could have been explicit in saying that answers that match all the required parts plus add parts that are not required should be acceptable, but that's always been the case. Sorry that happened; I assume that if it had mattered, you would have protested it, and then this would have come to my attention.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Apr 15, 2014 10:31 am

Muriel Axon wrote: I enjoyed the philosophy questions quite a bit, too. Like I've come to expect from Jerry, there was quite a bit of philosophy of mind, but that's just an observation, not a complaint.
I think this might be an example of some sort of expectation bias. Here are all the tossups and bonuses in philosophy, minus those from the very last packet which people might be playing tonight in IRC:

Tossups:

Ernest Nagel, ressentiment, history, immortality of the soul, mentalese/ language of thought, master-slave dialectic, Gettier problems, Discourses of Epictetus, meaning, Ludwig Feuerbach, Wilfrid Sellars, multiple realizability, animals, the good, John Rawls, How to Make Our Ideas Clear, Derrida and Habermas, Word and Object, anarchy, Franz Brentano, al-Farabi, Discourse on Inequality, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere

Bonuses:

Metaphysics/ Aristotle/ prime mover, action/ Davidson/ Kim, Search After Truth/ Malebranche/ Arnauld, Mohism/ ten/ Legalism, De Cive/ Hobbes/ war of all against all, symbol grounding/ connectionism/ Searle, Oration on the Dignity of Man/ Pico/ Jews, neural correlates of consciousness/ Crick/ Ned Block, Epistemology Naturalized/ Quine/ verification, Eleatic/ dialectic/ The Sophist, Enneads/ Porphyry/ Euclid, School of Names/ Zhuangzi/ Dao, Carl Schmitt/ Leo Strauss/ war, Shaftesbury/ Hobbes/ Hutcheson, Logic of Scientific Discovery/ Popper/ probability, Lon Fuller/ positivism/ Austin, Syntagama Philosophicum/ Gassendi/ Descartes, Myth of Sisyphus/ Don Juan/ suicide, Proofs and Refutations/ Lakatos/ Friedman, Horkheimer/ enlightenment/ The Authoritarian Personality, body without organs/ Anti-Oedipus/ Bergson, David Lewis/ worlds/ madmen and martians, Campanella/ City of the Sun/ atheism, A Defense of Common Sense/ Moore/ sense-data

Overall, there were 2 tossups that were mostly on the philosophy of mind, and 3 bonuses. I don't think that's really all that much. As with all categories, I tried to balance the distribution of the philosophy questions across time and subject matter, and I also tried to not have the editor packets end up with an excess of modern philosophy. I also had the goal of hitting a lot of what I consider "core concepts," which is how you got tossups on things like ressentiment, history, the immortality of the soul, the master-slave dialectic, and meaning. I got tired at some point of writing questions about books and thinkers, so instead I tried to find core ideas from various subject areas or philosophers and write about those.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Muriel Axon » Tue Apr 15, 2014 10:58 am

Yeah, you're right, that's not a notably large amount of philosophy of mind. For what it's worth, from the packets that I played I heard all of those phil. mind questions, but not some of the others.
I also had the goal of hitting a lot of what I consider "core concepts," which is how you got tossups on things like ressentiment, history, the immortality of the soul, the master-slave dialectic, and meaning. I got tired at some point of writing questions about books and thinkers, so instead I tried to find core ideas from various subject areas or philosophers and write about those.
I think this worked out well. Among the concept tossups, I thought the tossups on animals, ressentiment, LoT, and master-slave dialectic were also particularly effective at allowing people to draw from context clues to arrive at the answer without actually asking people to memorize titles of Peter Carruthers works. (There might have been others that I just didn't notice because I didn't infer the context.)

I'd be interested to see the text of the Derrida and Habermas tossup, unless the set is going into the archive soon.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Apr 15, 2014 11:10 am

Muriel Axon wrote:I think this worked out well. Among the concept tossups, I thought the tossups on animals, ressentiment, LoT, and master-slave dialectic were also particularly effective at allowing people to draw from context clues to arrive at the answer without actually asking people to memorize titles of Peter Carruthers works. (There might have been others that I just didn't notice because I didn't infer the context.)
That's actually relevant to a larger point I want to make about writing and using primary sources in questions. Let's say you're writing a tossup about the Gasbag Effect, notable research on which was done by Scientist McGee. It's perfectly fine to cite Scientist McGee's research in an early clue, but something that people should try to do more is to cite it in context. In other words, "Scientist McGee" is probably not a useful clue in itself unless McGee is super famous, but if you give some context about what the experiment was like, it allows someone who doesn't know McGee's work to narrow down the answer. So I try to formulate my clues in such a way that not knowing the specific name or title is not much of an impediment to figuring out what's going on in the question.
I'd be interested to see the text of the Derrida and Habermas tossup, unless the set is going into the archive soon.
The first public discussion between these two thinkers was organized by Giovanna Borradori. These two men collaborated on a letter warning that “the avant-gardist core of Europe must not wall itself off into a new Small Europe,” which was partly named for the protest-heavy date February 15 and drew on previous work from one of them about the “postnational constellation.” One of these thinkers wrote a 1985 “Excursus” accusing the other of “leveling the genre distinction between philosophy and literature,” and of having no framework to distinguish reason from unreason. After both of these non-Americans were in New York on 9/11, they collaborated on Philosophy in a Time of Terror. These two academics wrote a 2003 “Plea for a Common Foreign Policy” calling for a unified Europe against George W. Bush, and eventually a “global public sphere” free of Eurocentric privileging. For 10 points, name these two philosophers, a Frenchman who took an “ethical turn” after writing Specters of Marx, and a German who warmed up to that deconstructionist after blaming 9/11 on a failure of his theory of communicative action.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by i never see pigeons in wheeling » Tue Apr 15, 2014 1:44 pm

Can you post the tossup on multiple realizability?
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Apr 15, 2014 3:19 pm

List of Fighting Spirit characters wrote:Can you post the tossup on multiple realizability?
A Lawrence Shapiro article titled after this concept considers the example of a pair of corkscrews and compares the causal contribution of their material versus their color. David Lewis argued that this idea is not inconsistent with its opposite if it is made domain specific, using the example of a lottery having different winning numbers in different weeks. Arguments against this idea include the “denying projectability” reply, which uses the example of jade, and one which notes that this idea allows local structure-specific bridge laws; those replies were formulated by Jaegwon Kim. This idea was generalized to occur within a single token system by Jerry Fodor, who used it to show that the special sciences cannot be reduced to physics. This idea was introduced in a series of papers attacking the identity thesis by Hilary Putnam, who considered the fact that many different kinds of animals feel pain, and is generally conceived of as a challenge to psychophysical reductionism. For 10 points, name this thesis from the philosophy of mind, which states that a single mental kind can have more than one physical instantiation.

ANSWER: multiple realizability
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Grace » Tue Apr 15, 2014 3:40 pm

I really enjoyed the opera bonuses for some awesome answerline choices, though my extreme pleasure at the predominance of light-lyric-coluratura-bowl (Zerbinetta! Soubrettes! Susanna! That tossup on Lakme!) may be colored by my own tastes. I'm sure the tossups were equally good, but I was too busy negging on them to have very detailed opinions.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Guile Island » Tue Apr 15, 2014 4:20 pm

The jazz at this tournament was pretty damn great, at least the questions I heard. The tossup on Mood Indigo was really hard, but also very important and definitely askable at ACF Nationals. I only remember 2 bonuses (the one with Newport Festival as a part and the free jazz bonus in the first finals packet), but those were pretty great too.

For what it's worth, I wrote the Mingus Ah Um tossup.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by at your pleasure » Tue Apr 15, 2014 4:44 pm

This tournament was very good; I'd say Ted's art is very good-he writes to a very narrow canon in time and space but within that canon he does very well and tends to emphasize things you'd actually learn about organically instead of the dreaded Corners of Paintings Bowl. The religion was also good and seemed to me at least to avoid the more common pitfalls of writing religion. As long as I am going to be self-indulgent I think the ANE content of this tournament was some of the strongest I've seen in a while-it was quite interesting, had a nice variety of cluing, avoided a lot of the bad/misleading cluing you see regularly, and tended to emphasize things one actually learns about in the study of these fields rather than Random Wikipedia Links. Also seeing the Ram in a Thicket and the treaties concerning Assurbanipal's accession come up was quite ncice.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Lagotto Romagnolo » Tue Apr 15, 2014 5:02 pm

The physics in this set was among my favorite of all time. It touched on current hot research areas while at the same time anchoring itself in the core, and never felt overwhelming. Kudos to Jerry for the excellent sense of balance there.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Tue Apr 15, 2014 5:23 pm

People seem to have really enjoyed this tournament, and I don't know how to square the large-scale response thus far with my personal reaction. I absolutely agree that in terms of conception, this tournament was the strongest Nationals thus far, and will be (I hope) the model for future Nationals in that respect. However, the execution of my categories of focus (Literature and Fine Arts) struck me as markedly weaker than that of the previous three Nationals. (I have no commentary on the other categories, except for the Philosophy, which I thought was excellently done.) This comes as something of a shock to me, as I came into this tournament expecting to be more in favor of this tournament than the average player.

I don't want to be confrontational about this, or to spoil the atmosphere of this thread. It's nice to see people coming out to say good things (too often, good tournaments are received with empty discussion threads). And I'm really happy that there's so much support for the direction Nationals is taking, and I totally support this. If it turns out that everybody except me was really happy with this tournament, then I guess that my objections are not going to matter much. But reading the compliments in this thread haven't let me shake the few but strong reservations I had while playing this set.

I suppose, then, I should get out of the way the category where my objections are strongest: the Music answer-lines had many excellent answer choices (though I might be prejudiced in favor of this, because the sub-distribution seemed heavily skewed in favor of the eras and genres I care about, and was not very balanced), but the actual cluing of tossups was by far the worst I have encountered at any ACF tournament I have played. In fact, the tossup cluing was generally downright terrible. When the set is released, I want to have a productive discussion about this. I can do that in this thread, or we can do this in a separate music-writing thread, if others would prefer it. But I would have thought that it would have been obvious at first glance even to non-"specialists" that very many of the early clues were generic or unhelpful non-clues, and that a lot of these questions required rewriting. The fact that we are still not at the stage where some of these clues raise red flags is not a good sign.

I'll now turn to the Literature and Visual Arts:

We've spoken before about the concept of "hard tossups on easy answers", and about the possibility of ACF Nationals moving towards more of that. In Literature, this suggests to me either: (a) an author tossup that draws early clues from less read works, but gradually shifts into the material everyone has read, or (b) a tossup on a work that is tossupable at low levels, but which goes deeper into that work than a low-level tossup normally would. By these criteria, I would say that this tournament had fewer "hard tossups on easy answers" in the Literature and Fine Arts categories than did its predecessor Nationals.

Instead, the tossups on easy answers were just written as straightforward tossups, with very easy lead-ins. These were balanced out by hard tossups on hard answer-lines; in some cases, on very hard answer-lines indeed. In other words, it seems that instead of trying to aim for cohesive difficulty of clues/questions with answers of variable difficulty (i.e. with each tossup conforming to an ideal pyramid structure), the editing was done to allow the clues/questions themselves to span a wide range of difficulties from very easy to very hard with some sense that this would "balance out".

This raises a number of issues for me:

1. This first one may or may not be an issue, so I'd like to hear back from the other good Literature players. Where were you guys buzzing on these questions on easy answer-lines? I will have to check when the packets come out, but I'm pretty sure that I answered more than 1/3 of the Literature tossups in the Editors' packets within the first two sentences. And that number would have been higher had I not goggled at disbelief and refused to buzz the first few times I recognized first-line clues from easy works. The shocking thing about this to me was that only one of these was buzzer race. Were many of the other good players buzzing consistently in the first two lines, and I just got lucky as to who was in my room? Or am I just over-estimating how easy these questions were (because I have the distinct impression that almost none of the clues I buzzed on required deep knowledge)?
2. The way these tossups were constructed made no sense in combination with the bonuses. I understand that bonuses and tossups test different types of knowledge, but the depth of knowledge the players are presumed to possess should be consistent. This seemed to be very much not the case. The tossups seemed to presume a fairly low level of reading depth: if you could merely recognize the opening or closing of The Sound and the Fury or Mary Tyrone's arthritic hands (which is the whole reason for her morphine addiction, and therefore the main point of her character), you could buzz in on the first two clues; but if you could not recall (and complete, even) much harder quotations from Lady Windermere's Fan or from assorted poems, you were stuck with 10 points. Middle parts on bonuses are supposed to serve 50% of the field, and lead-in clues are supposed to serve a small minority, but this balance seemed reverse. The bonuses regularly seemed to presume a higher level of reading depth than that which was rewarded by the lead-in clues of tossups. If ACF Nationals commits this strongly to the "core" works next year (and I hope that it does), it should decide: what level of reading is being presumed (and what level of reading does the audience possess)?
3. The easy questions were "balanced out" by hard questions that were obviously not bound to play well. I'm thinking in particular of the tossups on the portrait of Ginevra de Benci and whatever the heck that Rogier van der Weyden altarpiece was that I had never heard of. Or the idea of tossing up "The Steeple-Jack". When editing a tournament with the mentality that each tossup is meant to produce a wide (and similar) spread of buzzes, one would not let these in. The Ginevra de Benci tossup would become a "portraits by Da Vinci" tossup, the altarpiece would become either a tossup on Van der Weyden or on his altarpieces, and "The Steeple-Jack" could have been on Marianne Moore. In each of these cases, most of the clues could have been preserved, to test knowledge of those particular works (if that was the idea), but there could have been a smoother pyramid at the end. To me, the idea that these "balance out" is inherently false. Questions that cliff or go dead should not be "balanced out" by questions where lots of people buzz early. The idea should be for all the tossups to have good pyramids. And frankly, in almost every case where the questions in each packet represented a "range of difficulties", this range could have been much narrowed, while still preserving the majority of clues that were used.
4. In the Literature, this philosophy of writing on easy answer lines seemed far more evident in Editors' packets than it did in the submitted packets, to the point where the different halves of the tournament felt very distinct. (This was a big problem for me last year too.) To my mind, there are two ways to write a cohesive tournament: (a) allow the submissions to determine the nature of the tournament, and write your Editors' questions to match what the submitted packets look like; (b) have your Editors' packets determine the nature of the tournament, and rewrite the submitted packets to match this. Were ACF Nationals in a format where all the standings-determining games were all on submitted packets, or all on Editors' packets, this would not be so much of an issue. But because prelims games carry over, this is not the case. One suggestion I have for future is that if ACF Nationals is going to be edited with this philosophy, the editors should show hand early, and strongly encourage teams to submit packets where half the questions are on easy answer-lines (rather than just saying, vaguely: "Don't forget that we like easy questions too!"), so that they don't receive tons of good/workable questions that are philosophically un-aligned with the Editors' questions, thus putting them in the situation of having to rewrite the questions for philosophical reasons or keep them, tournament cohesion be damned.

[Also, whoever wrote that Beethoven Frieze tossup: you mentioned in the lead-in(s) that one part depicted a choir and was inspired by words by Schiller (i.e. make it pretty damn obvious that we're talking about "Ode to Joy"). Are you kidding me?! How could you possibly think that that was a good idea?!]

Let me emphasize again: I think this set represented a great step in the direction that I hope ACF Nationals is moving. There were many excellent things about the conception of this set. But I nonetheless think there are major areas for improvement in the execution of the tossups.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Auroni » Tue Apr 15, 2014 6:06 pm

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:the Music answer-lines had many excellent answer choices (though I might be prejudiced in favor of this, because the sub-distribution seemed heavily skewed in favor of the eras and genres I care about, and was not very balanced), but the actual cluing of tossups was by far the worst I have encountered at any ACF tournament I have played. In fact, the tossup cluing was generally downright terrible.
I'd like to hear from you which clues you thought were poor (and in what sense the distribution was unbalanced, but that's obviously the lesser of the two concerns). I went through each question with Jonathan Magin by email and playtested with a crowd that included Miriam Nussbaum, Saul Hankin, and Rob Carson, all of whom have considerable music knowledge. While I obviously couldn't read the questions to you from beforehand, they didn't notice any systematic clue uniqueness issues in any of the tossups, and any issues they did notice were promptly fixed.

My process for writing a question from scratch was as follows:

For a work question:

Dig through program notes listed on symphony orchestra websites, look up Google Books covering composers and works. Choose clues about notes and unusual features of the score to place first, then clues about solos and unique parts for music, then memorable quotes/reactions by composers, and then filter down to what the best known clues are for each thing.

For an instrument or other-non-composer question:

Find out the pieces to which the answerline is relevant, then go through the process listed above for each piece.

For a composer question:

Use the two- or three- work approach, unless I happen to find something really interesting that might make for a good clue. Formulate the clues about the composer's works in the manner listed above.

My process for editing tossups that I wanted to keep was as follows:

Look up every clue to make sure it was accurate, and delete unhelpful clues. Modify clues that were hinting at something but not fully there, to situate them within context.

At what step in this process are non-unique or misleading clues likely to appear? Would "reverse clue lookup" help address some of these problems? To what degree is the writer expected to know that a similar solo or a similar phrase also appears in another piece other than the one being researched to produce the question?
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by vinteuil » Tue Apr 15, 2014 6:11 pm

Well, now that John's posted (much more authoritatively and eloquently than I could), I'll note that (as someone who focuses in the same areas, albeit while being much, much worse at them) I had an almost identical reaction—in particular, the music subdistributional problem that John noted really hampered my enjoyment of those questions. I'll have more to say in whatever thread when the set is posted.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by vinteuil » Tue Apr 15, 2014 6:19 pm

Auroni wrote: My process for writing a question from scratch was as follows:

For a work question:

Dig through program notes listed on symphony orchestra websites, look up Google Books covering composers and works. Choose clues about notes and unusual features of the score to place first, then clues about solos and unique parts for music, then memorable quotes/reactions by composers, and then filter down to what the best known clues are for each thing.
There's no reason that any of these things would result in unique clues. For instance, a program note on a symphony might include a description of sonata form when talking about the first movement; a program note on a piece that includes a beautiful horn solo might make it sound more famous than it is because it's beautiful; a program note on a piece from an unfamiliar (say, Baroque) repertoire, might describe many characteristics that aren't unique to anything. I'm not sure that reverse clue lookup would be incredibly helpful here, just because it's so hard to search for something generic, but, honestly, I really don't think that someone who doesn't know the repertoire well enough to not recognize the non-uniqueness or non-usefulness of some of the clues I remember should be editing music. [EDIT: honestly, thinking about it, I can't think of any questions that exemplified these trends more than others—I'll wait until I can look at all of them].

I also am not a fan of "quotes/reactions by composers," but I'm sure people disagree about that.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Apr 15, 2014 6:20 pm

I will defer to Ted and Auroni with regard to the comments on question content, but I did want to address this:
ThisIsMyUsername wrote:To my mind, there are two ways to write a cohesive tournament: (a) allow the submissions to determine the nature of the tournament, and write your Editors' questions to match what the submitted packets look like; (b) have your Editors' packets determine the nature of the tournament, and rewrite the submitted packets to match this. Were ACF Nationals in a format where all the standings-determining games were all on submitted packets, or all on Editors' packets, this would not be so much of an issue. But because prelims games carry over, this is not the case. One suggestion I have for future is that if ACF Nationals is going to be edited with this philosophy, the editors should show hand early, and strongly encourage teams to submit packets where half the questions are on easy answer-lines (rather than just saying, vaguely: "Don't forget that we like easy questions too!"), so that they don't receive tons of good/workable questions that are philosophically un-aligned with the Editors' questions, thus putting them in the situation of having to rewrite the questions for philosophical reasons or keep them, tournament cohesion be damned.
I don't believe either of these strategies are really as clear cut or as feasible as you might think. Option (a) was, in some ways, the option I chose for Nationals 2011, and it produced a death march of a tournament. Moreover, allowing submissions to drive what your set will look like is often a very bad idea because the spread in submission quality is likely to be so great that you'll never extract a coherent anything out of them. You might think that leaves option (b) but that's not a great solution either. Taking option (b) means that you're rewriting submissions even more heavily than you're doing already, and if you compare the originals with what the final product looked like, you'll see that we rewrote many, if not most of the submissions. In some cases, that was inevitable; there was all sorts of stuff submitted in science that I wasn't going to let through, so most of the physics/other science had to be rewritten. But even so, I made the maximum effort to write keep the answer lines of the submissions as long as they were reasonable, because otherwise, what's the point? If we were going to do that, why not just write the whole thing ourselves?

Philosophical cohesion is a very hard thing to maintain across a tournament of 25 packets, and using it as a filter for rejecting otherwise good questions is a bad editing strategy unless you've got way more time to spend on editing than I do. In fact, the announcement to this tournament explicitly requested "don't write crazy shit" and guess what? We still got a lot of crazy shit. I don't know how much more we can do as editors to keep people from sending us questions we don't want or can't use. Realistically speaking, there just isn't going to be the time to spend on enforcing philosophical consistency across the whole set, and I'm fine with that. If the questions are good, the questions are good, and if they're not, they're not, but I don't think complaining about "the submitted rounds do tossups like this but the editor rounds do tossups like this" is going to produce any useful guidelines for people on how to write or edit questions.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Cody » Tue Apr 15, 2014 6:30 pm

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:(though I might be prejudiced in favor of this, because the sub-distribution seemed heavily skewed in favor of the eras and genres I care about, and was not very balanced)
vinteuil wrote:in particular, the music subdistributional problem that John noted really hampered my enjoyment of those questions.
For obvious reasons (cf. VCU Open 2013), I want to post about how bad and stupid this argument is—unless the editor is doing something really dumb like making half the music 20th c. and beyond, there is a pretty wide range of acceptable subdistributions for classical music (just like every other category!). This tournament focused heavily on 18th and 19th c., which is totally fine as it contains the bulk of what people care about – and it executed the answerlines well (I obviously cannot speak to the clues and will not attempt to). Just because the subdistribution doesn't fit your seemingly extremely narrow standards doesn't mean there is anything wrong with it, and it's a flat out stupid thing to complain about in this case.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by vinteuil » Tue Apr 15, 2014 6:35 pm

Cody wrote:
ThisIsMyUsername wrote:(though I might be prejudiced in favor of this, because the sub-distribution seemed heavily skewed in favor of the eras and genres I care about, and was not very balanced)
vinteuil wrote:in particular, the music subdistributional problem that John noted really hampered my enjoyment of those questions.
For obvious reasons (cf. VCU Open 2013), I want to post about how bad and stupid this argument is—unless you're doing something really stupid like making half your music 20th c. and beyond, there is a pretty wide range of acceptable subdistributions for classical music. This tournament focused heavily on 18th and 19th c., which is totally fine as it contains the bulk of what people care about – and it executed the answerlines well (I obviously cannot speak to the clues and will not attempt to). Just because the subdistribution doesn't fit your seemingly extremely narrow standards doesn't mean there is anything wrong with it, and it's a flat out stupid thing to complain about.
Cody, this tournament didn't really focus on the 18th century, so I'm curious as to where you got that impression—it almost entirely focused on 19th and early 20th century music, which was my main complaint (and, yes, partly because I comparatively dislike early 20th century post-tonal music). In particular, I don't think that tournaments should have two questions on a comparatively minor composer like Prokofiev, when, as far as I remember/heard (maybe I missed all these questions) there was very little on music before Beethoven. Considering that Baroque and "classical" music is a huge part of what the recording and listening public "cares about," this seems misguided.

I was going to wait until I had the packets to compile the answerlines and see how justified this was, but if Auroni or anyone else could/wants to do that, then this would be more productive.

Also, I'll apologize here for contributing to this with my Mahler 5 question, which was also way too hard—I promise that none of my CO questions will be like that. I'll also say here that I'll be very much attempting to focus extremely heavily on "core" composers and works in CO music, and that my conception of that is much more balanced across a much broader period of time.
Last edited by vinteuil on Tue Apr 15, 2014 6:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Lagotto Romagnolo » Tue Apr 15, 2014 6:37 pm

ThisIsMyUsername wrote: I suppose, then, I should get out of the way the category where my objections are strongest: the Music answer-lines had many excellent answer choices (though I might be prejudiced in favor of this, because the sub-distribution seemed heavily skewed in favor of the eras and genres I care about, and was not very balanced), but the actual cluing of tossups was by far the worst I have encountered at any ACF tournament I have played. In fact, the tossup cluing was generally downright terrible. When the set is released, I want to have a productive discussion about this. I can do that in this thread, or we can do this in a separate music-writing thread, if others would prefer it. But I would have thought that it would have been obvious at first glance even to non-"specialists" that very many of the early clues were generic or unhelpful non-clues, and that a lot of these questions required rewriting. The fact that we are still not at the stage where some of these clues raise red flags is not a good sign.
Allow me to suggest that it be moved to a different thread, since you know as well as I do what will happen if it's kept in the main discussion. In contrast to John's comments, let me offer some praise. I thought the music bonuses were very well chosen (save that weird description of tremolo). From what I remember, they all had clear easy, medium, and hard parts and covered a variety of types of answerlines. Now then, if I could offer some more constructive criticism of the tossups: I think the big problem was that they tried too hard to reward musical analysis in a way that is impractical in the context of quizbowl. For instance, all those rhythm clues (fictional example quarter-eigth-eigth-quarter) may reflect a deep analysis of the piece they described, but they're still very hard to parse on the fly while later clues are being read, let alone without information about tempo to help players hear the beat in their heads. In all honesty, I can only think of two note-duration rhythm clues throughout the classical music canon off the top of my head that I would consider 'very evocative' (short-short-short-long being the obvious one). Likewise with note name clues. I don't have perfect pitch, but I can't imagine how anyone could hear those notes in their head and buzz (with a few exceptions: I recognized that Sibelius 2 motif, but only because I knew the key and those notes, whatever they were, were just part of a major scale) - basically, everything from Jonathan's post in that music-writing thread stands to be repeated here. Lest anyone take my comments to harshly: I thought there were quite a few tossups that successfully evaded these traps.

Sorry to call you out on this, John, but you should remember that you have been among the strongest advocates for clues that reward 'musical understanding' of a piece, and I think the community's desire to meet that goal is responsible for all these unhelpful clues. Ex.: Immediately after the Nats finals last year, I remember you griped that the Messiah tossup didn't reward musical study of the piece. So what if it didn't? At least every clue was buzzable. Personally, I'd much rather hear helpful performance and historical clues in the first four lines of a tossup rather than unhelpful theory clues (and God knows baroque music has plenty of unhelpful theory clues ripe for the picking). In an ideal world, each tournament would include helpful theory-based lead-ins in the music questions. And I appreciate the work you put into making your own music questions reach that ideal. But face it, the quizbowl machine as a whole can't make every tournament like that. If we keep pushing for music questions that A) use only buzzable clues and B) reward 'real' musical analysis... well, we don't really have enough editors to make that work.

Mods: split this if you want to quarantine.

EDIT: Also:
vinteuil wrote:I also am not a fan of "quotes/reactions by composers," but I'm sure people disagree about that.
Actually, yeah, I do disagree with that. I think quotes by composers do offer insight into the works, as well as their own ideas about style (but this is my personal opinion and also part of the "How to appreciate music debate", and I'm not opening that can of worms). And people do read the liner notes. As long as you keep those clues limited, you're not really eating away space for musical clues, and you make the question more buzzable for people without a theory background. I think the real problem is when they start taking up half the question or more.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Auroni » Tue Apr 15, 2014 6:39 pm

Cody, this tournament didn't really focus on the 18th century, so I'm curious as to where you got that impression—it almost entirely focused on 19th and early 20th century music, which was my main complaint (and, yes, partly because I comparatively dislike early 20th century post-tonal music). In particular, I don't think that tournaments should have two questions on a comparatively minor composer like Prokofiev, when, as far as I remember/heard (maybe I missed all these questions) there was very little on music before Beethoven. Considering that Baroque and "classical" music is a huge part of what the recording and listening public "cares about," this seems misguided.

I was going to wait until I had the packets to compile the answerlines and see how justified this was, but if Auroni or anyone else could/wants to do that, then this would be more productive.

Also, I'll apologize here for contributing to this with my Mahler 5 question, which was also way too hard—I promise that none of my CO questions will be like that. I'll also say here that I'll be very much attempting to focus extremely heavily on "core" composers and works in CO music, and that my conception of that is much more balanced across a much broader period of time.
The packets will be posted tonight. For now, let me just suggest that you're looking at the packets through a very narrow lens of your own interests and specialties, and posit that such a narrow focus is incompatible with editing a large set's worth of questions.

Your Mahler 5 tossup was perfectly germane.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by vinteuil » Tue Apr 15, 2014 6:40 pm

The Superfluous Man wrote: Mods: split this if you want to quarantine.
I'll second this, and also say that I liked a number of the music bonuses I heard, particularly the one on "Absolute Music."
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by vinteuil » Tue Apr 15, 2014 6:44 pm

vinteuil wrote:
Auroni wrote: My process for writing a question from scratch was as follows:

For a work question:

Dig through program notes listed on symphony orchestra websites, look up Google Books covering composers and works. Choose clues about notes and unusual features of the score to place first, then clues about solos and unique parts for music, then memorable quotes/reactions by composers, and then filter down to what the best known clues are for each thing.
There's no reason that any of these things would result in unique clues. For instance, a program note on a symphony might include a description of sonata form when talking about the first movement; a program note on a piece that includes a beautiful horn solo might make it sound more famous than it is because it's beautiful; a program note on a piece from an unfamiliar (say, Baroque) repertoire, might describe many characteristics that aren't unique to anything. I'm not sure that reverse clue lookup would be incredibly helpful here, just because it's so hard to search for something generic, but, honestly, I really don't think that someone who doesn't know the repertoire well enough to not recognize the non-uniqueness or non-usefulness of some of the clues I remember should be editing music. [EDIT: honestly, thinking about it, I can't think of any questions that exemplified these trends more than others—I'll wait until I can look at all of them].

I also am not a fan of "quotes/reactions by composers," but I'm sure people disagree about that.
Also, it just occurred to me that this process doesn't include actually listening to the piece (not implying that you didn't). There's no reason that a clue has to be "written about" to be recognizable—more people listen to music than read listener's guides. An evocative description that you came up with of a memorable moment is probably better than trying to rely on someone else's description of two themes as "Beauty" and "the Beast" or whatever.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Lagotto Romagnolo » Tue Apr 15, 2014 6:48 pm

grapesmoker wrote:Philosophical cohesion is a very hard thing to maintain across a tournament of 25 packets, and using it as a filter for rejecting otherwise good questions is a bad editing strategy unless you've got way more time to spend on editing than I do. In fact, the announcement to this tournament explicitly requested "don't write crazy shit" and guess what? We still got a lot of crazy shit. I don't know how much more we can do as editors to keep people from sending us questions we don't want or can't use. Realistically speaking, there just isn't going to be the time to spend on enforcing philosophical consistency across the whole set, and I'm fine with that. If the questions are good, the questions are good, and if they're not, they're not, but I don't think complaining about "the submitted rounds do tossups like this but the editor rounds do tossups like this" is going to produce any useful guidelines for people on how to write or edit questions.
What he said. Also, I think the strategy of writing the editors packets to match submissions is unworkable, because that would force you to wait until submissions start coming in, which means 6+ months of writing time lost.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Auroni » Tue Apr 15, 2014 6:52 pm

vinteuil wrote:
vinteuil wrote:
Auroni wrote: My process for writing a question from scratch was as follows:

For a work question:

Dig through program notes listed on symphony orchestra websites, look up Google Books covering composers and works. Choose clues about notes and unusual features of the score to place first, then clues about solos and unique parts for music, then memorable quotes/reactions by composers, and then filter down to what the best known clues are for each thing.
There's no reason that any of these things would result in unique clues. For instance, a program note on a symphony might include a description of sonata form when talking about the first movement; a program note on a piece that includes a beautiful horn solo might make it sound more famous than it is because it's beautiful; a program note on a piece from an unfamiliar (say, Baroque) repertoire, might describe many characteristics that aren't unique to anything. I'm not sure that reverse clue lookup would be incredibly helpful here, just because it's so hard to search for something generic, but, honestly, I really don't think that someone who doesn't know the repertoire well enough to not recognize the non-uniqueness or non-usefulness of some of the clues I remember should be editing music. [EDIT: honestly, thinking about it, I can't think of any questions that exemplified these trends more than others—I'll wait until I can look at all of them].

I also am not a fan of "quotes/reactions by composers," but I'm sure people disagree about that.
Also, it just occurred to me that this process doesn't include actually listening to the piece (not implying that you didn't). There's no reason that a clue has to be "written about" to be recognizable—more people listen to music than read listener's guides. An evocative description that you came up with of a memorable moment is probably better than trying to rely on someone else's description of two themes as "Beauty" and "the Beast" or whatever.
Okay, this is an interesting place to take the discussion. Let's say I don't know anything about a piece and I have the option of looking at guides/reference material to see what is commonly and repeatedly discussed, or the option of myself listening to the piece and then determining for myself what evocative moments are, then trying to transcribe that into a clue somehow. Which do you think has a better chance of yielding a buzzable clue? Why is the set of moments frequently mentioned in these supplementary materials necessarily completely disjoint with respect to the set of memorable moments from a listening perspective?

For what it's worth, I did transcribe the opening notes to the first Mephisto Waltz, because I knew that was famous and was confident people could sound it out.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Cody » Tue Apr 15, 2014 7:07 pm

vinteuil wrote:Also, it just occurred to me that this process doesn't include actually listening to the piece (not implying that you didn't). There's no reason that a clue has to be "written about" to be recognizable—more people listen to music than read listener's guides. An evocative description that you came up with of a memorable moment is probably better than trying to rely on someone else's description of two themes as "Beauty" and "the Beast" or whatever.
This is the nuttiest post so far in this thread wrt music, which has been full of nutty stuff. Are you so ensconced in the music mafia that you can't see how absurd this is?
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by Auroni » Tue Apr 15, 2014 7:13 pm

That Beethoven piano sonatas tossup is entirely written out of the Andras Schiff lectures by the way. It's kind of astonishing to me that you're telling me and other non-classical musicians to rely on my layman's understanding of what important moments are, over an authoritative source like that.
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Re: ACF Nationals congratulations, thanks, and discussion

Post by gyre and gimble » Tue Apr 15, 2014 7:16 pm

I'm going to echo what Matt Weiner said during the closing ceremony; this was the best nationals set I've ever played. Even though I spent all weekend complaining about the tossup here and there that I had minor issues with, those questions did very little to change my overall impression that I was playing an enjoyable, fair, and relatively balanced series of packets. I thought that for the most part, "experimental" topics were accessible and important. For example, in visual art: people have pointed out some of the exceptions, like the Braque Family Triptych (I suspect many people have seen this, as it's in the same room of the Louvre as the Chancellor Rolin Madonna, but didn't know the name; I sat through the last four lines of the question wondering what the title was), but others like Anselm Kiefer, Frank Stella, and O'Keefe's cow skulls were great and felt really fresh. Overall, I guess that the lack of balance between "easy" and "hard" answerlines might have been non-ideal but to me what mattered more was that these questions were fun to play. And since I didn't run into to many buzzer races on them, I guess from my point-of-view they were pyramidal enough.

I'm not really an elite literature player but I didn't notice many people buzzing very early on the tossups on easy works. I recall someone on Washington first-lining the Aleph question but apparently he had read that story 4 or 5 times. And I got Le Pere Goriot pretty early from having tried to read it recently. But I think that was pretty much it, and those are exceptional cases. So I'm going to go ahead and offer my experience of this tournament's literature as counter-evidence to John's argument.

I want to acknowledge some of my favorite tossups of the tournament: Brathwaite, Demuth (Arthur Dove!), Ilya Muromets, Catalonian independence, Sir Bors, Jonathan Lethem, Margaret of Anjou, The Dance, Okuninushi, May, Apollo Belvedere, Ino, Augustus the Strong, and Beardsley's Salome.

I wrote the tossups on Hawthorne, Varna, Khnum, Andrea del Sarto, and Lakme, all of which I believe made it into the set (plus a tossup on Aristide Briand that I'm assuming was cut). I also wrote the Barnes/Acker/Stein, slave trade/Liverpool/Fox, Epaminondas/Thebes/Pelopidas, Matejko/Poland/Gros, pas de deux/arabesque/Cecchetti, and Iroquois/Iktomi/Cherokee bonuses. I've only heard about the first one so far so I have no idea how many of these made it into the set, but I'd love to hear feedback from both editors and players on how these questions went.
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